Writer Wednesday – Steven Manchester

Let’s start with the basics.
Tell us (briefly) about you…

I’m a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, where I promised that I would chase my lifelong dreams of being a writer. When not spending time with my beautiful wife, Paula, or my four children, I’m out promoting my works or writing. Visit: http://www.StevenManchester.com

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
I’m the author of my new release, The Rockin’ Chair, as well as the #1 best seller, Twelve Months. I’m also the author of A Christmas Wish (Kindle exclusive), the heart-warming prequel to Goodnight, Brian. My 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 my short stories were selected “101 Best” for Chicken Soup for the Soul series.

…and what you’re working on right now.
I’m rewriting a manuscript that I finished some years ago, entitled, Pressed Pennies. I expect that it will be released early 2014.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
In Mrs. Parson’s 4th grade class, I had two poems published in a classroom anthology. This had an enormous impact on me; I really thought it was quite the accomplishment.

What are your three favorite books?
The Bible; To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt (amongst many others)

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
No more than two at a time, and right now I’m actually reviewing a manuscript for a fellow writer.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I __
lose myself to the world around me.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
Very likely—given that the recommendation comes from someone I know.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
Very likely—especially when I know the writer (I’ll do whatever I can to help promote them).

What do you look for in a good book?
I believe that good books make people think, while great books make people feel. I look for raw emotion.

Why do you write?
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 finally 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.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
A stand-up comedian (I’m joking, of course).

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
My wife and children!

What has writing taught you about yourself?
That my life will be spent in the quest of knowledge; that I possess the determination to make my dreams come true.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
I’ve been at it for nearly two decades now. I think that the people in my life enjoy sharing the journey with me. And for me, it wouldn’t mean nearly as much if I couldn’t share it all.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
Work ethic; there’s a belief that writers sit around all day—in the comfort of their homes—tinkering with words. In truth, I’ve never worked harder at anything my entire life.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
The rejection rates are insane. I really enjoy working with new writers and this is what I share with them; things I wish I had known at the beginning of my career:
Be true to yourself, always.

  • Write constantly.
  • Keep the faith!!!
  • And NEVER, EVER, EVER quit. Most people in this industry would agree that more than talent or skill or even luck, perseverance is the one trait that will always get the job done.
  • Knock on every door you can, and keep knocking. I promise that eventually someone will open and the warmth you feel on your face will more than validate every hour spent alone in the darkness.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
Writing is a discipline as much as it is a passion for me, so as I continue to put in the work, my talent has developed. When comparing my recent works with my earlier work, I can’t help but to cringe at times. But I suppose that’s the nature of things and most writers feel the same.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
The Rockin’ Chair—as a film!

How do you deal with your fan base?
As personally as possible. I appreciate all the feedback and the support, so I go out of my way to share the same.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know __ about me.
That although I write tear-jerkers, I’m really more of a clown in real life.

Anything else we should know?
My favorite saying: “If you can dream it, you can do it.” – Walt Disney

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