The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum

Monday, March 30, 2009

What about Book Two?

3-30-09: “What about Book Two?”

Now that the ARCs for Hourglass Door are out in the world and people are reading them, the most frequently asked question I get is, “What about book two?” On the one hand, it’s kind of a surreal question. I mean, technically book one isn’t even in stores yet, so what am I doing worrying about book two? But I am worrying about it. Writing book two has been a completely different experience from writing book one. Yes, there are similarities—start with a noun, follow with a verb, toss in some adjectives and adverbs; remember to punctuate—but I’ve been surprised at the differences I’ve discovered in the process. This time I know more about my characters and what they’ll do and say, but because I know them better, I’m less inclined to put them in danger. What if they get hurt?

I keep thinking of a quote I read by Tad Williams (one of my favorite authors, by the way). He said that he hates writing the middle book of a series because it has to build on what came before it, set everything up for what will come next, and yet still be a complete book all on its own. That’s a lot to ask from a book.

What’s helping me the most as I work on book two is actually something from my childhood. As a kid, I would get so engrossed in a story that I wouldn’t dare stop reading during a dramatic moment because I didn’t want the characters to get stuck in a bad spot. How would they escape if I didn’t read the next part of the story? By the same token, sometimes I would slow down and savor the good moments; setting the book down gave the characters a chance to rest and breathe after so many adventures. (Perhaps that’s why I love Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books—characters play their parts while you’re reading, but once the book is closed, they are free to do what they want.) 

So I’m trying to work on book two more often—if only to get Abby and Dante out of the bad spots and into the good parts. I’m the writer, it’s my responsibility to look after them.
And so as I’m working on plotting and writing book two, I’m trying to build on book one and look ahead to book three and still make book two worth reading. I’m trying to get my characters through the bad spots so they can relax and enjoy the story too. Wish me luck!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Reviews are starting to come in

Some of the first reviews of "The Hourglass Door" are starting to arrive.  Here are a few:

" A fascinating and highly creative story developed on connections between literature and time travel, I was impressed with Mangum’s debut novel. Just enough suspense, just enough intrigue, and of course romance, roll into one engaging read." - Heather Moore
Read the full review here and visit Heather's site here

"Both the writing and the storytelling in this book are superb. Honestly, I cannot believe that this is Lisa Mangum's first book. The storyline is intriguing with several twists and turns that made me laugh, go wide-eyed, and loudly whisper, "No way!" One of my favorite parts of the whole book was when I got the very end and saw an advertisement for a sequel. I was so excited that there is going to be more!!! Girls will love this book for the romance aspect, especially if they liked Twilight. Boys will like this book because of intriguing history, abilities, and science (and if you're like me, a little romance never hurts as long as it doesn't go too far). Stephanie Meyer, it's time to step aside and allow Lisa Mangum to take the stage. This book has earned her a very prominent and well-deserved position." - Kevin Lemley

New Interviews

Here are some interviews that I have done recently about The Hourglass Door.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Magic Middle

3-16-09: The Magic Middle

One of my favorite episodes of the TV show Taxi is the one where Jim (Christopher Lloyd) burns down Louie’s (Danny DeVito) apartment. To make amends, Jim tells Louie that his father (who is quite wealthy) will pay for the damages, all Louie has to do is name a price. There follows one of the classic comedy bits where Louie tries to figure out what the perfect price should be. It can’t be too high or too low, but somewhere in the middle. Louie picks a price ($34,000, I think) and Jim calls his dad, tells him the figure, and then hangs up the phone. “What did he say?” Louie asks. “He said OK. He was afraid you were going to ask for $100,000,” says Jim. The look on Louie’s face is priceless.

I thought about that bit today when Chris and I got to talking about some of the early reviews of Hourglass Door. Most of the notes I’ve received have been from friends and family and have been along the lines of “I just started it and I love it!” “I’ve read the first two chapters and I’m hooked.” “I can’t wait to see how it turns out.” But Chris had one response that was apparently a laundry list of flaws in the story. He didn’t tell me who sent him the review or even let me read it, which I’m okay with. (Though part of me wants to read it just so I can get my first bad review over with. Crazy, I know.)

Here is a truth: Not everyone will like my book. I know that. I’m expecting that. It’s impossible that I could have written the first book that everyone who reads it loves it unconditionally. I’ve been reading books my whole life and I haven’t loved every book I’ve read. Some I have loved and cherished and recommended to everyone I meet. Some I have liked, read once, and moved on. Some of them I’ve downright hated. That’s the great thing about books—about any art really—there is enough variety that everyone can find something they like.

