MEET EDMOND MANNING, THE AUTHOR OF “KING JOHN”
I do not usually have guest writers on my site but here is one I could not resist. Meet Edmond Manning, the author of “King John” (among others) and keep looking for my review of it coming soon.
When my first book, King Perry, was being published, my publishing house tasked me with writing my author biography.
I was tickled. Thrilled, even. I had been eagerly waiting for the professional need to write this. Huzzah! My book was getting published! But as I sat before the softly glowing screen, staring at my fingers as they hovered above the keyboard, ready to sum my relationship with writing in 200 words or less (and in third person), I found myself lost.
I experimented with different approaches.
First, I tried a historical approach:
Edmond Manning has been writing for many years, but his first works of fiction were simply atrocious. Seriously. Should you have been unfortunate enough to encounter any of the over-exclamation-pointed drivel, you would not purchase this book you’re currently considering. Which you should. Purchase it, that is, because those over-exclamated days are behind him!!
That reflected a little too much humiliating honesty (not to mention didn’t even come close to using 200 words), so I tried the out-and-out bragging approach:
Edmond spent years studying literary masterpieces and more recently attended the University of Iowa’s renowned Writers’ Workshop. Using only pen and quill, he conquered the craft from granular sentence construction to the loftiest thematic structures by European greats, all in service to realizing potent, melodic paragraphs designed to make you weep openly, laugh heartily, and then go purchase a silk handkerchief for the mere purpose of throwing at his feet like a true Victorian homeboy.
It was only 75 words.
Also, it was chock full of lies.
“Years studying literary masterpieces” meant I spent my lonely teenage years in my bedroom, reading every Charles Dickens book I could devour. I only attended a one-week summer seminar through the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, available to anyone with a checkbook, where I listened to estate lawyers, sick of their profession, argue about whether good abs was a character-defining trait.
I needed a different approach. Why was this so challenging?
I wrote novels for twenty-plus years, but honestly, for most of that time, I never took writing seriously. I felt objective enough to realize my fiction was high-end mediocre, certainly not publishable. (Ann, my awesome friend and all-time cheerleader, often disagreed. She is wonderful.) While I definitely wanted my writing to register as amazing, and even entertained fantasies involving around-the-block lines for my book signings, I can’t say I ever developed a serious plan to make fantasy become reality. (However, I did practice my fruity, author signature.)
I took a writing class here and there. Wrote a hundred pages. Realized it was crap. Repeated.
My former neighbor Jenna had similar aspirations, but much to my surprise, she actually did something about it. She pursued a creative writing master’s degree from a prestigious university, and then launched a writing career. I didn’t know you could do that—make yourself better and go after what you wanted. She did.
I watched her growing success with a detached curiosity and wondered why I did not share that same drive, that internal passion bleating, I want this more than anything.
I took another writing class. Wrote another hundred pages. The results were…meh.
I knew I hadn’t committed to becoming an author. But did I want it enough? Or would I eventually regret not giving writing my all? What if my undiscovered gift was jazz solos on the saxophone, and I had not yet unearthed that particular talent? How do you know when you’ve found your thing?
Through it all, I enjoyed myself. I liked finding unusual stories, mapping hilarious conversations, and designing unique approaches to characters. Still, I didn’t see myself as a writer, not really. Where was my passion?
In 2008, I wrote a short story about something not terribly important to me but important to a closeted twenty-year-old gay man I met online. He felt sad and alone. I remembered those days and decided he needed inspiration, so I wrote him a short story—featuring a happier version of him as the lead character—and uploaded it on a free website. This was my personalized It Gets Better project before Dan Savage’s amazing It Gets Better project. I decided to try a few literary tricks, fuck with the point of view, toss in masculine archetypes, some Joseph Campbell shit, because why the fuck not? Who cared? It was merely a writing exercise to cheer up an online friend whom I would never meet.
