Anthony McManus (Tony, I call him ) is an author who lives in Chiang Mai, a beautiful part of northern Thailand I had the pleasure of visiting years ago.
We connected after he read one of my books, and have been friends since. As in the serendipitous world of the social network, he also happens to come from my provincial birthplace of Quebec. Small world.
Please welcome Tony—a diligent writer, a man of many talents, and someone worth knowing.
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Tony, so lovely to have you here finally! It seems like so long ago since we connected. Tell my readers how your best friend would describe you in 20 words or less?
I asked him: A passionate animal lover. A boy who’ll never grow up. A true friend, totally reliable. He’ll never let you down.
Nice. Are you a full time writer or do you have a day job?
Since I don’t have a day job where I punch a time clock, I suppose you could say I’m a full time writer. But in reality I do have work to do. My Thai home is a guesthouse in the mountains outside Chiang Mai town, so I have chores and demands on my time. It’s easier in Canada in my Quebec log home.
I think it was Hemingway who said there is no such thing as a full time writer, and he was correct in my view. I do more reading than writing. So I would say I’m a reader who writes. But as a writer, my ideal day is this:
First, I’m a morning man. I’m up early, before the birds, around 4:30 to 5:00. I freshen up with a shower, grab a cup of coffee and get down to it. I’m on the keyboard well before 6:00. I work for two hours. My first move is to reread my previous day’s work, revising and self editing as I read. Then I press on. I aim to write 500 to1000 good words a day; 1000 words a day of good writing is going some in my opinion.
At 8:00, I quit and run my dogs through the country. Back home I feed them and they sleep and I take my breakfast. Then back to the computer. I quit writing before noon. With a good four to five hours under my belt, it’s time for exercise on my mountain bike or a gym visit for a workout. I’ll then take a siesta for an hour if I’m lucky.
I rarely write in the afternoon which I reserve for reading or any work that needs doing. But whatever I’m doing, especially physical work, my imagination takes free rein and I create scenes mentally. Hiking with the dogs is an excellent creative time for me; ideas flow. For example, while repairing a wooden deck I came up with the short story idea that became A Bangkok Solution.
Around 4:00pm I do a short afternoon run with the dogs. After supper I catch up on news, read emails. And then I hit the sack, read some more in bed, then sleep.
Some personal questions, shall we? What is your greatest extravagance?
As a self confessed, card carrying biker, I would like to say an MV Agusta Brutale, or Triumph Speed Triple, fine, expensive motorcycles, both. But present circumstances deny me that. So, I’ll settle for a fine scotch malt whisky; Lagavulin Distillers Edition is a good one, chased with pure ice cold water, taken in good company as the sun goes down; not too extravagant, but a superb way to end any day. Aahhh.
I knew there was a reason I liked you. Scotch drinker 😀 Do you have a motto you live by?
Yes. It’s the old Christian one. Do onto others as you would have others do onto you. It’s simple, but not easy. I do try hard though.
No, it’s not easy, but you can only try, right? What is one thing you want to do before you die?
I want to paddle the length of the Ping River, Thailand’s longest, from source to sea in my Canadian Feathercraft sea kayak. That’s the adventurous boy in me. It is in the cards.
I”m sure you will do it. What do you consider your greatest accomplishment to date?
Satisfying a long standing ambition by designing and building a log home almost single handed. It took almost five years to finish. It’s in Ste. Adele, Quebec.
It looks like a great place to write. Who are a few of your favorite authors and books?
In paperback, I’ve just finished Raylan by Elmore Leonard. It was his final book as he died last year. It’s an excellent yarn about Leonard’s favourite protagonist, US Marshall Raylan Givens, giving the bad boys a hard time in a delightful array of connected short crime stories melded into one long one and written in Leonard’s inimitable style; a perfect last hurrah from a superb crime writer. If ever a writer worked hard at developing and honing his craft it was Elmore Leonard.
I’ve just started Annie Proulx’s Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3. I love her stuff. My introduction to her was via The Shipping News, set as you may know in Newfoundland, and so good I’ve read it twice. Next up was Close Range: Wyoming Stories. As a short story lover, this held me spellbound as she plumbs great depths of emotion through the lives of fascinating characters with incredible names in a rugged, yet beautiful territory. Bad Dirt her second anthology of Wyoming tales was more of the same. Annie Proulx is a great writer.
On Kindle, I recently finished The Lair Of The Fox by Dan Pollock. Fine exciting stuff if you like adventure thrillers. It’s my second novel of Pollock’s, the first being Orinoco, set in Venezuela, a great read from a fine writer. I just started The Yen Conspiracy by John Lewis which was recommended to me by Jake Needham. Apparently John Lewis passed away so this novel will be his only one. Very sad.
