Today we shine the spotlight on Edmond Manning and his new novel
From the blurb:
Adopted from Thailand and never one to fit in with the local bubbas, life has been rough around the edges for Mai Kearns, even before he came out of the closet. Now, almost ten years past the torture of high school, Mai still can't catch a break: he and his parents stand to lose their beloved farm. How will a “King Weekend” help change Mai’s fate? What has narrator Vin Vanbly been up to for the four weeks he’s been sneaking around Mai’s hometown? At the urging of a ransom note from ‘The Lost Kings,’ Mai embarks on an impossible treasure hunt chasing mystic poetry, Fibonacci Hopscotch, ancient prophecy, the letter ‘x,’ and a confounding, penguin-marching army. The stakes are high: if Mai fails, the Lost Kings will permanently claim him as their own. Finding the treasure may unlock the secret to saving his family farm. But can this angry farmer risk opening his broken heart before the weekend is over? Mai Kearns has 40 hours to get very, very curious in this second installment of The Lost and Founds.
[Please note that the excerpt contains verbiage that might not suitable for those under the legal age.]
Before we start, you need to know this: Irritating and enigmatic Vin Vanbly has challenged his weekend lover, Mai Kearns, to a bizarre treasure hunt: find one ear of corn in a town devoted to cornfields. Late Friday afternoon, Mai and Vin run through corn fields on the Kearns’ farm, searching for the one stalk. They’re been at it for a while and Mai is not having much fun. As part of the game, Vin charges Mai $20 for every instance he gets angry. Vin is fond of storytelling tales about The Lost Kings and the Found Kings.
Ten feet further a thundering crack interrupts our pace, followed by a whooshing sound, and Mai’s vicious curses. I squeeze through cornstalks into his row to find him on his knees, clutching broken stalks in each hand.
He says, “Goddamn it. I tripped.”
“Are you okay?”
On his knees, he brushes the dirt off his hands. “No, I’m not. I’m not spending my whole goddamn weekend running around my own fucking cornfields.”
“You broke a bunch of corn,” I say meekly.
He stands, keeping his back to me and props the broken stalks against their neighbors. He’s penned in on three sides, corn touching both his shoulders and me standing immediately behind him. I feel his seething before I hear the strangled anger in his voice.
He says, “I don’t care if this treasure hunt is a metaphor. I’m not spending my entire weekend running through cornfields. Do you know the last time I had a weekend free from chores? This goddamn weekend’s not even free. In exchange for milking chores, I promised a kid from 4-H a ride to the school homecoming dance next month, him and his girlfriend. I have to pick them up, like their fucking chauffeur.”
I want to comment snarkily on this but not now, not now. Something big is exploding right in this moment. Some big rage. Say nothing, Vin.
He won’t turn to face me. I stand close, allowing my presence to be felt without actual touch. Heat radiates from him. It’s tricky to know when to touch someone who’s furious. Too soon, too intimate, and you inflame the rage, cross a boundary.
Yet, I could deescalate this if I figure out the right way to touch him. Hands on shoulders? Hug?
I don’t know what to do. I can’t tell what is needed. Shit. What do I do?
Breathe, Vin. This moment will tell you. Breathe and listen. First pillar of kinging— stay present. Second pillar—follow the man. Follow and lead, follow and lead. Let him show you where to go next. He’s quivering, whole body vibrating, he’s so mad. He—he needs to be contained.
Okay, okay. I think I got it.
I pounce immediately, locking my arms around his front, pinning his arms to his side, making him my prisoner.
After three seconds, Mai’s surprise is met by the urge to fight back. He cries, “Let go, you asshole.”
His fury is real and requires no verbal encouragement. He bucks backward and forward to catapult me, and I squeeze tighter. He half-spins in both directions, but we’re constrained by corn everywhere and instinctively he won’t hurt it. He thrashes me further, swearing, calling me a fucker, an asshole, a cocksucking asshole, a goddamn fucker, and a fucking asshole. I protect myself from his sharp elbows and the possibility of a well-placed backward kick right into my balls.
With effort, I say cheerfully, “For all that angry profanity, I’m charging an even $100. Totally a bargain for you, given how much you enjoy the word asshole.”
