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2014 Snapshot Interview: Paul Mannering

SnaphotLogo2014Paul Mannering is an award winning writer living in Wellington, New Zealand Paul has published dozens of short stories and radio plays in a range of genres across many different international markets. His Australian zombie series, Tankbread, is published by Permuted Press. The first book in the Drakeforth series of sci-fi comedy novels, 'Engines of Empathy', is available now through Paper Road PressYou can follow Paul on Twitter @paul_mannering or follow his blog at www.manneringbooks.com

1. ‘Tankbread 2: Immortal’ was recently published by Permuted Press. Congratulations and how is it being received? You are noted for writing novels with female protagonists, and ‘Immortal’ is no exception. How do you go about writing a ‘complex’ female character and why is it important to you?

Thanks. Immortal has been very well received. Positive reviews abound and it has been selling well across various markets around the world.

I like to write characters that are not the norm for action oriented fiction. I find that characters who do not come from a background of military special forces or secret agency training – make for far more interesting and relatable people in the terms of the story. My favourite characters are the ones who make mistakes and who are not perfect examples of humanity. Readers can relate to these imperfect castings and it helps engage them in the story.

Else, the protagonist in Immortal, is a cloned human (colloquially called “Tankbread”). She has a great mind and learns quickly. However, she is living in a post-apocalyptic Australia where danger comes in many forms.

I don’t focus on writing characters as female, more (as George RR Martin says) as people. The complexity comes from delving into their personalities, their agendas, and establishing a relationship with them as a writer. The character’s voice evolves and this becomes the guide for their actions and dialogue.

2. Your original novel ‘Tankbread’ was originally self-published, but later republished by Permuted Press. Can you tell us how Permuted come to pick up ‘Tankbread’? Is self publishing something you are still interested in pursuing for other projects?

Within a year of self-publishing Tankbread, Jacob Kier, the then owner of Permuted Press contacted me based on the success of Tankbread. I signed a contract with him for Tankbread and the sequel, which I was still writing at the time.

Shortly after that (a matter of months) Permuted Press was sold to new owners. They invested in Tankbread and it’s sequels (they now have three books and are clamouring for more in the series).

I continue to self-publish. My current trend is publishing short stories on the Kindle. I sell these for 99 cents and cycle through the current titles I have available doing free promotions. It’s a simple way to introduce readers to my writing and give them a taste of what they can expect.hopes to bring those works and their authors to a wider readership.


3. I believe you have a couple of other projects with Permuted, including the third Tankbread novel, and another novel as well. What else do you have in the pipeline?

Tankbread 3: Deadland is due for release in August, 2014. I’m really excited about this one. It continues the traditions of the Tankbread series, and introduces a new protagonist (a 16 year old girl called Gin). Else is still a key element of the story and this one ties up some loose ends while expanding the story Universe in preparation for a fourth (untitled) book in the series.

I am currently working on a new apocalyptic series for Permuted Press. This one centers around a group of outlaw bikers who are caught up in a devestating outbreak of a strange disease that turns the infected into raging cannibals. I’ve had the pleasure of working on it with a US Army veteran who has been invaluable in providing technical data on the military aspects of the story.

On a completely different spec-fic tangent, in May my sci-fi comedy novel, Engines of Empathy was published by Paper Road Press. This story also features a female protagonist, Charlotte Pudding. Charlotte is a recently orphaned woman who works as a computer psychologist in a world where machines run on positive emotions and Quantum Mechanics is the basis of the primary religion. Engines has delighted reviewers so far and is a mad-cap adventure with elements of Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett and Jasper Fforde (all who are big influences of mine).

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

There are so many fantastic Australian spec-fic works out there at the moment. I was part of the judging panel of the Australian Horror Writer’s annual short-story and flash fiction competition. We had the delight of reading over a hundred amazing horror shorts with a huge range of themes and styles.

Alan Baxter’s Bound is the book I am currently reading. It is the story of Alex Caine, a prize-fighter in the mixed-martial arts fight circuit. He has a latent magical ability to sense other’s intentions. He is drawn into a wild world of magic and danger along with the reader and it’s great story; a terrific mix of martial arts, urban fantasy and magic.

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

It seems that the publishing industry is going through another upheaval as various big names in the industry try to push back on each other. It’s amazing to watch these behemoths struggle to change direction and find their footing in the new world of publishing.

The biggest influence of the changes on how I work is that I now have confidence that I can be published. I have so many options for any creative projects – I can even crowdfund the exercise (or just make potato salad).

If anything the increasing ease with which people can create and share is making for a world where we are seeing stories that otherwise would have never been known. The Big 5 publishers are not the only deciders of what is a good story – the readers are the true judges and they vote with their wallets.

In five years from now – I will be almost finished my current work in progress pile (about 7 novels plus sequels). I am keen to expand into different genres, including a trilogy of murder mysteries that started out as a NANOWRIMO project a few years ago.

I expect I will still be publishing short stories, either free or cheap-as-chips on sites like Amazon. As long as they keep the doors to publishing open for independent and self-published authors – I will keep supporting them.

I’m looking forward to reading new fiction. Fiction inspired by the works coming out now and the changing world around us. Spec-fic will move on to new tropes and old ideas will be explored in new ways with perspectives shaped by changes in society and the cultures that the writers are immersed in. I know we will never see the written word fade as an art form. We will always have stories to tell and people wanting to hear them.



This post is part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. Snapshot 2012 is being conducted by Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely, and Sean Wright. To read the interviews hot off the press, check our blogs daily from 28 July to 10 August, 2014.