Meet the author of Energize, Thomas Ray Manning!
K.N. Lee: Thanks for stopping by Write Like a Wizard. It is a pleasure to host you today. Not too long ago we were sitting here and you were interviewing me about The Chronicles of Koa:Netherworld!
Thomas: Yes! The tides have turned haven’t they? Mua ha haaaaaa *cough*. Thank you so much for interviewing me! It’s always a pleasure to converse with you!
K.N. Lee: Thank you. Now, Mr. Manning, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Thomas: Let’s see…I’ll be turning 32 in September but I still act like I’m 10. I have a wonderful wife and two amazing children! I graduated college with a BFA in Musical Theatre, and play the trumpet and saxophone. A few years ago I began my quest for writing a book that I felt was strong enough to be published, and released Energize through Amazon this past June. I had such a fun time writing it. I absolutely love using my imagination and creating something with it.
K.N. Lee: Where are you from?
Thomas: I live outside the city of Pittsburgh, Pa. Go Steelers! Go Pirates! (Truth be told I’m not a huge sports nut, but I might as well root for the home team right?)
K.N. Lee: What inspired you to write your first book?
Thomas: I think at the time I was reading so much, just flying through books to the point where my mind started to create new plots and stories. I was talking to a friend of mine one day and we both decided we would really like to write and publish books. It was around that time when Amazon’s KDP service really took off, and I thought I would take a chance. I made sure to read a lot more, looked up articles by authors on how to write, and then out of my ideas I picked the story I thought would be a great debut book.
K.N. Lee: Do you write full-time or part-time? How do you balance your writing life with your family/work life?
Thomas: I would love to write full time! I really would! I have so many ideas just swimming through my head. I think my last count of books I want to write is around 21, no joke! Unfortunately I can only do it part time right now. During the day I work at my job, and then I come home to be with my family. After the kids go to bed is when I usually start writing. I try to keep it as balanced as I can, but family comes before anything, and work pays the bills, so those comprise the majority of my day.
K.N. Lee: Your debut novel, Energize, is very impressive. I found it well written, intriguing, and would have guessed you’d written scores of books prior to its publication. Can you tell the readers out there what Energize is about?
Thomas: Thank you so much! That’s really great to hear! With any luck my next book will be even better!
Energize is the story of Daniel Quinn, a captain and insignificant mercenary who discovers a secret. Somewhere among the stars there exists an energy source once thought to be myth. Attempting to sell the information for riches, Daniel is cornered by very dangerous people and is forced to travel to an unknown location and retrieve it. In order to find what he’s looking for, Daniel will have to overcome his fears, escape from his pursuers, and explore a mysterious planet. But as he learns more about the energy source he was sent to collect, he will find this job is not so easily accomplished, and the path he chooses will not only be the difference between honor and disgrace, but life and death.
K.N. Lee: I really enjoyed reading Energize! Daniel was such a great character that a reader can easily relate to. How cool is that bionic eye?!
How did you come up with the title for Energize?
Thomas: I used Thesaurus! Honestly! The main theme behind Energize is energy and power, and I wanted the title to reflect that. After inputting a few words into the thesaurus website, I found the word energize and immediately knew that would be the title to my first book.
K.N. Lee: How did you come up with the idea?
Thomas: I am a huge science fiction fan. I love Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and then some! When I set out to write Energize, I really wanted to make it more of a personal story of just one man, as opposed to an ensemble story like so many others are. While there are plenty of characters in Energize, we only follow Daniel from beginning to end watching how he grows, reacts, and becomes a better person.
K.N. Lee: There was a great character arc. Good job! Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Thomas: Absolutely! Always stand up for what you believe is right, and don’t let your past dictate who you are. Overcome any regrets you have in your past and instead look toward the future.
K.N. Lee: Set in a sci-fi world, how much of Energize is realistic?
Thomas: That’s hard to say considering Energize takes place about 100 years in our future, give or take a decade. I would like to think in a century we are out among the stars in ships. I tried not to make the technology too advanced. When Daniel lands on a mysterious, uncharted planet, then the book goes a little more into fantasy.
