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Ana Manwaring on Writing

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I met Ana Manwaring at Left Coast Crime. We were about to pitch our books to a bunch of fans and Ana stopped me and had me do a quick rehearsal of my pitch. I returned the favor, and, dang, she did a good dramatic pitch. Then when my March guest post crapped out on me, Ana stepped up at the last minute. So, Ana, thanks so much and I owe you a glass of wine at the very least.

Ana Manwaring

Before I could read, I knew I would write stories (but secretly I wanted to be a singer—a new Janis Joplin— without a drug habit. It’s unfortunate I can’t carry a tune in a handbag). Dad read to me every night. It was the best time of day. I liked to re-tell the stories later, filling-in what I couldn’t remember with fiction. When I was eleven I had my palm read and the reader said I’d be a best-seller when I was fifty. I’ll go with that! Seventy, the new fifty, right?  

The suspense/thriller genre picked me way back in my fairy tale days. I loved that heart-pounding excitement and looming evil of The Snow Queen. When I was about ten,  my Children’s Book of the Month Club pick was The Pink Motel, and I was hooked. Soon I read Dad’s Cold War thrillers and mysteries, but when I considered writing, my ideas tended more toward commercial literature: family sagas, historical fiction, and poetry. My first poetry chapbook, Nature Girl,  released in December on Amazon.

Then, in 1991, a narco-thug pointed his rifle at me as I trundled south down the Pan American Highway through Michoacán in my VW pop-top camper toward Mexico City. The story that became Set Up started writing itself as soon as I could take a breath and stop shaking.

I wrote the first draft of Set Up during NaNoWriMo 2004, which I “won.” The process of no plot and no plan, letting the characters lead the way, high-intensity writing threw me into the exhilarating  “writer’s trance” and I wrote an awful book. It took twelve years to revise as I learned to write.

Now I use a hybrid method of plotting and pantsing. I “won” Nano again in 2017 when I wrote most of the draft of the third JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventure slated for release this year, Nothing Comes After Z. (I’m finishing it at Camp Nano in April.)  I’ve made a habit of outlining each chapter before starting to write it. Jade has snuck in a few surprises—wait ‘til you find out what happens in book 2, The Hydra Effect—but so far I haven’t hit any dead ends, although some scenes were really hard to write, like sex scene between JadeAnne and Anibal in Set Up.

I wanted the scene to portray the passion of initial attraction but not a sappy euphemism or a graphic depiction. It took a few tries behind the closed door of my studio. I banned my husband and my dog. Chocolatte sat in the hall scratching the door and whining! I moved the scene to the second book— to put off the stress.

People ask me what I like best about my books and I  shout: Mexico! I write “place” well and readers say they salivate over my descriptions of food. I love food; it’s easy to write, and Mexican is one of my favorite cuisines.

Even with all of Mexico’s problems—social inequality, poverty, greed, graft, crime, violence—it’s magical. I wanted to stay at the end of my three years, but my money ran out and I had to go home and earn a living. Bummer.

But it hasn’t turned out so badly. I came home from Mexico, went back to school for an MA in Linguistics and found a job in 2005, teaching creative writing at Napa Valley College, where I’ve inspired and facilitated a flourishing writing community in the Valley since.

Somebody once asked me what is one thing JadeAnne would do that I wouldn’t. Well, if my life depended on it, I’d shoot at my narco-thug attacker, but I’d never wear a bikini. I didn’t even wear them in swimming competitions or my favorite: ballet aquacade, synchronized swimming, which I adored through high school.  It was fun, but what I really loved were the frilly suits and caps. Just no bikinis!  Jade disagrees. . . .

You can find Ana Manwaring’s books at Amazon, here.

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