How long have you been writing for?
I just celebrated my 4th Writingversary (as I like to call it) back in October. That said, I’ve been doing text-based role playing for over 20 years, so I’ve always written in some form or another. And now the jig is up. You know my terrible secret, I’m a nerd. I know, I hid it SO WELL.
What is it about horror that made you think ‘This is the genre for me’?
I’ve always enjoyed horror even though I’m kind of immune to it. I used to watch Are You Afraid of the Dark? when I was a kid and it was one of the only shows I’d ask to stay up late for. I think it’s because horror bleeds so well into other genres, you know? Horror can be anything and everything: mystery, sci-fi, campy/humor, adventure, fantasy…it’s like an all-you-can-eat feast of fear, and the fact that there are so many sub genres makes it easier not to get bored.
Any tips for combating writer’s block?
Hahahahahahahaahahah *Sobs quietly in the corner*. I wish. *** Any rituals you have before starting a new story? Well, first, I bathe in the blood of my enemies, but that one’s pretty obvious. I think everyone does that. One peculiar thing I do often is I watch this one particular Youtube video of the videogame orchestra playing Chrono Trigger’s theme song. It might seem kind of weird, but there’s something about the passion and pure glee in the faces of the musicians that fills me with motivation! If I could be half as motivated as they are, I know I’ll do a good job!
If you have one, what is on your current writing playlist?
Mainly, Brandon Boone’s Book of Winter and Sleepless. I LOVE music: it’s what gets me going and what inspires me, but when I write, I need something calm and without lyrics. Brandon Boone’s haunting melodies really do the trick. I can’t tell you how many stories were written listening to those two albums on repeat. It’s a lot. Also, this is less music-y, but I think it still counts… I listen to A Soft Murmur, which is a white noise generator website. I find when I have trouble focusing, it helps drown out the world around me and keep me on task. I’ll often have it and Brandon’s music playing at the same time. Manen’s white noise recipe is: one third of rain, one third of thunder, one half coffee shop, and three quarters singing bowl.
How do you handle character creation? I find using Dungeons and Dragons character sheets helpful but it’s fun to see the many ways other people go about this.
I’ve never used a D&D character sheet. Maybe I should try one of these days! When it comes to making a character, I’ll usually do one of three things:
1. Secretly use an old RP character of mine but wrap him up in a different body.
2. Base a character off someone I know, which I’ve been doing a lot lately and it makes writing a lot more enjoyable. I kind of make the characters a caricature of them, with personality traits or powers that don’t necessarily match who they are, but it’s fun to imagine their quirks and voices coming out of these people. I do this a lot with members of The NoSleep Podcast, because they’re such a cool and lively bunch and I can hear their voices so clearly in my head it makes it easy to translate them into characters.
3. Make the person as generic and bland as humanly possible and just focus on the story. I’m always walking a tightrope when I work on horror stories. Due to the first-person point of view nature of the stories I usually write, I sometimes think it’s best to let the readers imagine who I’m writing about. Often times, I don’t even mention age or gender in my horror stories. You can plug in whatever you want…but I think my stories end up more interesting (and fun to write) when I don’t go this route.
You’ve had several stories featured on the NoSleep podcast, which one is your favourite?
Hands down “The Whistling Pumpkins”. It’s in one of the season pass Halloween episodes so I can’t link to it unfortunately, but holy shit, that story is on FIRE. The sound design is amazing, the narration is spot on, and it has some of my favorite tracks from the musical maestro himself, Brandon Boone (and the story itself ‘aint too shabby if I do say so myself). My second favorite would be “Noose of the Hanged Men” from Season 11, episode 1. I’m really proud of that story. It’s my favorite kind of horror, where nothing actually jumps out at you, the horror comes from the situation. Without giving away any spoilers, it’s about a guy who likes to visit hanging sites, and he finds out about one in Nova Scotia while he’s on a business trip. While he’s visiting, someone from the historical society tells him a story about the site, and it leaves him feeling rattled. I don’t like to toot my own horn, but I think it’s pretty good, has this slow, creeping dread feeling to it.
Any projects coming up (or currently out) you’d like to share with us?
Yes! I JUST released a novel called A Gifted Spirit, and it’s available on Amazon! It’s not horror (more of a modern-y sci-fi), but I did use my horror-y style to build tension. It’s about a teenager who’s considered gifted, but rather than just being flat-out smart, he actually gets, like, really intense déjà vu. One day, his dad drops him off for an IQ test, and things seem a little…unusual, so he sneaks away, goes home, walks into his dad’s office, and that’s when he finds a photo of him and his dad…except he looks several years older on the photo. DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUN.
How can we support your work?
The rules of SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION dictate that I ask that you buy and review my book! I actually also have a collection that’s a combination horror novella and short stories, so if modern sci-fi ‘aint yo jam, bruh, try From the Ashes of Pompeii, which IS horror. Also available on Amazon.
Any advice to people just starting out in their writing careers?
Here’s a little piece of advice that really stuck with me over the years. “People don’t want to read a story, people want YOU to tell them a story.” Write with your voice, don’t get hung up with trying to sound more flowery than you have to. Put the words down on the page, worry about refining them LATER if you want to refine them. You’re the storyteller, tell your tale, and people will enjoy it.
You’ve been called the Lord of the Gourds by…well…by me. What is it about pumpkins that fascinates you so much?
Hahahaha! It all started a few years ago when I wanted a new Twitter profile pic, and I jokingly took a photo of me holding my pumpkin near my head to make it look like I had a pumpkin for a head. Somewhere along the line, I became the Pumpkin King. But also I just REALLY love pumpkins. Always have. Autumn is my favorite time of year for a variety of reasons. I LOVE to watch the leaves turn colors, I love Halloween, my very own birthday is in October…and PUMPKINS. We only get them once a year. They smell great. They look great. They’re fun to carve! They’re special and ephemeral, and that shit, is, like, poetic, yo.
You can find and interact with Manen on The Twitter here