As I mentioned in the last post, Edmond Manning is stopping by to talk about his first novel, King Perry – a book that impressed me so highly I want to urge you all to go out and buy it straight away! You can find the blurb and buy links on my last post. However, it’s not a typical m/m novel, so Edmond is here to tell you more…
Welcome to my blog, Edmond, and thanks for agreeing to answer all my nosy questions!
Why, thank you, Jo. It’s quite an honor for me to—hey, wait—nosy? Nosy questions? I’m not revealing my favorite color jockstrap if that’s what you’re thinking.
Damn! *Scratches all jockstrap related questions off the list.*
Okay then… The plot of King Perry revolves around the mysterious mechanic, Vin Vanbly, “kinging” Perry Mangin. I don’t want to reveal too much about his methods here, but can you explain something about what it means to find the king or queen within you?
I think to live life as a king or queen you have to look around the flawed, impossible world we live in and say, “What can I do with today? How do I make it all better?” And not necessarily by donating money or picking up trash (although those things are wonderful) but by living out your unique flavor of giftedness, the love nobody else in the world can give but you. Living from that inner glow, that sparkling presence, is what kingship or queenship means to me. When I look around, I can spot a few people living it. They’re awesome.
Although it’s definitely not a romance, I’d say that King Perry is one of the most uplifting stories about love I’ve ever read. How do you feel it differs from a romance, and what do you hope a romance reader might take from the novel?
Awwwww, how come you’d say it’s not a romance? I think anytime two people are lucky enough to feel that delicious ‘I-wonder-what-he’s-thinking-right-now’ feeling, and its reciprocated, I’d call that a romance. For one magic weekend, Perry and Vin are completely and utterly in love: maddening, lusty, challenging, gushy, hand-holding love. Love that doesn’t last forever can be a beautiful love story.
I think women who enjoy the M4M romance genre (both authors and readers) are pioneers of thinking outside traditional love. They explore love different from their own body experience; I’m always delighted when a woman writes about two men and gets it. I believe these women will redefine the romance genre, opening up new possibilities, more options for ‘this is a love story.’
In terms of romance, we ought to have more options than Happy For Now (HFN) and Happily Ever After (HEA). Having said that, I do love happy endings. I do. I guess I believe in multiple flavors of a happy ending. In fact, I think the end of King Perry is a good test of your kingship or queenship: do you see this as a happy ending? Or do you see this as sad? The answer might reveal something about yourself.
How did the character of Vin Vanbly first come about? I understand you’ve written him in the past.
Back in 2008, I took a break from writing a SERIOUS NOVEL to write some fun, frothy raunch about a chunky bear who happened to possess this spooky, sexual prowess. I wrote two chapters which I posted online and didn’t even know this character’s first name. (Narrated in first person, he never spoke his name, not once.) And because this was a writing exercise, nothing more, I let the character just go where he wanted to go. He was physically ordinary, obsessed with food, had crazy word issues.
I kept asking the character, ‘Are you a Bob? A Robert? Is your name sexy, like Luther? Do you go by something aristocratic, like William or Percival?’ This character never answered. After two weeks of pondering this, he finally revealed his cheesy name: Vin Vanbly. Sounded fake but I went with it.
I posted 16 chapters total (no longer available online) and heard from hundreds and hundreds of readers around the world. The response overwhelmed me, actually, the things people shared and how they felt, why they loved Vin. I was shocked by the raw emotions Vin unlocked in others.
A few weeks after that, Vin’s whole life flashed before me and at last I understood the chain of events unleashing this loving, sexual weirdo on the world. Looking back, I think the character revealed his whole history to me because I listened and agreed he could be Vin Vanbly even though at the time I thought it was a silly, ridiculous name. Now, I love his name.
It definitely suits him! How many more “kinging” novels do you have planned for us?
I have written plot outlines for the first six books and strong ideas for two more after that. Book 2 is halfway finished. Book 5 is mostly written. The first six books are the first ‘story arc,’ and are all interrelated: small mysteries in King Perry are answered in the second book. A few mysteries in Book 5 are answered in King Perry, though the details themselves may not seem important right now. I like it when fiction snaps together like puzzle pieces.
One of the things I found fascinating about King Perry was that you’ve set it in 1999, with Vin as one of the early enthusiasts about the “world wide web”. What made you decide to set the story then rather than now?
Because this is an “urban fairy tale,” I wanted the book to feel mostly timeless, like it could have happened last week or maybe a few years ago. Perry and Vin’s adventure lives outside of normal reality, real time. However, I did need to anchor them in the real world, so I chose 1999 for several reasons.
Back then, the world was chittering about Y2K, afraid that technological doom was knocking on the front door. Yet behind that worry was this hope, this wonder that maybe this next century would bring magic to our lives. People were writing articles about “I work from home and I love it!” because it was early in the internet revolution. We had much to worry about, yet it was overshadowed by optimism, that exhilarating dream of potential and discovery. Vin shares that hope for a brighter future and he’s trying to bring it about the only way he knows how.