Of course I hope the reviews are good—maybe even better than good—but I also hope I can keep a healthy perspective about them. You know, not let the good ones go to my head; not take the bad ones personally. Maybe the best thing is to think of reviews like figure skating scores and toss out the top score and the bottom score. And, then, like Louie, I can find happiness somewhere in the middle.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Speak the word


A little shout-out to one of my favorite Queensrÿche songs —and certainly appropriate as today was my first recording session with Kenny Hodges for the audio version of The Hourglass Door. And it was so much fun! I had had a trial session back at the end of December and I was surprisingly nervous. Up until then, all the out-loud reading I’d done had been when I was a kid, reading to my mom while she made cookies, crocheted blankets, or hung wallpaper. (I’d also read aloud to my dog on more than one occasion. I bet I had the best-read pet on the block.) Anyway, Kenny had me read a couple different passages from the book and after an hour or so, I felt like had the hang of it.

Today, though, was a full four-hour reading session. I read just over a 100 pages, which, according to Kenny, is phenomenal for a novice reader. I’m not doing different character voices, so it’s just me and the story. It helped to imagine that I was just reading it to my mom, like I used to do when I was a kid. And I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised at how the story flowed along, how reading it aloud managed to make it feel fresh and new, even though I’d read the story a gazillon times before. For all those writers out there, I’d highly recommend sitting down and reading your work out loud to see how it sounds to your ear. (It’s also a great way to catch typos, by the way. At work, we ask our proofreaders to do it all the time.)

Since the ARCs are just making their way out into the world, I haven’t had a lot of feedback on the story from strangers yet. And so it was especially nice to read the Prologue and have Kenny pause and say, “Wow. That’s really good!” Personally, I think the Prologue is one of the best bits in the book and I’m especially proud of the fact that I wrote in a half-hour on the train home from work one day. See—the old adage is true, inspiration can strike anywhere, so you better be ready.

Reading my story out loud also made me think that’s what writing is all about—giving voice to your creativity and imagination, speaking out about whatever you want, saying important truths (sometimes in the guise of fiction).

As Geoff Tate and boys from Queensrÿche say, “Speak the word. The word is all of us.”

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Day Never to Be Repeated

3-4-09: A Day Never to Be Repeated

I’ll never have another day like today for as long as I live. Today was the day my ARCs of Hourglass Door arrived. My first ARCs of my first book. No matter how many other books I write, no matter how many other ARCs I have, I’ll never another first. And oh, but I enjoyed every minute of it!

I had just come back to my office from having lunch and was preparing for a whole afternoon of complex, hard-core editing on my biggest project of the year. And then Anne knocked on my door. When I turned around, she was holding an ARC of my book against the window of my office. I’m not sure I exhaled for a solid minute. I know I screamed long and loud inside my head. Anne said that she had opened the box, had seen the copies, and immediately brought me the first one. No one else in the entire building even knew they had arrived. I couldn’t believe I was holding my very own book in my very own hands. Sure it was just a quick paperback ARC—no hardback jacket with gold foil, no fancy paper or endsheets—but it had all the words I’d written and my name on the front. It was unspeakably beautiful.

I was completely useless the rest of the afternoon. I immediately e-mailed my husband, Tracy, at work to tell him my ARCs had arrived, then I grabbed another copy and practically ran the half a block to the Church Office Building where my mom and dad worked. After all, you’re never too old to bask in a little parental pride once in a while. Mom showed off me and my book to all her coworkers and Dad gave me a big thumbs-up.

When I finally returned to work, I had another wonderful surprise, another wonderful first. Chris rounded up a box of ARCs and we had an impromptu book signing party right there in the 7th floor conference room. And it certainly felt like a “party” to me. Sonia took pictures (which I will post as soon as she sends them to me) and I must have signed 25 or 30 books for all my friends and coworkers. It seemed like everyone wanted one—from VPs to the receptionist. I had a line of people out the door and into the hallway. I hadn’t realized how many people had already read all or part of my book and how many more had at least heard something good about it. (I guess the early buzz was working!) Last, but not least, I had a chance to sign an ARC for my good friend, Chris Schoebinger.

Instead of going straight home after work, I took the train to LDS Business College where Tracy was teaching his night class so I could personally deliver a copy to him and see him before his class started. After admiring the book, he hugged me and whispered, “I knew you could do it.” I am truly blessed to be surrounded by people who believe in me so completely and confidently. I am blessed to see my dreams come true. I feel like the whole world has opened up before me and everything is possible.

And so I am enjoying this moment tonight, knowing that I’ll never have another day like this one ever again. And yet, I also know that tomorrow will bring me the first of something else.

I can hardly wait.

