Author Interview: Michael G. Manning

Michael G. Manning

Facebook: MagebornAuthor

Bio: Michael Manning, a practicing pharmacist, has been a fantasy and science-fiction reader for most of his life. He has dabbled in software design, fantasy art, and is an avid tree climber. He lives in Texas, with his stubborn wife, two kids, and a menagerie of fantastic creatures, including a moose-poodle, a vicious yorkie, and a giant prehistoric turtle.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Let’s see, I’m forty two now and I’ve been a practicing pharmacist for about fourteen years.  I have a wonderful family, a sweet wife and two reasonably perfect children.  I like to climb trees and I read a lot.  Although since I started writing a year and a half ago I haven’t spent much time reading.

What is your genre, and why did you choose it?

Currently I’ve only written in the fantasy genre.  Later I intend to write science fiction as well, but it can wait.  I started with fantasy because I felt it gave me the most freedom to create the story I wanted.  The books I’ve written are really about the characters more than the setting and fantasy allowed me to set all the ‘conditions’, the environment, the rules, all of it.  Science fiction also has a lot of freedom but there is a stricter requirement for plausibility and believability.  In the end I chose fantasy because it’s probably my favorite genre to read.

When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I first wanted to be a writer somewhere in my early teens, when my reading addiction really took off.  As an avid reader you learn to love the worlds that you explore in books and by extension you begin to love the mind that wrote them.  As a young man looking for role models to emulate writers really seemed amazing to me.

What do you do when you are not writing?

The answer to that varies a lot.  Over the years I’ve had innumerable hobbies.  When I was younger I played rpg’s, the pen and paper kind… and I still do. At one point in time I had a serious chess fixation. I’ve also had long streaks hung up on various computer games.  Now that I’m a parent I also have a strong motivation to be a good father, so I spend a lot of time with my kids as well.

Do you have a day job as well?

Yes, as I mentioned before I’m a pharmacist, however I don’t really do much in the way of actual pharmacy work these days.  I’ve been at my current job for thirteen years and as the work place has evolved and changed I became sort of a trouble shooter.  I don’t have any computer experience but somehow I became a database application designer, a data miner, a programmer, and a general network support person.  None of that is in my job description, but they don’t ask me to fill prescriptions anymore.  In general anytime someone has a question or a problem they’ll bring it to me and I’ll find an answer or create a solution.

When did you start writing and when did you finish your first book?

I started writing in May of 2011 and I finished the first book in roughly four weeks.  I self-published it on Amazon sometime in the first week of July.

How did you choose the genre you write in?

My wife bought me a kindle and I went on a reading binge.  Over a week or two I read about eighteen books and suddenly found myself without anything interesting on the horizon.  I knew exactly what sort of book I was looking for and as I made a mental list of the attributes it should have I finally decided I’d just write the damn thing myself.  The type of book I wanted to read at that time was a fantasy book.

Where do you get your ideas?

I start with characters.  I make up some imaginary people, usually based on people I know and then I imagine them in some sort of extraordinary situation.  As I imagine their reactions and interactions a story forms in my mind.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Not really… what I do get is writer’s procrastination.  Writing, though enjoyable, is still work.  It is very easy to put it aside when the only one in charge of your schedule is you.  Thus far, as long as I sit down and force myself to focus, the ideas eventually appear.

Do you work with an outline, or did you just write?

I start with an extremely rough outline, often just in my head.  Next I decide on the starting point, the beginning scene, and I write it.  Once I’ve done that I usually have more ideas, so I create an actual outline to organize them.  As I add scenes, working forward from the beginning, I flesh out more and more details on the outline.

How long does it take you to write a book?

I’m not sure.  The first one took me four weeks, the second one took me eight weeks and the third took me months.  Each time is different.

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

Yes.  I should leave the answer with a simple ‘yes’ because there are so many it is hard to choose.  Once I got beyond children’s books I would have to say that Robert Heinlein made a huge impression on me.  He was the primary driver of my early love for science fiction.  David Eddings was one of my earliest favorite fantasy authors.

As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?

That’s easy… a mad scientist.  While my friends and peers at the tender age of five wanted to be firemen and policemen, I wanted to be a mad scientist.  I began studying science and doing basic experiments of all sorts at an early age.  Later (after reading Heinlein) I wanted to be an astronaut.  Once I realized that was unlikely to happen I thought the next best thing would be to be ‘like’ Heinlein, and to me that meant writing.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

No.  I self-published.  In all honesty, the main reason I never tried to be a writer earlier in my life was that the stories I heard from all my favorite authors were fraught with deprivation and struggle over decades as they submitted their manuscripts over and over.

E-publishing changed all that.  Once I had my kindle and I read a few books by indie writers I realized that there were no longer any reasons for me to not write, other than my fear of being criticized by readers.  Writing came easily to me, and given my technical background the formatting issues and such weren’t really an obstacle.

Now that I’ve established an audience I have signed a deal with Piper Verlag to publish a German translation of the books, so I suppose I can call myself ‘published’ now.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your book or getting it published that you would change?

Yes, I would have spent a lot more time editing the first book.  Getting that first bad review based on typos or coma errors was a very emotional experience.  Since then I’ve invested a lot more time in editing.  With each book I grow more careful.

Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?

I invested very little time in writing before I realized I could self-publish.  I did write a novella a year before my first book.  It was a story based upon a role playing game (Dungeons and Dragons) that I played with friends.  I wrote it to share with them and they really encouraged me to go forward.  Eventually I hope to re-write it and turn it into a full length novel, but I have to finish the first Mageborn series first.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?  What has been the best compliment?

One reviewer suggested that my first Mageborn manuscript had been written in green crayon and was probably tacked up on my mother’s refrigerator with a magnet.  I had to laugh despite the way it irritated me.  That reviewer had a very colorful way with metaphors.

A few people told me that the Mageborn novels were the best books they had ever read.  I thought that was quite special, although I can name many books that I consider far superior to my own.  The one compliment that really stuck out in my head was that of a Dutch teenager who told me that my books were the first English novels he had ever been compelled to finish.

If you had to summarize, what one main thing has your life experience taught you?

Trust.  Our expectations shape the world around us.  More specifically, if you expect people to be good and kind they will usually sense it, and they’ll try to live up to your trust.  If you start out expecting bad things from people they won’t bother trying and you’ll only see their selfish side.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Write what you want to read and you will find your audience.  Other than that… edit, edit, edit, and get other eyes to help with that.

Did you use anyone in particular, as a base for your main characters?

Almost all of my main characters had particular people that inspired them.  Dorian, Cyhan, and Marcus were all based on close friends.  Royce and Miriam were based upon my own parents.  Penny was based in large part upon my wife and most of the other female characters were combinations of different women I have known.

Be honest, have you ever cried or wanted to cry while writing a specific scene?

Yes, I’ll never forget one day when my wife happened upon me sitting at my desk with tears running down my face.  She asked what was wrong and when I started to explain she smiled, “You’re crying over your imaginary people again?”  I have gotten teary eyes many times over various scenes in all three books.  In particular I can’t read one particular scene in ‘The Line of Illeniel’ without getting tears in my eyes.  Those who’ve read the book and the afterword will understand why.

Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?

The most amazing experience I’ve had as a writer is simply the realization that I can connect with thousands of other people purely through the shared expression of my inner world.  Throughout my life I’ve had a rich inner life, but it felt a bit isolated.  When I hear people tell me how much they laughed, or cried, or that they felt that the main character’s inner dialogue matched their own… those comments have really made me feel connected to my fellow human beings in a deeper way.  For all of that, I would like to say, ‘Thank you’.

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