You’ve named off some greats. What motivates you to write?
Being able to create a small world with characters, breathe life into them, place them in conflict, and watch them work it out. I also enjoy writing well and the feeling it gives. Good prose is like a fine piece of music for me.
I would also like to be known, famous even, have a fan base of those who like my work. I’d also like to make a lot of money; not for myself as much as my dear animal charities.
As for your books, where do you draw inspiration from?
I get inspiration from various sources, such as voracious reading, observing people and taking note of events around the world. I’ve also travelled a great deal and met many interesting characters who’ve led interesting lives and had tales to tell; I tap into that.
I find that a good source of story ideas for a fiction writer is the society columns in the big daily newspapers where one can follow the antics and shenanigans of the elites. The internet is an incredible source of inspiration. I do also have a fertile imagination which helps.
Do you outline, plot and structure, or do you just sit down and write?
I plot, but loosely. A fiction writer is a story teller, he should know as much as he can of his story before beginning to tell or write it. Some writers spend a great deal of time creating a detailed, and often involved, plot structure of their story. F. Scott Fitzgerald did so and advocated it. Hemingway plotted. I feel it’s the best, the only way to go if you can do it.
Other writers take a more laissez faire character driven route. The late Elmore Leonard is a good example. He used his characters to drive the narrative along whereby their interaction with each other takes precedence and the plot, “just sort of comes along,” so he claimed. Much as I admire Leonard, I don’t completely buy that. Just ask yourself this: could, say Alexander Dumas, have produced a complex masterpiece like The Count of Monte Cristo by just sitting down and writing? The great writers, the masters we admire, plotted, so why shouldn’t we?
I certainly don’t just sit down and write. I come up with an idea, something dramatic like a bank heist, a stockbroker robbing his clients, or a young man walking out on his wife and kids and never returning, and I say: what if? I then create an outline of what happens next; but no rigid plot structure. I then create my characters, a protagonist and a few other characters plus a villain or villains. Then I start to write. Things are flexible with me and possibilities abound. Right now I’m 32,000 words into the novel I’m working on: A Bangkok Interlude, but I can’t tell you how it’s going to end, because I don’t yet know myself.
You could say that I plot on the fly. As I write I think ahead, working on sub-plots with the endgame, the denouement, in the distance, but not yet in the cross hairs.
I believe all good writers do at least some plotting, even Mr. Leonard. Despite what he said, he knew where he was headed. One should plot for disciplines sake. If one just sits down and writes, one’s story will tend to get out of control and become too big like some of the 400 plus page crime novels I come across these days on Kindle; and sometimes that’s just Book 1. And some of these novels, I sense, are nothing more than overblown short stories. Only plotting will tell you if your idea is worthy of being a novel, a novella or a short story.
If you want to create plot-less stories that were so in vogue a few years ago, then it’s fine to just sit down and write. But I’m old fashioned. I believe in law and order. I don’t like or accept plot less stories. A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end. And to achieve that plotting is essential.
That I might overwrite seriously worries me, so I do intend to plot more seriously in the future, for the sake of control and in the interest of brevity. Because in my view, with exceptions such as War and Peace, a writer, especially a thriller writer, should try to wrap things up in less than 300 paperback pages. Ian Fleming’s From Russia With Love took207; Diamonds Are Forever required 192 and Casino Royale needed all of 189 pages. And Hemingway’s Nobel Prize winner, The Old Man And The Sea, weighed in at a sweet 127. That demands plotting and serious control. But that’s the way to do it.
What is the best advice you’ve received as a writer?
I’ve never received direct writing advice from anyone. But thankfully the best advice for any writer is available at the click of a mouse on the internet. For me George Orwell’s 6 Rules of Writing, which come from his essay, “Politics and the English Language”, are timeless.
Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules are terrific, fun to read and make sense. Hemingway offers 7 tips and so does his friend F. Scott Fitzgerald. I refer to these often as a discipline. Thank God for the internet.
Is it important for you to know the title or ending of a book before you write it?
I like to have a title to begin with. Even if, in all probability, I change the title later down the path, I still like to start with one. I wouldn’t like to work on Project X or something nameless. My novel: The Iran Deception was originally titled: Dangerous Men. Knowing the ending is not so important; it will come in its good time.
What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?
For me, the best part is the beginning. You’ve come up with a story idea, you’ve plotted and now it’s time to create, to tell your story, develop your characters and bring on the conflict. Next I like the denouement. The least I like is the marketing effort and the worry that it may not be well received or sell well, and languish in a literary limbo.
Let’s talk about your collection of Thai stories. What is the genre of Down and Out in the Big Mango?
Down and Out in the Big Mango is a collection of short stories with most, but not all, in the crime genre. Its setting is Thailand.
