Mandi Tucker Slack was born in Price, Utah, and grew up in Orangeville, Utah, where she developed a great love of the outdoors. She enjoyed adventure novels as a child and has always been fascinated by books and writing. Mandi attended Utah State University, where she completed a four-year degree in special education. She currently resides in Santaquin, Utah, with her husband and family. In her free time, she enjoys camping, hiking, and rockhounding with her children.
Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
Mandi: The interest to become a writer started when I was 12. I wrote my first full-length novel that year. It’s terrible, but I’ve held onto it through the years because, really, I am very proud of that tattered manuscript. Writing my very own adventure story was such a thrill, and since that time, I’ve always aspired to become a published author.
Deirdra: Can you tell us a little about your book Alias?
Mandi: Jacey Grayson is a recently divorced mother, who learns some frightening news about her ex-husband, John. Frightened, she and her son Blaze flee to Utah to hide among rural Mormons. The main theme in The Alias is Jacey’s attempt to overcome years of abuse and develop a sense of who she really is. As the story progresses we see her desire to change and grow. She struggles with feelings of guilt and remorse for staying with her ex-husband so long and exposing her son to abuse, but as the story progresses we also see how she uses the lessons from her past to move forward into a more promising future.
Deirdra: How many beta readers review your manuscript before you send it to your editor?
Mandi: To be quite honest, I’m a very private person. I always have been. I didn’t let anyone read The Alias before I sent it to the publisher. I wish now that I had and since I’ve been published, I’ve really opened up and grown confident in my abilities as a writer. I feel more confident in letting other people read my material now and I can handle constructive criticism with a lot more grace.
Deirdra: What do you hope readers will get from your books?
Mandi: My first purpose in writing is to entertain and inspire. I have always loved books that touch me in a personal way. I like to read about characters that stay with me long after the story is finished. I hope my readers feel this. I hope that my characters and my stories will inspire and entertain.
Deirdra: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?
Mandi: I outline, absolutely. I’m a little jealous of those writers who can sit down and see what happens next, but unfortunately, my mind gets muddled easily and without an outline, my manuscript turns into a jumbled mess. I mix up dates and ages, and I’ve even been known to mix up names. Just last week I sat down to write and I felt too lazy to sort through my outline. I started writing and when I’d finished for the day, I realized that one of my characters, who started out as Gary, soon became Gregg and by the end of the last chapter, I’d named him Glen. When I don’t sit down and write out a very detailed outline, I’m a mess.
Deirdra: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?
Mandi: Yes, all the time! Each book I write has a certain mood. Right in the beginning, I always create a playlist. I pick songs and scores that match the mood of the plot. Then, whenever I get stuck, I jump in the car, crank the music and I drive. I never have a destination in mind. I just drive wherever I feel like and I let the music and the views re-inspire me. Usually this works. If that doesn’t work, then I simply walk away until a moment of inspiration hits, because I know eventually it will.
Deirdra: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?
Mandi: Most of the time, yes. When my kids get too loud, sometimes I’ll use headphones and listen to my playlist while I write, but not very often.
Deirdra: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?
Mandi: Again, mostly music, but there are so many things that inspire my creativity when trying to brainstorm new ideas for stories. My story ideas usually come from a conglomeration of different events that touch my life.
Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?
Mandi: My mother. My mom encouraged me every step of the way. When I was a child, she loved to read my stories and she always encouraged me to follow my dreams. When she learned I was going to have a book published, she was so proud. My book was released in May, but my mom passed away in April. A month before my book came out. I wish she’d lived to see it, because she was my biggest fan.
Deirdra: What’s your secret to making the characters in your books come to life?
Mandi: Once I find the story's personality, the characters just sort of take shape and as the story evolves so do the characters. If I change a scene, my character’s reaction changes as well and little-by-little their individuality develops.
Deirdra: What authors do you admire, and why?
Mandi: Dorothy Keddington is one of my all-time favorite authors. Her books are just fun. Her descriptions are so vivid and appealing and her characters are easy to relate to. Also, Jennie Hansen is another favorite, along with Kerry Blair. Blair’s books just make me giggle. I love her sense of humor and easy-going characters.
Deirdra: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?
Mandi: Muffins. I’m not sure what it is about muffins, but they seem to be my brain food. I also like to munch on popcorn, although that isn’t very healthy for my keyboard.
Deirdra: Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?
Mandi: I collect fossils. I’m a rock hound and most weekends, I drag my family across the state in search of new fossil locales. We spend a lot of time in Delta, Utah, and my house is literally decorated with fossils and minerals. It drives my husband crazy.
Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?
Mandi: Don’t give up and don’t be afraid to try. I was afraid to try for many years. I was afraid of rejection. Don’t be. Not everyone is going to like your book or the way you write, but you can’t live your life afraid of rejection. I wish I had tried sooner. Just keep trying and give it all you’ve got.
Deirdra: What are you working on now?
Mandi: I am currently in the process of editing a crime thriller that takes place in Seattle, Washington. Tarrin Grace has come through a very difficult divorce, and just when things are beginning to look up, her young daughter, Lexie, is witness to a heinous murder. Suffering from a form of post-traumatic stress disorder, Lexie is unable to recall details of the crime or the murderer. However, the killer remembers her, and Tarrin must risk all she has to protect her family.
Deirdra: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?
Mandi: My book is available on Amazon and right now you can purchase The Alias on Amazon kindle for only $3.99. You can also find my book in Deseret Book Stores or Barnes and Noble.
Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?
Mandi: Thank you for taking the time to interview me and giving me the opportunity to share a little bit about who I am. I hope you all enjoy my book, The Alias.
Thank you so much, Mandi. It’s a real honor to get your insights.