Bob Manion – Author Interview

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

My most recent book is The Treehouse. A coming of age romance novel. The search of lost love when two young lovers are torn apart by parent and unforeseen circumstances. A story of the search and the struggle to overcome personal heartbreak told as a journey of discovery, separation, tragedy and renewal. Jon looks for Kathy on the streets, in stores, his college classes and along life’s journey, never giving up. A piece of his heart was missing belonging to a woman who as a girl captured it and still holds it. Jon continues the search while attending college, working as a smoke-jumper and a Marine Corps Reservist. Both Jon and Kathy, now a lawyer, experience a marriage. One ends in divorce the other in tragedy. After 9/11 Jon becomes an officer of Marines. He continues the search for Kathy through war and peace as she continues to blame him for not fulfilling his promise to her made as teens many years before. Jon lives by the code learned as a Marine; Commitment, Honor, Integrity.

Tell us something about yourself.

I was born in Spokane, Washington. A graduate of Eastern Washington University with a BA in Anthropology. I served in the active Marine Corps with nearly five years of overseas service. I joined the Marine Reserve and served as an artillery officer and intelligence officer in many areas including overseas. I have three children; two boys one girl and four grandchildren. Retired from a major telephone company finally retiring from the Marines with thirty-six years. I am a rodeo team roper, I don’t have to wait in line at the pay window but I do enjoy the sport. I still live in Spokane continuing to write and take classes in writing to improve in my chosen art.

What inspired you to write this book?

I was attending a writers conference in Seattle when someone told me “A Marine can’t write a romance, it just isn’t in them.” Well, what greater challenge is there? The gauntlet was thrown. When I returned to Spokane I sat myself down and wrote The Treehouse. The first fifty-five thousand words came out fast. The next fifty thousand word didn’t appear on paper as easily, but I did finish the book at a final one hundred two thousand words.

How did you publish this book?

I had a couple of short stories published in an anthology. I was talking to the printer who had just started The Gray Dog Publishing company. He asked if I had any longer stuff. I said sure, all writer have stuff. The Treehouse was pretty much finished, lacking a final edit. He took the manuscript and a week later I was in the print shop picking up something to do with the anthology when he brought me my manuscript and said he wanted to publish it and republish a book of short Santa Claus stories I had self published. And that’s how The Treehouse got published. I had never sent the manuscript to any agents or other publishers.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer?

The truthful answer is I didn’t. The way is interesting. I wrote my first book when I was in the fifth grade, a dog story naturally. I didn’t own any horses back then. I lost the hundred of so pages of that first effort and didn’t think about writing again until college. I found writing papers quite easy and actually published a paper on the acquisition of language. I found a copy of it a couple of years ago and was really surprised, did I write that? Wow! I was having a beer at the local refreshment counter when the bartender who I was talking to said she wanted to write a children’s book for her daughter. She didn’t know what to write about. Me, in my wisdom, told her she could write about anything. She challenged me to prove it; so I looked around the room and spotted a power outlet. “Why don’t you write about the community of electrons flying around the house, living in outlets? “Yeah how?” She gave me a tablet and pencil and I wrote my first short story with a pencil in my right hand and a beer in my left hand. Not a bad story either, I gave it to her. When I was dinking around with my computer’s word-prosesser I started a bunch of stories called Leaky Secrets. While in South America with my laptop I wrote a couple of stories instead of going out at night. When I returned home I started to write semi-seriously and then I took a couple of classes in creative writing and there I go…

What do you think is the hardest part of writing?

It isn’t the writing or the creating. Ideas are always there, all you have to do is look around. The hardest isn’t the research, a novel is your creation, if you use real places and events, then look them up in at least three different places, easy. The hardest is making the time to write and when you have the time; you actually sit down and put your little fingers on the keyboard and watch the words appear on your CRT screen. Pick a time to write and you will know when you are a writer because you feel guilty when you skip you writing time. Even if you write trash, its your trash and you should feel good about writing it. Be proud of your creative art. There are a lot of people who will tell you its trash, so go home and make it better, its your time to write and when you see your words between the covers of a book, its all worth the time you’ve spent in front of that computer, your tired fingers and the numb butt you’re sitting on, get a good cushion.