Because I wasn’t writing SERIOUS FICTION, I dropped all expectations (i.e., literary pretensions), and a curious thing happened. The story flowed through me, relaxed and intentional. Decade after decade of sweeping out mediocre sentences paid off, transforming my writing with surprising grace into a Cinderella story, a lyrical, ball-gown construction, resulting in beautiful sentences. I wrote beautiful sentences. I really, really liked what I wrote.
So I wrote more. Uploaded to the free website. Added another chapter, this one about kings, a tribe I called the Lost and Founds.
Emails from readers began pouring in. First dozens, then hundreds. Men and women from Europe, Africa, and quite a few from the United States. People mailed me gifts. Through this experience, I found an amazing editor, a retired professional who now mentored writers she collected from various experiences. She saw my fiction and emailed me to say, “It’s time for you to get published.” I reeled in shock from the impact these stories created and how individuals attempted to integrate my fiction into their reality.
A shopkeeper in France, a woman in her late twenties, emailed to explain how she tried “the king’s kiss” on an elderly customer, kissing the palm of his hand, and how he started to cry with gratitude at such kindness.
Writing this fiction, this throwaway story of kings, unleashed a fire, a passion I had no idea was kindling inside me. In trying to describe my 2008 writing phenomenon, I’ve referenced romantic comedies where the protagonist suddenly realizes he’s been in love with his best friend all these years, and so he races to break up an impending wedding. I’m sure if I ran to the church without ending up wheezing and huffing, hunched over, but still, it mostly fits.
I love writing fiction.
I feel lucky to have fallen in love with my best friend of twenty-some years, and foolish when I consider how long it took me to arrive here. (One of the first things I did was to call Jenna and say, “I get it now. I want this more than anything.”) In my “Proably Shouldn’t Have Done This” list of regrets, I would add waiting to throw all my love at this casual hobby of mine.
This is what I submitted to my publisher.
Edmond Manning has always been fascinated by fiction: how ordinary words could be sculpted into heartfelt emotions, how heartfelt emotions could leave an imprint inside you stronger than the real world. Manning never felt worthy to tread down these hallowed halls as an author until recently, when he accidentally stumbled into his own writer’s voice that fit well like his favorite skull-print, fuzzy jammies. He finally realized he didn’t have to adopt the style of Charles Dickens or Armistead Maupin, two author heroes, and perhaps his own insignificant writing was perfect because it was his true voice, so he looked around the scrappy word kingdom he created for himself and shouted, “I’M HOME!” He is now a writer.
That was 118 words.
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Edmond Manning is the author of the romance series, The Lost and Founds. The books in this series include King Perry, King Mai (a 2014 Lambda Literary finalist), The Butterfly King, and King John. King John takes place at Burning Man.
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Where to get your copy of King John:
eBook: King John Kindle edition
Print: King John paperback
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About “King John”:
English attorney Alistair Robertson can’t quite believe an astonishing tale of kingship and transformation he hears at Burning Man, the annual counter-culture art festival in the Black Rock desert. Who are the Found Kings? Is “being kinged” as magical as it sounds?
Determined to find the mysterious garage mechanic named Vin who helps men “remember who they were always meant to be,” Alistair catches his quarry amid the extravagant sculptures, fire worshipers, mutant cars, and lavish costumes. After searching for three years, he’ll finally get to ask the question burning inside him: “Will you king me?”
Wandering together through the desert, Vin Vanbly and Alistair explore Burning Man’s gifting culture and exotic traditions, where they meet the best and worst of their fellow burners. Alistair’s overconfidence in Vin’s manipulative power collides with Vin’s obsessive need to save a sixteen-year-old runaway from a nightmarish fate, and the two men spiral in uncontrollable, explosive directions.
In this fourth adventure of The Lost and Founds, beneath the sweltering summer sun and the six billion midnight stars, one truth emerges, searing itself on their hearts: in the desert, everything burns.
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