Today we welcome Glenda Manus.
Book ‘Em: Tell us about you and your life outside of writing.
Glenda Manus: I love traveling both near and far distances, but I don’t do nearly enough of it. I’m retirement age but certainly don’t feel like it! My husband and I are beach fanatics and since we live so close to the coast, we spend a lot of time there. Our children and grandchildren live close by, so we’re always doing family things together. We live a simple life with church, family and community high on our priority list.
Book ‘Em: Which books have you written? What are they about and why did you choose to write them? Do your books have a message? Are they fiction or nonfiction?
Glenda Manus: I’ve written a series of novels titled, The Southern Grace Series. They are set in the fictional town of Park Place, South Carolina. They definitely have that Southern culture thing going where the inhabitants of the small town’s favorite pastime is sitting on front porches sipping sweet iced tea out of heirloom glasses and participating in some innocent gossip. There’s humor, romance, mystery and like any small town, there’s good and there’s evil. I’ve written six books in the series and the protagonist in the first three books is Reverend Rock Clark, a Presbyterian preacher whose good-intentions-kind-of-meddling gets him in frequent trouble. The last three books have different protagonists but still have the Park Place Village and Presbyterian preacher connection. I chose to write about small town life revolving around churches and family values because that’s the kind of life I know best. And yes, my books do have a message; a message of God’s grace and redemption. The books in the series are: Sweet Tea and Southern Grace; Lighting the Way; High Tide at Pelican Pointe; The Melancholy Moon; The Sweet Tea Quilting Bee; and Miss Marple’s B&B.
Book ‘Em: Do you have a work in progress?
Glenda Manus: Yes, I’m working on the final novel in the series. I have readers who don’t want the series to end, but I’m ready to move on. I’m also working on a pet project of Western short stories. Not modern romance Western stories but the story of a family migrating west in the mid-1800’s. It’s a labor of love that I’m doing for my husband who thinks everyone should write like Louis L’Amour, the famed Western novelist. In his novels, you can smell the campfires burning and feel arrows whizzing by your head, or so my husband says.
Book ‘Em: What was the most difficult section/piece you ever wrote? What made it difficult?
Glenda Manus: I think everyone’s very first book is difficult because in a way, you’re winging it and learning to either fly or crash-land. But honestly, I think the fifth book in my series, The Sweet Tea Quilting Bee, gave me the most trouble. At first, I was on a roll and wrote almost half of the book in less than two months, a record for me! But boy, that roll I was on halted when the plot thickened, and I just stopped writing because I felt boxed in with no way out. I don’t think any writer likes changing plots in midstream; we have so much time invested in what we’ve already done. But it’s necessary to do it when things aren’t working out. I just faced it head-on and took the plot in an entirely different direction and only then did it start falling into place. It meant going back and taking a good look at my characters and even changing some of their personalities. Like real people, fictional people grow and change. Writers are forced to see the world through the eyes of their characters — the good and the bad. It’s hard to see the bad in our characters, just as it’s difficult for us to see the bad in our own character. It reminds me of Matthew 7:3, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” I had a plank blocking the path of my story line and I had to get rid of it before I could see the path ahead.
Book ‘Em: What sort of research do you do for your work?
Glenda Manus: While a lot of my research is done on the internet, there are some things we writers need to experience for ourselves so we can write knowledgably about them. For instance, my third and fourth books have beach settings and I couldn’t have written with such certainty about the locations if I didn’t have a mental and physical sense of place. We’ve had second homes along the North Carolina coastline for years, and I did most of my writing for those two books sitting in a gazebo on the Intracoastal Waterway. I was visually describing the scenes as I was watching them unfold around me. Then, in the quilting novel, I pulled up childhood memories of sitting in on quilting sessions with my mother and her church friends. To refresh my memory, I visited a quilters club at a local church. In most of my writing, I pull deep into my memory bank of real life experiences and whitewash them a little to protect the innocent, lol.
Book ‘Em: Which books and authors do you read for pleasure? Is there an author that inspires you?
Glenda Manus: Gosh, that’s a difficult one. I have a long list of established authors that I love, but I also enjoy discovering and supporting new authors. I read both fiction and non-fiction. I love series books and when I find one I like, I tend to read all the books in the series if the characters are well-developed and likeable. I think that’s why I like Jan Karon’s The Mitford Series. The characters are like old friends and I’ve eagerly awaited each new book she publishes. If I had to name one author who has inspired me, Ms. Karon would be the one.
