This week, I'm catching up with author, Ismael Manzano, whose debut novel, Soulless, will be released on March 8, 2016 by Fantasy Works Publishing. Ismael and I first met when I was asked to interview him for the Bronx Chronicle (You can read that interview here) I was so impressed with him and so intrigued with the premise of Soulless that I invited him to talk to me for this blog, an invitation he graciously accepted.
Hi Ismael. Thanks so much for agreeing to chat with me again. Why don’t we begin with you telling us a little about yourself.
I’m a husband to a fellow writer and a father to a hyper little boy, and I’ve aspired to publish my own work since as far back as I can remember, only finding success last year.
I understand your wife is an editor and also a writer. What’s that like—living with being intimately involved with another writer?
It’s been wonderful. Before I met her, I was the only person I knew who was interested in writing, so whenever I showed anyone my work they offered me nothing but praise—more because they were just impressed that I bothered writing anything than because they actually liked what I’d written. Which sounds good on the surface, but none of us are perfect and we need constructive criticism in order to grow.
When my wife began writing as well, it opened up a whole new avenue for me. One in which we could bounce ideas off of each other and critique each other’s work in a safe and honest environment. That I respect her work tremendously also helps because it means I respect her evaluation of my stories. When she says something is good, I believe it, and when she says it needs work, I take a step back and force myself to examine it objectively. I don’t think I would have ever grown as a writer surrounded by people who mean well but don’t understand the craft.
Soulless is your first published book, though I know you’ve been writing for a while. What was the key to your success that led to your book getting out to the public?
For me, the key was to never give up. I’ve written plenty of things in my life, some that I thought were really good and some that I thought were really bad in hindsight. Regardless, publishers rejected them. Rather than give up, I moved on to another project or went back to the beginning and took a look at the story anew, hoping to find a way to make it stand out.
I know like me, you I write everywhere and whenever you can. And that can be a challenge. How long did it take you to write Soulless start to finish?
Soulless, start to finish took me about a year. That’s from the concept to the final word, but I’ve written other manuscripts in half that time.
Do you do a lot of research for your writing?
Yes. During my outlining I try to research whatever I think I’ll need to avoid any roadblocks along the way, but I leave room to do more research as I write.
Writers tend to talk a lot about whether they are plotters, those who plan their stories in detail before beginning to write, or pantsters, those who fly by the seat of their pants and write as they go letting the story tell itself. I’m a definite pantster. Which are you—do you create detailed character and plot bibles for your stories?
Actually I do both. It depends on the story. I usually write a moderately detailed outline, but as I go along, I usually find something that needs changing and that in turns changes the direction of the rest of the story. So I don’t try to write an outline so rigid that I can’t make room for changes. For Soulless, I didn’t need a plot bible, but I had a lot of characterizations written into my master outline.
Where do you begin when you write a story? With a scene, a character, a sentence?
I usually start my stories with a concept or a theme, and try to find the best costume to drape over that theme. The themes don’t always feature prominently in the story, because the story sometimes evolves beyond the impetus that spawned it, but it’ll always be there somewhere. For example, Soulless began with the question, ‘What if you never found your purpose in life?’ Now the theme of what happens when someone’s purpose is not realized, or is taken away from them is still in the book, but it stopped being the driving force of the story somewhere in the third or fourth revision of the outline.
Have you ever used an incident from real life in one of your books?
Surprisingly, for someone that mostly wrote epic fantasy stories, I did find ways to put real life events into my stories. While it’s not true for Soulless, another story I’ve been working on has deep roots in my childhood experiences, although the events are covered in fantastical elements.
What challenges did you face getting your stories out there?
The biggest challenge was learning to accept rejection without taking it personally.
What has surprised you about the journey to publishing Soulless?
I wasn’t prepared for how personal the editing process felt.
Let’s talk about Soulless—what’s it about and what do you hope readers will take away from reading the book?
Put simply, Soulless is about a woman searching for her place in the world, for her purpose in being. The soul trading business, and all the chaos that it brings into her life is the impetus for that discovery, but at its core, the story is about Charlotte seeking something that had been denied to her by the untimely illness of her father. There’s an underlining theme to this book, and that’s this: what happens to a person when they lose their purpose in life? I didn’t intend to beat anyone over the head with that theme, and I hope it does not come across that way, but I do hope readers will catch glimpses of it throughout the book.
And, Soulless is Book One of a trilogy, correct?
Actually no. I planned four books for this series, but there’s a possibility for a fifth, if the events of books three and four run longer than expected. It’s one thing in the outlining phase to say that a character goes to a place and convinces someone to help them, but when you’re in the scene, submerged in the characters, you might find that character A and character B have too much friction to work together, and you have to create an alternative path which might take longer and might place the character in situations you hadn’t previously thought to explore. Things have changed in the story from the original inception, and I’m allowing myself an extra space, in case more changes pop.
Ismael, thanks so much for stopping by. I can’t wait to read Soulless and I wish you much success with it.
About SoullessThe devil's not the only one buying souls; both sides need bodies to fight their war, and both have something to offer in return. Nearly anything is possible, if you are the type of soul they're looking for. Charlotte Furio learns this the hard way, when a spirited and mysterious woman named Trisha follows her home one night and gives her ailing father a simple choice: a healthy body for his immortal soul.
His decision introduces Charlotte to the world of soul brokering, and Charlotte is not only drawn to it, but finds she has a knack for it. Having lived the last decade of her life with only one purpose—to care for her increasingly disabled father—Charlotte sees this as her chance to give direction and meaning to her own life, and the lives of other people. To help them as Trisha had helped her father.
This mission is quickly derailed when Charlotte is framed for the murder of one of the brokers' leaders. Where she once had only one purpose, now Charlotte has two: get her father's soul back and find a way to prove her innocence before it's too late.
About Ismael Manzano
Ismael is an avid reader of fantasy books, and knew at an early age that he wanted to be a writer. He worked his entire life to hone his craft to achieve the goal of removing the prefix, ‘aspiring,’ from his title, and referring to himself as a writer.
He has written many reviews and social commentaries for the web magazine, G-pop.net. Recently, Ismael has found success publishing his short stories, Playing in Shadows, at This Dark Matter, and Cold, was published in July 2015, at Grey Matter. In 2015, Fantasy Works Publishing signed his Urban Fantasy series, Soul Broker.
You can catch up with Ismael on line on Twitter, on Facebook, on his blog, or on his Fantasy Works Publishingwebsite.