Have you always enjoyed writing?
I’ve always enjoyed books and reading. In elementary school I wowed my teachers by constantly coming in with more advanced books, reading every spare second of each day. During the summers, I’d sit on my parent’s porch in front of the beaver pond, reading book after book, gorging myself on fiction like it was candy. I’ve also always had an active imagination, and I’ve written in some form, from poetry to diaries, for over twenty years.
What else do you do to make money, other than write? It is rare today for writers to be full time…
My two greatest passions in life are writing and theatre, and I’m fortunate to pursue both professionally. My full-time job is as a high school theatre teacher. I teach in a school with a large and active theatre community, and am the sole theatre teacher/director. I teach 6 classes of drama a day, in four levels of experience, and wrote all of the syllabi for my class myself. We also mount large productions, including a musical, advanced drama production, student production, one act festival, and skit festival. I also coach my school’s improvisation team, and teach little kids theatre at a local stage during the summers. Theatre is a wonderful venue to explore creativity and to help inspire others, however it is a struggle to find a balance time-wise between my school life and my writing life. Most of my drafting now takes place solely in the summers.
What other jobs have you had in your life?
One of my first jobs was working inventory at a Borders Bookstore. I loved being around books, and it was also my first exposure to the world of publishing. I was shocked when I first learned that new releases had a limited shelf life, but it was my job to go through the store, see which books had reached the end of their run, then take them down, rip their covers, and send the “destroyed” books back to the publisher. I also worked there during the release of one of the Harry Potter books (Book 6), and I loved seeing the fervor around the release and the anticipation from so many fans, it helped inspire me to write myself.
What movie do you love to watch?
There are some movies that I can watch again and again and never tire of. My favorite movies are Howl’s Moving Castle and The Princess Bride. Each tells a brilliant fairy tale, one that is well-crafted, based on a novel, and yet depicted beautifully on screen. Typically I enjoy any movie that takes you to another place emotionally. I am a huge fan of the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings films, and was lucky enough to perform as part of a 200-adult chorus, which performed the films, one year at a time, at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts. We performed the full soundtrack, with a massive orchestra and children’s choir, beneath a version of the film that had the soundtrack removed, and singing the melodies of Howard Shore’s brilliant music was one of the best performing experiences of my life.
What’s your next project?
School of Deaths is the first novel in a trilogy called The Scythe Wielder’s Secret. I’m currently editing the sequel, Sword of Deaths, and the series will end with Daughter of Deaths. There is a free prequel to the series available on my website ChristopherMannino.com, and I hope to add more short stories as well. After the series is complete, I’m going to write in other genres. There are some other YA Fantasy novels in my head, but I also plan to write adult genre fiction, including sci-fi, and I would like to write historical fiction as well. Eventually, I hope to write a full-length musical as well.
What does love mean to you?
Love means dedication, friendship, and caring more than anything. My wife is the love of my life. She inspires me as an artist, but also as a human being. She pushes me to be better at everything, and supports me when I struggle. Love means putting their needs before your own, and taking joy in their actions. Love is happiness.
What is your favorite color?
What inspired you to write your first book?
The idea for SCHOOL OF DEATHS emerged when I was finishing my graduate degree at Oxford University. I spent four months abroad, far from everyone I knew. Every week, I traveled somewhere I had never been before. I would climb castle ruins in Wales and visit cathedrals in England. One of my favorite trips was to Tintagel Castle in Cornwall. After misjudging the time it’d take to get there, I became stranded. The tourist office was closed, and I couldn’t find a hostel. I walked from pub to pub asking if I could sleep above their bar.
The next morning, having slept none, since I’d found a room over a noisy pub, I crept to Barras Nose before dawn. Barras Nose is a stone peninsula, or rocky outcropping jutting into the Celtic Sea, just north of Tintagel. Tintagel itself is a small island with castle ruins on its cliffs. Some believe it to be the birthplace of King Arthur. When I reached Barras Nose, the winds howled so fiercely that I had to crawl on all fours to keep from being blown into the ocean below. Then dawn broke. No other humans were in sight. I struggled to keep my balance, but watched the sun rise on the ruins of the ancient castle, listening to the thunder of waves pounding the fifty foot cliffs I clung to. Wind battered me with ferocity, and I imagined a character being buffeted by winds, completely alone. I envisioned Suzie, alone in a world of men, buffeted by sexism.
Do you intend to make writing a career?
On my first date with the woman who’s now my wife, we discussed life goals. I was in graduate school at the time, and told her my dream was to teach full-time high school theatre during the school year, and write during vacations. I’d be able to pursue both passions professionally. That’s now what I do, and don’t have any plans to change.
What is your greatest strength as a writer?
Having a vivid imagination helps me create vibrant and unique settings for my novels. My background in theatre, especially in theatrical design, also helps me visualize a story like movie in my mind. Taking those images on conveying them in words is my greatest strength.
Thirteen-year-old Suzie Sarnio always believed the Grim Reaper was a fairy tale image of a skeleton with a scythe. Now, forced to enter the College of Deaths, she finds herself training to bring souls from the Living World to the Hereafter. The task is demanding enough, but as the only female in the all-male College, she quickly becomes a target. Attacked by both classmates and strangers, Suzie is alone in a world where even her teachers want her to fail.
Caught in the middle of a plot to overthrow the World of Deaths, Suzie must uncover the reason she’s been brought there: the first female Death in a million years.
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Genre - YA Fantasy
Rating – PG
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