Interview with Deborah Mantle

Deborah Mantle

Interview Date: 8/31/2012


Having worked in a number of countries, including Japan, and done a variety of jobs (English teacher, cleaner, civil servant and seller of milkshakes, thermal underwear and electrical appliances), Deborah Mantle now lives in Cumbria, wears waterproof clothing frequently and writes when possible.
Her two novels, A Meiji Mystery and Sunrise over Shonan, as well as a collection of short stories, Changing Women, are available in paperback and as e-Books. She is currently working on her third novel.
Link to Deborah Mantle’s Amazon author profile:

When did you start writing, and was there a significant event that prompted you to do so?

I’ve always read a lot – widely and copiously. I liked the idea of being a writer, but never actually completed any fiction writing. I would note down thoughts and pieces of dialogue, but didn’t know how to craft them into a coherent story and lacked the confidence to try. Then, something changed in my early thirties. At that time I was working in London, in a job and office environment that I found stifling, and suddenly I had this unstoppable urge to write. It was like a creative tap I couldn’t switch off. What came out first was largely autobiographical, a novel of suspense and romance based on my first experiences of living and working in Japan. It wasn’t great literature, but within several months I had written a whole book! The next piece I wrote was an early draft of my first novel, ‘A Meiji Mystery’. Since getting over that first psychological barrier and realising that I could write (as anyone can), I haven’t stopped writing in one form or another.

If you could have one superpower, what would it? (Assuming said power would be reasonably powerful.)

There are many worthy superpowers to have, for example, having the power to enable people to be more compassionate, to step into someone else’s shoes temporarily. Like the experience you can get from reading a book, but more powerful and lasting. But as I live in the Lake District, where it rains a lot (it’s pouring down as I write this), I’d go for having the power to stop the rain, part the clouds and allow at least one hour of sunshine each day.

Kev's response: What? You wouldn't change it to be more like Orlando, FL, where it rains around 3 P.M. most days, but only for a little while, and then that's it?

Do you have a favorite superhero from novels, comics, or movies?

I grew up watching ‘Wonder Woman’ on television. Her costume never seemed very practical or comfortable, but it was good to see a woman with power and in control, for once.

Kev's response: True, but if they based her on the Wonder Woman of comic books, the woman was unbelievably strong (as in close to Superman's strength), and could block ranged weapons with her bracers. Add to that her Amazon warrior training, and she shouldn't have been in much danger of anything.

Where do you get your inspiration for writing?

From anywhere and everywhere: snippets of overheard conversation, small stories tucked into the local newspaper, an old postcard found in a second-hand book, a girl walking by with a huge rabbit in her arms, issues that I’m mulling over, the area where I’m living; things I see, hear, smell, touch, taste and think about. Usually a place inspires me, and then I think about what character or characters would live in them and what obstacles or challenges they might be facing. Once I start to think about a story, the world seems to offer ideas and experiences to add to it.

Kev's response: What you didn't realize was that the rabbit was the mastermind, and the girl merely a minion of the rabbit!

What motivates you?

I’ve worked in many places and have tried a lot of jobs. Nothing appeals to me as much as writing does. I enjoy the whole process, the initial spark, the brainstorming, the research, the initial writing (that’s the hardest part for me); then, the re-writing and editing. I’d like to write books and stories that the reader can fall into, be carried away with, be entertained by and, finally, finish with the satisfaction of having gained some insight, experience or knowledge. That’s the ideal, anyway!

Do you pre-plan your stories, or are you a by-the-seat-of-the-pants style writer?

For my first two novels, only one of which I’ve gone on to publish, I planned meticulously. I wrote out a detailed synopsis and then chapter plans. In ‘A Meiji Mystery’, a novel of suspense, I needed to plan in order to pace the story, to build tension and to sprinkle in the clues, along with the red herrings. For my last novel, ‘Sunrise over Shonan’, I tried a looser approach. I knew there were several key plot points I wanted to include and so I thought about how I wanted the story to move towards those points. But I only wrote a general outline and then just started writing. Perhaps because I’d thought about the story for so long (four years), the rough plan was already there in my head.

