Thursday, May 1, 2014

How Authors Write- Christopher Mannino

Today it's my pleasure to introduce fellow MuseItUp Author Chris Mannino as he shares his writing process and talks about his soon to be released novel SCHOOL OF DEATHS. Welcome, Chris!

So, what do you write?
School of Deaths is YA Fantasy. In the future I hope to branch out to other genres including adult SF/Fantasy novels, and historical fiction 

Do you use 1st person, 3rd person, multiple POVs? 
School of Deaths is limited 3rd person, and is entirely told from one POV. The sequel (currently in progress) is told from 3 POVs 

How do you get started with a book- is it an idea, a character, vary from story to story?
I start with an idea. In this case, the idea was a girl who is completely alienated and isolated in a world. I combined that with an idea of a school that trains Deaths (Grim Reapers). Once I have an idea, I start to plan characters, then build from there.

Do you draft quickly or are you more detailed in your drafting? 
The first novel I ever wrote (abandoned in the virtual "shelves" of a thumb drive) took ten years.[One of these days I'll share a picture of my shelved books :-) The good thing is, we all have them.] This novel took a year. I think it depends on how much "free time" I have to write. I work full-time, so time isn't always my friend as a writer. [Ah, I feel your pain here. Balancing work, family, and writing is a work in progress for me, too.]

Do you do research before your first draft, during?
I research as I go, and during the editing phase. In fantasy books, most of the research is minimal. [Oh, but it leads to really cool monster manuals and castle books and...]

How do you outline?
I sketch out where I want the book as a whole to go- I do this with pencil and paper. When I start writing I'll create a quick outline, usually about four pages in a word document, but I change the outline constantly while I draft. [Hmm. That's an interesting process. I rarely outline, although for a WIP I gave title chapters with a few notes as to what I want to happen in those chapters, and I must say, it is writing pretty quick.]

Do you name everything up front when you are drafting or do you leave comments for yourself to go back and fill in later so you don't lose the flow of what you are working on? 
I name what I can, but often prefer to keep writing. Some of my characters' names in my first drafts are INSERTNAME1 and INSERTNAME2. [Nice. I find I have to give character names before I move on, and spend a lot of time searching on baby name sites for just the right name.]

Do you work with CP's or Beta's? How soon into your draft do you let them see your work?
I use beta readers who read and gave feedback. I only show the book to others once I've finished the third draft. Some of the suggestions from beta readers really helped, including one who suggested changing the setting because the initial setting reminded them too much of Hogwarts. I had started the book in Oxford (the real-life inspiration for Hogwarts) but hadn't meant to draw that parallel, so did change the setting, and was happier with the new one. [Beta readers can be a HUGE help. I know mine always are.]

What books/websites have you found most helpful to helping you write your best? 
Stephen King's On Writing was a wonderful book that helped me grow as a writer. [I have to confess, I started this a couple years ago and haven't finished it yet. Not because I didn't like it, I just got sidetracked from it. Must get it done!] I also recommend Strunk and White's Elements of Style- which remains one of the foremost writing books [Great gift for any writer!], and Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. Cameron's book is a self-help course designed to give artists more creativity, and for me it really worked. [I've not heard of this one. I'll have to take a look at it. Thanks for the recommendation.]

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing? 
It never ends. Just when you think it's done, and you've written the whole book and gone through all the work of finding a publisher, the editing phase starts- it is NOT easy. And then there's marketing... [Ah, yes. Marketing...] Yes, it's enough to be a full-time job, so for those like myself who work a different full-time job, writing can be very time-consuming. [But, we love it, so we can't stop!]

What do you have out now, or coming out? Any upcoming events? A website we can find you and your books at? An author photo? A booktrailer? Anything else you want to share? 
School of Deaths releases online on May 2nd. There is also an in-person launch just north of Washington, DC on June 13th (Friday the 13th). [Oh how awesome! A Friday the 13th party for a book about death.]

Can a timid girl find bravery as the first female Death? Thirteen-year-old Suzie Sarnio always believed the Grim Reaper was a fairy tale image of a skeleton with a scythe. Now, forced to enter the College of Deaths, she finds herself training to bring souls from the Living World to the Hereafter. The task is demanding enough, but as the only female in the all-male College, she quickly becomes a target. Attacked by both classmates and strangers, Suzie is alone in a world where even her teachers want her to fail. Caught in the middle of a plot to overthrow the World of Deaths, Suzie must uncover the reason she’s been brought there: the first female Death in a million years.

You can find Chris here:

Thanks so much for taking the time to host me!

Any time Chris! Best of luck!!!


  1. Great post - Ah yes, it never ends. A book launching is not a door closing but a door opening.
    I'm looking forward to reading School of Deaths
    Heather G - Natasha Saga

  2. Looks like Christopher and I have the same book birthday! Woot! Sounds like a great read!

    1. Looks like Chris will be in good company. I forgot (I don't know how, as I've been DYING to read it) that SURRENDER THE SKY releases tomorrow. Congrats!

  3. I religiously read Christopher's blog, and am very much looking forward to reading SCHOOL OF DEATHS.

    Congrats to both you and Meradeth on your releases!

    (Mary, I also can't proceed till I find the perfect name for my characters. On some of them I spent more time considering the options than I did for my own kids' names!)

    1. That's too funny! But, I know what you mean. That name is so important.


Thanks for dropping by. I love reading comments and will respond by e-mail as soon as possible.