A Discussion with
There are stories about authors who write their first book in six
months and sell it to the first major publisher who looks at it.
This is not that kind of story. I suspect that this is more typical
of the way that it really goes.
I first met
Mike Manno around seven or eight years ago when we were both attending
our first writer’s conference, each of us with a manuscript
in hand. And now in June of 2006, Mike’s book will become
available through Five-Star.
Here is our
Dennis Collins: Your personal path to publication has certainly
taken a zigzag pattern. Care to tell us about it?
Mike Manno: Yes, it has. I finished the original manuscript
back in ’99 and began the marketing game. I started with query
letters to agents, then editors, but after several months all I
had for my efforts were enough rejection slips to paper one room
in my house. I then found what I thought was a new publisher that
was looking for manuscripts to publish POD (print on demand). That
publisher accepted the manuscript and the book was published POD
in late 2000. Unfortunately, the publisher was not a good fit for
me, there was no editing, no promotion, and orders for the book
were not being fulfilled on a timely basis. I managed to get that
contract cancelled by early 2001 before more than a handful of the
books had been sold.
left me in a bind. The book was the first in a series, it explained
how the three main characters met and charted the basis for their
relationships. So I went back to the drawing boards. I had the original
manuscript professionally edited and re-wrote large portions of
it, filling in the back-story for one of my main characters, Stan,
and re-titled it, Murder Most Holy.
That left me with the problem of how to explain the book’s
history to a potential new publisher. I went to several mystery
conferences and got the brush from several editors and agents. Finally,
in 2005 I met the acquisition agent for Five Star, Thomson Gale
at the Love Is Murder conference in Chicago. He asked a few questions
about the book’s history and said he’d be willing to
take a look. I submitted the re-written book and, as they say, the
rest is history.
Is this a story that you’ve had in mind for some time? Where
did the idea come from?
Mike: Actually I have had the story in mind for some time,
at least the general plot outline of a nun being killed and the
police weren’t sure if she was the intended victim. I’m
not sure where exactly the idea came from, but as a product of Catholic
schools I can only guess that it may represent some repressed rage.
Seriously, I do have great respect for the nuns and, if you check,
you’ll find that not a bad word was said about my nun victim
in the whole book.
Dennis: What about the characters? Are they based on real
Mike: The characters are rather quirky but are only loosely
based on real people. I think it would be most accurate to say that
they are composites of people I have known. I’ve given my
main character, Parker, several of my dad’s traits, notably
his distain for beer: “Anyone who drinks beer will steal.”
There is probably a tad little bit of me in Stan, and Buffy is probably
a little bit of every pretty girl I ever knew, including my wife.
Dennis: Your main character is an attorney. You’re
a lawyer too, any connection?
Mike: Actually, in the first draft of the book he was
a police inspector. I made him an attorney when I finally figured
out that a seasoned, burned-out lawyer on a murder investigation
could drive an insecure cop up a wall. That’s why I put Parker
in the Attorney General’s office with a care-free attitude.
It adds to the tension between the two main characters and lends
itself to humorous situations.
Dennis: Are there plans for more stories? Will this be
Mike: Yes to both. I have the next two manuscripts nearly
finished. One of the reasons I put Stan with the state police and
Parker with the Attorney General is so that I can change venue from
book to book. The next book takes place in the state’s largest
city where an ex-banker under investigation for embezzlement is
gunned down. The following book takes place in a small college town
where the dean is killed during spring break.
Dennis: Were there any authors that inspired you or that
you try to emulate?
Mike: Doesn’t Agatha Christie always come up as
an answer to this? I first started reading her books right out of
college and I’ve built quite a collection over the years.
I probably shouldn’t admit to this, but most of my reading
is non-fiction, history, biography, etc., although I do try to read
as many mystery authors as I can, usually only one or two of their
books. Janet Evanovich and J. A. Konrath are the exceptions, as
well as an author who wrote something about turning left at September…don’t
remember his name right now.
Dennis: Any advice for aspiring writers?
Mike: That depends on why they write. If it is for personal
enjoyment with no notion of publication, fine. But if they want
to be published my advice would be fairly simple: keep working to
sharpen your writing skills, keep submitting your work, and above
all, attend writers’ conferences. But the hardest advice to
follow is: do not be discouraged by rejection; that is simply part
of the business.
Dennis: This is your space to say whatever you’d
Mike: I love to hear from readers. I’ve published
a number of legal commentaries and the feed back is wonderful. So
I look forward to hearing from readers. I can be contacted through
my website http://mikemanno.com.
Thank you, Dennis. Oh, I think I just remembered the name of that
“turn left” guy, is it McCoy?
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