Saturday, 3 March 2012

Dreamspinner: Edmond Manning

One of the best things about Dreamspinner is meeting new authors. Edmond Manning is funny and friendly. I look forward to knowing him better.

How did you get started writing?
Mom says I used to come down to breakfast every morning babbling, "Guess what I dreamt?" I would launch long, convoluted stories and descriptions, colors, and places that used to make her nervous – where the hell had I seen those things? I've been a storyteller for a long time.
I've been writing fiction since I was 20, which was (ahem) a few decades ago. But I never felt my writing was good enough to get was good, but not great. I wanted my writing to be fantastically spectacular by the time I shared it with the world. Well, spectacular or not, I'm ready now.

Was there a particular author or book that made you decide you wanted to write in the genre?  If so, who or what was it?
I will admit that I had a lowish opinion of M4M romance, well, any romance category. I was a snooty English major: gimmie 400 pages about whether an aristocrat is going to open the mail. When I read Maria McCann's As Meat Loves Salt, I was blown away by the depth of her characters and the idea that you could write men loving men in this way that being gay was a necessary part of the story, but these people could have depth! Richness!
Since then, I've seen a number M4M romances that have revealed how I judged unfairly. I didn't know.

Where do you write? Does your environment have an impact on what or how you write?
Oh yes. My favourite place to write is on my back deck at night during the summer. I'm encaged in a metal gazebo with the mosquito netting whispering around me in the breeze. Light a few candles. Big glass of milk nearby. Soft, dark thumping music, something unobtrusive that sets a mood. When I die and go to heaven (let's go with that assumption), Heaven will be this scene but a Thai delivery guy will stop by with chicken pad thai and cranberry cream cheese wontons.
I write exclusively at home and the biggest impact is how messy the house is. I have to do the dishes and big cleaning or the characters won't talk to me. 

What do you love most about writing?  
I love the glorious moment when The Problem dissolves.  Why are these two characters need to fight right now? How do I get Perry to Pier 33? When do I involve the duck? The sheer bliss of realizing how to write yourself out of this corner is like seeing three dozen fireflies light up at once.

What do you hate about it?
The two hours right before that firefly moment.

How did you come up with the title?
In a short story I wrote during 2008, a character named Vin says to someone, "Would you like me to tell you a story about a king named Perry? There's a duck involved."
Months later, after I decided to turn this odd short story with narrator Vin Vanbly into a series of novels, that single line leapt off the page at me. I wondered, 'Could I write a whole novel about a man named Perry who becomes a king with the assistance of a duck?' It seemed like a fascinating writing challenge to work with those elements:  kingship, duck, guy named Perry.  I don't know why it was so perfect that a duck be involved, but the universe said, "Do it. Ducks. "

Can you tell us about your main character?
Despite the title, King Perry, I might argue that Perry isn't the main character. The narrator of this tale is a vacationing garage mechanic named Vin Vanbly. He has a quirky little hobby: he kings men. He invites them on a weekend experience and promises "40 hours with me and you will remember who you were always meant to be."
The novel is all about Perry, sure, but the whole book is a strange study of the garage mechanic nicknamed 'The Human Ghost.' What is a King Weekend? Why does he do this? How did he develop this absurd ability? I once affectionately described him as a "sexually gifted weirdo that you can't help but hug."

How did you develop your plot and characters?
I wrote the climax first. I wrote backwards for a bit and then I wrote, then I wrote the very last chapter. Then, the epilogue. Then I wrote the first chapter and a few chapters in the middle. At one point I had 12 unique chapters were started, some half-way finished, some completely finished.
I swear, writing for me is like decorating a Christmas tree: hang all the shiny lights: plot, character development. These details bring the book to rosy, colourful light. Then I go back and hang the big ornaments: symbolism, themes, emotional turning points, character-altering decisions.  I make sure they're evenly balanced from the top of the tree to the bottom.  Adjust the lights as necessary. Then I go back and hang the sparkly, dangly sentences that shimmer, jingle, reflect the beauty of all the other pieces already hung.
As we all know with Christmas trees, you're not done when everything is hung. You adjust, readjust, go stand in the living room door frame, or walk into the room from the kitchen to see how it looks from that angle. Lots-o-tweaking involved as I strive for that ideal, sparkling, reflective mess.

