Author Jen Calonita and Mari Mancusi Interview
Author Jen Calonita and Mari Mancusi join me for an exclusive author interview. Today, we find out all about Disney’s Polar Nights book they’ve collaborated on. Yes, it’s about Frozen!
Share with us about Polar Nights.
JEN: It’s part adventure story, part mystery, and very spooky. I’ve never written anything like it before. We really think Frozen fans are going to enjoy this all-new Elsa and Anna story.
MARI: Polar Nights is the very first post-Frozen 2 novel, so we went into it knowing there would be a lot of anticipation…and expectations…from fans who wanted to know what happened to our two queens since the dramatic end of the second film. One thing that was especially important to us—to show the strength of their sisterhood. Even though they physically live further away from one another now (as many real life sisters do!) their bond is stronger than ever. And when trouble rises, they rise to the challenge and work together using their own unique skills to save their kingdom.
I have to ask…are you both Frozen fans?
JEN: Yes! Huge fans (I think Mari wins though. If you follow her on TikTok and watch her vidoes, you will marvel at her Frozen memorabilia collection!) We’ve both written Disney Frozen books too.
MARI: I honestly think that’s why I was chosen to write my first Frozen novel, Dangerous Secrets, which tells the story of Elsa and Anna’s parents. (Warning if you haven’t read it, their story brutally sad, but very romantic.) I was already writing for Disney doing original titles and my editor saw all my Elsa cosplay pictures on my Facebook feed and knew I was the one for this project. I had a two year old when the first film came out and the two of us fell in love with the film immediately and our house was all Frozen all the time with Let it Go playing on repeat. And yes, as Jen mentioned, I have an office full of Frozen collectibles these days, including my beloved collection of limited edition Frozen dolls which I often share on TikTok.
To be honest, I think it’s vitally important for authors of these kinds of series to be fans themselves. It brings an authenticity to the work. And it really can be a dream come true to know that you, a fan, were able to actually build a tiny corner of the world you love so much and offer other fans a chance to play in your sandbox for a bit. It’s thrilling, really.
What was your favorite part of writing the storyline for Polar Nights?
JEN: I would say collaborating with Mari. As we’re both Frozen fans, we know the world well and we had so much fun figuring out twists and turns for all the characters together. We brainstormed on the phone all the time and would text each other like, “Hey, I was thinking about this scene again. What if we did this instead?”
MARI: Definitely what Jen said! I’d never done a collaborative work before and so this was a true treat. (Especially to work with someone as amazing as Jen!) In addition, I loved writing the part of Elsa and imagining what’s going on in her head. It seems like most Frozen books are told from Anna’s POV so this was a rare treat to be able to give readers the inside thoughts of the Snow Queen.
What message do you hope readers take away from Polar Nights?
MARI: `There’s a quote in the book that says, “There’s nothing in the world like the love of two sisters” and I think if I had to sum up the story, that would be what I’d say. Elsa and Anna have been through so much over the years and most of their films deal with them trying to come to terms with BEING sisters after so many years apart. Trusting one another, relying on one another, etc. Now their sisterhood has been taken to the next level and we can see how powerful they are when they are truly working together. And I think that’s such a great real life message. Not just about sisterhood, but having a partner, a friend, a sibling who you can completely rely on to be there for you no matter what. Together you can move mountains. (Or fight scary Norse zombie monsters as the case might be!)
The cover is great. I love the outline of Anna and Elsa. Were you involved in the design process?
JEN: It’s truly incredible, isn’t it? I love the story sky and the draugr’s outline in the clouds.
MARI: The cover is truly stunning. I love the spookiness of it and the girls in their post-Frozen 2 outfits. (Fun fact: the shorter green dress Anna wears is her queen day dress – much more practical than her coronation gown!) We were shown an earlier sketch with only Elsa but we knew, given the book, it had to be the two of them sharing the stage. My one disappointment? I really wanted to the Nokk by Elsa’s side. Maybe next book!
You both collaborated and wrote Polar Nights together. What was that like? Did one of you prefer to write one character over another?
JEN: We each took a character. There was no question of who was going to write who. We just knew immediately!
MARI: We’re lucky that Jen is such an Anna and I’m such an Elsa! From the very beginning we knew that was how it should be!
Let’s talk about how you wrote this book together but made it seem as if it was written by one author. Did you both decide to write in the morning together or separately? Have daily zoom sessions or coffee shop meet-ups?
JEN: We would have loved to be in the same place at the same time, but we wrote this during the pandemic and since I’m in New York and Mari is in Texas, we had to rely on Facetime and Google Docs, which worked surprisingly well.
MARI: We went chapter by chapter, alternating our queen point of views. When we’d finish a chapter, we’d send it on to the other person and they’d edit it and add their spin and then move on to their chapter. So while each chapter was written by one of us, they’re all written by both of us in a sense. There were many Zoom calls as well to discuss plotting and problems. But it was such a fun process and the book went by so fast doing it this way! I’d definitely love to collaborate again!
Can readers expect book two from you both?
JEN: We’d love for that to happen! We talk about writing another book together all the time. Mari is the perfect writing partner — the Elsa to my Anna! We work well together.
MARI: I hope so! That’s (selfishly) one of the reasons we’re really trying to spread the word about Polar Nights! If readers find it and love it, it will definitely lead to more collaborations in the future!
Before I let you go, where can readers find you on social media?
JEN: I’m on Instagram and Twitter as @jencalonita and on TikTok as @jencalonitaofficial
MARI: Instagram and Twitter: @marimancusi. TikTok: @marimancusi8.
Thank you so much for joining us, Jen and Mari! Definitely don’t miss your chance to get your copy of Polar NIghts! Stay tuned for more author interviews! Comment below any questions you have for Amelia too!