Please extend a warm welcome to Edmond Manning
as we're kicking off the blogtour for
as we're kicking off the blogtour for
The Lost And Founds #4
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 into 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.
I’m Not Vin Vanbly, I’m…
When folks read my tales from The Lost and Founds series, they often assume (and then ask), “Are you Vin Vanbly? Isn’t that character based on you?”
Of course, all fictional character reflect some aspect of their creators, to be sure. A character must originally exist as an idea in the author’s head, and incorporate a personality that is relatable to the author on some level. In that regard, sure, I’m Vin. He likes hot dogs. I like hot dogs. He wants more love and compassion in the world. So do I.
But I never thought of him as me.
I will admit I made a rookie mistake as a first-time author, a mistake which has haunted me over the years: I made Vin Vanbly look like me physically. He’s a bear. He’s a pale white guy. He’s blond. He has facial hair. To my surprise, readers have glommed onto those meager details and said, “Ah….that’s you.”
The truth is, when it came to physical characteristics, I had been trying to pick a narrator with three main distinguishing features. I wanted a narrator who:
- I would not be personally attracted to.
- Was fairly indistinguishable; easy to miss in a crowd.
- A third characteristic which I cannot name at this time. Heh.
Personally, I have no interest in having sex with Vin Vanbly. I am not usually attracted to blonds. Give me a raven-haired man any day! I love men with darker skin. I often prefer non-chunky bears. And while none of those preferences would prevent me from going on a date with a blond stocky bear if we sparked in that amazing, bedroom-eyes way, if we’re talking about who draws my eye across a crowded room, well, it ain’t Vin.
Part of that decision was based on the premise that I would eventually write a great number of sex scenes narrated by Vin (already imagining at least six books in the series), and I needed to make sure I wasn’t physically attracted to my narrator in a way that might influence what needed to happen in the book. It’s a poor author who ignores his characters’ story-driving sex scenes for his own selfish sexual gratification. If I wasn’t attracted to Vin, I wouldn’t get distracted by all the things I have to think and do during sex.
The sex scenes are much easier to write if I’m more attracted to the men he kings. :)
I also needed a narrator who was fairly invisible. A man you might not notice in a crowd, not because he was so unbearably ugly or so wildly attractive, but because he looked like so many other men. This is where I made a critical mistake in judgment based on my physical geography. You see, I live in Minnesota. As I pondered what kind of man “doesn’t stick out in a crowd,” I paid more attention to the crowds around me. What did I see a lot of?
In Minnesota, these qualities are so ubiquitous, so prevalent, I simply thought of it as being easiest to replicate. I made Vin possess all those attributes. It hadn’t really dawned on me that I also possess those same qualities and people might suspect I simply transferred my physical appearance onto Vin. In fact, I did a Google image search on “stocky blond white facial hair” until I found someone who—to me—represented Vin Vanbly. Guess what? He and I don’t look anything alike.
I should have considered my Minnesota bias. Of course most people here are pale white and blond! It was settled predominantly by northern Europeans. Of course most people here are stocky! We can’t go outside and exercise for six months a year! Of course most men here have facial hair! We’re always follicle trendsetters, dammit! Curse my stylish and well-groomed goatee.
The third reason, well, I can’t discuss that yet without giving away a significant secret from the sixth book, King Daniel. Oops. I’ve already said too much.
So, no, I’m not Vin Vanbly.
However, I do think I am more closely aligned with one of the four kings.
To better understand which one, you must understand the context of the first four books. The number four is the number of stability, order and completion of justice. A square has four sides and symbolizes a strong foundation. There are four cardinal directions: east, west, north, and south. There are four winds, four phases of the moon, four seasons, and four elements. Ancient Greeks often believed the number four represented perfection. It was a holy number to them and represented the wholeness of the experience.
The first four books in The Lost and Founds represent this foundation, the solid plateau necessary to tell Vin Vanbly’s story. These four kings are the gateways—four unique emotional experiences for different types of readers to access The Lost and Founds. (Side note: In an attempt to convey the importance of fourness, at least once in each book, Vin ponders the “four pillars of kinging.” In each book, he reveals one of the four.)
Each man being kinged represents a different type of element, a different energy, a different feeling. I had hoped that some readers would relate more to Perry’s story, based on their life experience. Some might relate more to Terrance Altham, the Butterfly King, based on their own lives. Each man’s story is an attempt to seduce a different type of reader.
