Thursday, December 18, 2008

Author Interview ~ Janson Mancheski

Janson Mancheski has practiced optometry for more than 25 years. He holds a degree in biology and psychology from the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay. Mancheski’s first screenplay, Nuck, was awarded a Writer’s Digest Fiction Award in 2001. His book, The Chemist, is dedicated to the memory of his brother-in-law Norbert DeCleene, and draws from the experiences of the former Green Bay area police officer, politician and marine. A Green Bay resident, Mancheski operates a private practice in Titletown, USA as well as in the neighboring city of Shawano. Mancheski is currently writing the next installment of the “Cale Van Waring Adventure Series.” For more information about Mancheski or The Chemist, please visit

Tell us a little about your latest release:

The Chemist released October 1, 2008. It’s the story of a homicide detective trying to solve a serial kidnapping case, this while confronted with upheaval in his personal life.

How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?

My personal “what if” moment for this story came when I pondered the personal/emotional side of life that investigators must face when a case drags on for an indefinite period of time: like most cases invariably do. Television series like “24” and “The First 48 Hours” give investigators – as well as viewers – a very finite time-frame for resolution. Real life seldom works this way. Time drags on, clues become scarcer, and cases go cold. Detectives are real people, and often times personal matters infringe on their ability to devote their entire lives to solving a particular case.

Tell us a little about your main character and how you developed him/her:

My main character – Detective Cale Van Waring – faces the unenviable scenario of the dissolution of his love life, right in the middle of trying to solve the most perplexing case of his career. Most of us are able to maintain balance between our jobs and our personal lives. But what about detectives who are faced with tracking down a sicko on a kidnapping spree? Does their job take precedence over family? Children? Loved ones? I tried to develop my detective by forcing him to make choices: could he separate out his home problems, while still staying focused on solving a murder case?

What did you enjoy most about writing this book? Least?

What I enjoyed most about writing The Chemist was the character interplay between the three main characters: the hero, the villain, and the hero’s girlfriend. I believe it’s a fun and exciting story, with a few genuine quirky twists. The key for me is that it has to be fun to read, as well as amusing to write.

What I enjoyed least is the same fear everyone has when attempting to write crime fiction: keeping it fresh, and not becoming “cliché”.

What made you start writing?

I began writing as an undergraduate in college. I was somewhat shy and introspective, and writing allowed me to give voice, mostly through character, to a confidence I seldom felt in person.

What does your writing space look like?

I write at a desk with a computer, facing the open room. I try not to face a wall, as I feel this tempers my imagination. It’s a completely irrational superstition, I understand, but we’ve all got our quirks. A photograph of my work station would be completely uninspiring.

What would you do with your free time if you weren’t writing?

I’d love to spend more time with friends and family. I envy those people who are able to devote themselves entirely to their loved ones.

What's the most difficult part of writing for you (or was when you first started on your novel journey)?

My most difficult problem was accepting the lifestyle transformation. I realized that I had to discipline myself in order to write a first novel. I always cringed when hearing people say, “I always wanted to write a novel, but I never had the time.” If you’re serious about it, then you must turn off the TV and cell phone, and sequester yourself from the outside world. A writing professor once told us, “Many people want to be writers, but most don’t want to write.” It really does take a lot of lonely hours to get something worthwhile accomplished.

Do you put yourself into your books/characters?

I can’t help putting parts of myself into almost every character. It’s the only way I can understand how they might react to certain dilemmas they are faced with.

What message do you hope readers gain from your novel?

The only message I attempted to convey in The Chemist is that boring, everyday life happens to both heroes and villains. Ninety percent of the time, a serial killer is behaving normally: watching a ballgame, playing with his kids, buying food for dinner. The same is with the detectives. They are family men, have wives and kids, hobbies. Batman has to brush his teeth each morning; the Joker has to get the oil changed in his car. That kind of mundane normalcy.

Briefly take us through your process of writing a novel—from conception to revision.

My process of writing is fairly formulaic; I start with a premise, and then solidify my main characters. I feel it’s important to nail your first thirty pages – the beginning. Then I compose the ending, so I don’t get caught meandering. The character inter-play then makes up the middle, and the characters can take you anywhere. The ending has to be fluid, as the characters may force the story in an entirely different direction. I attempt to visualize each scene like watching a movie. It’s my way of avoiding the trap of lengthy narrative prose. I remind myself that I’m no Charles Dickens. Writing screenplays is also a great tool to help with visualization, as well as with descriptive brevity.

What are a few of your favorite books (not written by you) and why are they favorites?

I enjoy Richard Montanari’s The Rosary Girls. I love his sense of structure. I admire the blend of mythology and history by Michael Scott in his The Alchemist series. The zaniness of both Carl Hiaasen and Chuck Palahniuk, in most of what they write, has been of great influence. Joe Hill has wonderful character development in Heart Shaped Box. And no list of writers is complete, for me anyway, without mentioning the imagination and work ethic of Brian Lumley and his Necroscope series.

What do you wish you’d known early in your career that might have saved you some time and/or frustration in writing? In publishing?

What I wish I’d known early is, that in order to get a novel written, you really have to alter the rest of your everyday life. I find it virtually impossible to not write for seven days, and then try to pick it up where I left off. I have to re-read and re-write so much, that it becomes frustrating. I guess the whole thing boils down to dogged perseverance; a willingness to seriously work at it.
I don’t know much about the publishing/business side of the writing industry. This part I’ll have to learn.

How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?

This being my first novel, I’m just getting my feet wet regarding the aspects of marketing. I must confess that I’m terrible as a salesperson – always have been. I know I’m naïve, especially in this day and age, but I’ve always been taught that humility trumps self-promotion. Hopefully I’ll learn as I go along.

Tell us what we have to look forward to in the future. What new projects are you working on?

I’ve committed to writing a follow up to The Chemist, and envision it becoming a four-novel series. I’m also working on a series of supernatural thrillers, as well as a fantasy series. To me the problem is always time – so many plots and characters; so little time.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

I believe in the old adage: read, read, read. No writer should attempt a novel without having read at least thirty-to-forty books of varying genres, beforehand. The writing process is equal parts art and science. You learn your strengths, weaknesses, and desires, by finding which writers intrigue you. Once you learn what you enjoy reading, you can begin to refine how you’d like to pattern your own technique. And always remember, as Hemmingway so eloquently stated: “All first drafts are s**t.”

To read my review of The Chemist click here.