Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Interview ~ Mandana Towhidy (author of Arcadia)

I conducted an interview with author Mandana Towhidy through the YA Bookaholics group on Goodreads. You can also find this interview on there. 

MANDANA TOWHIDY is a writer, editor, and art director whose work has been featured in pop culture magazines Dazed&Confused, Tokion, Oyster, and numerous other print and online publications. She writes daily with her little Chihuahua, Lotte, sleeping by her side.\m/

Check out the author's Tumblr page.
About her book:
Goodreads description:
Populated by rockers, Deadheads, misfits, skinheads, Goths, surfers, preppies, cheerleaders, and jocks, ARCADIA by Mandana Towhidy is a Fast Times at Ridgemont High for the Metal years. It's an honest story of Ronnie and her friends (Ezze, Tess, Ash, and Syd), teen girls in the heart of the Hollywood Metal scene during the late 80s/early 90s, ruling it in their own way, with or without the boys, and having the time of their lives: scrounging dimes for burritos, ducking the hallway narcs, getting stoned in the parking lot, and hitching rides to the next party to get wasted, all before noon on a school day. And in the world of Hollywood where more is all you need, Ronnie discovers happiness in Metal and friends and learning to see through the games and the "perfect-ness" of it all. Long Hair Rocks...Again!

Add Arcadia to Goodreads

Now that you know about Mandana and her book, lets move on to the best part . . .

The Q's and A's
Q: What inspired you to write Arcadia?

HEAVY METAL! Well, Heavy Metal (which I love, even though I do listen to a lot of other genres...) because I really wanted to write something that wasn't just about a bunch of guys trying to get laid and go to a concert or find their guitar heroes. I wanted to give readers an insight into what it was like to BE THERE, especially now with the 20-somethings who weren't even around and still love the music. I was also inspired by some of my favorite high school stories and films...16 Candles, Rock and Roll High School, Fast Times at Ridgemont High. I just love all those high school stories and I wanted to be part of that club because I had a different story to tell.
It was an obvious book to write for me...there are a lot of ideas for books, especially in my head. But this was definitely a must-do. And I'm happy I did it.

Q: What are the characters in Arcadia, Ronnie and her friends, like?

Well, Ronnie is a junior in high school...I think she's got a couple of sides to her side is always trying to make the right choices/decisions, trying to figure out the game of life, and the other side of her just let's go any rules and guidelines. She's very loyal to her friends (Ash, Sydney, Ezze, and Tess). Ash is probably the hardest to read because she's really concerned about how she portrays herself, even though she really doesn't need to or shouldn't need to. Sydney is that girl you *think* you know (like the cheerleaders), but you really don't. Ezze is the girl everyone wants to be near, but she doesn't really get it, maybe...or maybe she takes it for granted. She's also kind of like a mom figure in the group, but she can also be the one who likes to do bad things. Tess is probably one of the most judged by her peers in general, even though they have no real reason to do so other than she looks perfect at all times in all ways. There are a lot of characters from "Office Hags" to "Twinkie Twins". There's also an older boy love interest everyone calls THE FANG. He’s a roadie for a Metal band.

Q: Where do you draw the most support in you writing career?

From life experience. That's the most. From whatever I'm going through at the moment I'm writing it. I know some people read a book and think that one character might be directly linked to one real-life person. But the fact is that these characters are usually a hybrid of someone old and someone new and maybe someone I haven't even met yet. I do love to travel and I do love to explore new places and see and smell and taste new things. I've been to a lot of places in my life, and a few places on my own, which really makes you grow and learn because you're forced to befriend strangers unless you really want to end up solo the entire trip, which I do not really prefer. I think, and this is just my opinion, that conflicting or harder experiences in our past really ripen our words and make our stories that much better. I don't know how amazing a story can be if you've had a totally perfect life. And I do notice EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING. Oh wait...where do I draw the most support...SUPPORT. OOPS. Why did I read that differently?

I draw the most support from my friends, from some of my long-time readers/writing fans (from when I was a magazine writer/editor), and from my agent (he is the most amazing person ever and anyone who says bad things about agents had a bad experience or else they've never had a good agent). My agent (PJ MARK) has probably been the best support I've ever had when it comes to my books. He just understands me and my writing and my writing style (because it's a little different). He also gets my mood swings and my stubborn tantrums when he wants me to change things. He's part of the reason I keep writing, too. That's the truth. Writing books takes time and it can be terribly challenging, obviously. And finding a good agent can also be a challenge. I don't take him for granted. As long as he's in my life, I'm going to keep sending him books. Plus, he's just an awesome person all around.

Q: Are you currently working on any other books?

Yes...I'm currently working on a new novel about the advertising industry, sort of. It's about love, or sacrificing or selling out (depending on how you see it) the love of your life for a big buck. There's a lot more about that, but that's all I can say right now. I've just started to actually write it. I have been piecing it together for a while. I also have a novella I will be writing right after and a book of short stories and a couple of other things. I have a bunch of things I want to write. There is also a book I wrote a while ago that I need to edit. It might be a good book to have as my third published novel.

