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Wednesday 15 March 2017

ℚ Ashes - Steven Manchester

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with author to talk about Ashes (, Fiction Studio Books, 272 pages), a Literary Fiction title.

“When two middle-aged, estranged brothers hit the road with their father's ashes in the back seat of the car, what begins as a grueling test of opposites ends up as a heroic testament to love. ASHES is a story about disappointment, dysfunctional families, and male aging, filled with observations that are both painfully true and terribly funny. Sometimes raw, always engaging, Steven Manchester's novel is a wry and wise journey through the ruins of the American Dream.” – William Kent Kruger, New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award-winning author of ORDINARY GRACE

“Steven Manchester has the enviable ability to capture the intricacies of the human heart through words. ASHES is a moving novel of two brothers and their journey back to one another. A must read.” – Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times bestselling author of THE WEIGHT OF SILENCE and MISSING PIECES

|| Synopsis || Teaser: KCR Preview || Author Q&A || About the Author || Giveaway & Tour Stops ||

A very warm welcome to Steven Manchester; thank you for joining us on BooksChatter!

What was the inspiration for Ashes?

"As I’m nearly fifty years old, the conversations I used to share with my two brothers—Billy and Randy—have significantly changed. When we were young, we discussed career choices and romantic pursuits. As the years unfolded, the talks focused on raising children and juggling hectic schedules. Now, these conversations are peppered with reports of doctors’ appointments and where we stand with our retirement plans. The evolution of our conversations is as bittersweet as it is comical to me—and was the basis for Ashes."
How much of yourself is reflected in this book, and how?
"A lot! There are two main characters in this novel—estranged brother, Jason and Tom. Jason is a rough-and-tumble Correction Officer. Tom is a tenured college professor, who is a cultured intellect. There are traits in both characters that I closely identify with—both in personality and behavior."
The first thing that draws me to a book is its cover. Can you tell us about your cover for Ashes - why you chose that concept and who the artist is.
"My publisher, Lou Aronica, picked the cover (starting with photo stock) and I love it! It’s one of those covers that make you nod when you’ve finished the novel because you now understand its true meaning."
Why should we read Ashes and what sets it apart from the rest?
"First and foremost, the characters are real and relatable; people plucked from real life as moist of us know it. They have been estranged for nearly fifteen years and do not care for each other at all. By trapping them together in a car on a cross-country road trip for a week, I was able to do a deep dive on where they came from and what makes them who they are today. The banter between them is biting and raw. The story is sure to made readers laugh, cringe and maybe even shed a tear or two. "
Can you tell us something quirky about Ashes, its story and characters?
"The last name, Prendergast, was used because a friend of mine passed just before I began writing the book. It was my way of honoring him and his family. In Ashes, I wanted to explore the dysfunction and darkness that most families experience, while still proving there are unbreakable bonds that last a lifetime—regardless of conditions or circumstances. We are all deeply connected to those we grew up with and it’s our choice how we play that out."
Who would you recommend Ashes to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?
"This is definitely adult contemporary fiction (not for kids), though I believe that both genders will enjoy the ride. Although written from a male perspective, it is also intended for the female audience—and may prove insightful."
If you could / wished to turn Ashes into a movie, who would be your dream team?
"Great question! Robert Redford would direct (no one lights a film like him). Ed Harries would play the dad (in flashback scenes, as he’s now deceased); The protagonists, Jason and Tom, would be played by Davis Morse and Tom Hanks (The Green Mile reunion). The trip begins in Salem, Massachusetts and ends in Seattle—so a real Americana road trip."
What do you like to write and read about? Do you stick to a particular genre or do you like to explore different ones?
"I write about real life and real people; relationships—and all the dysfunction that comes along with them—that range from romantic partners to father/son stories. I love developing characters and spin tales that readers can relate to. None of us is ever alone, and I try to prove that in ever novel I write."
What is your writing process?
"I’d just returned home from Operation Desert Storm, and was working as a prison investigator in Massachusetts. Needless to say, there was great negativity in my life at that time. I decided to return to college to finish my degree in Criminal Justice. During one of the classes, the professor talked about police work but nothing else. I finally raised my hand and asked, “The criminal justice system is vast. What about the courts, probation, parole – corrections?” He smiled and told me to see him after class. I thought I’d finally done it! In his office, he explained, “There’s no written material out there on corrections or prisons, except from the slanted perspective of inmates.” He smiled again and dropped the bomb. “If you’re so smart,” he said, “why don’t you write it?” Nine months later, I dropped the first draft of 6-5; A Different Shade of Blue on his desk. From then on, I was hooked. I was a writer.

I’d written a lot at my job (report writing), but it all started with my college professor’s challenge. Perhaps because of my age and experience, I understood right away that writing is a craft that takes time to evolve; to mature, so I spent the next several years PRACTICING my chosen craft. Under the pen name, Steven Herberts, I wrote in every venue of print I could get my name in: newspaper, magazine, etc. I also penned two collections of poetry, and wrote drafts for two more books. After five solid years of writing, I finally believed that I’d found my voice; MY STYLE – and was ready to contact an agent.

The greatest challenge for me has been time. First and foremost, I am a dad and my children come first. After that, there are other responsibilities that need my attention. Yet, my passion to write has constantly gnawed at my soul. To overcome the obstacle of time, I made writing a priority over watching TV and sometimes even sleeping. Once my family is taken care of and the world closes its eyes, I’m up for a few more hours each day – chasing my dreams on paper.

It has taken thousands of words, hundreds of pages, before I finally identified with a particular genre. I decided that my voice was a more sensitive one: a male perspective to a female audience.

I begin with a storyboard and usually produce three drafts before the copy editor gets the book. I can push out a book in six to nine months, but from editing to print takes another year."
What is in store next?
"I’m currently working on developing a new novel (I’m always writing something) with the working title, Three Shoeboxes.

Synopsis: A successful advertising executive, blessed with a loving family, is brutally ambushed by P.T.S.D. Left to contend with ignorance, an insensitive justice system and the struggles of an invisible disease, his family is taken from him. Yet, in Three Shoeboxes, this father’s undying love may be just enough to make things right again."
And as a final quirky thing, to get to know you a little bit better... do you have a pet or something that is special to you that you could share with us?
"My daughter, Bella, has a teacup poodle named Sophie. I love dogs and have had them my whole life, but they were usually big breeds. Sophie weighs four pounds. When we first got it, I laughed. Now, I don’t think I’ve ever loved an animal more. Here’s a photo of Bella holding Sophie."
I love that photo! A big hello to Bella and Sophie from all of us at BooksChatter! And, of course, Steven, many thanks for sharing :-)

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1 comment:

CMash said...

Fantastic interview! I read this book so I found this so interesting. His daughter is beautiful!