Author Judy Mandel launches her memoir Replacement Child

Monday, April 01, 2013
& giveaway contest

Judy Mandel’s story begins years before she is born. A horrifying accident begins the string events ultimately leading to Judy’s birth and her story Replacement Child. A plane crashed into the family’s home, leaving one daughter severely burned and another dead. The death of the child leaves a hold in the family that threatens to tear it apart. In an attempt to fill the painful gap, her parents give birth to Judy, their “replacement child.”

In this powerful story of love and lies, family and hope, Judy L. Mandel tells the story of being the child brought into the world to provide “a salve for the burns.” As a child, she unwittingly rides the deep and hidden currents of her family’s grief—until her discovery of this family secret, years later, changes her life forever, forcing her to confront the complex layers of her relationships with her father, mother, and sister.

Paperback: 320 pages

Publisher: Seal Press; Reprint edition (March 5, 2013)

ISBN-10: 1580054765

ISBN-13: 978- 1580054768

Twitter hashtag: #RCmandel

Replacement Child is available as a print book at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Book Giveaway Contest:

To win a copy of Replacement Child, please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes this Friday, April 5 at 12:00 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author:

Judy Mandel's writing life began as a reporter. She later worked in public relations and advertising and somehow found herself in corporate communications at various insurance companies, where she earned a living for 20 years. Her memoir, Replacement Child, grew out of early essays and the promise she made to her family to tell the story.

Find out more about the author by visiting her online:

Judy's website:

Replacement Child website:

Replacement Child Facebook:


-----Interview by Crystal Otto

WOW: Judy, when you originally started writing your memoir what was your goal for the project? Were you initially intending to write a book for publication or did you think of it more as a personal exercise or capturing family history for your children?

Judy: I always thought of it as a book that would be published. At the same time, I looked at it as a way to give my son an understanding of who I am, and a view of how his life may still be effected by his family history.

WOW: Geneology is popular right now, what advice would you give to others as they piece together their own family histories?

Judy: I didn’t happen to use any of the geneology tools that some use, but I would say that stories emerge from the details of a family history. The general facts are usually not that interesting, it’s the individual stories of relationships that I think make for the best family histories.

WOW: What made you decide to seek publication for your story?

Judy: People have always been intrigued by the story. You read headlines like this every day. Shootings, accidents, plane crashes like the one in my book. But those people disappear from our view after a day or two. The news marches on and we lose track of the lives that have been changed forever by that news event. I felt that the long view aftermath of a tragic event, and how it changes the lives of those involved, possibly for generations, was an important story to tell.

The story of my parents struggling through the grief of losing their seven-year-old daughter, nursing their two-year-old back to health and then through years of reconstructive surgery—that was part of the story I knew would give others hope. My sister Linda, who survived the plane crash and fire, but suffered for much of her life as a result, is a story of courage that I felt a responsibility to tell. As with any courageous tale, it gives us all strength.

Then, after making the connection to being a replacement child, I also realized that my story could be helpful for other replacement children who have had no clue to the origins of some of their own personality traits and life choices. There truly is no support group for replacement children, or much recognition of their issues.

WOW: Judy, how do you feel about your place in the family after having written Replacement Child?

Judy: It is comforting to realize through the writing that I was indeed some kind of healing force, especially for my mother. My relationship with my father was complicated, but I have found peace with that as well as I understood more about what he went through. Since my sister’s Linda’s death, who died in 2009, I think I relate most to the quote from Job in the bible: “I alone am left to tell you” the story.

WOW: Was it difficult to face emotions and truths about your family while writing Replacement Child or did you find it healing?

Judy: Both really. It was almost like a magic trick that I would write my memories of certain incidents and would see a new truth emerge. When I had just begun writing and understanding some of my complex feelings toward my father, it was painful when I realized that in some way he resented me for not being his first born daughter. It was definitely a journey to come out the other side of that hurt. My mother’s secrets were not as unsettling as you might imagine. Writing through some of our times together was a pleasure that kept her with me through that part of the work. I was actually sorry to let it go.

WOW: The memoir genre is experiencing a boom in popularity. Why do you feel so many readers are drawn to memoir? Do you enjoy reading memoir and if so, do you have any favorite authors or books?

Judy: Real life is still fascinating. As they say, “you can’t make this stuff up.” In fiction, if you told some of the stories that are actually true, people would say they were too far-fetched and could never happen. In memoir, there is no arguing whether it could have happened or not, because it did! I do enjoy a good memoir. The Liars' Club by Mary Karr is my favorite. I love her down to earth, quirky voice.

WOW: You started out self-publishing your memoir. Could you tell us why you decided to go that route? Was it difficult marketing your book on your own? If you could give our readers a bit of advice you learned while marketing your book what would you tell them?

Judy: I self-published Replacement Child after I had no success finding an agent to represent it after a year of queries. There were very nice rejection letters, mostly saying they liked it but didn’t think they could sell it. I felt strongly about the book, and its potential readership, and went ahead with self-publishing. The best thing I did was to hire a professional editor. I have thirteen full revisions of the manuscript still in a cabinet in my office. And, yes, marketing a self-published book is not easy, although it’s getting easier. Since I first self-published in 2009 things have changed quite a bit. More and more are being picked up by traditional publishers, and more reviewers are open to them. My biggest piece of advice is to be persistent and pursue all avenues available for marketing a self-published book. Do your own book tour, start a blog, be engaged on Facebook and Twitter, do as much publicity as you can, or hire someone to do it.

WOW: How did you eventually hook-up with a traditional publisher?

Judy: My eBook picked up speed and sold around 14,000 copies in three months and was still selling steadily when I reached out to an agent I had met four years earlier at a writers conference. She had been receptive to the manuscript but didn’t take it on at that time. Now, with the sales coming in, she took a fresh look and sold it quite quickly.