Book ‘Em: Was there a person who encouraged you to write?
Glenda Manus: Yes. There were two people who encouraged me to write. My older sister as the first; she gave me a diary when I was in 5th grade. As the youngest of seven children, all competing for attention, I didn’t get much of a chance to verbally express myself. Writing gave me the outlet I needed and it’s been a passion for me ever since. Then there was my 11th grade English teacher, Mrs. Janet Trull. She told me I had a gift for writing and she expected to see my name on a published book someday. I sent her a copy of my first book over four decades later and I got a note back from her. Instead of saying, “Hi Glenda, how are you. It’s good hearing from you after all these years, yada, yada, yada,” she simply said, “What took you so long?”
Book ‘Em: What would you say are your strengths as an author?
Glenda Manus: I think I was born with an overactive empathy button which is often considered a weakness instead of a strength. It causes you to feel too much and take upon yourself the hurt of those you’re empathizing with. But as a writer, I feel like it is my one true strength in building my characters. I feel what they’re feeling; I cry when they cry, and I’m incredibly joyful when they’re happy. I think maybe it gives them depth that they wouldn’t have if I didn’t hold them so close to my heart.
Book ‘Em: How often do you write, and do you write using a strict routine?
Glenda Manus: I write every day, but not always on the current project I’m on. I have ADD and I have a husband and cat who don’t always respect my need to be focused! I wish I was programmed to use a strict routine; I’d sure get a lot more done. I’m also a procrastinator and often find myself doing everything and anything to put off writing. And I don’t know why that is, because I’m so happy when I’m writing.
Book ‘Em: Five years from now, where do you see yourself as a writer?
Glenda Manus: I waited late in life to follow my dream of being an author, so I have a lot of time to make up for. I want to be successful, but in my mind, the definition of being a successful writer is simply being happy at what you’re doing. That’s true with just about any profession, I think.
Book ‘Em: If you could offer one piece of advice to a novice writer, what would it be?
Glenda Manus: Read! Read fiction, non-fiction and books about writing. That’s the best way to learn to write. Find an author whose style you like, then study it. Then find another. You’ll eventually find your own style and your own voice, and when you do, just simply sit down at your keyboard, or with a pen in hand, and write, write, write. You can’t just say you want to write a book. If you don’t take that first step, it will never happen.
Book ‘Em: What would you consider the best compliment a reader could give your book?
Glenda Manus: I write faith-based fiction and my favorite reviews have been from people who tell me that my writing has helped them to grow in their faith or has given them the courage to face a situation they’re going through. It makes my heart sing to hear that!
Book ‘Em: Provide an excerpt of your writing that you would like to share with our members.
Glenda Manus: This is an excerpt from my first book, Sweet Tea and Southern Grace. Liz, a young widow who is trying to move on with her life, has retreated to her mountain cabin and is sitting on her deck listening to the sweet sounds of the mountain stream that runs through her property. She is joined by Earl, a friend and neighbor whose mental impairment is a result of a logging accident in his youth.
Liz often thought of Earl as he had been as a child. He had been ten and she had been fourteen the summer before his accident. His younger brother Aaron had been his shadow that year but their roles later reversed as Aaron became fiercely protective of his handicapped brother. The locals looked out for Earl in the ensuing years. Even the summer residents grew accustomed to his gentle nature and quiet demeanor and never thought of him as being odd or eccentric – he was just Earl. But some of the newcomers to the valley were put off by him, complaining that it was unsettling to walk out on their porches with their morning coffee and find a boy in a grown man’s body sitting in a chair whistling and whittling one of his exquisite carvings. The Nicholsons, who had moved into a nearby cabin, had gone so far as to call the Sheriff’s Department to have him arrested for trespassing. Joe Cobb had been the deputy on duty and he explained to them that Earl was harmless but if they wanted him off their property, he would tell him to stay away.
“It’s your loss though,” he had said. “Earl has a wealth of wisdom to impart. He just has difficulty finding the words to tell it, so he uses Bible verses that he’s memorized to try to make sense of each situation.”
From then on, the Nicholsons had made Earl feel welcome and their three-year-old grandson had started randomly quoting Scripture as he played around the house.
“It could be much worse,” said Tom Nicholson as Arthur at the General Store rang up his groceries. “It makes his Grandma much happier than the time he quoted me word for word when I hit my thumb with a hammer.”
Arthur chuckled, mentally recalling a few times when he wouldn’t have wanted to be quoted either.