Author Interview with Paul Mannering.
SN: Sisters Noire (unless otherwise indicated, interviews conducted by Ed Evans).
PM: Paul Mannering
SN: Hello Paul. Could you give us a little bit of background information about you?
PM: I’m a New Zealand writer living in the capital city, Wellington. In March, 2007 I co-founded BrokenSea Audio Productions, with Bill Hollweg, a Texan artist. We release free audio drama and audio books every week, including an award winning Doctor Who series. During the day I work in project management for the New Zealand government.
I’m married, have a 21 year old son (who lives in Christchurch) and 3 cats.
SN: What inspired you to start writing? Is it something you’ve always done?
PM: I was raised on a farm near a small town and when I was seven our TV blew up, so I spent the next 5 years with only books to read and the radio to listen to. I started writing about the same time. I had some interesting source material, medical and forensic science textbooks, Readers Digest, National Geographic and old books of horror stories.
SN: What genre do you write?
PM: I write in a range of genres. My true love is horror stories. But I write in a range of genres. I like writing comedy, speculative fiction, sci-fi, The only genre I haven’t published in is romance. Though given the high demand, it is tempting to give it a go.
SN: You have already written books – Tankbread and The Man Who Could Not Climb Stairs and Other Strange Stories. Could you give us a brief synopsis of each?
PM: Tankbread is a zombie/sci-fi horror/action adventure set in Australia. Ten years ago humanity lost the war for survival against a spreading plague that brought the dead back to life as flesh eating monsters. Now intelligent zombies rule the world. Feeding the undead a steady diet of cloned people called Tankbread, the survivors live in a dangerous world on the brink of final extinction. One outlaw courier must go on a journey through the post-apocalyptic
wasteland of Australia. Fighting his way into the very heart of the apocalypse in the desperate search for a way to save the last humans and destroy the undead threat. His only companion is a girl with an extraordinary secret. Her name is
Else and she’s Tankbread. Along the way we learn a lot more about what Tankbread are, where they come from and ultimately how they can save the world from the dominion of the dead.
The Man Who Could Not Climb Stairs And Other Strange Stories is a collection of weird tales. The stories cover a range of genres, from old school creepy horror, to bizarro weird fiction. A recent review said that it was the best collection of short stories to come out of Australia or New Zealand in 2011.
SN: Tankbread looks like it involves a lot of zombies – are you a big zombie fan?
PM: Absolutely. Zombies would have to be my favourite monster archetype. I prefer the Romero slow moving dead type of zombie. The running zombies don’t make a lot of sense to me. As laughable as it sounds, I like my zombies to have a sense of realism to them. I’ve read the books and watched all the zombie films that one must watch to be considered a true zombie fan. As a mainstream horror staple zombies are reaching the end of their season in the sun. It is time for writers to move on to a new monster. The classics will always remain as such, but we need to avoid the over-saturation that comes with too much of a good thing flooding the zeitgeist.
SN: What else have you been involved in?
PM: Mostly writing and producing audio plays with various groups. I also edited a horror anthology called Tales From The Bell Club for Knightwatch Press earlier this year.
SN: What are your favourite books/films/TV shows and have they influenced your writing?
PM: My influences are many and varied. One of the first books I paid serious attention to was The Encyclopedia Of Forensic Medicine. A fascinating tome with hundreds of black and white photographs of the multiple ways you can die horribly. Being a kid is no reason not to be fascinated by horror. I have used a lot of the images I remember from
that book in many works since. I came later in life to horror films, but recall the old black and white movies that were more about suspense and the unseen horrors. In books I remember vividly being traumatised by a book called “The
House of Horror and Other Stories” it was presented as a collection of true stories and some of them were the kind of urban legend accounts we read about online all the time. But other stories were old folk-tales, such as ‘The Vampire of Groglin Grange’ and they were presented as true accounts. Of course not knowing the difference, that story in particular traumatised me for years.
SN: Do you have a specific writing style?
PM: It depends on what I am writing. I like to write fast and loose pulp action adventures. Tankbread was written in the first person, and one of my current works in progress is also written in the first person. Another work in progress (I have several novels on the go at once) is quite different in writing style.
I think the best way to stay fresh as a writer is to explore different ways of telling stories. The story itself often suggests the style.
SN: Can you share a little of your work with us?
PM: This is a scene from Tankbread…
Crystal Brook turned out to be an old farming town. A few wool-blind
sheep crowded along shop fronts, panting in the evening heat. Else
wanted to ride one, or pet it, or kill it and eat it. All good
options, but not before we knew who else might be here.
It seemed to be clear of the dead. Evols like towns. For years
afterwards some places had working lights and noise, even if the
living had fled. Light and noise attracts zombies like giant flesh
eating moths. In Crystal Brook there were no lights, not amusement
park rides ghosting in the night and no traffic signals blinking over
abandoned street corners.