But also, I had to set this tale in the past because I have big plans for Vin and the men that he kinged. We haven’t heard the last of Perry. Vin hints at things to come when he says, “I never dreamed all the men I kinged would seek each other out, choose to be in each other’s lives. It’s getting a little weird.” And if Vin – the man who forces Perry to walk like a bear through a homeless shelter – thinks something is a little weird in 1999, well, you gotta wonder what’s happening in 2012.
I love the way Vin plays with language and revels in the sound of words and letters. Do you share any of his “word issues”?
Not really. Well, other than the obvious ways a writer does when hungering for just the right words to complete a feeling. I remember once complaining to a friend over the phone that I needed a word that sounded soft, no hard consonants, and meant ‘to come hither.’ After explaining three or four rejected words and their offending letters, my friend got quiet on his end and then finally said, “This is weird.”
A few minutes later after we had switched to a new topic, he interrupted me to say, “How about summons.”
Hmmm. Maybe we all have some word issues.
I admit that I enjoy Vin’s unique relationships with letters and words; it’s fun to write. I think it will be fun for readers to see how Vin’s word/letter obsessions change over time, book to book. Throughout King Perry I sometimes hid little clues for future books inside Vin’s likes/dislikes. His word quirks reveal quite a bit about him.
King Perry is one of the most spiritual stories I’ve ever read, yet rather than coming across as esoteric or new agey, it’s grounded in Vin’s earthy humour. Are there any spiritual traditions that influenced you?
All of them.
I grew up a strict Catholic and despite no longer labeling myself one, I find myself wistful for the beauty that can be Christianity: loving sacrifice and redemption through forgiveness. I hosted a Buddhist meditation group for two years titled “Buddha Buddies;” Buddhism can be beautiful. I love Native American wisdom, Joseph Campbell’s work with the hero’s journey. I am a huge fan of Eckhart Tolle’s vision in A New Earth. While I fully acknowledge the misery a religious bureaucracy can bring to the world, I’m fascinated by faith itself, and the stories we tell to make it acceptable to love one another.
What if all the religions and ways of exploring love held a kernel of truth? What if all were vital and necessary in the kingdom?
You’ve told me before that you’re a little concerned readers might confuse Edmond the writer with Vin the character, seeing as how you’re both blond bears. How do you differ from Vin?
I don’t see us having much in common. Well, we like some of the same foods. There’s that. While part of me thinks it would have been better to have a character who physically was much older or younger, dark-haired, wiry, etc., I wanted Vin to blend into a crowd and I feel like I see blond/stocky guys everywhere, all the time. I also wanted someone I myself wasn’t physically attracted to so that it would be easier to write. (Give me a clean-shaven, dark-haired guy any day of the week.)
Vin is more resourceful than I am. I think he’s more considerate than me, definitely a better planner. He does things I would never do, which is always fun. While researching the locations of this book, I planned to spend the night on Alcatraz Island. I even took supplies. But when I saw the night guard’s big ol’ gun I thought screw that. Vin would have stayed.
I believe Vin had a harder life than I did. I grew up with parents who adored me and my siblings. He did not have anything like that and he feels the loss sharply.
On their King Weekend, Vin and Perry camp out on Alcatraz and a mountaintop. What’s the strangest place you’ve ever camped?
Years ago (many years ago), my first love and I visited a friend in Brattleboro, Vermont. She could not host us, so he and I camped in a forest outside her small town, deep in the woods near a creek. Nobody knew where we were. All night the twigs outside the tent snapped and crackled as night creatures visited the stream. We felt so isolated and vulnerable, alone against the universe. Craaaaaaazy good lovemaking that night.
I’m afraid Vin has much more experience camping than I do.
I happen to know you’ve run around your home town in a gorilla suit – care to explain why?
What’s there to explain? We’re all adults. We can all admit that we as kids, we always wanted to own a gorilla suit so that we can throw bananas at friends. And, you know, poke your head up from your married friends’ hedges and tap on the living room window with your oversized gorilla fingers just to hear them scream. This is perfectly normal.
In fact, I think there’s an episode from of Downton Abbey where Maggie Smith’s character sadly reminisces how she always wished she had her own gorilla suit. I’m pretty sure it’s in season one.
Thanks for dropping by and chatting, Edmond. I wish you all the best with King Perry!
Thank you! As far as I’m concerned, it’s already been amazing. Through writing and publishing, I learned a ton about myself and the world. Best of all, I made wonderful new friends. Like you.
The feeling’s mutual, Edmond!
Okay, enough of the love-in. Do any of you have additional questions for Edmond? I’m sure he’d love to hear them—so long as they’re not jockstrap related ;D