Tuesday, December 8, 2015

AMONG THE STACKS: Matt Manochio


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hi, Matt.  Welcome to The Gal.  I have recently become a fan and I am super excited to have you here today.  Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Matt Manochio:
I'm a 40-year-old single dad living in northwest New Jersey, where I write and edit guide that help insurance underwriters understand various businesses and industries.  If that sounds boring, it can be. But I have a great job that allows me to write my stories in the afternoon and, more importantly, be a dad.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

Matt Manochio:
That's a tough one.  I honestly can't think of one thing, let alone five.  But I'll try.

1. I was once obsessed with throwing knuckleballs and baseballs and, at one time, fantasized about being a knuckleball pitcher.  The only problem is you really need to be an outstanding baseball player in order to do that, and I couldn't even make my high school team.  Ah, the follies of youth.  But I cannot wait for my son to become old enough to throw a baseball.

2. I've performed stand-up comedy six times in my life in 1998 when I was working as a newspaper copy editor in South Carolina.  When it works, and you can make people laugh, it truly is one of the best feelings imaginable.  When it doesn't work, and you bomb, you feel like crap.  But there are worse feelings in the world.

3. I own every Enya album, including the new studio release, Dark Sky Island.

4. When I was a newspaper reporter, I once appeared with On the Record with Greta Van Susteren to discuss the tragic death of a young vocal woman who died in Hawaii.

5. I love ventriloquists. 

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

Matt Manochio:
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

Matt Manochio:
Finders Keepers by Stephen King.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

Matt Manochio:
As far back as elementary school, when I would write silly stories and read them in class with the sole purpose of making my classmates laugh.  I enjoyed writing and got into newspapers - I was a daily newspaper reporter from 1999-2011 - because it was an outlet to write.  I began trying to write novels in 2007 and just kept at it, and am glad I did.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

Matt Manochio:
Nope. Either sitting on my couch or sitting on my bed.  Either works for me.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Matt Manochio:
I'm working on what I hope turns into another Krampus novel, knock on wood, and firmly believe a book begins taking shape once you've finished the first draft and begin re-reading what you wrote.  So I suppose that's a process, not really a quirk.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Matt Manochio:
Just how long it takes to write even a short novel, one that's 65,000 to 70,000 words, which is sort of the minimum that publishers tend to accept and probably 250 pages long.  I'm amazed by authors who write 1,000-page books.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What book shave most inspired you?  Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Matt Manochio:
That's a touch one because I'm not a voracious reader.  I've read more Dave Barry books that I can count, but most of them weren't novels.  And the first novel he wrote, Big Trouble, I didn't find funny.  I love humor writing and try to find a balance in my works.  The aforementioned Hobbit, along with Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park and Stephen King's Salem's Lot, are the books that I have gone back and reread time and again.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

Matt Manochio:
Good question because I have no idea how to answer it.  How about one that keeps you engaged?  I felt that way about Justin Cronin's The Passage.  I loved lying down at night to read it and didn't want it to end.  And I can't attribute it to wonderful characters (I can't name any of them off the top of my head).  I suppose it really depends on your own personal preferences.  I know there are people who hated The Passage.  Why?  We all read the same book.  You have to into the book with interest in the subject matter (The Passage dealt with vampires) and hope it grabs you.  That's still not a good answer!  I wish I had a better one.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What does it take for you to love a character?  How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Matt Manochio:
You're good.  This is another question I'm having trouble answering.  I don't really love characters or become obsessed with them.  Here's what I mean: there are people who've read every Harry Potter book, can name all of the characters, recite their back stories, etc.  I can't do that with characters in my favorite books.  I know Bilbo Baggins is the protagonist in the Hobbit, but for the life of me cannot rattle off his relatives, and I'm sure there are people who can.  When I'm writing my characters, I try to envision whether I want the reader to like the character or hate them and proceed accordingly.  (Or at least I try.)

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Matt Manochio:
Probably Billy Schweitzer, the protagonist from my first novel, The Dark Servant.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you turned off by a bad cover?  To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Matt Manochio:
No.  You're not looking at the cover when you're reading a book.  You're reading the pages, what's in them is what matters most.  And my publishers ask for input into the cover design.  I try the best as I can to describe what I'd like to see, and hopefully my publishers can come up with something that closely mirrors it.  The cover for my second novel, Sentinels, is by far my favorite.  It's almost exactly what I was looking for.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating your books?