How do you do research for your books?

Depends on what I’m writing. I have a lot of life experiences I can draw on. An education in Anthropology is great for writing. When people ask me what I majored in college, I say trivia. When I was sixteen and home sick with a lung infection my mother told me to read the encyclopedia if I was bored. The problem is when a question comes up, Hey, I know something about that…

What did you learn from writing The Treehouse?

I learned the value of readers and editors, listen to them. I also learned I’m really a lover in addition to being a warrior. Some of my words have brought tears to my eyes. The best compliment I ever got for my writing was from one of my readers. “I’m mad at you!” she said. “You made me cry.” Wow, what a compliment. I also think I learned to listen better and not get my tenses to mixed up.

What types of books do you read? What are you reading now?

I am presently reading a prepublished book given to me by my publisher. I read some of the submissions he gets to ease the workload occasionally. I read this one submission and my report to him was; “This is very well written but I got a little lost, I need more pages.” A week ago he handed my the editors book copy and told me it was the book I had recommended he get the rest of. He is publishing it. I like to read WEB Griffin, Stephen Coonts, Nelson Demille, David Weber and John Ringo. I have read most of the classics while in school. I can not pass by a bookstore without going in and finding a Patrica Cornwell or Patterson or any of a few dozen other writers I enjoy. I read fantasy, Anne McCaffrey’s Dragons of Pern or Marion Zimmer Bradley’s numerous stories. I really like Robert Dugoni, I guess because he is a close acquaintance and great writer. I suppose I could go on but there are way too many good writers who deserve a reading. I do have the nasty habit of reading more than one book at a time, five at a time is the usual; one or two in the truck, a couple by the nightstand another at my desk or near the table.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

Yes, I have two manuscripts submitted, (A Vampire Book and Horses and Cows) I am presently writing a romance Summer Rain. The story of two people brought together by an accident, smoke-jumper accident. They are physically attracted to each other but become very close friends. They discover they are more like brother and sister than lovers. Both of them find love apart from each other but still together by friendship. Tragedy strikes, a murder and kidnapping. A reversal of the usual, she tracks the kidnappers of her friend through a National Forest on horseback to get him back for another woman. Out of contact with other authorities, she tracks them alone. Her lover follows trying to catch up before she catches up to the criminals attempting to reach the Canadian border.

I have begun the research and outline with a timeline of another book about a female rodeo competitor who competes in non-traditional events. Her goal is the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in Las Vegas and the All Around gold buckle. The life of a woman on the rodeo circuit competing in Calf Roping, Team Roping and Saddle Bronc and Bareback Bronc riding. Always a crowd favorite and the fellow cowboys target for pranks and sex and of course the nasty rumors.

What is the best advice you could give beginning writers?

Go and take some classes in creative writing at a senior center or community college. (Even if you have advanced degrees) Get into a writer’s group where feedback is the major topic not just social, social is good and you even learn from them. Ask friends and acquaintances to read you rough work. Set a timeline for your story and for yourself. Use a notebook or 5X5 cards to keep character information on and keep them handy while writing. Books on writing are okay, but develop your own POV and style. If you find you like a style, stick with it but listen to your critics too. Writing books are good for examples of different styles and ideas. Remember if you are writing fiction, it is fiction and you are creating it. If it is historical, then you have boundaries. Science Fiction is great because you can write whatever comes to your mind, you are creating the world you are writing in. Remember, if its too unreal nobody will read it. Establish some boundaries there too. I would recommend you start with some short stories, you can always expand them later. Get your skills in line and above all, HAVE FUN!

What are your doing to promote your book?

I go to signings and readings. I average two a week since the book is available in its final form. I also make calls at gift shops and book stores since Gray Dog Publishing is still getting on the ground and still walking steadily forward but putting one foot in front of the other. I promote other writers word along with my own and they do the same for me. Hey, I did this interview. That promotes my book and writing.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

For more information, other than myself, contact Gray Dog Publishing at www.graydogpress.com.