What are you working on at the moment?
King Perry is the first in a series I'm creating, The Lost and Founds. Right now, I'm in the middle of Book 2 of that series. In fact, within the pages of King Perry are many clues as to who this next king is. I like fiction with interlocking clues like a giant puzzle. Details in Book 2 will answer questions raised in King Perry. But, of course, new questions emerge.

To date, what has been the best advice or words of encouragement you've received?
A few years ago, this wonderful beta reader found me. She is a retired editor from a major publishing house. As a retirement hobby, she works with writers she hand-picks and she added me to her stable. She had no problem saying, "Nope. Not good enough," and "This doesn't make any fucking sense."
She was tough and I think that's the best advice I got from her and through the gift of her editing: you want a beta reader who is not your biggest fan. It's nice if they're kindly disposed, that helps, yes. But they have to tell you what's lame, where they yawned, how unbelievable for the butler to grab the gun, whatever. I gave her a few eye-rolling moments, and in return she made my book stronger.

What are three things about you that would surprise your fans?
1) I love beets. I'm confident fans would be surprised by that because I'm surprised. Who the hell loves beets? They taste like dirt.
2) I love helping close friends organize their resumes; I love to rewrite their bulleted messes. Friends ask with shy reluctance, 'Could you review this?' and by the time they finish the sentence, I'm already getting a resume boner. Yes, I realize how creepy that last sentence is.
3) I'm not Vin. People who read the novel and want me to be Vin Vanbly are in for a disappointment. I've had several people nod and wink while saying, "You've spent the night on Alcatraz, right? You had to." When I apologize and say, "No, that's Vin, not me," they seem hurt. He's crazy and adventurous. I'm in my pajamas dribbling panang curry down the front of my T-shirt while watching reruns of Community.   

Where can we find you on the web?
Well, when I'm not wasting time staring slack-jawed at videos on or reading one of dozens of web comics I follow, I write for my blog: I write about living life as a warrior:  open-hearted adventures in learning who you are. Most of my posts are about joy, gratitude, grief, how ordinary life inspires me. God, that sounds sanctimonious. Eeeeesh. I also swear a lot in my blog, so it's not that preachy.
You could also find me on YouTube, with the ridiculous video I put out there to celebrate the book launch:  Sh*t New Authors Say.

Author Bio
Edmond Manning has always been fascinated by fiction: how ordinary words could be sculpted into heartfelt emotions, how heartfelt emotions could leave an imprint inside you stronger than the real world. Mr. Manning never felt worthy to seek publication until recently, when he accidentally stumbled into his own writer’s voice that fit perfectly, like his favorite skull-print, fuzzy jammies.
He finally realized that he didn’t have to write like Charles Dickens or Armistead Maupin, two author heroes, and that perhaps his own fiction was juuuuuuust right, because it was his true voice, so he looked around the scrappy word kingdom that he created for himself and shouted, “I’M HOME!”
He is now a writer.
Feel free to contact him at

In a trendy San Francisco art gallery, out-of-towner Vin Vanbly witnesses an act of compassion that compels him to make investment banker Perry Mangin a mysterious offer: in exchange for a weekend of complete submission, Vin will restore Perry’s “kingship” and transform him into the man he was always meant to be.

Despite intense reservations, Perry agrees, setting in motion a chain of events that will test the limits of his body, seduce his senses, and fray his every nerve, (perhaps occasionally breaking the law) while Vin guides him toward his destiny as ”the one true king.”

Even as Perry rediscovers old grief and new joys within himself, Vin and his shadowy motivations remain enigmas: who is this offbeat stranger guiding them from danger to hilarity to danger? To emerge triumphant, Perry must overcome the greatest challenge alone: embracing his devastating past. But can he succeed by Sunday’s sunrise deadline? How can he possibly evolve from an ordinary man into King Perry?

