October 24, 2011

An Interview and Giveaway with Lisa Mannetti, Author of "The New Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn"

First thing's first. Contest time! Award-winning author Lisa Mannetti was gracious enough to not only answer a few interview questions to promote her new novel, The New Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, but she's also provided a signed paperback copy to go out to one lucky winner. Plus, a second winner will receive a digital copy of the novel in the e-book format of their choice. This giveaway is open worldwide!

To enter, simply fill out the form(s) at the very bottom of this post. The giveaway will remain open until midnight on Halloween night, then I'll announce the winners on November 1st.

Also, be sure to check out all of the other great giveaways that are going on as part of the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop. Plus, I am currently hosting three other book giveaways right now as part of this blog's Monster Movie Marathon. Each of those contests will remain open until Halloween night as well.

Giveaway #1: audiobook of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
Giveaway #2: trade paperback of Cthulhurotica
Giveaway #3: a "monster" book of your choice via Book Depository (up to $15 US)

In the meantime, however, I encourage you to read my interview with Lisa Mannetti and learn a little more about her, her work, and the two cats who inspired her latest novel. Enjoy.

An Interview with Lisa Mannetti,
author of The New Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn

I recently had a chance to ask Lisa Mannetti a few questions regarding her new novel. After reading Lisa's debut novel, The Gentling Box, two years ago she has quickly become one of my favorite horror authors. But unlike The Gentling Box and Deathwatch with their historical horror elements, this new novel shows Lisa's lighter side. But don't take my word for it, let's read what she has to say.

Gef: Okay, The New Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn: Mark Twain, reincarnation, witches, werewolves, a haunted bed & breakfast--and cats. Where in the heck did the impetus for a book containing this motley crew come from?

Lisa: Well, I actually owned a pair of twin white cats named—you guessed it, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. And you’ll have to trust me on this, but never ever were two cats more aptly named. Tom, the big smoothie, was the ringleader—he could convince Huck to try anything: including jumping from the floor to the top of the doors in the house. Huck, who was scruffier, even had what looked like freckles on his nose. Huck wasn’t very good at jumping to the top of the doors (he was smaller and heavier) but they both had a whale of a time trying. Never have I had cats that were as smart (okay, I know you aren’t going to believe they understood English, but they did) and as much fun.
So, I started to do these little playlets for the outgoing message on my answering machine featuring Tom telling the latest—replete with a Southern accent. I had phone calls from telephone solicitors who would call back laughing, and then apologize for calling back, then call again and this time you’d hear the entire office laughing. Mostly they had to do with imaginary hijinks—like throwing my other cat, Charlotte Bronte (whose twin had died) into the dryer, or asking people to send them catnip, or their plans to ambush mice and eat all the lights off the Christmas tree...my friends would complain if I didn’t change the message at least every few weeks.
Then one day, the concept of the book came to me. I started writing and the thing just wrote itself and I think it was because Tom already had a voice...after that I started a website which is named for the Inn, the cats run: The Chancery House. It’s had 4 million visitors over the years. (www.thechanceryhouse.com)

Gef: Aside from 51 Fiendish Ways to Leave Your Lover, I don't recall finding a whole lot of humor in your fiction when I've read it. The majority of what I've read has been some very darkly-themed historical horror. Do you find humor a more challenging attribute than horror--especially with characters originated by Mark Twain?

Lisa: Yes, but that’s because you haven’t known me my whole life... I’ve always written both horror and satire—even as a kid. I’m also hugely attracted to humor in writing, as well. I’m a huge fan of Jean Kerr, J.P. Donleavy, Kingsley Amis, Evelyn Waugh—to name a few. Horror and humor are both skewed versions of reality, exaggerations to give stories more dramatic impetus and in my mind, though they appear to be at opposite ends of the spectrum, they’re actually closely related.
Humor is slightly (and I emphasize the word slightly) more dependent on pacing, but not by a great deal—after all, once you’ve got the heroine in a horror novel running up the stairs as if someone is chasing her with a big stick, so to speak, eventually she’s going to have to open the attic door.
I first read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn when I was in third grade, so I’ve been a lifelong fan. Over the years, I’ve read—and reread—just about every thing he’s written, so again, it felt very natural to me to write the book. Plus, let’s not forget our most beloved humorist (and clearly one of the best American writers over the centuries) was fascinated with twins (as I am) and loved cats (as I do).

