The Story Plant brings Steven Manchester here today to talk about his latest release, Pressed Pennies. To read an excerpt from the book and see the schedule for Steven's virtual book tour, click here.
About the book:Rick and Abby grew up together, became best friends, and ultimately fell in love. Circumstance tore them apart in their early teens, though, and they went on to lives less idyllic than they dreamed about in those early days. Rick has had a very successful career, but his marriage flat-lined. Abby has a magical daughter, Paige, but Paige's father nearly destroyed Abby's spirit.
Now fate has thrown Rick and Abby together again. In their early thirties, they are more world-weary than they were as kids. But their relationship still shimmers, and they're hungry to make up for lost time. However, Paige, now nine, is not nearly as enthusiastic. She's very protective of the life she's made with her mother and not open to the duo becoming a trio. Meanwhile, Rick has very little experience dealing with kids and doesn't know how to handle Paige. This leaves Abby caught between the two people who matter the most to her. What happens when the life you've dreamed of remains just inches from your grasp?
Pressed Pennies is a nuanced, intensely romantic, deeply heartfelt story of love in its many incarnations, relationships in their many guises, and family in its many meanings. It is the most accomplished and moving novel yet from a truly great storyteller of the heart.
Steven, you have twelve published books. How long have you been writing, and how did you start?
I’d just returned home from Operation Desert Storm and was working as a prison investigator in Massachusetts. Needless to say, there was great negativity in my life at that time. I decided to return to college to finish my degree in Criminal Justice. During one of the classes, the professor talked about police work but nothing else. I finally raised my hand and asked, “The criminal justice system is vast. What about the courts, probation, parole – corrections?” He smiled and told me to see him after class. I thought I’d done it! In his office, he explained, “There’s no written material out there on corrections or prisons, except from the slanted perspective of inmates.” He smiled again and dropped the bomb. “If you’re so smart,” he said, “why don’t you write it?” Nine months later, I dropped the first draft of 6-5; A Different Shade of Blue on his desk. From then on, I was hooked. I was a writer.
Is your book based on real events?
Pressed Pennies is one of my favorite works because it’s so personal to me. And if I didn’t admit to that, then I’m fairly certain that my wife, Paula, would have my neck. At its foundation, Pressed Pennies is autobiographical. After both suffering failed marriages, Paula and I were blessed with a second chance at love. Just like Rick and Abby, we met at the party of a mutual friend. And from the moment we laid eyes on each other, the adventure had begun. Although Rick and Abby’s details are completely fictional, the feelings are the same. As a writer, my greatest goal is always to make my readers feel. By placing myself within the scene, I have a much better shot at successfully pulling that off.
One of your characters has just found out you’re about to kill him off. He/she decides to beat you to the punch. How would he kill you?
Being from frigid New England, he’d impale me with an icicle...watching as the evidence just melts away.
Diabolical! How do you get to know your characters?
Characters: Learn them. Know them. If they become real enough, your characters will tell the story for you. Think about it: The raised eyebrow from a well-established character is worth more than a paragraph or two. The saddest time for me is when a novel comes to its end. This is mostly true because I start to miss the people that I’ve grown to love and hate. And if you don’t feel that for your characters, then your readers won’t, either. When I'm completely vested in a story, the first thing I think about in the morning is the characters (what they’re thinking and feeling, and how they might act), and the last thing I think about before turning in at night is the characters.
Which character did you most enjoy writing?
Abby...because she’s primarily my wife, Paula.
What song would you pick to go with your book?
The Dance by Garth Brooks.
I love that song! Who are your favorite authors?
Stephen King, Mitch Albom, and Lou Aronica.
You get to decide who would read your audiobook. Who would you choose?
Where’s home for you?
You’re leaving your country for a year. What’s the last meal you would want to have before leaving?
My wife’s Fettuccini Alfredo.
You’re given the day off, and you can do anything but write. What would you do?
Hang outdoors with my kids.
You can be any fictional character for one day. Who would you be?
What would your dream office look like?
Some historical library.
With you living in Massachusetts, you should check out the Stockbridge Library, if you haven't already. The upstairs room in particular. Best. office. ever. What’s one of your favorite quotes?
“If you can dream it, you can do it.” – Walt Disney.
What’s your favorite candy bar?
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups!
Excellent choice. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
With my wife and kids...location wouldn’t much matter.
What are you working on now?
Although it took me nine months to pen Gooseberry Island, it’s been a novel in the making for better than twenty years. Again, I served in Operation Desert Storm and have both experienced and witnessed the terrible suffering that accompanies combat service. More times than not, the wounds that are invisible prove much more painful than those that can be seen.
On the heels of Pressed Pennies, we decided to create another love story. In Gooseberry Island, David and Lindsey fall deeply in love, but quickly face a monstrous obstacle—the after effects of war.
Gooseberry Island is a tribute to all who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as those who stayed behind and suffered every moment until their loved one’s return.
The novel’s excerpt depicts David during his first few days of returning home from combat in Afghanistan. He is suffering terribly from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and must decide whether to continue seeing Lindsey, the woman who helped him survive the twelve months of hell. My life is in complete chaos, but maybe if I tried talking to Lindsey? David thought, shaking his head. No...it wouldn’t be fair.
About the author:Twelve Months and The Rockin' Chair. He is also the author of the critically-acclaimed, award-winning novel, Goodnight, Brian, as well as A Christmas Wish (Kindle exclusive), Pressed Pennies (released May 13, 2014) and Gooseberry Island (due out January 2015). His work has appeared on NBC's Today Show, CBS's The Early Show, CNN's American Morning, and BET's Nightly News. Three of Steven's short stories were selected "101 Best" for Chicken Soup for the Soul series. When not spending time with his beautiful wife, Paula, or their four children, this Massachusetts author is promoting his works or writing.
Connect with Steven:
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