Author Spotlight - Getting to Know Lisa McMann

Lisa McMann

Lisa McMann is one of our favorite middle grade fantasy authors. This New York Times and USA Today bestselling author has written over two dozen books. She is perhaps best known for her series The Unwanteds for middle grade readers and the Wake trilogy for young adults.

Lisa has wanted to be an author since the 4th Grade after being picked to attend the young author’s conference. She recalls it being such an exciting time that she decided then and there she was going to be a writer. And we are so happy she did.

Her books will have your middle grade reader or young adult intrigued from the get-go.  She has been featured on the American Library Association’s Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers four times. This is one of the reasons we love her books; she manages to capture even the most reluctant readers with her captivating stories. 

Series, Trilogies and Stand-alone books - Lisa has done it all

Lisa has an impressive list of bestselling books to her name, including series, trilogies, and a stand-alone book. When it comes to series, Lisa has it down to a fine art with four series to her name, Going Wild, The Unwanteds, and The Unwanteds Quests. Her latest series, The Forgotten Five, is proving to be equally successful, but more about that later.

Both of her trilogies, Wake and Visions, have won numerous awards and are on the top of many young adults' must-read lists. Lisa’s stand-alone book, Clarice the Brave, has been described as an unforgettable adventure filled with perseverance, kindness, and hope - imagine mutiny, hungry sailors with deadly boots, irate chickens, an inquisitive prisoner, and let’s not forget the main character, Clarice the mouse!

How does Lisa McMann write these incredible books?

If you have been wondering where she gets her ideas from, she attributes it to the fact that likes to ask lots of questions like those “What if …?” Like, “What if there was a world where children were punished for being creative?” Or “What if people could go into other people’s dreams?” or “What would happen if a kid had animal powers?”

She usually comes up with the setting first, as in where her characters are when the story first begins. In her series The Unwanteds, the secret magical world of Artimé is based on a place where her mother grew up, along the shore of Lake Michigan. She loves to take a real-life location and add that special McMann magic to it.

For her, the formation of a series like The Unwanteds comes from two aspects, firstly, developing flawed characters and their relationships, and secondly, a plot where the antagonists push the protagonists, forcing them to take action. These are what drives the series, combined with the setbacks and the hero's ability to overcome evil.  

The Forgotten Five – a must-read for middle graders

We could not put The Forgotten Five: Map of Flames down; in fact, we loved it so much we made it part of our first-ever Middle Grade book box - as her website says, think X-Men meets Ocean’s Eleven. 

It became an instant New York Times bestseller, and it’s easy to see why. The story centers around five kids with supernatural powers. Having been raised on a deserted island, they are about to enter civilization for the first time to search for their missing but criminal parents … and the secret stash they left behind.

Lisa is planning on writing a total of four books for the series, but we secretly hope there will be more - The Map of Flames is followed by The Invisible Spy, and book 3, Rebel Undercover, will be released this year. We can’t wait!!!

⁠Let’s get personal

Lisa was born in Holland, Michigan, on February 27, 1968, and here’s a fun fact, Lisa and her older brother Mike, share the same birthday. And when it comes to siblings, she has a younger sister and two older brothers, and most of her family still lives in Michigan, but Lisa and her family decided that Arizona was the place to be and moved there in 2004.

Creativity definitely runs in the McMann family in a big way. Lisa is married to fellow writer and musician Matt McMann, and together they have two adult children. Her son, Kilian, is an artist, and her daughter Kennedy is an actress whom you may remember from Nancy Drew.

When it comes to spare time, Lisa loves to take walks along Tempe Town Lake, browse the local stores, or spend time in the kitchen. Another one of her passions is cooking; she is either doing it or reading books about it. 

Lisa loves food, and some of her favorites include avocados, pistachios, bacon, and carrot cake. She also thoroughly enjoys reading fantasy, realistic fiction, and memoirs. And just like us, she loves a great movie.

And on a final note, if you ever are lucky enough to get a signed copy of her book, make sure to take note of the color. She likes to autograph books with her favorite color, so if you want to stand out from the crowd, make sure you are armed with a purple pen!

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