Welcome to another Friday Author Spotlight. This week I have Christopher Mannino with his book School of Deaths (The Scythe Wielder’s Secret: Book One)!
Christopher Mannino’s life is best described as an unending creative outlet. He teaches high school theatre in Greenbelt, Maryland. In addition to his daily drama classes, he runs several after-school performance and production drama groups.
He spends his summers writing and singing. Mannino holds a Master of Arts in Theatre Education from Catholic University, and has studied mythology and literature both in America and at Oxford University.
His work with young people helped inspire him to write young adult fantasy, although it was his love of reading that truly brought his writing to life.
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About the Book
Thrust into a world of men, 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.
Scythes hungry for souls, Deaths who enslave a race of mysterious magicians, and echoes of an ancient war with Dragons.
As her year progresses, Suzie suspects her presence isn’t an accident. She uncovers a plot to overthrow the World of Deaths. Now she must also discover the reason she’s been brought there: the first female Death in a million years.
Get it today on Christopher’s Website, Amazon, MuseitUp Publishing, Barnes and Noble, Books A Million, and iTunes!
Keep reading for an interview with Christopher Mannino:
Why did you decide to be a writer?
I have always loved to read. I have so many stories in my mind, so many dreams and ideas I’d love to share. Stephen King referred to writing as a special kind of magic, since it’s the only art form where I take something right out of my mind and dump it into a reader’s mind. That’s a very special thing, and I’m happy to participate in this form of “magic.”
Do you have a “day job”? If so, what do you do?
I teach high school theatre, at a school with a large arts program. I teach six classes of drama daily, covering four skill levels. I also help the students produce four to five productions a year after school. As the sole drama teacher I am in charge of creating curricula, teaching acting, directing, teaching and leading technical theatre, construction, and theatre design, and organizing our school’s theatre field trips.
What genres do you write?
At the moment YA Fantasy, but eventually I’d like to write in many other genres.
What are your goals as an author? Where do you see yourself in five years?
Like many authors, I’d love to get to the point where I was writing full-time. My biggest frustration as a writer is not having enough time to write and share my stories. In five years, I envision my wife and I both writing full time. I also plan to expand into many other genres, and hope to reach a very wide audience.
Does your family support you in your writing, or are you on your own?
My family is extemely supportive. My wife Rachel was actually encouraged by my writing to start writing herself, and she is now a published author in her own right. Rachel writes romances novels, and you can learn more about her and her books at http://www.RachelMannino.com
What do you enjoy doing aside from writing?
Acting, Singing, and Traveling.
What book or series do you enjoy reading over and over again?
Lord of the Rings.
Are you a pantser or outliner?
I use a blend. When I start, I have a scenario in mind, a specific situation, similar to a book’s back cover blurb, and a few characters who I know will be involved. After that point, I develop an “image outline.” An image outline is a series of pictures- strong visual images that I know will appear in the story somehow. I don’t necessarily know what order the images will come, or how they’ll connect. Then, I start filling in the gaps- mostly writing from the seat of my pants at that point. By the time I reached the end of the trilogy, I ended up outlining a lot more, to ensure all threads ended in a cohesive manner.
How long does it take you to write a book?
I’ve been getting faster at this. My first novel (unpublished) took ten years. School of Deaths took just over a year to write, and another year to edit and look for publishers. Now, I’m averaging about a book a year, and considering Daughter of Deaths was twice as long as any novel I’d previously written, I’m definitely gaining speed as a writer.
Do you write about real life experiences, or does everything come from your imagination?
School of Deaths was inspired by actual events. In 2011, I was stranded in Tintagel, Cornwall. I spent the night at a noisy pub. Having slept little, I left the pub at 4am, and headed out onto nearby Barras Nose, a narrow promontory of stone ending in fifty-foot cliffs. I crept out to the edge of the cliff face. There were no railings, and 30 mile an hour fierce winds accosted me from every direction. I crawled on all fours, and then watched the dawn over the ocean cliffs. I felt like I was attacked by winds from every direction, and imagined a character attacked from every direction, who’s life was in danger, yet who felt an overwhelming sense of beauty. That character eventually became Susan Sarnio.
Do you ever base your characters on people you know?
Some of the characters in The Scythe Wielder’s Secret are loosely inspired by other people or characters. The biggest example is Athanasius, in book one, who’s physical appearance is meant to be reminiscent of one of my favorite characters in the musical “Wicked.”
What are you working on now?
Now that I’ve finished The Scythe Wielder’s Secret, I’ve been working on an adult science fiction thriller. It is in a style reminiscent of Dan Brown crossed with Michael Crichton.
What was the hardest part about writing your latest book?
Daughter of Deaths was the third and final novel in a trilogy, and tying every thread together was a challenge. I knew how the series was going to end, but there were several extra characters I wanted to do justice for, without just abandoning into the details. Keeping track of the dozens and dozens of characters and plot strings incorporated in the series as a whole, and tying it to a good conclusion, was an interesting challenge.
Do you have any advice for other authors?
Never give up.