Anyone could successfully discredit the success of my approach, saying they enjoyed King Perry more than the others even if they related better to, say, Mai Kearns. Sure. That just means I’m not as good a writer as I had hoped. But my intention was to create enough diverse emotional experiences for men and women to feel strongly about at least one of the four.
So, which one am I?
Am I Perry?
Perry represents the lover. Readers who identify most with Perry identify most with brokenheartedness. He represents the difficulty of returning to love after the world has—in some way—stomped on your sacred heart. As an element, Perry represents the air, as a number of specific references in the book indicate. In King Perry, while standing on a mountain top, Vin reflects how so much sky is visible that if one tripped and fell, a person might fall down or fall up, it could go either way.
Am I most like Perry? Nah. I love Perry and yes, I have had my heart broken on several occasions. I mean, haven’t we all? But I have been blessed in life to feel love from so many directions—to be bombarded by it, so to speak—returning to love has not been my primary struggle in life. So while parts of Perry’s hard journey sing right into my soul, this man is not my particular gateway.
Then, there’s Mai.
Mai represents the element of earth. He is dirt and grit. He is the warrior. He represents the power of anger. Anger can be channeled into impotent rage, sizzling fury—and given enough fuel—pointless destruction. Anger can also be channeled into mission. Anger can transmute itself into purpose and an unswerving commitment to a greater vision. The warrior serves the king. Readers who identify with Mai’s journey most might be the kind of people who feel an injustice was done to them and struggle with “What do I do with these feelings? Do I let injustice fuel rage? How do I handle the notion that life didn’t turn out the way I wanted? Or do I let myself play with that anger until it transforms into joyful purpose?”
I’m not Mai. I have struggled with anger. I used to feel rage so hot inside me I would start to sweat at my scalp line. But learning emotional literacy skills in the men’s work I do helped me to understand and welcome anger—welcome it enough to value its gifts without succumbing to them. So, fuck yeah, I understand Mai Kearns. But he is not the character who most represents me. But damn, I’d sure like to have a beer with him.
The Butterfly King, Rance Altham, intimidates me a little bit. He represents power. He is grace. He is a frustrated king who lives his mission—protecting and serving his family—at cost to his personal satisfaction. Whoever said being the king was fun? Wearing a crown is not always what it is cracked up to be. He represents the element of water. Granted, running through sewer water is not exactly the kind of sparkling, babbling brook that comes to mind when saying the word “water,” but for all his fluidity, this is the kind of water Rance Altham has known during his life.
Readers who identify with Rance might be fiercely independent. They might be parents who had not realized how much of their own life would be “on hold” to be the best parent they could possibly be. Rance represents big-heartedness to all kinds of people, bigger and broader than your immediate family, your race, your city. In his story, we find out he has a sister who is Korean. We receive no explanation how she became his sister. Doesn’t matter. A true king embraces many into his kingdom. It’s hard to love the world, the whole big world. Readers who feel this might turn to Rance and find entrance to the kingdom through his tale.
Not me. I mean, I love the guy. I’d like to be big-hearted, strong Rance one day. But his story is not my story.
No, the king I am most like is Alistair, the man we meet at the beginning of King John.
Alistair is a conniver. He’s tricky. He’s almost immediately telling lies to Vin, and though he desperately wants to be kinged, he’s incredibly nervous about the process. He doesn’t want to go through it. He doesn’t want to be destroyed and broken, even if the result is to build him into someone stronger. He attempts to protect himself by not revealing his true self. After all, someone can’t fully destroy you if they don’t actually know you. Alistair represents fire. He is the ever-changing flame, hard to pin, impossible to capture in your hands.
I think that’s me.
For years, I hid my being gay. Nobody could destroy me for being gay if they didn’t know. Even after I was out of the closet, I still managed to hide aspects of my true self. I hid my anger. I hid my sadness. I allowed myself to be the funny comedian, a persona I definitely enjoy and cherish. But a magician with any hope of crossing over into his kingship must lay down his trickery, quit hiding, and walk into the light of being known. It’s hard. I’ve done it. I allow myself to cry when I am sad. I allow myself to call my friends and say, “I feel lost.” There’s still a part of me who resists and fights this vulnerability; that part of me will always live inside. But I’ve seen what it’s like to be a hilarious, tap-dancing smiley-face, and it’s not as much fun as it seems on the outside.
But enough about me.
Which king are you?
I had hoped readers would relate strongly to at least one of the four men, and through their tales, cross into the sad and beautiful place where Vin lives. Of course, people are multi-dimensional, so one man’s tale can attract different facets of a real-life person. You may not have Mai’s anger, but you may have his inability to connect with local friends. You may not share Rance’s issues with race, but you can relate to losing yourself in the caretaking of another.