We peered through dusted up windows and saw no signs of recent
habitation. Like all small towns, plenty of places in Crystal Brook
were boarded up long ago. You could always tell the early evacuees
because they boarded their windows up on the outside. Those who stayed
until it was too late boarded theirs up on the inside.
I lead Else down streets lined with wilting trees and crumbling
fences. The occasional sheep startled her, but we kept to the middle
of the road and out of the shadows. I picked a house at random, it
stood back from the road, a decent fence and mature trees shielding
it. Else squirmed at having to stand still for so long, she dropped
her pants and squatted to piss at one point. Other than that we didn’t
twitch until I was satisfied that nothing was moving in there.
Breaking in proved unnecessary, the front door wasn’t locked. I stood
in the kitchen, breathing the hot, stale air. No smell of rotting meat
and no sounds. I moved around the room, opening cupboards and not
believing how untouched everything was. In Sydney most places were
stripped-out wrecks, here it could be that the owners were simply away
for the weekend.
Else wandered off while I stacked cans of food on the bench next to a
“Uuuuuuuugh!” Else’s choked scream sent me dashing through into the
next room, the sudden stink of rotting meat struck me like a hammer in
the face. I bounded through the door before I remembered that I didn’t
have a weapon in my hand.
The girl had puked thin bile all down the edge of a chest freezer,
grey with dust and smudged with her fingerprints. Now she was on her
knees heaving her guts out.
“Ah shit. Did you open that?” I pointed.
“Unnghh…” Else groaned and dry retched again.
“Don’t open those, just… don’t.” I helped her up and lead her back to
the kitchen. Cracking open a can of fruit juice I had to hold her chin
and pour it in, she kept turning her head away and whining.
Two cans of juice washed the puke taste away and she even managed half
a can of pears for dessert.
After I locked the place up we slept in the master bedroom until well
SN: I notice that you have your books published to Kindle as well as in print, could you please explain a little of this process? Did you find it difficult to publish via two distinctly different mediums?
PM: I did find it difficult, which is why I hired a professional book formatter. Lyle Perez of The Madformatter.
He has done excellent interior design and format work on all my books. Once I had overcome that hurdle it was a simple matter of working through the Amazon publishing process. They do their best to make it simple, but you must have a correctly formatted file to upload.
SN: What challenges have you faced with your writing? Is there anything you find particularly challenging in the writing process?
PM: The biggest challenge for Tankbread was the Christhurch earthquake of February 22nd, 2011. We lived in Christchurch then and the quake turned everyone’s lives upside down. It put writing on hold for a few months while we picked up the pieces. But then I started pouring all that into the story, the sense of disaster, the wrenching from
normality. The only thing that we didn’t have in Christchurch that year was zombies. Though I did write a short story about a zombie plague starting as a result of an earthquake…
With every longer work the challenge is to to keep the story escalating until the very end. So many stories are never finished because the writer hits that wall when the initial ideas are written out and then you need to build on that and have an ending in mind. Sometimes I have a clear summary of an entire story – other times I have no idea and let the characters tell me their story and I just write it down.
SN: Do you have a typical writing routine?
PM: I write every day. I tend to come home from work and do the usual evening chores, help with dinner etc and then I start writing. I try to write 2-4 hours a day. On weekends it’s easily twice that. I set my self daily goals – finish this chapter, write out this scene that has been rolling around in my head for a while or resolve a particular plot point.
Often a block will come up and I won’t know how to resolve it – until the answer comes popping into my head like a flash of inspiration.
SN: What motivates you to write?
PM: The voices in my head. The voices of a thousand characters clamoring to tell me their story. The way everything around me says, “There’s a story here.” I spend a lot of time regarding simple things and going, “What if?”
SN: As a published author, do you have any advice for fellow writers and those just starting out?
PM: Write. Write every day. Finish anything that you feel strongly about. Set yourself realistic goals. Above all, get a professional editor to review your work. Self-publishing is fine! Self-editing is not!
SN: What’s next on the writing agenda? Do you have another story or stories in the works? Can you give us some info on them?
PM: Current Works In Progress:
1. Engines of Empathy – a quirky novel set in a world where machines are powered by the unlimited power source called empathic energy. Of course there are dark secrets in this world and computer psychologist Charlotte Pudding is aided by the frustratingly attractive Vole Drakeforth to uncover the mystery that surrounds an antique desk, patchouli oil and the origins of the secretive Godden Energy Corporation.
2. Tankbread 2. A sequel to the first novel which continues Else’s story.
3. Dead! Dead! Dead! A plague that turns people into cannibalistic monsters is a chance for the biker gang The Locusts to embrace the freedom and anarchy they always dreamed of. But the dream has become corrupted and a small group from very different backgrounds are going to have to fight to survive against the spreading disaster and each other.
As well as audio plays, short stories and my day job writing IT project reports.
SN: Thank you very much for your time, Paul.
Interview conducted 16/06/2012
So there you have it, another great author interview with Paul Mannering.
You can find Paul’s books here –
Tales from The Bell Club –
The BrokenSea Audio Productions website is –