I’m Lisa Manterfield and I’m a storyteller.
I’m a curious cat and I’m fascinated by human behavior and what makes people tick. I love fish-out-of-water stories of ordinary people in extraordinary situations, especially if those situations delve into the unexplained. I write a lot about self-discovery, young women who find out what they’re really made of when life throws them a curve ball. Like many of my characters, I grew up in the north of England. I’m now a California girl.
When and why did you start writing?
I’ve always loved stories, whether that was through writing, theater, dance, music, or just spending time in my own head. I first got serious about putting a complete story down in words about fifteen years ago when I tried my hand at screenwriting. I had a story idea that I needed to tell and, as I lived in Los Angeles, naturally it had to be a screenplay. As it turned out, I never got to grips with the confines of the screenplay format, and eventually realized that, as I loved books so much, perhaps that might be the right outlet for my stories.
What inspires your writing?
I like playing around with nuggets of history that are meaningful to me, and looking at what would happen if I brought the personal elements of those stories into present day. I’m working on a couple of ideas that came about this way. For day-to-day inspiration, I love doing writing prompts. Often, I can’t sift through the rubble in my head until I start with a single sentence that opens up a story. It’s a bit like digging through a dusty old attic and finding a treasure.
What has been your worst moment as a writer?
Self-doubt is the worst enemy of any creative venture and the trick is to wrangle it into behaving. The worst times are when the self-doubt escapes and runs rampant, and you think, “What am I doing? Why did I even think I could be a writer? Why don’t I just get a real job like normal people?” Thankfully, I always manage to talk myself around. Even at the most frustrating times, I still love what I get to do every day.
Do you have any writing rituals to get you in the mood for writing?
This is very dull, but I go to my desk each morning, turn off my phone and email, and plop my posterior in my chair. Somedays, the muse has better things to do than hang around waiting for me to get in the mood, so I just have to show up and make an effort. I use a timer on those days I’d rather do anything else but write. I set it for 15 minutes and just put words on the page. Then I do it again, and keep doing it until I’ve got enough words to say that I wrote today. It’s not glamorous or magical, but it does get the job done.
If you could, what would you go back and tell yourself as a writer starting out?
Believe in yourself, but don’t quit your day job…at least not yet. It takes time to figure out what you love to write and how to harness your creativity and find your voice. It also takes time to learn how to craft a book. It takes a big pile of manuscripts that are not fit for publication, and you have to write for the love of learning how to do this. But once you feel you’re ready (because you never know for sure you’re ready) go for it. Go all out and do whatever it takes to get your work into the hands of readers who will love it.
What do you believe make for great writing?
It’s all about the story. Great writing pulls me into a story, so that I lose track of what’s going on around me. I love stories that leave me thinking about the characters long after I’ve finished the book. Or when I finish a book and think, “Who can I give this to? Who do I want to share this with?” Great writing is less about fancy words and more about the ability of the writer to reach out and touch the reader in a profound way.
How do you measure success as a writer?
Well, my dream is to get on a plane one day and see someone settling in with one of my books. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll just quietly enjoy the moment or if I’ll race up to them and say, “That’s me!” In the meantime, I’m remembering to savor other success as they happen. When someone tells me my writing touched them or that they felt as if I was in their head, telling a version of their story, that’s a success. When someone tells me they want to read more about characters I’ve created, that’s a success. For me, writing is about making connections with people, so whenever that happens, it’s a small success.
What’s your biggest fear as a writer?
That I don’t have enough time to get all my stories out into the world. I’m a fast writer, but a slow reviser. I’m happy to work this way, but it does mean I have a lot of stories hanging around in my head waiting to be told. And stories aren’t always very patient. Elizabeth Gilbert talks about ideas giving up on writers and going elsewhere to be heard by another writer. I think there’s some truth in that, and I sort of like the image of one of my story ideas packing a suitcase and leaving me a note to say they’ve left me for another writer. I don’t ever plan to retire from writing, but I do worry I’ll run out of time to say all I want to say.
Describe your latest book to our readers
A Strange Companion is the story of a young woman stuck in grief after the death of her first love, Gabe. When a little girl comes into her life, Kat starts to believe that she is the reincarnation of Gabe and that he has come back to her. She sets off to uncover why.
The book has paranormal and mystery elements, but at its core, it’s a story of love, loss, and learning to live again.
What would you like readers to take away from your writing?
That grief is messy and there is no right way to do it. We all suffer losses in our lives—it’s an unfortunate part of being human—and we each handle them differently. I hope that this story will help people get through their own grief and perhaps be more understanding of how others deal with theirs.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Just write. A lot. Write stories that might never see the light of day. Keeping learning and practicing. Find a group of people you trust to give honest feedback. Listen to them, but also trust your gut.
What’s next for you?
I’m in the last round of editing my next book, The Smallest Thing, which comes out this summer. It’s the story of a 17-year-old girl, with big plans to escape her boring English village, who find herself trapped there by a government-imposed quarantine. It’s really a story about friendship, community, and what it means to become an adult—and fall in love—in the midst of tragedy. It was inspired by the true story of the village of Eyam, whose residents chose to quarantine themselves to prevent the spread of the plague in the 1600s. My story is a present-day version, plus there’s a hot guy in a HAZMAT suit.
By Lisa Manterfield
Kat Richardson isn’t running away from grief; she’s just hiding out in a gloomy Welsh university town until she’s sure it’s gone. Now, one year, nine months, and 27 days after the climbing death of her first love, Gabe, she thinks she’s ready to venture out into the relationship world again. And Owen—a cake-baking, Super Ball-making chemistry student—appears to be a kind, funny, and very attractive option.