Sangu Mandanna Talks About Frankenstein…and Love

August 28, 2012 2012, author interview, guest post, Sangu Mandanna, Wendy 54

sangu mandanna the lost girl
As a reader, every once in awhile you come across a book that strikes a chord deep inside you. I was intrigued by the idea behind The Lost Girl, in which a young female clone must move to India to lead a whole new life, but I never expected to be as moved by the book as I was. 

The lovely author Sangu Mandanna stops by The Midnight Garden today to share how an unlikely classic–and her own loss–helped inspire a brilliant young adult novel that is already garnering rave reviews.

~ Wendy

Sangu Mandanna Guest Post

I wrote a book about death. But, you know, I think it’s really about love. It’s about the kinds of things people will do to keep hold of the ones they love. Sometimes that means sacrificing everything to be with someone you’re not supposed to be with. And sometimes that means signing up to cheat death itself. (Well. In theory, anyway.)

I’ve been asked about the inspiration behind The Lost Girl more times than I can count. And I always say it was inspired by Frankenstein. The thing I don’t often say is that it was Frankenstein, but also timing. And also love.

My mother gave me a copy of Frankenstein when I was thirteen. It was a Christmas present, bundled together with matching editions of Dracula and The Count of Monte Cristo. I was still living in Bangalore then, and I’d throw myself down on my bed while monsoon rains beat the window and I’d read for hours. I read all three of those classics. I liked Mary Shelley’s best. I thought it was cool. I thought the tragedies in Victor’s life were horrid and dismal, I thought it was kind of sad about the monster too.

And that was it.

Let’s skip ahead, to me at university. I was twenty-one. I had a string of failed manuscripts and rejections behind me. I was reading a lot (as ever). I was doing a British Romanticism module and Frankenstein was one of our set texts. I had a new copy of the book, a ghastly green edition I bought for a penny. I read it, thinking I’d probably like it as much as I did eight years before, I’d probably enjoy writing about it for the course, and later I’d probably put the book away and let it get dusty.

Scoff. I was very wrong. 

I read the book and couldn’t stop thinking about it. That ghastly green edition is practically my best friend now.

I wanted to write about the tragic, twisted Creature. I wanted to write about what life might have been like for someone like him. But most of all, I wanted to write about bringing the lost back. About a world in which, maybe, you never have to lose someone ever again.

So why did I care? Why did this book suddenly mean something to me?

We skipped ahead to university, so let’s go back now. Five years before, not even halfway between my first read of Frankenstein and my reread at university, I was almost sixteen. And I lost someone I loved very much.

It’s difficult to quantify love, but my aunt defined the word for me. When she died, it was all wrong. She was young. It wasn’t a nice death (if such a thing exists). It was the kind of thing that made no sense. I mean, you read about these things. You watch these things on big, glowing screens. You cry with skilled actors and sob over beautiful words on the page. But it’s not supposed to happen in real life. It’s just not. At least, that’s what I told myself. Over and over. I, ever the writer, imagined new ways for the story to go. I imagined she’d come back. I imagined walking into my house one day and seeing her there and she’d say “it was just a silly mistake” and laugh. Sometimes I still like to imagine that.

So you can see why Frankenstein suddenly looked different to me. Why it tugged on something it hadn’t even touched before.

I wanted to write about a way to not lose someone you love. I wanted to create a world in which the impossible was possible, and then turn it all upside-down. I wanted to write about how tempting that kind of hope could be. I wanted to write about stitching life from scratch, and using that new life to replace an old one; I wanted to write about the hope that one day it might be possible to transfer the soul from one body to another. All kinds of things rushed at me that day. All kinds of I-want-to-write-this thoughts. I wanted to write about a lot of things. About death. But mostly about love.

Of course, in the end, it wasn’t up to me. It was up to Eva. It was months before I heard her voice in my head. Until then, it didn’t matter what I wanted. I had ideas, I had I-wants, I even knew whose echo I, personally, would stitch if I had that choice (and if the system actually worked). But I had no Frankensteinian monster of my own. I had no story.

Then Eva told me hers. And I thought well, here’s my monster.

And then I wrote about death. But mostly, about love. 

sangu mandanna writer's desk

Sangu Mandanna was four years old when she was chased by an elephant and wrote her first story about it and decided that this was what she wanted to do with her life. Seventeen years later, she read Frankenstein. It sent her into a writing frenzy that became The Lost Girl, a novel about death and love and the tie that binds the two together. Sangu now lives in England with her husband and baby son. Find her online at @SanguMandanna, on her blog, and on GoodReads.

Our rather weepy review of The Lost Girl may be found here. The book releases in the U.S. today and is available in stores and online. It will also be more widely available in January, 2013.

Please note that right now, The Lost Girl is a standalone, but the author hopes the novel will be expanded into a series at some point. She’s currently working on a few future projects, involving a steampunk Romeo and Juliet, a fantasy-fairytale, and tragic love story in a small seaside town.

Photos appear courtesy of the Sangu Mandanna.