A bit of Q&A:
How long have you been writing? What inspired you to pick the pen up one day and create characters that capture the imagination?
I've been writing fiction for decades. For much of that time, my writing was highend mediocre. I could tell a good story. Decent with the comma. I even could write in a few metaphors. So, you know, whooo hooo. But nothing felt really original or inspired. I hadn't discovered this magic place inside me where writing merges intensely your soul's work. Kind of a dramatic thing to say, I know, but once I married writing with my joy and my life mission, then, wow, craaaaaaaazy things began to come out of my writing. I used to like writing. Now, I love it. I crave it.
Can you describe them to us?
Vin, the narrator, is quite the planner. I don't want to give much away, but he artfully arranges an entire weekend of delicious surprises for his guest, Mai. Vin is cunning and strategic, turns every moment to his advantage, and focuses all his big, goofy love on Mai. But Vin's weaknesses shine through as well: crippling self-doubt and his lack of self-awareness as to how to solve his own troubles. It's hard to see a man with so much love for others struggling to love himself. Mai is an angry farmer – and why wouldn’t he be angry? He’s losing his farm to bankruptcy, him and his folks. Spent his whole life (all 28 years) feeling like an outsider in this Midwestern farm town and now that he wants to stay here and farm, he’s losing that life.
What makes your characters so vulnerable yet strong?
One of the great advantages about writing in first person is you get to see the character's vulnerable thoughts. He can't shield them from himself. In King Mai, Vin blames himself for screw-ups, scolds himself for thinking 'stupidly' in his own opinion, and he calls himself a moron. We all probably do that to ourselves to some degree, but usually censor it some. With a first-person narrator, we get to see every ugly, self-judgment. I think it makes for a fascinating character.
You have some great secondary characters in your books. Will we see spin offs in regards to them in their own story lines?
Yes. I’m reluctant to say more about this just yet…kind of a secret…but I’m hoping to have another book out before the end of the year with some secondary friends.
What do you think is the level of sensuality/heat in your books? What can readers expect from your books with respect to sexual content and sensuality?
Honestly? It's hot. It's sweaty. It's not extreme kink; it's love-making between two men who have great feelings for each other. But I am not shy about describing the thrusts, the kissing, every naked plane, etc. But more than sex, I'm a big fan of rich sensuality. But the sensuality is not all champagne and rose petals. These are two Midwestern men getting sweaty in a corn field! A sweet woman in her 60's emailed me after my first book to tell me that although she doesn't read M4M fiction, a friend highly recommended King Perry, and she read it. In her email she told me she very much enjoyed it and also said, "It's very spicy." I love that description. It's spicy!
What genre do you write in?
What I write is so odd, I'm never sure how to answer this. I write stories about people. Sometimes they're in love or struggling with love (which makes the genre romance) and sometimes they deal with depression, getting fired or alienation (modern fiction), and usually they're on a mission toward self-awareness (classic hero's journey).
What do you do for fun/relax? Any hobbies?
I read a lot of comic books. When you're over 40, you're supposed to say, "I collect comic books," so it sounds like this ridiculous hobby has this 'investment' quality to it and you sound less like a big nerd, but nope, I read them for pleasure. I love the way innovative art interacts with concise storytelling to create something powerful. Favorites are: The Unwritten, Sweet Tooth, the Walking Dead, X-men (uh….all of them), Fables, Saga, Locke & Key, Deadpool, and more.
Is there a story that you’d like to tell but you think the world isn’t ready to receive it?
I do. I have a story on the back burner which requires a great deal of research. I intend to write fiction about Jesus interacting with a gay man from the Bible (I'm not revealing this Biblical character's name yet). I do not think the character would describe himself as 'gay.' I am fascinated by how a gay man or woman would have self-identified knowing as little as they did about what makes a person gay, how it's actually fairly normal, etc. Did they know peace? Did they accept their orientation? Secondly, I'm fascinated by how in today's culture, any religious nut who wants to make a point uses Jesus to justify whatever they want. It's gross. But who was he really? Did he eat toast? Did he ever complain that his feet hurt? I don't intend to be sacrilegious (not exactly), but Jesus surely had problems. If he was half-man as well as half-god, then surely he got pissed about stepping in donkey shit sometimes. Right? I think this book, intended for mainstream gay and straight audiences, will be a bit shocking. (Jesus will NOT be having sex with the gay man in the story, so maybe not that shocking.)
