Steve Mann is a retired high school teacher, an adjunct college teacher, a writer of eccentric mysteries, an amateur chef, an appreciator of a good, dry white wine, a multi-genre reader, and a lover of a good story.
You have centered your story around painting and an art gallery. Can you tell us of any connections that you have to art and what made you want to explore this topic?
I have always loved art and been intrigued by the artist’s creative process. I have a very good friend that is a professional artist. I have six of his paintings in my home. He helped me quite a lot with the art gallery scenes and how artists work.
You have an assassin in your story. Do you want to talk to us at all about her methods and motivation? Maybe you can tell us about a kill she has done in the past that we might find intriguing without getting too graphic.
Zhanna is my female assassin and protagonist. In the Ozark world I created, every small town has its own local assassin. They work in their towns at other businesses until their skill as an assassin is required. Since they all belong to the same Guild, they do not acknowledge their past assassinations. Zhanna’s weapon of choice is a Quing Dynasty scimitar with a four-foot blade. It is always in a sheath strapped to her back.
You set your story in Southwest Missouri. Can you talk to us a little about the area and why it inspires you so? What are your favorite things about this region and why are you drawn to it?
I’ve always lived in a city until my wife had a good job offer from this area. So we packed up the family and moved to Monett, MO, population 11,000, from a city of half-million. It took a while for the culture shock to wear off, but this has been our home for over twenty years. What has always been interesting to me is how so many of the residents of the small towns in this area know each other. I taught for 18 years in a town smaller than Monett. So I found in my classes a microcosm of life in a small town.
Why storytelling? What made you yearn to tell a good story, and how long was this story within you before it came out?
I’ve always been a storyteller. I made it a part of my teaching. When I was a ‘circuit’ lay minister it was part of my messages. It wasn’t until I retired from teaching that I started putting these stories down on paper. Gradually, I wove them into a story that became my first published book.
What character from your book fills you with hope?
Wow?? I have two protagonists, but the one I enjoy most is my detective/art gallery owner Carrollton Timbbrr. He has a lot of my eccentric outlook on life.
What character from your work frightens you, makes you feel dirty to write?
None. Besides, my wife will not let me write about dirty stuff. The only almost ‘sex’ scene takes place in a bunk bed.
Your main character walks into a bar. What happens?
If a Bluegrass band is playing, he is chased out by the bass player(s). If he asks questions, he gets answers, but not to his questions. It’s a quirky town.
When you are writing, tell me about the emotions that are running through you and what it takes to work alongside them.
I write eccentric humor, so the emotion is to be entertaining in my writing. I take lots of breaks and watch CASTLE and BONES reruns.
How do you police your production? Do you have a word quota, or a page goal, maybe you work for a set amount of time? Do you place demands on yourself when you’re working? How do you meet those demands?
I have daily word count goals. Sometimes if I just can’t get there, I will do ‘word sprints’ or use a prompt. I really, really try hard to always show and limit the telling.
Everyone has at least one specific challenge that holds him or her back. What is that challenge in your work and how do you overcome it?
Writing every day. I either ignore my laptop, or my notebooks. But one of them eventually makes me sit my butt down and write, even if it’s only for 10 minutes. I may go to the library or our local coffee shop to write just to people watch.
How did you find the time to write this book with your busy life? What ideas do you have on how others can make time in their lives?
I use the stopwatch method. We all have cell phones and they all have timers. I set my timer for five to fifteen minutes, tap start and just write until it beeps. I do not edit, do research, only WRITE. So far no matter how many minutes I set it for, I always end up writing well beyond the beeps.
Let’s talk about tools. Do you have a word processor that you would tell us to use? Is there a certain computer that has become your favorite? What do you look for in a keyboard? What would you absolutely have to have if you were to sit down and write your next book?
I use the latest version of Word. I haven’t found the computer that doesn’t frustrate the heck out of me. What I want from a keyboard is unconditional surrender. My own protected writing space.
If we read your work and crave more, can we find more that you have written? Will we ever see another book by you? If we fall in love with your work, how can we find you and everything you have done?
Episode 2 of CT and Zhanna’s adventures is available now through Amazon and Createspace.com.
I’m currently using NaNoWriMo to work out a new book, novella. It will be a little more serious. My author’s page on Facebook: www.facebook.com/outremystey