What inspired you to write it?
Living in Thailand. Visiting, as a tourist, you see nothing but paradise. When you reside here you come to know that paradise has a dark side, even a dangerous one. You come to know of corruption, con artists, lovely women separating suckers from their money, bent cops on the take, motor scooter assassins and dangerous outlaws in the pristine forest wilderness. And Thailand has its mafias and has long been a choice hideout for international fugitives. I like to mine that rich ore and write about it. I plan many more stories; a series in fact.
Here’s a summary of Down and Out in the Big Mango.
Thailand; a name to conjure with. A land of smiles, exotic women, superb cuisine, sun, sea, sand and, almost, free love. A promise of paradise it seems. But a paradise that has its dangers. Thailand can surprise the unwary in manifold ways,
These stories of foreigners, experiences in Thailand, explore those surprises and dangers. A foreign love triangle leads to a deadly denouement in Bangkok. A French expat, cleaned out by a Thai beauty, panhandles Bangkok streets. A gullible tourist gets fleeced by corrupt cops in a cool massage parlor take down. A man walks out of his house, his family and his life and turns up thirty seven years later in a Chiang Mai guesthouse; dead. A broker rips off his clients and flees with a million dollars on his head. Seven years later a bounty hunter sets out to find him with a photograph his only clue. A rich playboy, enjoying a Girl Friend Experience with a difference, gets more than he bargained for. Buy all of Tony’s books from Amazon.
Tell us why should people read your books?
For the same reason they read any other work of fiction; for entertainment, to escape their world and venture into another perhaps unfamiliar one. If you know Thailand you’ll especially enjoy it. But it’s not necessary to have been to Thailand to get pleasure from my stories.
How are you marketing it?
Poorly at the moment. Marketing is a skill I’m lacking. But, like all skills, one can learn it. I have the tools: Twitter, a dedicated Facebook page, Linkedin plus a rather neglected website. My intention is to concentrate on this area and develop good marketing skills. I’m about to advertise it on a Bangkok site with a huge farang reader-base and I expect good results from that. I have had some good email feedback from satisfied readers. And I also hope that this interview with Eden Baylee will help.
Ha! I hope so. At least I hope it won’t hurt 😉 What is the best way for someone to support your book, aside from buying it?
By reading and enjoying it and spreading the word. Then by writing a review which I will greatly appreciate. Reviews have received a bad press recently, after the antics of some people, but writers still need them. So, I say to anyone reading my book: do enjoy the yarns and write a review, please.
Let’s finish with a fun lightning round!
Aside from people/pets, what is the ONE item you would save if your house was on fire? It’ a tossup; my laptop computer or my Nikon camera whichever’s closest to hand.
Favorite place you’ve traveled to or would like to travel to? Quito, Ecuador.
Name a food you can eat everyday. A good, homemade, vegetable soup.
Cat/dog/other pet? Many dogs, one cat.
Salty or sweet? Salty
The best gift you’ve ever received? A simple artwork of two porcelain gulls landing on a piece of driftwood. From an Acadian girlfriend in Montreal who passed away of ovarian cancer 2003. Looking at it I’m reminded of the many lovely things Aline and I did together.
Favorite season. Autumn.
Favorite style of music? Classical.
Your most guilty pleasure. I want to say drinking sake out of a lovely Japanese girl’s navel. But, sadly, it remains a fantasy. So it has to be eating far too much ice cream.
Happy to finally feature you here, Tony, and it was great to learn more about you. Readers, please connect to Tony at all his virtual homes.
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Connect To Anthony
Of Irish stock, Tony McManus was born in Manchester, England. He worked in many jobs to serve his passion for travel such as English teacher, bar tender, taxi driver, and in southern Africa in the Transvaal goldmines and the copper mines of Zambia. He left England for Canada, settling in Quebec which would become his base area and spiritual home. In 2000 he designed and commenced building a long planned log home in Ste. Adele, Quebec. In 2007 he moved to Thailand and built a country guesthouse in the hills north of Chiang Mai.
His passion for writing began at school where he excelled at English and composition. He considers himself a “journeyman writer” and believes that only through hard work and dedication can a writer develop and hone his skills. Over the years he’s written abundant articles on a variety of subjects and had many short stories for children published. His first novel, The Iran Deception was self-published on Amazon in September 2012. He has just published a collection of short stories: Down and Out in the Big Mango, about western foreigner’s experiences in Thailand. He is presently working on a second novel, a thriller titled: A Bangkok Interlude.
Tony pursues and advocates good health through diet and exercise. An outdoorsman, sailor, sea kayaker and canoeist, he also loves cross country skiing and snowshoeing and cycling. When in Thailand, he misses Canada: in Canada he misses Thailand.
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