Matt Manochio:
Just how aggravating the editing process can be.  You spend months writing a book, more months refining it, then you proofread it before sending it to the publisher, then you get it back (sometimes a year later) from your editor with his comments and those of a copy editor's.  You make your changes, return it, and then get the corrected version to go over one more time - all the while hoping, praying, you've caught every possible typo or missing word that could be hiding in there.  And when you've learned you've missed some after the fact?  It's deflating.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Matt Manochio:
From Sentinels: What it was like for a black teenager to be sold to slavers and chained within the bowls of a ship bound for the United States from Africa.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Matt Manochio:
That I try to use humor whenever I feel it's warranted.  Most horror books, at least the one's I've read, don't include boatloads of humor - be it in dialogue or when describing something.  And humor lines that I do read tend to be throwaway lines, like the author knows something should be inserted to lighten the mood but doesn't really think about how to do it, inserts a line or two, and then moves along with the horror story.  Humor matters to me because, if done correctly, you might have a reader for life.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Matt Manochio:
They're important.  I've come up with all my book titles.  I originally named my first novel The Dark Companion but was informed by my publisher that a Ramsey Campbell book that is published had a similar title, so I opted for Servant.  As for Twelfth KRampus Night, one of the book's antagonist's Frau Perchta, historically, made her rounds in Bavaria during Twelfth Night festivities.  As for Krampus, there's Krampus Night, which is December 5, the Night of the Krampus, which is when he supposedly makes his rounds to beat up the bad kids.  So I took both Twelfth Night and Krampus Night and came up with the title, and it really works, if you ask me.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Matt Manochio:
It would have to be a novel.  Realizing that something that started on a single page and then results in a 300-page book that you can hold in your hands - and reading the blurbs that you managed to score from more famous writers - is quite rewarding.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Matt Manochio:
My target audience would be high school-aged kids to adults who want to have fun when they read.  I want my books to be entertaining, first and foremost.  I try not to get all deep and philosophical or preachy.  That's best left up to others.  I try to impart a little moral of the story, and I do try to include a twist or two.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Matt Manochio:
I don't really have any that I can think of.  I might have versions of a scene that I cut and paste into a different Word document to come back to for whatever the reason.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is in your 'trunk'?  (Everyone has a book or project, which doesn't necessarily have to be book related, that they put aside for a 'rainy day' or for when they have extra time.  Do you have one?)

Matt Manochio:
I don't really operate that way.  I don't have multiple projects floating around.  I currently have two projects that, at some point, will be completed.  Which leads to the next question.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Matt Manochio:
I like Krampus.  Love him.  And I find it challenging to come up with new stories that feature him.  Krampus was put on this earth to catch and torment kids.  I introduce him in my first book doing just that in modern times.  I never thought about a sequel because, really, what more can you have him do that would be totally different?  So with Twelfth Krampus Night, I worked backward and include two dark servants - Krampus and Frau Perchta - that are in competition with one another to infiltrate a castle to get their prey.  All the while, all hell is breaking out in the castle and everybody inside it wants to get out but dares not because Krampus and Perchta are outside.  That was a lot of fun, and I'm currently working on another Krampus story that I hope becomes a full-length novel.  I'll see where it takes me.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?  (You know, STaLKeR links.)

Matt Manochio:

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything that you'd like to say that we didn't get to cover in this interview?

Matt Manochio:
What a thorough interview!  Thank you.  If someone is reading this and hasn't read any of my works, well, please give me a try.  I have a warped sense of humor (like Krampus does) if that helps.  Also, to anyone who might or who has read my work: if you haven't already, please leave a review on Amazon, which, to me, is the site that matters most.  If you want to put it on Goodreads and B&N and elsewhere, please do.  The more the merrier.  Those reviews can help authors like me and others get noticed.  And that's important.  And it really means a lot to me that you took the time to do it.  Thanks!


About the author:
Matt Manochio was born in 1975 in New Jersey and graduated from The University of Delaware in 1997 with a history/journalism degree.  He spent the majority of his 13-year newspaper career at the Daily Record in Morris County, New Jersey, where he won multiple New Jersey Association Awards for his reporting.
            He wrote about one of his passions, rock 'n' roll giants AC/DC, for USA Today and considers that the highlight of his journalism career.  He left newspapers in 2011 for safer employment.
            His debut novel, The Dark Servant, was published with Samhain Horror in November of 2014.  His second novel, Sentinels, was released November 2015, just prior to Twelfth Krampus Night in December 2015.  He currently lives in New Jersey with his son.

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