54 Responses to “Sangu Mandanna Talks About Frankenstein…and Love”

  1. Oh! Paper Pages

    I just finished this the other night and LOVED it. It is so well-written and the story is just fantastic. I was so pulled into Eva’s story, and I can’t wait to read what happens.

  2. erin

    Thanks for a fabulous post! This made me want to go back and reread Frankenstein :) Definitely going to check out this book! Congrats to the author on the new release!

  3. Kelly

    This just about broke my heart. I haven’t read The Lost Girl yet, but knowing that it was (in part) inspired by both Frankenstein and the loss of her aunt makes me that much more eager to pick up a copy!

    • Wendy Darling

      I hope you get your hands on it soon, Kelly! It’s a beautiful book and I think it’s important to support debut authors whenever possible, too.

  4. Lynn K.

    Thank you for such a lovely interview. “And then I wrote about death. But mostly, about love.” this sentence resonates within my mind as I read the post. I am looking forward to getting my copy of The Lost Girl.

  5. Heather@The Flyleaf Review

    What an amazing interview. Sangu Mandanna seems like such a lovely person. I absolutely adored The Lost Girl, more than I expected to. It really resonated with me in so many ways. After reading this interview I want to go read again:)

  6. Donna Smith

    This is such a wonderful guest post! If your review hadn’t already convinced me that I NEED to read this book, then this certainly would have done so. I think many of us who have experienced a loss of someone close to us have imagined a thousand ways that it could have been avoided, reversed, or that it just didn’t happen at all. I can’t wait to read The Lost Girl!

    • Wendy Darling

      Ah, I cannot wait for you to read this, Donna. Grief is an intensely personal feeling and it moved me deeply to find a subject like this explored in a young adult genre novel. I will be stalking your updates when you start reading this one!

  7. Rachel

    I agree completely with Sangu when she says that until you experience a death close to you, you don’t completely understand the loss someone feels. The Lost Girl sounds like an amazing read. Wonderful post! Thank you ladies. :)

    • Wendy Darling

      I agree with Sangu as well–you may be able to empathize, but it’s impossible to comprehend the way life changes unless you’ve experienced a personal loss.

      Thanks for stopping by, Rachel. :)

  8. Amanda

    I love it when authors (YA or otherwise) push the boundaries and actually write books full of insight and thought-provoking questions instead of purely entertainment value. I mean, I should hope most authors attempt to do that anyway, but with some it’s far better executed than with others. Also I am a fan od Children of Men. Your review is great and I’ve read so many positive comments on this – this is definitely a book I need to keep on my radar!

    • Wendy Darling

      YES! I hoped to be entertained, and I got something leaps and bounds above most young adult genre novels.

      And thanks so much. I kept thinking of the film COM as I was reading this book, so hopefully you’ll have a sense of what I mean when you get around to reading it. :)

  9. Jenn

    This is a wonderful guest post. I really want to read The Lost Girl now. I think it’s interesting that she was given such grave classics as Christmas gifts. I think it does suit perfectly though.

    • Wendy Darling

      I received nothing but classics as a child, hah, so I relate to this. I also rather like Sangu’s weathered green edition of Frankenstein, it seems appropriately full of character. :)

  10. Jasprit

    This is such a lovely post Wendy, again I’m totally out of the loop with this book, but it sounds like a fascinating read, I love how all the things led to the development of what sounds like a truly achy read! I will definitely have to check this out soon! Thanks for sharing such a great post! :)

    • Wendy Darling

      I like the “truly achy” decription, Jasprit! Definitely fits this book. Would love to see what you think of this one.

  11. Sam

    What a beautiful guest post. Thanks for sharing! It’s always interesting to hear about the inspiration behind an author’s work and Sangu’s story is very touching. A book about death that’s mostly about love? That sounds like something that shouldn’t be missed.

    • Wendy Darling

      Isn’t it lovely? A guest post–and book–that comes from the heart. I think it gives you a good idea of what her writing is like in the book.

  12. Vegan YA Nerds

    This is such a beautiful and heartfelt post, I always enjoy finding out what inspired an author – thank you for sharing this story, Sangu :)

  13. Heidi@Rainy Day Ramblings

    Frankenstein is one of those novels that sticks with you. It is unexpectedly different than what you expect. I loved this guest post. I can tell that she is a talented writer and I will definitely be adding this book to my list! A steampunk Romeo and Juliet sounds very intriguing as well!

  14. Jennifer Messerschmidt

    I’ve actually never read Frankenstein. Loss does bring about all kinds of thoughts about love and immortality. With the mentions of Frankenstein in the book I was wondering if that was part of what inspired the story. Thanks for sharing this!

  15. SKR

    That was a wonderful post. Thank you, Sangu for sharing and Wendy for hosting!

  16. Andrea @The Bookish Babes

    Oh….I don’t know what to say. I experienced a tragic loss (of a cousin) when I was younger and spent years fantasizing about him coming back, almost exactly the way Sangu described her thoughts about her aunt. What a beautiful, beautiful tribute to her memory!
    Thank you for sharing this w/your readers.