WOW: Do you have a preference for self-publishing or traditional publishing?

Judy: Given the option, I would prefer traditional publishing. There is still a measure of credibility, still an easier road for reviews and being present in bookstores. And, I’ve had a wonderful experience with my publisher and my agent.

WOW: What are you writing now?

Judy: I’m working on a couple of projects. One is a novel, and the other non-fiction concerning replacement children.

WOW: What words of encouragement would you give someone trying to put together the pieces of their family’s history?

Judy: Start with the stories you know. If you are lucky enough to have members of your family around, pick their brains for family history details and follow the breadcrumbs. Start writing the memories that resonate with you the most. You can put things in a structure later. Write every day and revise and edit each piece until you are pleased with it as a stand-alone section or chapter.

Give yourself time. Let chapters sit for a week and then go back and look at them with a fresh eye. Read your pieces out loud. You’ll be amazed at what you find that you don’t see on the printed page. I always proof my work in hard copy and then read it out loud.

Also, try to see the arc of your story as early in the process as you can, but be patient. It may take time for it to emerge.

WOW: What or who was most helpful as you put your memoir into print?

Judy: That’s an easy one. By far, it was my husband who encouraged me and believed in me. He was my first reader for everything, even though people warned me against that. I am positive that I would not have had the faith in my writing if it hadn’t been for him. Of course, there were others who were instrumental, like my sister Linda. She had some of the information I didn’t know.

WOW: What's the most useful piece of writing advice you've ever received?

Judy: Not to expect your first draft of anything to be great. It takes editing and revising to create good writing.

----------Blog Tour Dates

Monday, April 1 (today!) @ The Muffin
Stop by for an interview and book giveaway!

Thursday, April 4 @ Words by Webb
Stop by to find out what Jodi has to say about Replacement Child, a memoir about complicated family dynamics, by Judy Mandel.

Wednesday, April 10 @ CMash Reads
Don't miss Cheryl's take on Replacement Child, a memoir about love, loss, and family by Judy Mandel and a chance to win your own copy!

Monday, April 15 @ Choices
Today is your chance to hear from Madeline about her thoughts on Replacement Child, a memoir of growing up as the replacement child by Judy Mandel.

Wednesday, April 17 @ Tiffany Talks Books
Don't miss Tiffany talking about her thoughts after reading Replacement Child by Judy Mandel. This is a great memoir about family and loss.

Tuesday, April 23 @ All Things Audry
Stop by to learn more about Judy Mandel, author of the memoir about family, Replacement Child.

Wednesday, April 24 @ Books I Think You Should Read
Liz takes a closer look at Replacement Child by Judy Mandel, and offers you a great giveaway!

Thursday, April 25 @ Mrs. Mommy Booknerd
Fact or Fiction? That's the topic today with memoir writer Judy Mandel, author of Replacement Child.

Tuesday, April 30 @ Kristine Meldrum Denholm
Today Kristine interviews Judy Mandel, author of Replacement Child, and asks the fabulous question: How do you sell a self-published book to an agent/traditional publisher?

Thursday, May 2 @ White Elephants
Enter to win a copy of Replacement Child by Judy Mandel and find out what Chynna has to say about this memoir about life, loss, and love from a child born into a family that had suffered the loss of a daughter.

Tuesday, May 7 @ National Association of Memoir Writers
Stop by to learn more about a riveting memoir, Replacement Child, and its author Judy Mandel.

Friday, May 9 @ Memory Writers Network
Enjoy an interview with writer Judy Mandel and discover why she felt the need to write her memoir, Replacement Child.

To view all our touring authors, check out our Events Calendar. Keep up with blog stops and giveaways in real time by following us on Twitter @WOWBlogTour.

Get Involved!
If you have a website or blog and would like to host one of our touring authors or schedule a tour of your own, please email us at

Book Giveaway Contest: Enter to win a copy of Replacement Child! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter widget this Friday, April 5.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!


Nancy Hinchliff said...

Judy, I loved the interview and am very interested in the self-publishing process you went through. Right now, I'm trying the traditional route and doing some rewriting along the way on my memoir. I am always interested in reading other memoirs, especially by women. Your book sounds fascinating.

Unknown said...

What an amazing story. This book is definitely on my to-read list now. I'm astounded it wasn't snatched up immediately by an agent. It's baffling to know what they're looking for sometimes. Thanks for highlighting this book and author. All the best to you,Judy.

Pat Kahn's Childsplay said...

The book sounds fascinating. Thanks so much for posting the interview and offering the giveaway.

Audrey said...

This is a fascinating interview about a fascinating book. The premise has become more common as medicine has made advances in sibling transplants and use of cord blood banking. Thanks for sharing with us!

Margo Dill said...

I would love to hear how you sold 14000 copies of the ebook in 3 months--that is amazing. Marketing tips are appreciated. Your book sounds great--I would love to read it.

Sherri said...

Wow - what a powerful story. I am looking forward to reading it personally and - thanks for the tips!

Angela Mackintosh said...

What an amazing story! Judy, you're so right; we read headlines like this in the news but the people disappear a few days later. I'm so glad you are sharing your story! I also second Margo and would love to know how you sold 14,000 copies! Congratulations on your book's success. I can't wait to read it.

Unknown said...

I am so excited to read this book! If I don't win it, I'll be checking it out at our library!

Judy Mandel said...

Thanks all for your comments here, and I look forward to hearing from you after you read Replacement Child.

Nancy, keep plugging away on your book.Sometimes I think things happen as they should.Write to me privately if you'd like to talk! My contact info is on my website and blog, www.replacementchild.

As for the marketing piece that some are interested in, I believe I'll be writing a whole blog on that topic coming soon.

Thanks again all!

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