K.N. Lee: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Thomas: Not really. I don’t use my personal life much when building a story. I essentially create a character I think would be fun to write about and then craft a story around them. Some characters and their reactions may be inspired by people in my life, but that would be the extent of it.
K.N. Lee: What books have most influenced your life most?
Thomas: How can I choose? Stories can teach us so many things. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter taught me that a young, courageous boy could beat the odds by trusting his friends and believing in himself. Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files taught me to never give up, and also how stories and characters can span over a dozen wonderful books! George R.R. Martin taught me how to piss off people by killing their favorite characters! In all seriousness though, Martin is an amazing author. They all are! That’s what makes an amazing book, is when you can walk away from it and found that you learned something valuable.
K.N. Lee: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Thomas: Jim Butcher. No hesitation here. I was amazed by the characters he created, the style he writes in. I don’t think I would have ever written a first novel if it wasn’t for him, and I never even met him in person! His books are just ridiculously good, and he inspired me to write and release books just as good!
K.N. Lee: What book are you reading now?
Thomas: I’m currently reading Hunted by Kevin Hearne, and Darkest Before Dawn by Robert Jackson-Lawrence.
K.N. Lee: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Thomas: I’m talking to one of them right now! Seriously, your Chronicles of Koa book is awesome! I also enjoy indie author Robert Jackson-Lawrence’s books. I just recently discovered author Richard Preston. His novel Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founds looks incredible! I’ll be starting that as soon as I finish my current reads. There are also a few aspiring authors still working on their books, people like J. Ramirez, Kristen Hope, and E.F. Rose who I’m looking forward to! I can’t wait to read them all!
K.N. Lee: Thank you so much! I'm glad you enjoyed, The Chronicles of Koa. What are your current projects?
Thomas: Right now I’m working on the next book in the Daniel Quinn series, titled Antagonize!
K.N. Lee: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Thomas: Without a doubt it would be my best friend J. Ramirez. Over the last five years we’ve been motivating each other, pushing each other, and supporting each other in our aspirations to become published authors.
K.N. Lee: Do you see writing as a career?
Thomas: That’s my goal! I would love make writing my career. As long as I can keep writing books that people enjoy, I don’t see any reason why that couldn’t happen! I sure hope it does!
K.N. Lee: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Thomas: I think I managed to get everything into Energize that I wanted. The reviews seem to agree! I actually removed a few things from the book before it went out to betas!
K.N. Lee: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Thomas: I don’t actually. My earliest memory of writing is probably fifteen years ago when J and I would write random stories. Years before that in grade school I drew comic books. My artistic ability was non-existent, but it was more about the story in that comic that I wanted to create.
K.N. Lee: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Thomas: At the moment my manuscript of Antagonize is in its first draft, so I don’t want to release anything that could be altered at a later date. Fear not though! How about I reveal the synopsis for Antagonize?! Let’s do it!
The neighboring planets Terra and Gaia have been at war for countless years. Now in the wake of a peace treaty, members of their council are being murdered. Far away on a desolate planet, Captain Daniel Quinn of the Kestrel Belle is pulled into the conflict by an unknown man in the hopes that he can help stop the bloodshed. Unfortunately for Daniel, the task is easier said than done considering there are more people who embrace the war than those who want it to end. As he attempts to track down the killer and resume the talks for peace, Daniel will come face to face with someone from his past, fight against armies of soldiers, and worst of all, go up against a highly trained mercenary who watches and taunts Daniel's every move.
K.N. Lee: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Thomas: I suppose making sure that each character has his or her own distinct voice and personality is something I feel I struggle more than anything with. Even though Energize is a first-person book, there are still a lot of supporting characters, and I want to make sure that they’re different from each other. If you look at the characters Cessa and Sarah King, they both have similar views, they’re both ruthless and cold, but I still think they’re distinguishable characters.
K.N. Lee: I really liked Cessa! She was such a dynamic character. She actually reminded me of Cara from the Sword of Truth novels. A true Mord-Sith!
Who designed the cover?
