My Interview with KEVIN MCMANUS!
In an effort to connect readers and writers, I enjoy interviewing authors. I am thrilled to be able to have you in my ‘hot seat’ today, and I am excited to introduce you to my audience. Thank you for joining us!
1. The way one sees them self is very telling. Therefore, I like to begin with the same question: please tell us how you’d describe yourself?
I am an Irish man who likes to write in his spare time.
2. Generally, I research literary persons to interview, tailoring my questions for that individual so readers get a chance to connect with them more intimately. I know you are relatively new in the publishing world, so I am excited to learn more about you myself. I will focus this first set of questions on you as a person and a reader.
· I know you teach secondary school in Ireland. What do you teach, and how does it affect your reading choices?
o I teach History and Geography at present. I used to teach English.
o I read a lot of historical fiction and I am fascinated by rural landscapes and so I read or rather look at a lot of photography books. A strong visual image can inspire so much writing.
§ I know other teachers who are also published authors. They chose to use a pen name. Had you considered this; why, or why not?
· I did really think about using a pen name, in case some of the material in my books might offend some parents of the pupils I teach. However, I live in a small community and I thought that it might look a bit ridiculous.
§ Does your teaching career impact your writing in any way? If yes, how, and why?
· I always put my teaching career first because it would be wrong to do otherwise.
· I only write during school holidays or at weekends.
· When did you first find a love for literature; was it when you were a student yourself?
o As a child, my head was always stuck in comics, like 2000 AD, and I was obsessed with science fiction. I loved Star Wars, and started to read short science fiction and fantasy novels as a result when I was about 12.
o Roger Zelazny, Harry Harrison, Philip K. Dick, Arthur C. Clarke, Michael Moorcock, Robert E. Howard, etc.
§ What type of writing do you enjoy? What genres do you tend to migrate to, if any? I ask this because I love novels, but my husband loves technical manuals or factual data. Also, I know most authors write in the genres they love, but that isn’t always the case.
· My books are crime novels, but I read a lot of different genres, not just crime.
· I like Charles Bukowski, Dermot Healy, Ken Bruen, Henning Makell, Thomas Harris, James Ellroy, Franz Kafka, and Dennis Lehane.
§ What authors inspired you, and which books call to you, demanding you read them again and again? Why do you think they are so important to you?
· My favourite novel always has been, and always will be, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. It has everything – incredible descriptions of the Yorkshire Moore, love, death, and the supernatural. Heathcliff is probably the greatest literary character ever created.
· A close second is 1984 by George Orwell – it has so much to say about the world we live in today.
§ If a student asked you for a book recommendation, what would you suggest, and why?
· Probably the two books I mentioned in the previous answer.
· As a reader, how much weight do you give to reviews? Do they influence whether you will read a book or not? Why, or why not?
o Reviews are very important I think. Before I purchase any book, I always check the reviews, but in saying that, any book is a matter of taste. A book I might consider brilliant might be considered average by somebody else.
· What do you look for in a book? I mean, what draws you to pull a novel off the shelf, and in contrast, what makes you put it back without reading it?
o I generally wouldn’t buy a book by an author unless I have heard something about it already through word of mouth or through the media.
o But a good cover and back page blurb sometimes wins me over.
3. I am always interested in how the mind of a writer works. This set of questions will be directed toward your writing process and creative styles.
· What inspires you? I mean, what or who do you consider to be your muse? Is it music, a person, or perhaps, literature itself?
o My first novel “The Whole of the Moon” was inspired by my experiences growing up in rural Ireland.
o My second book “Death Rains Down” was inspired by watching 70s crime series and movies like “The French Connection” and the British TV series “The Sweeney”.
o My third book “Under the Red Winter Sky” was inspired by reading a biography about the actor Robert Shaw who was in the movie, “Jaws”. He bought a country mansion in Western Ireland in the mid 70s and that got me thinking about developing a crime story around that idea of a Hollywood actor living in rural Ireland.
§ When you write, do you prefer to have music playing, or do you opt for silence? Why do you like this and how does it benefit your writing process?
· Silence I think works best. I couldn’t concentrate with music on because I would start focusing on the song melody or lyrics.
§ Do you ever get writer’s block, and if so, how do you deal with it?
· Absolutely, all the time. I just leave writing for a while and ideas gradually come back. I find going for a walk gets the mind thinking.
· Do you keep character notes or work off an outline? Why, or why not?
o Yes, scribble notes in a notebook of the story outline, and I develop short biographies of all the major characters.
· Can you describe your process for us? I mean, what style do you implement – let the characters drive the story, let the story develop the characters, or something in between? Do you know each step of the book you intend to write, or do you ‘wing it’?
o I generally know where the plot is going before I start, but I do make changes along the way, if I can think of better ways to improve the storyline. It sounds kind of corny, but the characters kind of come to life themselves, and once you set up a scenario, the dialogue between them flows quite easy.
4. You tend to write in the Crime genre. Were you an avid reader in this genre, or were there specific life events – whether yours or in the news – that inspired your stories to be crime-based?
I never really intended to write in the crime genre. My first book “The Whole of the Moon” originally was a sort of story about friendships, and love and jealousy, but I incorporated a murder element into it later and of course, that changed the plot line. When it was published, reviews referred to it as a crime novel, so when I wrote my second book, I went down the crime fiction route thinking that perhaps I had a talent for it. I would like to experiment with other genres someday.
5. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of life as a published author. As I mentioned above, you are fairly new to the literary world, and I am excited to pick your brain about your experiences and opinions!
· What led you to not only write but to publish as well?
o My first novel took me about five years to write because I wrote small sections during school holidays and I had no confidence in myself as a writer. Around Christmas 2014 I just said to myself that I would finish it even if it was terrible. I suppose the first draft was half complete at that stage. So between Christmas 2014 and Easter 2015, I stuck at it during weekends and completed it. I printed if off and gave it to my wife to read. She loved it and told me to try and get it published, and so, I sent it off to an editor in Dublin to tighten it up, and then sent it off to publishers.
§ I know you currently have three novels published, and each is with a different publisher. Why is this and what made you decide to publish this way?
· I have only my first two novels published. My third novel, “Under the Red Winter Sky”, which is a sequel to “The Whole of the Moon”, is due for publication this autumn.
· It was never a deliberate decision to publish with two different publishers. I was just approached by separate publishers. Ideally, it would be better to publish all three with the same company. Perhaps that is something worth looking into.
§ Had you tried to be traditionally published or self-published before you signed with small presses? Why, or why not, and how did you end up selecting the independent publishers instead?
· It’s really difficult to get a publishing deal today with the big publishing houses, and in reality, they really can’t offer much more to an author that the smaller publishers can.
· What was the best advice you received when you decided to publish your work, and what made it important or helpful to you?
o I think patience. We all think that we are going to be the next big thing overnight. It takes years to build up a following. In reality, most of us will never become literary super stars, but if some people in Ireland and around the world enjoy reading my books, that’s good enough for me.
· What advice would you give to a novice author, and why?
o Just write, keep writing, have confidence in yourself and if you enjoy writing, if it gives you pleasure, do it.
6. What can we expect to see from you over the coming year?
My Third Novel, “Under the Red Winter Sky”, which is coming out in the autumn, and a second ‘Detective Ray Logue’ next year. I am using the working title “The Killer’s Creed” at present. I am about half ways through the first draft at present.
· What is the best way for readers to connect with you?
o Through my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Books-by-Kevin-McManus-1075444599167606
It has been fun hanging out with you. I wish you the best always, and thank you so much for sharing time with us today!