Hello John and welcome!
It is nice to meet you!
Please, tell us a bit about you where are you from and other than writing what else do you enjoy?
I’m a UK-born resident of Rhodes. I’ve been here for almost 13 years, but my birthplace was Bath in the UK; although, prior to moving to Rhodes, my wife and I lived in South Wales for 24 years. I feel more Welsh than English when I think of the UK! My wife’s mother was Greek, which was a major factor in our choosing Greece when we decided to move abroad back in 2004-5. Both my wife and I are keen gardeners, and we have a large garden on a hillside in the South of the island, where most of our neighbours are goats, birds of prey, hares, and deer. In the winter time, we enjoy long walks, often covering 10 or 12 kilometres in one walk. I am also passionate about music, primarily guitar-based blues and rock.
How did you start writing? What was your inspiration to create?
Not long before we made the move, I began my first book of memoirs, which was inspired by the thought that, having read the Peter Mayle “Provence” books, and a couple of Bill Bryson’s, I rather immodestly thought – “I could do that!” The first book I wrote, which became No. 1 in the “Ramblings From Rhodes” series, was originally going to be titled “Lela’s Daughter”. This was because Lela was my mother-in-law’s name and, had it not been for her I wouldn’t have had such an ‘exotic’ wife, and would never have begun my Greek odyssey. The actual title when it was published became “Feta Compli!”
What genre do you enjoy reading? What’s your favorite book and why?
I don’t really have a favourite author, genre or book, but names and titles that stand out to me would be John Grisham, Wilbur Smith, and, perhaps my most favourite authors would be a couple of classics, like Thomas Hardy and George Elliot. There are so many books that left a lasting impression on me, that I can only really now think of those I’ve read recently. The Embroiderer by Kathryn Gauci is a sweeping epic that impressed me. Plus I enjoy just about anything by British author Robert Goddard.
If you’ve published a series, what is the series about?
My first three books were a kind of series, documenting my whole Greek experience from first meeting a half-Greek girl, through to various visits with her family in Greece, and on down to the first few years of living on Rhodes. The series is called “The Ramblings From Rhodes” books and is definitely in the light-hearted anecdotal bracket.
Have you ever thought about writing in a different genre? If you could, what genre would you like to dabble in?
Funnily enough, this is what happened a few years ago, when I finally struck on a plot for a work of fiction. My first novel “The View From Kleoboulos” was a very Hardy-esque relationship saga. Kind of “Thomas Hardy for the 21st century”. The only difference is that (not wishing to give too much away) in “Kleoboulos” the ending isn’t quite as bleak as in many of Hardy’s.
What has been your most proud moment as an author?
Each moment when a new book is finished and let loose on the general public. I suppose most writers would say that they are never truly satisfied with each work. That’s how I feel. I do believe that one learns with each new book and, thus, improves as a writer.
Was there ever a time you wanted to pick up your laptop, and then launch it out the window with frustration?
I can honestly say no to that one. I use a MacBook Pro. They’re just too expensive not to treat with kid gloves!!
Are you a “plotter” or a fly by the seat of your pants “pantster” as a writer?
With the memoir books, it’s just a question of remembering events and trying to relate them with a degree of humour. With the novels, of which I now have five in print/ebook circulation, I do have a basic plot before I begin, but in every case so far the story has kind of taken over and written itself to a degree. It’s weird, but lots of twist on my plots only occurred to me as I was typing. I’ve read this of a number of other authors too, who say that the thing seems to take on a life of its own.
Am I the only one who gets hung up on commas? Do they make you go blah! when you’re writing?
I know what you mean. it seems to me that the English language is always evolving (not always for the better). I remember rules that applied to English grammar when I was at school that most certainly don’t apply today. The use of a comma before the word ‘and’ is a case in point. One of my editors is very hot on comma usage, but he’s usually right!
What are you working on now? What will you release next?
I haven’t started writing it yet, but novel number 6 is taking shape in my head. It will be a story about an old Greek lady, on her deathbed in the UK, relating her life story to her nephew before it’s too late. He will learn things that will turn his life upside-down. Can’t reveal any more than that for now. I do have a working title for it, though, which I’m happy to reveal, it will probably be called “Panayiota”.
So… where can we get your books?
Because I’m an independent author, it’s not easy to get my books from high street stores. But they are all easily available to order through Amazon as paperbacks or in Kindle format. There are other online bookstores too which offer them as paperbacks. I only use Kindle for the e-books though. It’s simply a matter of where the largest marketplace is. My website has direct links on its homepage to every book’s individual Amazon page.
How would you define what being a successful writer means?
Well, everyone wants to make a living. Everyone, too, wants to reach as wide an audience as possible. But success to me is more about how good your work is, not about how many units you sell. Whilst I wouldn’t say no to a conventional publishing deal, I would prefer to keep the integrity of my work rather than compromise for the mass market. I do OK with my books and I do like having complete control over their content.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I do read my reviews. I also don’t mind if someone doesn’t perhaps connect with my writing and for whatever reason doesn’t like it very much. What I do take exception to, though, is reviewers who seem to feel that they can insult the writer with derogatory or downright insulting remarks. There’s simply no need for that. When I read a work, I won’t post a review at all if I really dislike it that much. I believe that such people don’t appreciate how much of one’s heart and soul goes into the piece. Fortunately for me, in all due modesty, I’ve been relieved to find that by far the majority of reviewers of my work have given my books four or five stars. Phew!
How have your family and friends accepted your career as a writer? Are they supportive?
I don’t have a huge family now. I would say, though, that my sister (bless her) is very supportive and does her best to champion my cause wherever she can. My wife, when I first started, told me to give it up, because paperback sales, in the beginning, were all I had, and without a huge publicity machine, you don’t get far. Once Kindle arrived and I began publishing my work in that format, her whole attitude changed. Now she encourages me to get on and write!
Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
Oh, that’s a good one. When writing the ‘factual’ books one has to be so careful. Usually at the very least one has to change names, but also, even in those books, one sometimes amalgamates people for the sake of telling the story in an entertaining way. I hope that some who may feel that they recognize themselves (if they’ve read the memoir books) will realize that, if the names have been changed, then often so have the personalities or the fine details. It’s not about telling lies, it’s about creating a readable narrative based around true events.
In the case of the novels, I have tapped a rich vein of past acquaintances and friend, but none of my characters are based purely on an individual. (Don’t sue…)
Where would you like to travel to and why?
I don’t have a great wanderlust anymore. There are, though, still a few Greek islands I’d like to visit. Plus probably Uluru in Australia. And I’d love to do Route 66 in the USA one day, before I’m no longer fit enough.
Which one of your characters is your favorite and why?
That’s a hard one, but possibly it would be the heroine of “Eve of Deconstruction”, Eve Watkins. I like her character because she’s thrown into disarray when going through her mother’s belongings after she’s died. Eve goes through ‘the ringer” as it were, but eventually comes out a happier person. By and large, I like to be a positive person. There’s enough negativity in this world already.
“Published Works” facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/johnmanuelbooks/?ref=bookmarks