I have had the privilege of being sent a copy of Dr. Mancheski’s first book, “The Chemist” as well as a Q & A with Mancheski. Dr. Mancheski is an optometrist from Wisconsin. “The Chemist” is the first book in the Cale Van Waring series. Also, please take note that I have been given the opportunity to do a book giveaway of Dr. Mancheski’s book. I have two copies that I will be giving away. So please check back within the next couple of days to see the giveaway information! Without further ado, here’s the Q & A:
1) Tell us about your book.
Answer: The Chemist released October 1, 2008. It’s the story of a homicide detective trying to solve a serial kidnapping case, this while confronted with upheaval in his personal life.
2) What lead you to write The Chemist?
Answer: My personal “what if” moment for this story came when I pondered the personal/emotional side of life that investigators must face when a case drags on for an indefinite period of time: like most cases invariably do. Television series like “24” and “The First 48 Hours” give investigators – as well as viewers – a very finite time-frame for resolution. Real life seldom works this way. Time drags on, clues become scarcer, cases go cold. Detectives are real people, and often times personal matters infringe on their ability to devote their entire lives to solving a particular case.
3) Do you identify with any of your characters?
Answer: My main character – Detective Cale Van Waring – faces the hardly enviable scenario of the dissolution of his love life, right in the middle of trying to solve the most perplexing case of his career. Most of us are able to maintain balance between our jobs and our personal lives. But what about detectives, who are faced with tracking down a sicko on a kidnapping spree? Does their job take precedence over family? Children? Loved ones? I tried to develop my detective by forcing him to make choices: could he separate out his home problems, while still staying focused on solving a murder case?
4) What aspect of the writing experience did you find most enjoyable?
Answer: What I enjoyed most about writing The Chemist was the character interplay between the three main characters: the hero, the villain, and the hero’s girlfriend. I believe it’s a fun and exciting story, with a few genuine quirky twists. The key for me is that it has to be fun to read, as well as amusing to write.
5) When did you first begin to write?
Answer: I began writing as an undergraduate in college. I was somewhat shy and introspective, and writing allowed me to give voice, mostly through character, to a confidence I seldom felt in person.
6) Do you have a favorite place to write?
Answer: I like to write at a desk with a computer, facing the open room. I try not to face a wall, as I feel this tempers my imagination. It’s a completely irrational superstition, I understand, but we’ve all got our quirks. A photograph of my work station would be completely uninspiring.
7) As a busy optometrist, how do you find time to write?
Answer: My most difficult problem was accepting the lifestyle transformation. I realized that I had to discipline myself in order to write a first novel. I always cringed when hearing people say, “I always wanted to write a novel, but I never had the time.” If you’re serious about it, then you must turn off the TV and cell phone, and sequester yourself from the outside world. A writing professor once told us, “Many people want to be writers, but most don’t want to write.” It really does take a lot of lonely hours to get something worthwhile accomplished.
8) Are any of your characters based on your family or friends?
Answer: I can’t help putting parts of myself into almost every character. It’s the only way I can understand how they might react to certain dilemmas they are faced with.
9) In The Chemist, what message(s) did you wish to communicate to the reader?
Answer: The only message I attempted to convey in The Chemist is that boring, everyday life happens to both heroes and villains. Ninety percent of the time, a serial killer is behaving normally: watching a ballgame, playing with his kids, buying food for dinner. The same with the detectives. They are family men, have wives and kids, hobbies. Batman has to brush his teeth each morning; the Joker has to get the oil changed in his car. That kind of mundane normalcy.
10) Do you have a particular way in which you approach writing? What is your writing process like?
Answer: My process of writing is fairly formulaic; I start with a premise, then solidify my main characters. I feel it’s important to nail your first thirty pages – the beginning. Then I compose the ending, so I don’t get caught meandering. The character inter-play then makes up the middle, and the characters can take you anywhere. The ending has to be fluid, as the characters may force the story in an entirely different direction. I attempt to visualize each scene like watching a movie. It’s my way of avoiding the trap of lengthy narrative prose. I remind myself that I’m no Charles Dickens. Writing screenplays is also a great tool to help with visualization, as well as with descriptive brevity.
11) Who are some of your favorite authors?
Answer: I enjoyed Richard Montanari’s The Rosary Girls. I love his sense of structure. I admire the blend of mythology and history by Michael Scott in his The Alchemist series. The zaniness of both Carl Hiaasen and Chuck Palahniuk, in most of what they write, has been of great influence. Joe Hill has wonderful character development in Heart Shaped Box. And no list of writers is complete, for me anyway, without mentioning the imagination and work ethic of Brian Lumley and his Necroscope series.
12) What is the one thing you wished you knew before writing The Chemist?
Answer: What I wish I’d known early is, that in order to get a novel written, you really have to alter the rest of your everyday life. I find it virtually impossible to not write for seven days, then try to pick it up where I left off. I have to re-read and re-write so much, that it becomes frustrating. I guess the whole thing boils down to dogged perseverance; a willingness to seriously work at it.
13) What difficulties have you faced as a first-time author?
Answer: This being my first novel, I’m just getting my feet wet regarding the aspects of marketing. I must confess that I’m terrible as a salesperson. I know I’m naïve, especially in this day and age, but I’ve always been taught that humility trumps self-promotion. Hopefully I’ll learn as I go along.
14) Do you have any other novels that you are currently working on?
Answer: I’ve committed to writing a follow up to The Chemist, and envision it becoming a four-novel series. I’m also working on a series of supernatural thrillers, as well as a fantasy series. To me the problem is always time.
15) What is the most valuable advice you could give to others wishing to write their first novel?
Answer: I believe in the old adage: read, read, read. No writer should attempt a novel without having read at least thirty-to-forty books of varying genres, beforehand. The writing process is equal parts art and science. You learn your strengths, weaknesses, and desires, by finding which writers intrigue you. Once you learn what you enjoy reading, you can begin to refine how you’d like to pattern your own technique. And always remember, as Hemmingway so eloquently stated: “All first drafts are shit.”