Gef: Bringing famed literary characters into your own sandbox, as it were, and re-imagining them, where do you find the biggest challenge in making them your own? Or do you even try?

Lisa: I think my characters are a blend of Twain’s original Tom and Huck, and my cats, and my imagination. They were a lot of fun and very gregarious animals and very smart and always into mischief, so in a way, it wasn’t hard to extrapolate from the stunts they pulled on an everyday basis and think up harum-scarum situations. They’d play fight, but they were also completely devoted to each other and they were hell on wheels when they ambushed mice—I mean they had battle plans and flanking maneuvers, no kidding....By the way, did you know mice scream? I found out the hard way when the terrible twosome cornered some poor field mouse in the downstairs laundry room and I was up in my office (writing Deathwatch at the time and heard it shriek. Loudly.) We will pass over further mention of this poor unfortunate for those who are squeamish. Anyway, I absolutely wanted the book to feel familiar (and the more one knows Twain, the more inside jokes you’re likely to get) but I also wanted it to be unique—not just in terms of the premise—but also in terms of the adventures my Tom and Huck experienced. My book is a little more poignant than Twain’s works; but I’m more sentimental than he is, I think.

Gef: There are actually two versions of this book: one for younger readers and one for mature readers. Why did you feel the need to create a "family friendly" version of this book? Or is it the other way around, and you felt the need to create a "grown-up" version?

cover for YA edition
Lisa: The New Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn is a lot milder than any of my previously published novels; but since I loved Twain (and he’s written some pretty irreverent things) I wanted adults to feel they could come to it on their own terms. However, my publisher and I agreed, there were certain passages that were too strong for younger readers. I remember actually being really embarrassed as a kid when the king prances out naked and painted all over ring-streaked-and-striped during the Royal Nonesuch scenes, but I didn’t want to bowdlerize my book; so the publisher and I agreed I’d give it a scouring and we’d have two versions. I may be wrong, but I don’t think that’s ever been done before, so that’s something—hopefully a creative solution to what might have been material that was too mature for the barrettes and paintball gang.

Gef: Do you have a particular animal in mind should you be reincarnated?

Lisa: I’ve actually had people in pet stores (on seeing me load up on all kinds of cat toys and gizmos) tell me they want to come back in their next life as one of my cats, but I have never wanted to be any kind of animal....now, if I could switch back and forth from human to smart, persnickety feline, that might be okay, but basically, I can’t stand the idea of eating smelly canned food out of a dish stuck on the floor, or never taking a bath in a tub with lavender oil, never wearing high heels, or flaying mice as part of a food and exercise regimen. I love cats—and honestly, Tom and Huck were smart as hell—but I’d really miss reading and writing, too.

I'd like to offer a big thanks to Lisa for her time and this interview. I'd also like to thank her for offering the two books I'm about to offer to two lucky winners.

If you would like a chance to win a copy of The New Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, we've got both a signed trade paperback and an e-book copy up for grabs. For the e-book prize, the winner will specify which format they'd like to receive (i.e., epub, mobi, PDF, etc.). Fill out the corresponding form of whichever format you'd like to win, then pay a visit to the plethora of blogs participating in the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop by clicking HERE.


  1. Lisa, I had to laugh when you were describing your Tom and Huck ... it's funny the impact a super smart cat can have on your life, isn't it? My genius cat Kitty and playful sidekick Kadie never cease to amaze me. ;-)

  2. Yes, Lisa, absolutely...I have scores of stories about the boys. Not surprising you'd have a genius cat, my dear!!

  3. I love the covers. Thank you for the giveaway!

  4. Hi. I'm a new follower, stopping by from the hop.

    Have a great week!

    My giveaway at:

  5. at least you have the animal in mind and have fun with it i think they would be great to read