Interview with George Mangels, Author of FRANK’S WORLD
Okay, I’ve been very, very bad (not posting any interviews lately), but I swear I’m not just being a lazy bum. If you could see me, you’d note my right hand raised in oath. Honestly, I’ve been so swamped with my manuscript and critiquing my beta reader’s manuscript (which is AWESOME, by the way, but I shan’t reveal who she, the author, is because she’s kinda’ shy like that) I just haven’t had a chance to post anything in a while.
So one day I sit down at my computer (working on my manuscript of course), and what do you know? I received an email from the elusive cab driver James Fitzgerald talked about in his agent interview: http://www.kayemevans.com/blog/?p=180
Turns out, the mysterious cabbie is just as mysterious as James said…but in a much DIFFERENT way (he has a very Sage-like quality to him, I must say). Oh, and he didn’t actually do any cabbie’ing until after his novel Frank’s World was published. He definitely didn’t fall off the face of the planet, and he’s even been working on a follow-up novel to Frank’s World.
It’s with great joy and honor I welcome George Mangels to the blog!
K: Hi, George! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
GM: Thanks Kay, I’m honored to be here with you today. I’m a 4th-generation San Franciscan. My favorite color is blue.
K: A brevity kinda’ guy. I like that.
For those not familiar with FRANK’S WORLD, can you share a bit about it?
GM: Frank is an information-age Frankenstein. He is a rock in the pond of life; each chapter is a ripple as he expands his influence and interacts with other ripples; eventually, he meets an even larger ripple and is himself neutralized.
K: How did you come up with the idea for FRANK’S WORLD?
GM: The idea behind the novel was inspired by a kid with a Rambo fixation. He had no apparent identity of his own, and walked around Rambo-preening. Camo outfits, cold stare, pit bull, all that stuff. I found it interesting how he was inhabited by an idea, a myth, and I wondered how common it is for films to leak out into the real world, with characters inhabiting vacant 3D bodies. The line between real and unreal has become increasingly blurred in our culture. Myths are all around us, inhabiting us.
K: It’s written in one long sentence (seriously, you guys, check it out; I’ve read it, and the book really is one sentence, straight through, all the way to the end), so I’m curious what inspired you to try that technique?
GM: The one-sentence idea implied accelerated punctuation for accelerated times; full stops are rare in life; I reserved them for acts of God, such as Frank’s death and the end of the book…
K: How Sage of you, and very awesome.
FW was published in 1997. I understand you’re working on a new book now in good ‘ole 2010. What changes have you seen in the publishing industry ’97?
GM: FW was first published in 1995.
K: Er, whoops. Darn you, Amazon, giving me misinformation. As you were saying, George.
GM: I always intended for there to be two books, a yang book and a yin book. Light and shadow appear to be pervasive in our experience, and I wanted to explore them. I finished the second book after about ten years of study and writing and it wasn’t picked up. These are difficult times for publishing. I understand that i was swimming upstream by writing the opposite of what I had written, and that didn’t help my odds. A year or so ago I decided to rewrite, bringing Frank back as the main character; that’s my concession to the market. I’m updating the book now and changing the gender of the main character, which is interesting. We’ll see what happens.
K: Anything you can tell us about the new book?
GM: The first book explored the shadowy, secretive, male, earthly, conspiratorial, dark, occult way of responding to experience and creating reality; the second explores the counterpart: the female, soft, loving, nurturing, open, cosmic, lighter vision of life. Life/death. Yin/yang. Light/shadow. Sort of the two poles of choice and experience. The first book carries Frank from birth to death, the second from death to birth. So I’m not surprised this has turned into a 20-year effort. Some books are like that. There was a lot to wrap my head around. I had to grow into it.
K: Did you have difficulties finding an agent for FW back then? What about editors?
GM: It happened very serendipitously the first time around. And it is very serendipitously not happening the second time around. I find that interesting.
I think people need to remember that publishing is a business. Agents and editors are looking for books, not authors. They are looking for product. The loyalty of agents and editors is to publishable works.
K: That’s so true, and something we as writers should always remember.
How did they respond to FW? (aside from James Fitzgerald, who we know published it because, according to him, he said it intrigued him so much)
GM: I got some great rejection letters. I could tell editors secretly liked the book, but didn’t see much profit in it. But they recognized my hard work and original perspective, and put a lot of thought into rejecting me, and I appreciate that.
K: Yes, I have to say that there’s something especially disappointing about the ‘ole Form Rejection Letter. Personalized at least makes you feel like you’re communicating with another human being. Well-done, glad you had a good experience even with the no’s you received
What’s the most challenging part of the publishing process for you?
GM: The options for the consumer are nearly infinite. Who has time to read a book? So I accept that I’m a difficult sell. I’m old-fashioned and out of style. I like fat books that take lots of thought. I like books that read like music. I like books that inspire me to think. I like books that read between the lines. I like books that reveal themselves in layers. But I most certainly don’t READ books like that. Who has the time? I surf the net. Chat. Play. Read. Surf. Listen. Watch. I’m always doing four things at once. Skimming. Never going too deeply. My mind has adapted to the internet world.
What I used to enjoy about books is that words became pictures in my mind’s eye. Visualization is a powerful and useful skill. Are we as a species losing that skill?
K: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
GM: Read broadly. Think for yourself. Travel. Experience. Love. Laugh. Try not to get arrested.
K: Definitely agree with all of the above (especially the “trying not to get arrested” part, lol).
Is there anything you would recommend writers avoid during the publishing process? Any mistakes they should steer clear of?
GM: Be nice. Don’t waste their time.
K: By “their,” I think we should assume professionals in the publishing biz (agents, editors, etc. George, correct me if I’m wrong).
Time for some fun questions! Always love these.
What’s your ideal setting for writing? Do you like a quite place to write? Noisy?
Describe your ideal setting, but here’s the catch: you have to write the description in first person prose.
GM: I am sitting in a lawn chair in my office, slouching towards the keyboard and monitor and looking out a window at a 14,000-foot snow-covered volcano; how’s that for inspiration?; I can feel the heat, the power, the fire, the intensity of the mountain’s influence; the hot breath of mother nature can be overwhelming if you let it; she helps me ask the questions; I do the writing myself; sometimes there is music, but mostly just the sounds of mountain life: the wind, the trees, the water, the birds, and of course the old man next door with the gasoline-powered leaf blower.
K: Tell us what your ideal vacation would be if you weren’t allowed to write. It would have to be pure rest and relaxation.
GM: Hmmm. I don’t know if I know how to relax. I’d like to learn though. I think I would go back to Taipei and stay at the Grand Hotel.
K: Who are your top 3 favorite characters (of all the books in the world) of all time?
GM: Owen Meany. Noah. Cthulhu.
K: For those who don’t know, Owen Meany is a character from A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, and Cthulhu is a character (well, “fictional cosmic entity” according to Wikipedia) from Great Old Ones and the Lovecraft Mythos. I think we all know who Noah is, but if I’m wrong in thinking it’s the guy who built the arc before that one famous flood, I’m sure George will let us know.
Thanks for stopping by, George! We’ve really enjoyed having you!
GM: Thanks for having me, Kay.