Do you write only when inspired, or do you have a set schedule where you sit down to write?

In theory, I think having a set schedule to write is a great idea. In practice, I write when I have the mental energy and the time. On days when writing isn’t appealing, for one reason or another, I’ll aim to do something related to what I’m writing – doing some Internet research or going to a place in the story to get extra details – or I’ll do some creative ‘play’ – brainstorming, drawing, taking a walk – to try and get ideas flowing. If none of that works, I’ll do something completely different and go back to writing the next day.

Do you have a favorite genre to write in? To read?

My taste in reading is varied. On my bookshelf, there’s science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, chick-lit, lots of mysteries and a few graphic novels. I like anything with a good story and interesting, rounded characters. If the book makes me think and feel, even better. I try to write the kinds of stories and books that I would enjoy reading, so they are diverse in genre: mystery, suspense, science fiction, surreal, romance (and anti-romance), as well as general fiction.

Kev's response: So ... no square characters. Got it!

Can you tell me something odd about yourself?

I once took part in an environmental march in Kyoto, Japan, wearing a hat with a large paper duck on it. The hat and I appeared on the local news.

Kev's response: I might have been afraid if the had appeared on its own...

Do you write one story at a time, or do you have several novels in the works at one time?

Normally I focus on one story at a time, but note down any interesting ideas, questions or fragments of conversation that occur to me for future stories.

Where do you see the future as far as paper books versus digital e-books?

When I was living overseas, it would’ve been great to have an e-Book reader and access to digital books. I see the advantages of e-Books, and think that writers need to be publishing in both formats. At the same time, I love the tactile quality of paper books. And at my local public library, I wonder how many of the users would prefer paper books given the choice. The publishing industry has undergone dramatic changes; yet, I think there’s still a place for paper books for the foreseeable future.

What are your current projects?

I’m just starting a new novel to be set in Cumbria with an environmental theme. I have the main characters and the plot worked out in some detail. Now, I’m trying to decide how I want to structure and tell the story. Would it be most effective focussing on one character, three characters or many? Would it be best told using the first person point of view, third person, omniscient or a mix? Should I use the past tense or the present? While I’m deciding and writing, I’ll continue to promote my other three books.

Do you have any advice for others about self-publishing?

Self-publishing can seem daunting. There’s a lot to learn in terms of the practical aspects of doing it. And then there’s the marketing to think about! It seems obvious, but I’d advise any potential self-publisher to make their book as good as it can be in terms of story and presentation. The story is the most important part of the book, of course, but the book should also be error-free, well-formatted, with an attractive cover. I didn’t pay for professional services in terms of editing or book designing. I was an English teacher for twelve years and I also had help from friends. However, that’s not to say my books wouldn’t have benefitted from professional advice. And you don’t need to be a computer expert to self-publish; you just need time and a lot of patience. I used Kindle Direct Publishing for the e-Books and Createspace for the paperbacks. The first time I used them it took me several days to format and upload my work. Now it takes me a couple of hours. On the marketing aspects of self-publishing I’m less confident. There’s a lot of advice available via the Internet and I’ve tried to follow what I’ve read. I’ve set up a web-site, a blog, author pages on Amazon and Goodreads and I’ve been active on Twitter. I’ve found Twitter particularly useful in connecting with other writers locally and internationally. I’ve set up free e-Book giveaways to raise my profile and posted news of my books on web-sites relevant to the themes and settings of my books. But I know there’s much more I could, and probably should, do. Finally, it’s easy to get distracted, especially with networking and marketing, but don’t lose focus of what’s most important: keep writing.

Do you have any online sites where readers can find out more about you (and your books)?

My website ( ) has the background on my three published books, links to my blog-sites and a free to read short story, ‘The Home for Unwanted Words’, published through ‘Corvus’ e-magazine.

Kev's response: Deborah, thanks for joining me. Good luck on the 3 novels you have out, and on your coming work!

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