Thomas: Ronnell Porter designed my cover for me. I think he did a great job! He’s a really nice guy and a pleasure to work with. You can see some of his other covers, and what his services include here! - http://ronnelldporter.wix.com/design
K.N. Lee: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Thomas: Honestly? Writing it lol! Throughout the process of writing it I kept doubting whether it would be good enough, whether I studied enough on the craft of writing and storytelling. Additionally I had a lot of trouble making consistent time for writing (Still trying to figure that one out today!).
K.N. Lee: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Thomas: I learned a couple of things actually. The story, no matter how long it’s stuck in your head or written down on an outline – it can still surprise the hell out of you. One minute you’ll be typing away and all of a sudden a light bulb turns on in your head and you’re like, “Whoa! I didn’t even think of going in that direction”. Also, I didn’t realize how amazing it feels to finish the book and see all these characters and worlds that you created come to life. It’s awesome!
K.N. Lee: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Thomas: I do, and everyone’s heard it before, but it needs to be repeated over and over again - Do not stop writing! No matter what’s going on in your life, how your current books are selling, how nervous you are about releasing your first novel, don’t stop. It doesn’t matter if you write 5,000 words a day or 100. Be like Dory in Finding Nemo – “Just keep writing…just keep writing…just keep writing, writing, writing!”
K.N. Lee: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thomas: Thank you for reading my book! Also, feedback is important to me. Whether you liked Energize or didn’t like it, I would be grateful if you would leave a review. If you didn’t like it, tell me why so I can work harder the next time to grab your interest. You can even e-mail me! Just go to the contact page on my website – http://www.thomasrmanning.com
K.N. Lee: What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
Thomas: For the most part I just wanted to make sure I knew enough about the craft of storytelling. As much as I wanted to write a novel and release it for people to read, I wanted to make sure I had all the fundamentals that made a good book. I really took my time and spent a couple years reading and researching plot structure, character creation, story and world building. Once I was satisfied with the knowledge I acquired, then I set out to write my book!
K.N. Lee: What do you think about e-publishing versus technical publishing?
Thomas: When you ask that, are you referring to eBooks vs. print? Or indie publishing vs. traditional? How about I touch on both? I love my Kindle, and since I bought it, my reading speed has doubled when compared to reading print books. I like the convenience of having one device with all my books on it, and it’s small enough to take with me wherever I go. Having said that, I think print books are also great. It’s nice to browse the book store and look at the covers and read the back to see if it’s a story you might enjoy. For the most part though, I buy my books on Kindle.
Now in regards to indie publishing vs. traditional, I think there’s a place in this world for both! I feel like there’s a wall between indie and traditional that shouldn’t be there. Traditional authors should be willing to read, feature, talk about indie books, while indie publishers do the same for traditional. Maybe some do, but like I said, from my perspective it seems like everyone just stays within their own group. I really enjoy the self-publishing route. I retain all creative control for my books, I get to choose the cover, and I pick my own deadlines. I can also write in whatever genre I want, regardless of what is the “hot genre” at the time. To be completely honest with you though, I would love to be picked up by a traditional publisher. It would be amazing to see my book in a physical book store. Another disadvantage for self-publishing is the cost of cover art, editing, ISBNs, etc. You have to spend a lot of money to publish your book in a professional manner, and with a family to feed and a house to pay for, I have a hard time finding the funds to do all that.
K.N. Lee: Do you have an agent or publisher? How did you go about finding one?
Thomas: I’m currently self-published. However, I did send out queries to seven agents concerning my first book, Energize. So far I’ve had one response and it was a rejection, but they were very nice about it!
K.N. Lee: If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
Thomas: Probably Ireland. I’ve heard it’s beautiful there, and being Irish myself, I would love to see where some of my ancestors lived!
K.N. Lee: Me too! I'd love to live in Ireland. If you could have any super power, what would it be?
Thomas: It would have to be a toss-up between flying and reading minds. I always choose reading minds though because if I could fly I’d most likely smack into a tree or plane! Reading minds would be great though! I constantly wonder what people are thinking!
K.N. Lee: Thank you for joining us on Write Like a Wizard!
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