Meet Paul Mannering – Author and SpecFicNZ member

Paul Mannering

Paul Mannering

Are you more of a planner or a pantser when it comes to writing?  As in, do you have an outline before you start or make it up as you go along?

I am an odd mix of both. I usually have an idea of how a story ends, and how it begins and some key elements of the main plot in the middle. The characters come up with the details as they go. It’s not so much creative writing, as taking dictation from imaginary people.
In extreme circumstances I will do a high level outline – but specific novel planning software and stuff – is too much like work and not enough like writing. For me stories are alive and they change as they grow.

How do you feel about self publishing?  What experiences/observations would you share?  Pros and cons?
These days traditional publishing is vanity publishing. Getting your name on a book with an established publisher’s logo next to it.Big advances are a rarity, marketing and support is also a fading memory, and the royalty rates are a joke.

Self publishing lets you do the marketing you would otherwise have to do anyway, set the price you want, and collect up to 70% of the cover price as a royalty.

The only advantage to traditional publishing is that they can sell the rights to different markets – and give you a slice of that. Canny self-publishers can do that too. I’ve produced audio books, digital and paperbacks that sell around the world. All the profit comes to me. It’s a win-win situation when you are the middle man.

What got you started with writing?
The TL:DR version of my story on how I got started writing is that our black and white TV blew up when I was a 7. We were without a television until I was 11 years old and living rurally. So I read everything in the house. Mostly Readers Digest, National Geographic and medical textbooks. The Encyclopaedia of Forensic Medicine was my favourite. Lots of photographs of dead people. I started writing at this time too, mostly to keep my self amused.

Who is your biggest support when it comes to writing?
Everyone who buys my books, writes a review, or posts positive comments in social media.

Do you have a critique partner or writing group?
No. I used to be a member of very formal and well organised writing group. But their membership consisted mostly of older people with a very set idea on what was appropriate reading material. My stories were not appreciated. I didn’t have to read them to recognise that.

What sort of stories do you like to write?
I like to write the stories I want to read. This is stories with action, humour, emotion and memorable characters. I write Speculative Fiction, which includes horror, sci-fi, bizzaro and stuff that crosses all genres.

Have you been published / where / how many rejections have you received?
I started seriously writing again about 5 years ago. Short stories to start with. I’ve been published in anthologies, magazines, online sites, and various other mediums.

I don’t keep track of my rejections anymore, mostly because I’m looking ahead, not to the past. Having moved to novel writing and self-publishing, my short story for other markets volume is a lot lower than it used to be, and the rejections are fewer too. I tend to write for a specific market, rather than write a story and then shop it around.

My novel Tankbread was self published in November 2011, prior to that I self-published “The Man Who Could Not Climb Stairs and Other Strange Stories” which was a mix of new and previously published short stories. It was an exercise in learning the tropes of self-publishing.I’ve also edited “Tales From The Bell Club” a short story collection published by Knightwatch Press, which was an anthology where male and female members of a “gentleman’s club” would gather and share their tales of personal horror.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
It has less side-effects than medication for keeping the voices in check. It keeps me amused, and occupied. I get bored very easily and writing keeps me from taking the smoke alarm apart to find the radioactive bits.

What do you find most frustrating / difficult?
Having a day job and being limited by things like sleep, needing to eat and tend to the family’s needs. I am also frustrated by the volume of ideas I have and the novels that insist on being written RIGHT NOW! When I have other things to finish, like audio plays, short stories, editing, the current novels I’m working on…

Which of the stories you have written so far are you most proud of and why?
Every single one that I finish.

Lately I’m most proud of a story I wrote for my 11 year old nephew. He emailed me about a nightmare he had and asked me to write a scary story about it. The Cloth Faced Doll came out pretty well, and my nephew was thrilled by it – and he got a co-author credit.

Do you write more than you read, or read more than you write?
Definitely 50-50. I write every day and I read every day. Sometimes I’ll take a break from writing and read another chapter of one of the books I have in my current reading pile. This week it is Bill Bryson’s memoir of hiking the Appalachian Trail, a non-fiction book about a near miss Ebola outbreak in Washington DC in the 1970’s and Stephen King’s Under The Dome.

If you died, what author would you like to receive the multitude of unfinished stories, drafts, concepts, and notes that you left behind – with the intent of completing your unfinished works?
Richard Mattheson was once suggested. He commented on my facebook page about it even. I had a wee fan boy squee.

If you could live in one fictional Universe, where you knew the story and the outcome (be it book, film or any other media) what would it be? What character would you wish to be and how would you change the story outcome?
Star Wars. I would like to be Annakin Skywalker and instead of being some emo whiney sack of boohoo – he would be darker, more dangerous and quite awesome. He’s still get happy with Natalie Portman though.

What is your favourite writing quote and why?
I have two.

“The road to Hell is paved with adverbs” ~ Stephen King

“Writing is the most fun you can have by yourself” ~ Terry Pratchett

If you were offered 10 Million dollars under the proviso that you could never write anything creative ever again, would you take it? Why? Why not?
If I took the money I would go insane. If I didn’t get the stories out the pressure would build and I’d probably stroke out or something.

What advice do you have for new authors just starting out?
By all means self-publish, but never, ever, ever self-edit. Hire a professional.

When we give advice like, “show don’t tell” we mean it. When you have written and published 50 books, you will be good enough to break basic rules like that. But first make them second nature in your writing.

Write. Write every day. Write on the bus, in bed, in the bathroom, in the bunkers, the beaches, and the bivouacs. The secret is that you don’t need a laptop or PC or even pen and paper to write. You can tell entire stories in your head and then write down the good bits.

Find out more about Paul on his website: http://tankbread.blogspot.co.nz/

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