Friday, November 24, 2017

The Gal's 2017 Halloween Frivolities Day 34: Among the Stacks with Matt Manochio


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hey, Matt.  Welcome back to The Gal.  It's been awhile since we sat down together.  What's been going on since we last spoke?

Matt Manochio:
The honest answer is living life as a single dad, which isn’t so bad if you have a good support system, and realizing that your body begins to hurt more once you hit your early 40s. 

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Who are you outside of writing?

Matt Manochio:
The aforementioned single father, but also someone who has taken to drumming. I’m not musically inclined at all. I truly believe musicians are gifted in ways we mere mortals are not. But that isn’t to say that we mere mortals can’t pick up a thing or two, like learning a basic 4/4 beat to play my favorite AC/DC songs. I’ve also taken to yard work, strange as that sounds. I spent last summer tearing down overgrown brush and trees in my backyard, and, oddly, looked forward to my weekends when I could do this. My day job is editing underwriting guides. Not terribly exciting, but it pays the bills and I work with great people.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?

Matt Manochio:
The only people who read my work prior to submitting it to anyone are me and my ex-wife (who read all my stuff when we were married). Fortunately we’re on fine terms. She’s a writer too, and always offers good insight and edits. I’m not opposed to expanding the number of people who I might ask to look at my work, but I feel it would be best to get a completely unbiased view, and that’s hard when you’re dealing with friends and family.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

Matt Manochio:
I don’t see how being a writer can be a curse. Being able to write can only help you in everyday life. I was always a writer, in the sense that I was a newspaper reporter for 12 years and had stuff published daily, and I learned how to write in college (because I worked for my school newspaper). Now, being an author can be a curse because you tend to put pressure on yourself to churn out the next book, and that pressure to always churn might interfere with putting out your best work. 

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?

Matt Manochio:
I had your typical suburban middleclass, public-school-educated upbringing. Nothing terribly exciting, honestly. So, in the sense that I had a structured environment and loving parents, that certainly helped me learn decent values and the importance of education. I believe you write what you know, so being a former journalist, and knowing how news coverage and the legal system at the local level works – that indeed colored my writing.  

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's the strangest thing you have ever had to research for your books?

Matt Manochio:
The Highwayman focuses on a serial killer who targets child predators. So, some of these creatures needed back stories, and in a few instances it involved me looking up age-of-consent laws in various U.S. states. Now, I would think in your everyday life, you wouldn’t normally look up age-of-consent laws unless you’re planning on doing something very bad, or you already have and are trying to figure out whether you’re in legal hot water. (Maybe Roy Moore should’ve done that. Rim shot!)

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which do you find the hardest to write: the beginning, the middle, or the end?

Matt Manochio:
The beginning. Let’s face it, your book is judged in those first few opening pages, so you try to make them perfect. It’s not that you’re not trying to make the rest of the book perfect. You are. But I find that starting it is toughest, and the rest starts flowing if you’re really into your story.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you outline?  Do you start with characters or plot?  Do you just sit down and start writing?  What works best for you?

Matt Manochio:
I don’t know how to outline. I sit down and write and see what happens. I find it oddly enjoyable. I believe most writers who don’t outline have an idea of how they want their book to end, but they have no idea how to get there, so they write and see where things go. I look at it like I’m going for a long car ride: I know my destination, but I don’t know the route and my GPS is broken, so I have to figure out how to get there on my own.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you do when characters don't follow the outline/plan?

Matt Manochio:
It’s not like the characters are off on their own and wreaking havoc. It’s that you, as a writer, are not sure what to do with your story and you’ve hit a snag. What you do is you think it through, come up with a different scenario, and start writing and see if it works. And if it doesn’t? Wash, rinse, repeat.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you do to motivate yourself to sit down and write?