Q: What is your favorite film adaptation of a book (or at least, one of them)?

I've said this before, but one of my most favorite film adaptations is Morvern Callar. The book is by Alan Warner. Lynne Ramsay directed the film. I just LOVE what she did with that book. It had that same vibe as when you actually read the book; you still have voices or thoughts in your head. It's not all spelled out for you, which sometimes destroys the book experience (I've heard this has happened a bit with The Great Gatsby...which I have not seen yet and might not ever see because I love the book so much). Am I making sense? If my book ended up turning into a film (which I get asked about A LOT), I'd probably want Lynne Ramsay to do the film. Maybe. I don't know if she can do humor. But I love her vision. And I’d want Samantha Morton to be in the film because I love her, too.

I also liked The Virgin Suicides (book by Jeffrey Eugenides and film by Sofia Coppola). I think Sofia really respected and got the kids to a tee. (I actually think she’s the perfect choice to do a film version of The Bell Jar, another one of my all-time favorite books…I know Julia Stiles is obsessed with that book. But she should leave it for Sofia.) Obviously Fear and Loathing was genius. I remember sitting in the theater with another diehard HST fan...we felt such relief when the film started.

Q: Your profile says you're also an editor and art director. Can you tell me more about what you do in those positions?

I was a magazine editor and writer for over 10 years. I started young. I hadn’t graduated journalism school yet when I started writing for Dazed and Confused and Tokion. I was a magazine editor for a few publications, the last being Oyster magazine, which was a sexy, edgy fashion rag. I really loved it and I loved a lot of my editors. Most of them liked my style of writing and many of them allowed me to deviate from structured/standard journalism style. The art direction happened organically (which I prefer…I don’t like things that are forced), because, as a magazine editor, you end up creative directing and consulting a lot. You’re quite often in charge of a story, the shoot, the team, the execution, the production of the photos and the final product that ends up in the magazine. Plus I’ve always been obsessed with pop culture and sub cultures and all of that falls into the same pool. I’ve worked with a lot of cool brands and agencies and I’m looking forward to doing more. It’s another hat I wear. But at the end of the day, or the end of my life, I’d like to be firstly known as a writer. Or, a writer/creative.

Q: Lastly, since you used to live in Portland, Oregon, what was your favorite thing about living there? (I'm an Oregonian, you see. I can't help but ask.)

Oh I miss New Seasons (market) with all of my heart! ☺ I miss their vegan oatmeal cake and the cheese mongers there. I miss the good food. I miss the daily use of a bicycle and all the flirting that goes on in a town filled with cyclists. I miss riding my favorite bike in my favorite dresses in the perfect summers across those pretty bridges. ☹ You don’t get that here in Los Angeles, which is why I’m considering moving back to the North West. I also miss my friends there. And Cathedral Park…Bridge? You can correct me on that…that place is so gorgeous. And all those Gus Van Sant clouds that move so quickly over the city. I have always been a huge fan of his and I was super stoked to see those clouds there. It made sense why he uses them in almost all of his films. And, yeah, the weather sometimes sucked. But it’s reallllly easy to sit inside and write when it’s pouring rain outside. ☺

Thank you for answering my questions!

I have a few responses:
  • Arcadia seems like its a unique story in the midst of music based books (at least, the ones I know of).
  • I love it when a big group of friends are featured in a book. They all usually turn out to play their own roles in the story and there's usually special characteristics to go with each one.
  • I guess it's easy to read the "support" question differently. I like how she gave me two different answers. I asked because I often check out books' acknowledgement pages. It's really interesting to see where authors find their most support.
  • That may be one of the reasons why I often don't like a movie better than the book. The vibe is often different. 
  • I've actually only been to Portland a few times for school related trips (so sad), but my brother cooks in a restaurant up there (I believe he's a sous chef). My mom and I might go up there to visit soon. Maybe I'll see the cyclists and the bridge. :)
That's it for the interview! Keep an eye out for more interviews later. 


  1. hey kaitlin...thx for doing the interview. i'm stoked to be on your blog! to address some of your responses:

    -thx! i really appreciate that you think that! it comes out on ebook soon. it's already in the ibook store and people can order it from some rad indie bookstores (or amazon...but support indie!)
    -yes! me, too!
    -cool. actually,i don't know why my brain went to inspiration. but maybe my support inspires me...i do have a big acknowledgements page in the back...doing those can be tricky actually.
    -the vibe can be different and they can add way too much so you never get to feel what the writer wanted...because it's all spelled out for you. the great gatsby story is kind of boring. it's fsf's writing that makes it gorgeous.
    -cathedral's amazing and beautiful. and new seasons! don't forget to try a slice of the vegan oatmeal cake!

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