It is always an honor when an author agrees to stop by for a visit, it is doubly so when it is a return visit. Today, The Book Diva’s Reads welcomes Steven Manchester, author of the recently released Ashes, Twelve Months, The Rockin’ Chair, and more. Mr. Manchester will be answering some frequently asked questions about writing, his writing, and more. Thank you, Mr. Manchester, for taking time out of your busy schedule and giving us some insight into your thoughts on writing and your writing goals.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
As far as we know, we only get one shot at this thing called life—so we each need to make it a great one. It’s important to stop wasting time drifting along and take complete responsibility for our lives; living each moment with real intention.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Stephen King—not in genre, but in discipline. Stephen King is a prolific writer who is a master of our craft. I have read everything I could get on him and have been inspired.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I’d just returned home from Operation Desert Storm, and was working as a prison investigator in Massachusetts. Needless to say, there was great negativity in my life at that time. I decided to return to college to finish my degree in Criminal Justice. During one of the classes, the professor talked about police work but nothing else. I finally raised my hand and asked, “The criminal justice system is vast. What about the courts, probation, parole – corrections?” He smiled and told me to see him after class. I thought I’d done it! In his office, he explained, “There’s no written material out there on corrections or prisons, except from the slanted perspective of inmates.” He smiled again and dropped the bomb. “If you’re so smart,” he said, “why don’t you write it?” Nine months later, I dropped the first draft of 6-5; A Different Shade of Blue on his desk. From then on, I was hooked. I was a writer.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
In Ashes, two brothers—estranged for fifteen years—are brought together under circumstances that neither can avoid. By trapping them in a car for several long days, I was able to play out some deep, dark emotions that quickly rise to the surface. The outcome proves to be biting and comical exchange that the reader can experience as if they’re sitting right there in the backseat with the box of ashes. Although there are several twists and turns along the way, the goal was to keep the journey real and relatable—proving that every family has its fair share of dysfunction, as well as unbreakable bonds.
Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
Honestly, I don’t believe in writer’s blocks—though I understand that they’re quite real when perceived as such. True story: I have a friend—let’s call him Jack. Anyway, he phoned me one night complaining that he was agonizing over a terrible writer’s block. “How does your story end?” I asked him and he went on to explain the ending in detail. “Good,” I said, “so write the ending and then all you have to do is fill in the middle.” He did just that. The lesson is this: Most books aren’t written from point A to point Z. If you get stuck at a certain crossroad, begin to write a passage from a different point in the book. This maintains momentum and confidence (if lost, the two causes of a perceived block). Again, I write novels like creating complicated word puzzles—only to put it all together in the end in order to paint the grandest picture I can. Do whatever works for you, but keep moving. The last thing you want is for a story to go cold on you. You could risk losing the passion, if you wait too long to finish it.
How did you develop your plot and characters?
Plot: In my estimation, the first decision in the writing process is also the toughest decision of all. You have to honestly ask yourself: What idea is good enough, or worthy enough to cost you the next year of your life? If you can sincerely say that you have one, then get started right away. Some writers spend months working out a concept before they ever put pen to paper (so when someone asks you how long it took you to write a book, there is no true way to answer this. It happens in the mind long before it ever appears between two covers).
Characters: Learn them. Know them. If they become real enough, your characters will tell the story for you. Think about it: The raised eyebrow from a well-established character is worth more than a paragraph or two. The saddest time for me is when a novel comes to its end. This is mostly true because I start to miss the people that I’ve grown to love and hate. And if you don’t feel that for your characters, then your readers won’t, either. When I’m completely vested in a story, the first thing I think about in the morning is the characters (what they’re thinking and feeling, and how they might act), and the last thing I think about before turning in at night is the characters.
What are your goals as a writer?
My most important goal is to teach my children and be able to share what’s in my heart and mind with them. The next goal is to be creative for the rest of my life, and if I can make a good living at it—then all the better.
I maintain two lists: What I’ve done, and what I dream of doing. The second list is always longer. Forgive the cliché, but perhaps as a reminder to myself, writing truly is a journey. If I ever get to where I think I’m supposed to end up, then that which I love will no longer be my reality; the process of writing and creating with words.
What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing?
There are too many to list. I’ve been able to touch lives in a positive way and make some sort of difference (at least I hope so). I’ve shared my dreams with my children and proved that dreams do come true—with a whole lot of perseverance and hard work. And I’ve been able to give life to the creative thoughts that constantly fight for my attention.
by Steven Manchester
on Tour February 19 – April 21, 2017
Published by: The Story Plant
Publication Date: February 21st 2017
Number of Pages: 260
Middle-aged brothers Jason and Tom Prendergast thought they were completely done with each other. Perceived betrayal had burned the bridge between them, tossing them into the icy river of estrangement. But life – and death – has a robust sense of irony, and when they learn that their cruel father has died and made his final request that they travel together across the country to spread his ashes, they have no choice but to spend a long, long car trip in each other’s company. It’s either that or lose out on the contents of the envelope he’s left with his lawyer. The trip will be as gut-wrenching as each expects it to be . . . and revealing in ways neither of them is prepared for.
At turns humorous, biting, poignant, and surprisingly tender, Ashes puts a new spin on family and dysfunction with a story that is at once fresh and timelessly universal.
Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 bestsellers Twelve Months, The Rockin’ Chair, Pressed Pennies, and Gooseberry Island as well as the novels Goodnight, Brian and The Changing Season. His work has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning, and BET’s Nightly News. Recently, three of Manchester’s short stories were selected “101 Best” for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.
Tour Host Participants:
Don’t miss your chance to learn more about Steven Manchester & his book, Ashes! Visit the tour stops for interviews, guest posts, and lots of reviews!
Don’t Miss Your Chance to WIN Ashes!
This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Providence Book Promotions for Steven Manchester and The Story Plant. There will be 5 US winners of one (1) PRINT copy of Ashes by Steven Manchester. The giveaway begins on February 18th and runs through April 23rd, 2017.
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