Matt Manochio:
Your interest in your story dictates your motivation. If you’re not into your project, you’ll eventually lose interest and you won’t write it. And if you keep on writing because you feel like you have to—and not because you want to—you’re working on something subpar. It’s that simple. The best thing you can do as a motivator is find a topic that really drives your interest, and you’ll find that you cannot wait to sit down at the computer and get going.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you an avid reader?

Matt Manochio:
I like to read but I’m a ridiculously slow reader. The number of books in my Kindle will outlive me as sure as you’re reading this. 

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What kind of books do you absolutely love to read?

Matt Manochio:
That’s hard to answer. Michael Crichton is probably my favorite novelist, and I’ve read most of his work. It also depends on the subject—for non-fiction. I was fascinated by the Bernard Madoff scandal when it happened in 2008 and read a bunch of books about that. The 2016 election, and how pollsters and the press botched it, fascinates me to no end, so I have plenty to look forward to regarding that topic. It’s too bad that Mark Halperin is apparently such a disgusting creep around women. I wanted to read his account of the election, but his own behavior doomed that book project. 

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How do you feel about movies based on books?

Matt Manochio:
I would love it if someone (i.e. Steven Spielberg or Warner Bros.) made a movie based on my book! That hasn’t happened yet. I don’t mind it at all just so long as the movie tries to be faithful to the book. Good example: The Shawshank Redemption, based on the Stephen King novella. Bad example: The Lawnmower Man, which apparently had nothing to do with the Stephen King work on which it was based.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Have you ever killed a main character?

Matt Manochio:
Sure. It's easy.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?

Matt Manochio:
Some authors, apparently, become really attached to their characters. I think I read somewhere that J.K. Rowling cried after she killed off Dumbledore. (Spoiler Alert: Dumbledore dies.) My reaction was somewhat incredulous. These characters don’t exist, so how the heck can you become that attached to them? So, no, I don’t enjoy making my characters suffer anymore than I enjoy it when good things happen to them. It’s your job as a writer to make it so that the reader enjoys it when doom befalls a certain character, or that they encounter fantastic things. And if you can successfully do that, by all means you should enjoy it.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's the weirdest concept that you've ever come up with?

Matt Manochio:
I can’t name one. Is a serial killer who targets child predators that weird? It actually makes some sense when you think about it (not that I’m advocating murder). 

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's the best piece of feedback you've ever received?  What's the worst?

Matt Manochio:
The best piece of feedback was getting a book deal for The Highwayman in 2010 (that deal, as it turns out, never came to fruition and The Highwayman was shelved for a few years). But I did indeed sign a contract for it, and that meant a book editor liked it enough to offer me money for it. That, to me, is the ultimate best piece of feedback you can get – or a positive book blurb from an author you respect. The worst? Easy. My novel Sentinels got a terrible Publisher’s Weekly review. You learn very quickly in this business that you need a thick skin.  

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do your fans mean to you?

Matt Manochio:
That I have fans is somewhat of a miracle. I just dig that people like my work enough to ask me what else I’ve done, or will do. Just today someone who’s read my work told me that The Highwayman was in their Amazon basket waiting to be purchased. That made my day.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
If you could steal one character from another author and make them yours, who would it be and why?

Matt Manochio:
I wouldn’t do that. I don’t like cover bands—talented though the musicians may be—because their work isn’t original. Nothing against them, they’re just not my cup of tea. So, along those lines, I’m not a fan of fan fiction either. People should create their own unique characters and not fantasize about what they would have someone else’s established characters do. Again, nothing against the fan fiction folks, it’s just not for me.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
If you could write the next book in a series, which one would it be, and what would you make the book about?

Matt Manochio:
I have a sequel to The Highwayman already written, and it fits with a crime thriller series. It’s about America’s favorite pastime, baseball, and a serial killer. Fun for all!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
If you could write a collaboration with another author, who would it be and what would you write about?

