It is a pleasure and an honour to welcome Edmond Manning to my blog today. The latest title in his ‘Lost and Founds’ series, the Butterfly King was released on September 20 and to celebrate the fact he was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.
The questions sprang from the mind of my husband and I. Both questions and answers range from serious to ridiculous. I hope you’ll have as much fun reading this post as I had putting it all together.
1. Did you always want to write or did the urge take you by surprise?
I’ve been writing fiction since I was twenty but swear to god, I never really thought of myself as a writer. I always just kind of…wrote. People would ask me if I had hobbies and I’d say, “Writing fiction,” and they’d say, “Oh, you’re a writer.” I’d look at them in horror and say, “No, no. Not at all. It’s just a hobby.”
When I finished the first draft to King Perry, a book that spiralled out of me, dancing, spinning, laughing, out-of-control, utilizing literary techniques and a strong voice that left me dizzy and rewriting the same sentences fifteen times for the perfect nuanced meaning, I finally realized, “I’m a writer.”
That’s when I decided to seek publication.
2. Are there authors who inspire you and if yes, who?
I grew up worshipping Charles Dickens. My dad loved the classics and he passed that love to me. But he also loved mysteries, and popular literature. He wasn’t a snob. So I grew up reading Dickens, Agatha Christie, and lots of stuff. I am greatly influenced by Armistead Maupin as well. After a decade of Dickens’ stuffy (and beautiful) writing, Maupin’s style was like fresh air. People spoke very casually and conversations didn’t always begin and end with a description of the room. It was very freeing. Those two are the biggest influences, I’d say.
As for a modern influence, Edward P. Jones who wrote The Known World. His stories break your heart and are written beautifully. I discovered a lot about “beautiful sentences” from his stories.
3. Do you have any rituals associated with your writing process?
Hmmmm. Yes…but no. I need time away from the real world before I write. I can’t come home from work and start typing. It usually takes me 2-3 hours to lose myself before I can really focus on fiction. I might spend that time eating, cleaning house, walking, or some other solitary activity. Hanging out with friends and chatting on the phone do NOT count as “getting ready to write” time. So while I do not have any one ritual, I definitely do a combination of things to ‘get myself ready.’
I will say that it’s hard for me to write when the house is a mess. But I’ll write for a while, walk around the house and absently pick up three pair of pants left in the living room during the week, bring empty milk glasses to the kitchen from every room in the house, all while pondering the next sentence or how I’m going to make this character meet up with that character…and suddenly, the house is clean.
4. Are you a linear writer – start, middle, end – or do you plot everything out first and then write scenes as they come to you?
Once I map out about 30% of the book, I sit down and write. For example, before I started writing King Perry I knew the story’s climax would involve a baby duck. But when I sat down to write I had no idea where Vin and Perry would find one. Would they drag it around with them all weekend? How does it get where it needs to go? When I began typing the words to Chapter One I thought, “How the hell is this gonna work out?” I had also written most of the final climax by that point.
Despite my love of planning ahead, I also I love the spontaneity of writing. Character details and specific sentences form in gorgeous surprise right before my eyes. Yes, I plan ahead for major milestones and some key sentences, but a lot of what I write just pours out when I have made my heart soft and open. Some of my favorite details in the book were surprises until I found myself typing the words.
To me, writing this way is like decorating a Christmas tree. You put on the lights (major plot points) and the garland (who you think this character is). But when it comes to hanging individual icicles and ornaments, you don’t know all the lovely combinations you’ll accidentally create. I learned things about King Mai I did not know at the start of the book. Prism ornament next to an orange light—perfect. The cute red ball next to the blue light—nice! Silver icicle dangling just perfectly to glimmer the light from both. It’s beautiful when the tree shines in the dark, decorated with both forethought and spontaneity.
5. Do you ever find plot twists in your dreams?
No, which is surprising. I dream a lot. I dream some wacky shit. I’ve always dreamt a large number of dreams every night, ever since I was a wee bairn. (That was for Dermot.) My dreams never directly fuel my writing…but I wouldn’t be surprised if my insane dream life has influenced my personality and how I think in immeasurable ways. A review once said, “I don’t understand how he can think up these stories…” I bet that’s my crazy dream life’s influence. Insane plots feels very natural to me.
6. Do your stories ever go down paths you hadn’t intended?
Oh, always. I always find myself fascinated by where these stories go.I write the beginnings, I write the ends, and trust the middle will work itself out. And I have no idea what’s going to happen to make it work out. I just…trust it will.