Sunday, March 1, 2009



So today was supposed to be my press date for Hourglass Door. But, as is often the case, the last 10% seems to take longer to finish than the other 90%. We’re down to cleaning up the last nuts and bolts, and it’ll go early next week. Which is okay by me because part of me is oddly terrified to send it to press and actually see it published. Granted, it’s a small part and usually doesn’t get much attention because the rest of me is still screaming “Hooray! My book is being published!” But that voice seems to be gaining strength the closer I get to my press date and I’ve been trying to figure out why.

Perhaps it’s because this is my first book. My first time as an author. I know it probably sounds strange because I spent all day every day publishing books—but for other people. And, believe me, it’s different when it’s your own book.

I recognize that my path to publication was a little different than other authors since I actually work for the company publishing my book, but it was different in part because I kept my writing a secret from my coworkers. I wanted the people in the office to be able to review my book without the burden of bias. Without feeling obligated to like it and without feeling awkward if they didn’t. For the year or so that I was working on Hourglass Door only three people knew anything about it: Chris Schoebinger (the YA product director), Anne Sheffield (my immediate supervisor), and Jay Parry (my good friend and next-door office neighbor)—and frankly, I’m not sure Anne and Jay knew much more than I was working on a book. Chris knew more details about the plot and the characters because I’d pop into his office periodically and let him know a quick status report: “I’ve got about 50,000 words now.” “I just figured out something cool about the ending.” “I just wrote the Prologue and it’ll knock your socks off.”

The secrecy was both good and bad. Good, because it worked perfectly: my coworkers read my manuscript and didn’t know it was me and so were honest in their reactions and reviews. (The fact that they loved it was particularly gratifying for that very reason.) The secrecy was bad because it was only after my book was accepted and had a production schedule lined up that I discovered how hard it was to talk to people about my book. I still felt like I had to keep it a secret, which was not particularly compatible with what the marketing department wanted to do—which was to tell everyone in the world about my book.

Over the last few months, I’ve had to consciously shift into “blab mode.” So now when my hairdresser says, “How are you today?” instead of saying “Fine,” I say, “I’m doing great! I have a book coming out this spring and I’m really excited about it.” And when I see my neighbor at the grocery store and we start chatting about books, I find a way to mention my good news. For a girl who grew up painfully shy, this is a big step for me.

I hope this blog will be another big step for me. A way to blab about my book on a grander scale than to just my neighbors at the store. A way to chronicle my transformation from full-time editor to first-time author and beyond.

I hope you’ll join me on this amazing journey. I can’t wait!



I’ve heard that when starting something new, it’s best to start with a joke, if only to set the audience at ease. So here you go: “I shot an elephant in my pajamas. What he was doing in my pajamas, I’ll never know.”—Groucho Marx. Not only is the idea of an elephant in pajamas funny, but so is the dangling participle.

And now you know the sad truth: I’m a word nerd. A person who finds jokes about the English language funny; who corrects (if only mentally) the incorrect usage of “it’s” in advertisements; who is thrilled to see punctuation in the wild.

Example: My husband was shooting video for a wedding and I tagged along to keep him company and shoot some candid photos. The couple cut the cake—a beautiful, three-tiered affair with fresh flowers and black ribbons around each tier—and then moved to the dance floor. After a few songs had played, I wandered up to the table where the cake had stood and glanced down. There, to my wonder and amazement, was one of the black ribbons from the cake, casually discarded . . . in a perfect ampersand! It was the highlight of the evening for me.

As a word nerd, my whole life has been about books. I’d been writing since I was a child and loved to read. My first paying job was even at the public library shelving books as a “Page.” (I’d hoped to one day be promoted to a “Chapter” or even a “Book.”) I worked in a bookstore to pay for college. Four months to the day from my college graduation, I was hired as an Editorial Assistant at a publishing house. I’ve been working as an editor ever since. I suppose it was inevitable that one day I would write a book.

I’m so glad that book turned out to be The Hourglass Door.

Writing the love story of Dante and Abby was so much fun. I loved spending time with the characters and seeing how the story developed. I wrote on the weekends, at night, on the train as I commuted to work. I thought about it all the time. They say time flies when you’re having fun, and the cliché turned out to be true for me. From the day I got the idea to write the story to the day I finished and turned in the manuscript to my publisher was almost exactly one year. (And that includes the three months I spent ill with blood clots and two separate hospitalizations—a story for another blog, another day.)

And almost exactly one year after that, the book will be out in stores, ready for people to read. The official on-sale date for The Hourglass Door is May 13, though, since it’s not a hard street date, books may start showing up on shelves a little earlier than that. (Shameless plug: you can buy the book at,, or, or wherever fabulous books are sold.)

I hope that other people have as much fun reading about Abby and Dante as I did writing about them. I hope that you’ll come back often to see how book two and book three are coming along, to ask me questions, and to celebrate our status as “word nerds” together.