  17. roro

    this has been on of the most amazing guest post i have read and i disparately want my copy

    • Wendy Darling

      You can always tell the guest posts that are repetitive and those that come from the heart, can’t you? I loved her post, too.

  18. A Canadian Girl

    What a thoughtful and touching guest post! I loved finding out the inspiration behind The Lost Girl and now am looking forward to getting my hands on a copy even more. I’d totally read a steampunk Romeo and Julie too :)

    • Wendy Darling

      I always like to hear the inspiration behind a book, and this touching nature of the author’s guest post will be even more meaningful when you have a chance to see what it inspired. :) Hope you get a chance to read it soon!

  19. Amy

    What a great post!! I really enjoyed this book. The writing is fantastic. I am definitely looking forward to reading more of her books!!

    • Wendy Darling

      I was so happy to see you loved it too, Amy! I hope she announces her next official project soon, since these seem to all be WIP.

  20. Candace

    A steampunk Romeo and Juliet sounds EPIC!

    Okay so, I SO need to read Frankenstein now! I think this post has completely convinced me. I loved learning a bit more about Sangu Mandanna!

    • Wendy Darling

      Doesn’t it? I think it sounds amazing. It seems like such a good idea, that I’m surprised no one has tried it before, hah.

  21. Sophia

    This guest post is so lovely! I think Sangu Mandanna is definitely climbing up my “favorite authors” list. The way she writes so simply, yet eloquently, and seems to capture her exact ideas without unnecessary description is amazing. I haven’t read Frankenstein, but the way that Sangu Mandanna talks about her green copy makes me want to read it right away. The Lost Girl was fabulous and I can’t wait for Sangu’s next project! Thanks so much for sharing this post, Wendy! :) <3

    • Wendy Darling

      Same here, Sophia! I think she’s going to be one of my favorites, too. Her prose is very clean, but very emotional, too–best kind, in my opinion. ;)

  22. readingdate

    I love hearing the story behind the book and this author’s story doesn’t disappoint. Really looking forward to getting The Lost Girl into my hands! I may have to read Frankenstein as a companion too.

    And a steampunk Romeo and Juliet sounds fantastic!

  23. Keertana

    Fabulous interview, Wendy! I seriously need to read this book SO badly! I love how the author described this novel and how she shared her life experiences and analysis of Frankenstein with us. Plus, even more touching than that was the how the story of this came about, so I loved reading all that! Thanks for sharing such a wonderful post with us, Wendy! :D

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, this is all Sangu–her words alone are what you’re responding to. :) I’ve seen mention of the Frankenstein influence before, but it wasn’t until she sent this guest post that I truly understood the emotional origin of this story.

      Thanks for stopping by, Keertana!

  24. dragongirl

    Wonderful interview! I want to read The Lost Girl so badly now. It sounds like a beautiful, heartwrenching story.

    And a steampunk Romeo and Juliet? Am I the only one who thinks this sounds totally amazing?! :D

    • Wendy Darling

      It is definitely both those things, dragongirl. :)

      My ears perked up at “steampunk R&J,” too! Sounds like a cool idea. Steampunk is hard to pull off, but every once in awhile you get a really terrific, well-researched novel.

  25. SaraO

    Wow. I can’t say how much I enjoyed this guest post. If Mandanna’s book is written as well and thoughtfully as this post I’m sold. Heading off right now to B&N to grab it, though my book budget is already blown for the month!

    I have to say I was very touched by the author’s genesis for this novel. I can relate to her experiences, and have similar in my own life. Though I must disagree with a few details. I’ve always hated Victor and his mad experiment to create the monster. As for the Monster himself, my heart has always ached for him. I think I even shed a tear during my own read of the novel. Though, I’ve always found The Phantom from Phantom of the Opera and even King Kong a bit heart wrenching too. I’m odd like that, lol.

    Can’t wait to see how Mandanna re-imagines the themes.

    • Wendy Darling

      I think the guest post was wonderful…but the book will be an even more emotional experience, Sara.

      I loved this guest post, too. I think most of us can relate to having lost someone very dear to us.

      And you’re not alone in your pity for The Phantom or for Kong. :)

  26. SaraO

    Wow. If the book is half as enthralling as the author’s guest post I’m sold. Very much looking forward to her writing after reading this post. The genesis of the book touches on many things I’ve experienced in my own life as well.

    For me, I’ve always hated Victor and his decision to make the monster. And I actually cried for the monster at the end of the book. He makes my heart hurt. Can’t wait to see how Mandanna re-imagines the theme.

  27. starryeyedjen

    Such a beautiful interview! And I read somewhere that The Lost Girl was inspired by Frankenstein and that the author is currently reading This Dark Endeavor (which I’m currently listening to), but I didn’t make the correlation between the two stories. Thank you so much for bringing this poignant interview to us, Wendy! I didn’t think it was possible after your review yesterday, but now I’m even more excited to get my hands on this book!

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, I need to read the Kenneth Oppel books, too–I have both of the V. Frankenstein books sitting on my shelf.

      I’m so looking forward to hearing what you think of this one, Jen. :)