For example, when writing King Mai, (SPOILER ALERT) I started writing the Saturday morning chapter and discovered (quite a surprise to me) that the main character, Mai Kearns, quit his King Weekend. Vin pushed him too far. Even as my fingers were flying along the keyboard, I kept thinking to myself, ‘Well, now what? How the hell am I going to fix this?’
I wrote the whole chapter without knowing how Mai would rejoin his King Weekend. I knew something spectacular and life-changing would have to happen for Mai to ‘unquit,’ but…what? I think it worked out great in the end, but for a while, I was a little panicked.
7. Is it true anyone who writes a bad review about your books gets turned into a tree sculpture and put in your garden?
Hahahaha…no.Of course not. *leans forward and grits teeth* Because nobody…nobody writes a bad review about me.
All intimidation aside, I get my lumps in reviews like other authors. One person said she’d “rather chew off her own arm” than read the rest of King Perry. Ouch! I’ve tried chewing off my own arm. It’s not easy.
But if I *did* try to turn someone into a tree monster, I bet they’d look like this:
8. Is it true the cat association of America has put you on their most wanted list?
9. Have you ever considered writing a book called ‘One Hundred and One Things to do With a Cantaloupe’?
No. That would be ridiculous. However, I have considered writing these book titles:
· Cantaloupes: Chaucer’s Dirty Little Secret
· The Muskiest Melon: How Peach-Colored Fruit Won World War I.
· Sweet Cantaloupe, Your Rind Blows My Mind
· Cantaloupe Sex: How Much Lovin’ Can Happen Between Man and Fruit?
· Cantaloupes: Rub It. Stroke It, Call Me Maybe
· Cantaloupes Sex II: The Secret is The Juice
· Unfair Marriage Laws: Can’t Marry Your Strawberries and You Cantaloupe.
10. Have you ever considered setting a ‘Lost and Founds’ book in Ireland? (Just trying to get you to come and visit).
I’m going to answer that question seriously, so ha! Yes, I have. My heritage is predominantly Irish, so, an Irish setting appeals. A way of honoring the people I came from. We are Donahues, Connors, and more. When I was a teenager, my mom showed me the box my great-grandfather used when he came from Ireland to America. You can tell he used a young sapling tree as a pliant wood to nail the box together. The sapling had once been soft enough to bend around the hard corners. Touching the wood that was once a tree in Ireland, meant something.
The problem as I see it, is each of the king books has to honor the man, the experience, the life he leads before and after the King Weekend. I’d need to spend some time in Ireland.
In 2013, I moved to New York City for a month to research The Butterfly King. One day toward the end of my stay, I realized I “got it.” I got whatever it was I needed to write a love story about New York. Not just characters in New York, but a real love for New York itself and appreciation for the character of its people. After three weeks of wandering around, sight-seeing, shopping for groceries and toilet paper, working every day, takin the subway everywhere, I GOT IT. I can’t even define what that means.
I was lucky it only took a month in New York (a little over three weeks, really). Maybe other writers are good enough they can do it without visiting a place and falling in love with it a little. I dunno.
I guess my point is, I may have to move into your home for as long as a year.
The Butterfly King
Terrance Altham doesn’t know why he’s been arrested. He’s committed no crime and the cops aren’t talking. Sadly, the man sharing his holding cell talks too much. Known only as Ghost, he is a young grifter, apparently familiar enough with this police station to convince Terrance a break out is possible, and pushy enough to leave Terrance no choice but to follow Ghost into the underbelly of New York City.
Terrified by the unjust imprisonment and the possibility of a life behind bars, Terrance searches for proof of his innocence while Ghost seeks the elusive Butterfly King. But neither man seems in control of the weekend’s direction and the consequences of missteps are life-changing. As Ghost’s manipulations come to an explosive head, each man must decide amid danger and street violence what kind of man will triumph, lost or found?
Narrator Vin Vanbly (a.k.a Ghost) returns in the most revealing King Weekend yet, where he faces the dark side of his dangerous manipulations, and learns mistakes can be deadly. Vin must confront sinister dealings from his past—and a future promising disaster—as he waltzes Terrance across Manhattan in spring, searching for the elusive and charismatic, Butterfly King.
Buy link: http://www.amazon.com/Butterfly-King-Lost-Founds-Book-ebook/dp/B00NOCBR80/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1411101802&sr=8-9&keywords=the+butterfly+king
Edmond Manning is the author of romance series, The Lost and Founds. The first three books in this series include King Perry, King Mai (a Lambda Literary finalist 2014), and most recently,The Butterfly King. Feel free to say hello at firstname.lastname@example.org.