What do you do on a typical writing day?
Like a dog who circles himself a few times before lying down, I take a while to settle down to writing. I usually start by doing the dishes, putting clothes in the washer, and removing piles of stuff from the dining room table. I invent a few chores to complete while I'm thinking through the day's writing goals. By the time I start writing, my house is clean. (Of course, perhaps three hours passed as well.) I write for an hour, walk around the house, straighten things that don't really need straightening, then sit down and dive back in for another two hours. I'm a fan of frequent short breaks unless I am seriously in the groove and then I don’t look up until I am spent. I can write for 10 hours if I'm in the zone. All I need is a roaring fire, bruschetta, red wine, and some trancey house music pumping softly. (Oh, and maybe some of those candied orange slices.)
What’s better to write about-perfect characters or flawed ones? And why?
Never trust a perfect character: they're the worst. They are either badly designed, born of an author who does not understand human nature, or they are immensely boring. On a first date, one perfect character orders a decaf latte with cinnamon and his perfectly handsome date says, eyes wide, "That's exactly what I order every single day." And instantly, they realize that they are soul mates. Please. It's a frickin' latte. Love never feels quite magical when two perfect characters instantly mean everything to each other. I prefer men and women who struggle as characters. I haven't met a single person who doesn't struggle with their own issues. Money, looks, whatever. Even the most confident among us have sore spots of low self-esteem where we are sorrowful and broken. Seeing someone's brokenness is beautiful.
When you have writer's block how do you break free?
I blog. My blog entries are about writing fiction, keeping my heart open, challenges in life, etc. When I write for my blog, I remember to connect with that other part of me, the part that is not rushed and hurried. Writing for my blog helps me open my heart and since I tell myself, "It's just for my blog," that gives me a little flexibility and freedom to take it less seriously. Of course, then I spent a day polishing sentences, and getting exciting about writing something heartfelt, so despite my nonchalance, I do take the blog writing somewhat seriously. By the time a blog entry is finished, I'm usually ready for fiction-writing.
If you could travel to any time period, where would you and why?
I want to watch the druids build Stonehenge. With me, I'm bringing toilet paper and Cheetos. No ironic time-traveling twists: I don't want to be a slave who has to lift heavy rock or the first sacrifice on Stonehenge. No whippings! If I get bored watching them, I'd like to be able to come home to my time and get a snack. Yes, I'm a high-maintenance time traveler.
Any weird cravings when writing?
Vin always loves thinking about food, so I'm constantly hungry when writing. I will write about Vin's craving for grilled cauliflower with garlic and olive oil and then remember that it's MY craving, not his. I have to go back and delete a few lines and then get myself the food I'm craving. I also want someone to massage my neck while I'm writing. Does that count as a weird craving? What if I want the massage from former Saved by the Bell star, Mario Lopez? Is that weird?
Anything else to add?
Yes. My favorite color is periwinkle. There. Done.
Thanks so much.
About the author:
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. Mr. Manning never felt worthy to seek publication until recently, when he accidentally stumbled into his own writer’s voice that fit perfectly, like his favorite skull-print, fuzzy jammies. He finally realized that he didn’t have to write like Charles Dickens or Armistead Maupin, two author heroes, and that perhaps his own fiction was juuuuuuust right, because it was his true voice, so he looked around the scrappy word kingdom that he created for himself and shouted, “I’M HOME!” He is now a writer.
In addition to fiction, Edmond enjoys writing non-fiction on his blog, www.edmondmanning.com. When not writing, he can be found either picking raspberries in the back yard or eating panang curry in an overstuffed chair upstairs, reading comic books.
Edmond Manning is the author of King Perry and most recently (July 15, 2013), King Mai.
You need not have read that first book to enjoy King Mai. Feel free to email Edmond: firstname.lastname@example.org.
And come back soon for our reviews of King Mai!
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Thanks for stopping by. Until next time, happy reading.
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