Buy Link At Dreamspinner eBook and Print:

Setup text:  Perry and the narrator, Vin Vanbly, met a half-hour ago in a crowded art gallery. Vin has an unusually strong interest in learning about Perry, so in this excerpt, Vin tricks revelations out of Perry as he tries to get to know the man he intends to "king."
Let’s see how he handles some forced intimacy.
“Hey, Perry, ready for an art gallery game?”
He says, “Does this involve the shovel painting or the onion rings?”
“Neither. The game’s called Big Secret. We both share something big and juicy, not just ‘I cheated on my ’94 income taxes,’ but a big ugly secret about ourselves that almost nobody knows. I’ll go first.”
Perry’s face registers confusion, and he says, “Wait—”
I say, “See these tiny, crisscrossing marks right here by my hairline?”
I take his hand and guide his fingers to my skull, ignoring the alarm on his face and resistance in his arm.
“They’re from rat bites.”
He jerks his fingers away and looks at me with naked disgust.
But I can do this. I can show Perry all my love.
“When I was twelve, I used to hide in the basement of this one foster home. The guy and his lady neighbor pretended to be married so they could get foster money from the state. His name was Billy. Shitty place to live. Billy's idea of a garbage disposal was to throw food down there for the rats to eat. I would hide from him every third Wednesday of the month, and I thought if I lay still, the rats would get tired of biting me, but honestly, it wasn’t a great strategy. Twice, child and family services hospitalized me.”
With one hand, I draw quotation marks in the air. “Scars.”
All my love.
“I know that this makes me seem creepy, because it is creepy. It’s disgusting. That’s why it’s one of my big secrets. This is me showing vulnerability, Perry, and if you look into my eyes right at this second, you will see I’m afraid of you thinking I am disgusting.”
His face changes as he sees me, really sees.
Shit. That was harder to say than I thought.
“Your turn,” I say, as if I’ve been waiting for him to speak and my nod is additional encouragement to break his silence. “Something big.”
Perry looks around us. “Vin, I never said—”
“Go,” I say, adding the slightest urgency to my suggestion. “Do it fast.”
He pauses.
“C’mon, something big," I say in a commanding tone. “Go.
“I don’t cry,” he says, the words falling out of his mouth. “I mean, I can. I broke my hand playing softball when I was twenty-eight and I—no, no, honestly, I didn’t cry then. I swore a lot. That’s mine. I don’t cry anymore. I’ve even tried watching sad movies, but nothing.”
“Could you ever?”
“I cried some at my mom’s funeral,” he says, “but that’s the last I remember, ten years ago. I miss her all the time; I just don’t cry. I don’t know if that’s normal.”
I nod and take this in. Good reveal. I say, “Your mom died when you were twenty-four?”
He says, “Yeah.”
“I’m sorry.”
He steps back, careful to make sure he’s not bumping into anyone, and he glances around to see who may have overheard. The crowd fills in the gaps around us, but nobody’s eavesdropping, and the constant chatter around us muffles our conversation. Nevertheless, this uncomfortable turn of events has left a crease between us.
I say, “Relax. It’s just a game to learn about each other.”
He says, “No, of course.”
His face and tone don’t match his casual words, a surprised discomfort lingering as he thinks about what he shared with a stranger. But his expression morphs quickly into something else.
“Seriously, are those…?” His fingers move tentatively toward my skull, and I turn my head to give him free access.
He slowly traces his way along my bristly hairline as his fingers tenderly express what verbally he cannot. He pushes over the blond spikes and stops to stroke the tiny canyons in my geography. I’ve run my fingers over them enough to understand that only the softest touch can fully trace the grooves.
Fifteen minutes ago, this great tenderness would have been far too intimate for a first meeting in public, for how little we know each other. But we’ve crossed another threshold together. His repulsion is gone, replaced by sad curiosity.
“Does it hurt?”
“Now? No. Just looks funky when you notice it.”
“I didn’t see it until you pointed it out.”
“Uh huh.”
He presses harder, still in the realm of gentle, as he explores further. I hate it when anyone caresses these freakish souvenirs from a fucked-up childhood, yet I have to admit his fingertips soothe me.
“Were you scared?”
“Wait, why were you hiding again?”
“I hid from Billy, the guy who owned the house. He hated the rats, even though he fed them.”
I can’t explain more than that. I think he’s had enough creepy stories for the night.
A woman sidles up to the paintings and oohs in appreciation.
“People suck,” Perry says slowly. “They really, really do.”
Our new neighbor says, “Excuse me, who did this?”
“Richard Mangin,” I say, louder than necessary.
Perry looks disappointed but nods. His arm falls away, and he takes a step back.
“Is that a DalĂ­ reference?” the woman asks, a petite blond with dangly, gold bracelets way too big for her slender arms.
Perry looks annoyed.
I don’t mind; I didn’t want to get all chatty about me.
Besides, it’s show time.

1 comment:

  1. This was a wonderful interview. Manning is a delight.