I am never sure if my gambit worked—if writing about the gateways of the four kings worked. Some days, I suspect it has. Shortly after King Mai came out, a friend who I deeply respect apologetically told me his reaction to King Mai.
“I didn’t like it,” he said, and the muscles on his face grew a little taut. “I couldn’t relate to it.” He couldn’t explain why he didn’t like it. He didn’t know why. But he didn’t. I shrugged it off and told him, “Not every king is supposed to fit every reader.” But knowing how that same friend struggled with anger, I had to wonder if he couldn’t relate…or related too much. I don’t know the answer. But I wonder.
People who love The Lost and Founds ask me regularly, “Are you Vin Vanbly?”
What I want to ask in return is, “Which king are you?”
Tell us which King you most identify with in the comments...
Get the book:
The 4th book in the Lost and Founds series takes place in 2002 at Burning Man. Now, I was only vaguely familiar with Burning Man before this book (I watched a very sandy flash mob marriage proposal there on youtube and that was the extend of it), but with a little help from Wikipedia, I got the gist. Burning Man is SO the logical place for Vin to be. It is eccentric and full of life and energy, so I wasn't surprised at all that he gravitated there. Through a set of unusual and fortuitous circumstances (duh, it's a Lost and Founds book), Vin meets a man named Alistar, who recognizes Vin and insists that Vin king him.
I think I start off every book in the series the same way. I always sort of loath the main character, the guy getting Kinged, for the first half of the book. The Lost Kings always seem so selfish, so indifferent to my man, Vin Vanbly, and his obvious sacrifices. I'm always indignant on his behalf, and with "King John", it was no different. Alistar is eager, way too eager, and too big, too inquisitive, just too. I had trouble loving him, and I was impressed when Vin found a way to love him.
For about 40% of the book I was feeling a bit checked out. The writing was amazing, but I was getting frustrated with the back and forth between Vin and Alistar. Then, things took a turn for the worst. Something HAPPENS. Something big. After that point, when the action started really going, I could NOT put this book down.
Many things happened that really made me love this book. I learned to love Alistar, like really love him, which I doubted I could do at the start. We also learn so much about Vin, more than ever before, though everything we learn about him is heartbreaking. We see Vin's humor, his resilience, his self-loathing, his generosity, and his spirit. There are some magical elements in this one, to be sure, but I liked them a great deal more than in "The Butterfly King".
That ending though... be prepared for a major cliffy. You'll finish this book not sure if you want to strangle Edmond Manning for leaving you in the lurch or love him for dreaming up such an emotional, well conceived story.
**Copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review**
About the author:
King Perry, King Mai, and The Butterfly King have received online acclaim, and in 2014 King Mai was a finalist in the national Lambda Literary Awards. His non-fiction book of essays, I Probably Shouldn’t Have Done That, was a finalist in the 2013 Independent Book Awards.
Visit the author website: www.edmondmanning.com
Follow the rest of the tour:
Mon, Sept 7 AJ Rose Books pre-release excerpt #1
Tues, Sept 8 Thorny, Not Prickly pre-release excerpt #2
Wed, Sept 9 Love Out Loud pre-release excerpt #3
Thurs, Sept 10 Facebook Release Party, 7p-9p Central, hosted by Bike Book Reviews
Fri, Sept 11 Reviews by Amos Lassen
Sat, Sept 12 Vanessa North.com
Tues, Sept 15 MM Good Book Reviews
Wed, Sept 16 The Novel Approach
Thurs, Sept 17 Purple Rose Tea House
Fri, Sept 18 Posy Roberts.com
Sat, Sept 19 Zipper Rippers
Tues, Sept 22 Joyfully Jay
Wed, Sept 23 Boys In Our Books
Thurs, Sept 24 It’s About the Book
Fri, Sept 25 Lou Harper.com
Sat, Sept 26 Love Bytes Reviews
Sun, Sept 27 Sinfully Addicted to Male Romance
Mon, Sept 28 Josephine Myles.com
Tues, Sept 29 Molly Lolly
Wed, Sept 30 Coffee and Porn in the Morning
Wed, Sept 30 Stumbling Over Chaos
Thurs, Oct 1 The Blogger Girls Reviews
Sat, Oct 3 On Top Down Under Reviews
Sun, Oct 4 The Hat Party!
Mon, Oct 5 Prism Book Alliance
Tues, Oct 6 Jaycee Edward.com
Wed, Oct 7 Hearts on Fire Book Reviews
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