Welcome, everyone! And Happy New Year. Today my guest is Ana Manwaring, a talented author talking about her debut book, Set Up: Secrets and Lies in Zihuatanejo. Set Up is the first of The JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventures and after reading the first book, I am glad to know there will be many more in the series. I’ve asked Ana a few questions about herself and her answers are entertaining, informative, and charming!
1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Before I could read, I knew I would write stories. Dad read to me every night. It was the best time of day. I had vivid, exciting dreams and liked to re-tell them 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?
2. How did you pick the genre you write in? I think suspense /thriller picked me. I’d always read mysteries and cold war thrillers, but when I considered writing, my ideas tended more toward commercial literature: family sagas, historical and poetry. Then the narco-thug pointed his rifle at me as I trundled south down the Pan American Highway through Michoacán in my VW pop-top camper. The story started writing itself as soon as I could take a breath and stop shaking.
3. Do you plot or do you write by the seat of your pants? I wrote the first draft of Set Up (under a different title and in the 3rd person) during NaNoWriMo, which I “won.” I started with a first chapter written and no plan whatsoever. The process of high intensity writing and letting the characters lead the way was heady and exhilarating. I truly experienced “writer’s trance” and 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. I outlined each chapter before starting to write it. Jade snuck in a few surprises, but so far I haven’t hit any dead ends. A little plotting won’t bring you off that creativity high, either.
4. What three things would you want with you on a desert island? Oddly, I’ve been thinking about this lately. Maybe the state of our world is making escape attractive? But contrary to the trend toward minimalism right now, I’m a maximalist. I’d never manage with only 3 pairs of shoes, let alone only three I suppose if I had to choose, I’d first select my husband who is creative, resourceful and super handy (and he gets three things right?), next I’d pack up my library and third—my wardrobe, or would it be my art collection? I had the same conundrum awaiting an evacuation notice during the 2017 fires. My husband would bring the cat, his Leatherman and his guitar, although he’d sneak in a copy of Set Up. He’s pretty excited about it.
5. What’s your favorite thing about your book? Mexico! 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.
6. What is the one thing your hero would do that you wouldn’t? Wear a bikini. I stopped that long ago, but JadeAnne looks hot in one.
7. What is your favorite writing reference book and why? I love Alice LaPlant’s The Making of a Story—A Norton Guide to Creative Writing. It’s the definitive authority on excellence in writing, and every writer should read it. Alice offers clear explanations of craft, excellent prompts and exercises, and compelling examples to make her points. She’s also a fine novelist. I loved A Circle of Wives. For the record, I use three other books as texts in my creative writing classes: Making Shapley Fiction, Jerome Stern, Make a Scene—Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time, Jordan E. Rosenfeld and The Art of Character—Creating Memorable Characters for Fiction, Film and TV, David Corbett.
8. What was the hardest scene to write? In the first version of Set Up I wrote a sex scene between JadeAnne and Anibal. I wanted the scene to portray the passion of first-time lust, yet also portray sincerity and caring. I didn’t want one of those sappy, euphemistic scenes, nor did I want a perfect graphic representation of the act. It took a few tries behind the closed door of my writing space. My dog, who had free access to my room and usually slept under my desk, was banned and sat in the hall scratching to be let in. It was very uncomfortable and finally I moved the scene to the second book, meaning: I didn’t need to stress over it until later. I liked how it turned out in the end.
9. What do you consider your strengths in terms of your writing? I’m a master of detail, but it has worked against me, as well as adding verisimilitude to my writing. I’ve learned to tone down the quantity of information to present the specific picture I want to convey. I think 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.
10. Tell me three things about yourself very few people know. As a kid dreaming of my future, I knew I would write, but secretly I wanted to be a singer—a new Janis Joplin (without a drug habit)—and it’s unfortunate I couldn’t carry a tune in a handbag.
Before living in Mexico I became a Certified Travel Consultant through the SF State program. I celebrated my 40th birthday on the Holland America Line’s Nieuw Amsterdam taking a course called Seminar at Sea and met the only man under 50 on the ship for a shipboard romance. I won’t tell you just how young! We’ll leave it at legal.
I’m part fish. Once I’m in the water, it’s hard to get me out. I competed in swim matches as a kid. What I loved most was ballet aquacade (synchronized swimming), probably because I love the frilly suits and caps. But no bikinis!
Ana Manwaring is currently preparing book two of the JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventures, The Hydra Effect, for release in March. In her day job, Ana coaches and edits with JAM Manuscript Consulting and teaches creative writing and memoir through Napa Valley College. Her poetry appears in anthologies, notably First Press, Collected Works from Napa Valley Writers 2017, Healdsburg Literary Guild’s Valentine, Sisters Born, Sisters Found and Times They Were A-Changing, Women Remember the ‘60s and ‘70s. Ana reviews books on her blog, Building A Better Story. She is the recipient of the Helen S. Barnhardt award for service to the writing community and is active in both CWC and Sisters in Crime Norcal where she sits on boards. Ana is currently working on the third JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventure and researching for a historical novel set in Paris. Learn more at .