An interview that illustrates why I’m rarely interviewed.
(Originally posted on The Indie View website on 8/4/2019. I was happy to promote the book neXt there and I liked how it turned out. Publicizing a book that you know nobody will ever read is definitely an odd experience.)
About the book
What is the book about?
Everything and nothing. In small doses. I’m of the mind that flash fiction can be a powerful tool for communicating ideas that really don’t need to be communicated. Too many authors have a point to what they write. Where does that leave the reader? I am both deluded and self-absorbed in my personal life and my writing reflects that. If I had an ounce of compassion for the people who read my stories, I wouldn’t publish them in the first place.
When did you start writing the book?
After cranking out seven short story collections in three years I took a break for awhile. The major reason was that almost nobody read any of them. While I wasn’t publishing them for acclaim and ballyhoo, I did have to admit to myself that a little ballyhoo wouldn’t have hurt. After awhile I forget the sting that this lack of ballyhoo brings and decided to publish another one. Almost nobody is reading this one either.
How long did it take you to write it?
The stories in the new book go back between three years and just a few months ago. So much changed in those years that reading some of them back is like reading a diary… except in code.
Where did you get the ideas from?
That’s THE question isn’t it. I started to meditate last year and mindfulness became a big deal to me and, to my chagrin, the ideas stopped coming. Once or twice a day I would spend a few minutes being mindful and apparently it calmed down the weird parts of my brain that were supplying the stupid premises for my stories. I really struggled to decide if I should stop meditating so I could reconnect with the stupid and eventually the Manion won out and the ideas started to come again. Mostly in dreams if I’m being honest.
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
Only deciding which stories were too dumb to put in the book. There seemed to be more stories that offended people in my other books, this time I found things were just more odd than offensive. Figuring out which stories people will appreciate and/or connect to is always tough. I wanted to write more offensive things because I really hate the new PC world but I also didn’t want to be rude just to be rude.
What came easily?
Being rude. I find profanity, racism, sexism, homophobia and the mentally challenged inherently funny. It’s sad that we can’t laugh at life anymore. I mean, we do, to ourselves, but it used to be something we could all share. I mean, why does ESPN televise the Special Olympics now? Who exactly is watching ten mentally handicapped people play basketball? Nobody, that’s who. But you can’t say a word about it for fear of offending. I’ll tell you this much, if you stumble upon the Special Olympics and you stop and watch a swimming event by yourself, all alone with nobody around, I guarantee you that you’re going to laugh. You’re imagining it now and you’re laughing. Pointing that out comes easily to me.
Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?
‘Real world people’ are just as fictitious as characters in a book. They are a different person to everyone they meet, they are different based on the time of day and where they are and what they decided to wear that morning. This isn’t a good or bad thing, it’s just a reality that helps you when you decide to write something. If it sucks, you can just say to yourself that it wasn’t you that wrote it. It was the dumbass wearing pants that were way too tight. Making up the characters that populate your life is far more difficult than the ones you slap down on paper.
Do you have a target reader for this book?
The slightly crazy. Not full-blown nuts but off a little. The stories aren’t intended to be complete thoughts, the goal is for them to act as a catalyst for the reader. To jar something loose that they perhaps wouldn’t have thought of if they hadn’t read the story. Something better. Originally I targeted ‘artistic’ people, thinking that they’d be more creative, but I’m finding that weirdness lurks in the most ordinary packages these days. I want to bring it out in people. I want them to find poignancy in places they never expected to find it.
How was writing this book different from what you’d experienced writing previous books?
There was less stress about the quality of the stories (if that’s possible). Once you embrace the fact that nobody is going to read what you write it’s tremendously liberating. I don’t know how successful authors do it. If I thought for one minute that thousands of people would actually be reading what I wrote I’d probably pass out at my laptop.
What new things did you learn about writing, publishing, and/or yourself while writing and preparing this book for publication?
I relearned that just creating something and putting it out there is a great thing. The ‘success’ of it doesn’t matter at all. It’s just making something exist that didn’t exist before is awesome. I self-publish therefore I am. Millions of years from now, when humans are just shimmering beams of light, there is the possibility that one of them might read The Ball Washer and shake the area where their head should be and think “Wow, what a time that must have been. I bet this Lance Manion must have gotten a lot of ballyhoo.”