Matt Manochio:
I’m not into collaboration. I’ve never tried it and am not inclined to do so. I like being in control of my own work. For instance, if New York Times bestselling author James Patterson, who will have published yet another book by the time you finish reading this sentence, were to contact me and say “I’d like you to collaborate with me on my next formulaic thriller,” I would honestly say YES!!!!!! God, yes!!! But I sincerely doubt that’s going to happen. So in the meantime, I’ll stick with working on my own.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Matt Manochio:
The aforementioned baseball thriller, if you can call it that. Beyond that? I really don’t know. I’ve got some ideas that I hope will light the fire in me.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?  (STaLKeR links.)

Matt Manochio:

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you'd like to say that we didn't get to cover in this interview or the last?

Matt Manochio:
To the people who’ve read my work and continue to: thank you. Really, thank you. When you’re writing for a small press and are trying to get a following, it means the world when you know there are people who’ll stick with you. To the people reading this who’ve not read me and are thinking about it? $3.99 (digital) and $10.99 (print) aren’t terribly big sums of money, and hopefully you’ll like it enough to check out my other stuff. And I’m very accessible. I crave constructive criticism, really. So, if you read me and don’t like it, well, let me know what I can do better. Please.


About the author:
Matt Manochio lives in New Jersey with his son.  His previous novels are Sentinels and The Dark Servant, and a novella, Twelfth Krampus Night.

About the books:
These are no ordinary killers.
            They don't distinguish between good and evil.  They just kill.  South Carolina's a ruthless place after the Civil War.  And when sheriff's Deputy Noah Chandler finds seven Klu Klux Klansmen and two Northern soldiers massacred along a road, he cannot imagine who would murder these two diametrically opposed forces.
            When a surviving Klansman babbles about wraiths, and is later murdered inside a heavily guarded jail cell, Noah realizes something sinister stalks his town.  He believes a freed slave who's trying to protect his farm from a merciless land baron can help unmask the killers.  Soon Noah will have to personally confront the things good men must do to protect their loved ones from evil.

"Santa's not the only one coming to town..."

It has tormented European children for centuries.  Now America faces its wrath.  Unsuspecting kids vanish as a blizzard crushes New Jersey.  All that remains are signs of destruction - and bloody hoof prints stomped in the snow.
            Seventeen-year-old Billy Schweitzer awakes on December 5 feeling depressed.  Already feuding with his police chief father and golden boy older brother, Billy's devastated when his dream girl rejects him.  When an unrelenting creature infiltrates his town, endangering his family and friends, Billy must overcome his own demons to understand why supposedly innocent high school students have been snatched, and how to rescue them from a famous saint's ruthless companion - that cannot be stopped.

Dark servants clash!
            Medieval maiden Beate, who's grieving over the mysterious evisceration of her best friend, Gisela, must escape a Bavarian castle under siege by sadistic creatures.
            Standing in her way - beyond towering walls and crossbow-toting guards - are Saint Nicholas's demonic helper, Krampus, and Frau Perchta, a belly-slitting hag who prowls the countryside during First Night festivities to punish naughty teens. Beate wants out.  Krampus and Frau Perchta want in, determined to breach hte castle to snag their prey.  Beate has no idea why these monsters want her, but she must use her wits to save herself from horrors both human and inhuman - lest she wind up like Gisela.

A murdered child predator surfaces in a New Jersey bog.  Authorities in Pennsylvania and Ohio find more dead deviants days later as a vigilante weaves a trail of orchestrated slaughter through states along Route 80 to California.
            FBI Special Agents Patti Moreland and Nick Redmond track Internet predators in Chicago.  After a failed attempt at Redmond's line, the FBI thinks one of his past collars pulled the trigger, but Moreland, a child-abuse survivor, believes otherwise.  The young agent hacks his laptop and decrypts a sexually charged chat transcript between Redmond and a teenage girl logged hours before his shooting.  Moreland learns of the murders in other states and sees a connection to her partner.  She can't fathom Redmond being like one of the men who scarred her life, and knows of only one way to disprove it: find the killer.

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