Interview with Richard Mansel
I have been interviewing writers, novelists and bloggers. I thought, why would I ask them to do what I am not willing to do? So, I am combining some questions from several of their interviews and interviewing myself.
My purpose is to share my thoughts on writing, so my readers can become more familiar with me. Hopefully, along the way, the readers of this interview will learn some things to help them grow as a writer.
It was a very interesting exercise that I recommend.
1. How did you get started as a writer?
In the fourth grade, I began writing short stories and sharing them with friends. When the sixth grade came along, Mrs. Pierce, allowed me to read my stories to the class. The students requested their favorites and I read them with immense pride.
I continued to write through the years, but I was less serious. When I began preaching, my writing became more important. I wrote religious articles and had some published. One day I submitted an article to Forthright Magazine and they published it and then another. I was asked to be a columnist and over 300 articles later, I am very honored to be a columnist and Managing Editor.
I am humbled that my articles have appeared in several publications, newspapers and websites. I have been privileged to produce chapters in ten books and to be the author of The Most Important Question, a book on the plan and purpose of salvation.
All of this and more, hearkens back to a teacher allowing a shy, gangly boy to read his stories to his class. If only she knew.
2. What is your mission as a writer?
My mission as a writer is to employ my abilities and fire them with creativity and passion, to create something of power. I write with the end-result in mind. I try to penetrate the hearts of my readers and foresee their perception of my piece.
3. How important is writing to you?
To me, writing is less essential than breathing, eating, love, God, family and my soul, but nothing else. Writing is, and always has been, the passion of my existence. It is not a conscious choice that I make. The words brim in my heart and mind, demanding an outlet. I have to write and it is not negotiable.
In a very real sense, writing is the only thing I have ever wanted to do. I wasted too many years, where I did not put words to paper. I mourn over that lost time. The living and experiences of those years feed my writing now, but the craft waned and grew stale. I would be more proficient if I had continued to labor through those years.
Having a perpetual deadline, though, has allowed me to work ahead and fashion a keener focus on writing. For four years, I wrote the Square One column at Forthright Magazine on Biblical fundamentals. We eventually retired that column, when I was promoted to Managing Editor, and I began to write the Living the Faith column on Christian living.
My passion for writing is evident in the streak that I am humbled to be a part of. The last week I missed in my Forthright column was February 8, 2005. One week, I had severe burns on my hands and dictated my article to my wife. The words must come or they get out their hammers and attack me.
4. Did you have storytellers when you were growing up that influenced you?
No, not as individuals. The storytellers of my youth were filmmakers, songwriters and novelists. Plus, my preacher for several years was David Sain, who is a very visual speaker. He does not use props or flamboyant movements. Instead, he uses powerful word pictures and his voice to bring his listeners into his world, so he can open the Scriptures to them.
I learned much from all of them.
5. Were you an avid reader as a child?
Books have been my constant companion for all of my life. I never go anywhere without a book. I leave my house with a book, get into my car and listen to another book and go to the office, where I listen to another one, while I work. When my wife and I go to restaurants, we both read until the food comes and we talk over our meal.
Plus, I am usually on a first name basis with people at the library and my hold/checkout list is extensive.
The one difference today, is my passion for audio books. I have listened to hundreds of them and cherish them as friends.
6. What is the power of the written word?
I recently wrote: “The written word has stirred hearts for thousands of years. Nations rise and fall on the power of words. They open hearts or shatter them forever. Souls move into the light or run to darkness through the power of ink on canvas.”
The power of words cannot be measured, for good or evil.
7. What lessons have you learned as a writer?
First, a writer must read or he will never accomplish anything. Stephen King said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” Reading the best in your field, will challenge you to grow. You can study their methods and adapt them to your own abilities/perspectives. Learn what works and what does not.
Listening to audio books has developed my listening skills, so I am more adept at writing to the ear. Learn to write lyrically. Our prose must flow like a river and anything that inhibits the stream, must be thrown onto the shore. Hear your writing because someone else will.
Second, great writing comes from rigorous editing. Spend more time editing a piece than writing it. Read how my job at Wal-Mart helped me become a better writer. We must be relentless as we edit. If we have a sentence or an idea that we are in love with, that does not advance the story/article we are writing, cut it and use it in another piece. But, get rid of it!
‘Third, I’ve learned that the more I learn about writing, the more I need to learn. Be a diligent student of writing and never be satisfied. Always be eager to grow and mature.
Fourth, we cannot be a great writer unless we are an astute observer of mankind. We must study the ways, mannerisms, speech patterns and trends of human beings. Watch, listen and observe. Study everything about them. Learn the motivations for why people behave as they do. As we hone our skills, people become less complex and we can predict their behavior and break it down, more precisely and our characters will come to life.
8. What are your feelings about Twitter?
Twitter is an astounding tool. If we do not take the time to understand it, we will find it wild and unwieldy. The avalanche of messages will send us running away, screaming. However, if we grasp the concept and develop a plan, we will find it to be one of the most powerful tools of knowledge that the internet has to offer.
My Twitter account is @RichardMansel and I spend a lot of time there and find it always beneficial because of the plan I have enacted. I have built lists of writers, members of the social media, agents and editors. My list has around 400 people on it. I read and learn from them in on a daily basis. They are my teachers and I read their links and share some of them with my readers.
It is not all work. I also have lists for Savannah, sports, friends and Alabama football.
If we want to go to Twitter to play or waste time, we would be happy elsewhere. However, if we turn it into a classroom, it is one of the greatest tools we have at our fingertips.
9. How important is a blog/website for a writer?
A website allows writers to share with their readers and allow the world to meet them and their work. It is indispensable for a writer to have one. Readers want the personal touch and a website or blog allows them to do that. Plus, they can sell their books in a more personal way.
My purpose in having this site is to teach and learn. I am constantly learning how to mature as a writer. Therefore, I am sharing what I am learning with my readers, so we can grow together.
Writers have to spread the word, so their work can reach a broader audience. You can get a website/blog of your own, with your own domain name, a well as blogs at Writer’s Digest, WriterFace, local newspapers, etc. You can join writer’s groups and critique groups. Whatever it takes to be around writers, so we can learn.
10. What plans do you have as a writer?
I have two more nonfiction Bible-based books that I need to get out of my system. I am busy working on a Christian fiction, psychological mystery novel set in Savannah. Meanwhile, I hope to continue writing religious articles, hopefully move into freelance work and write several more novels. Hopefully, one day I will be able to write full-time.
Thanks for reading my interview with myself. I hope you learned something.