Ahead of the official launch of her debut novel, we met up with author Nina Manning. We found out the challenges she faced in getting this book on the shelves, plus her plans for future projects…
Becoming a published author is not easy. There is a lot of rejection and disappointment involved, especially if you go down the traditional route. Still, with continued perseverance, that dream of having a novel published can come true. As demonstrated by the subject of our latest story, Nina Manning.
WHERE ARE YOU FROM ORIGINALLY? HOW LONG AGO DID YOU COME TO BOURNEMOUTH?
I was born in Stratford-upon-Avon – the home of Shakespeare himself! – then moved to a little town in Warwickshire called Leamington Spa. Lived there for about 20 years and then moved down here. I’ve been here for around 20 years as well.
WHEN DID YOU DECIDE THAT WRITING WAS THE THING YOU WANTED TO DO?
It has always been in my blood, really. Ever since I was a kid – I used to love creative writing classes; used to excel in those. And then in my spare time, I would just like to sit and, not necessarily write stories, but create the scenarios and the characters. I used to love sitting there putting little character profiles together, and then go to bed, and then the next day, I would be so excited to almost greet the characters I had created the night before. And as I grew up, I would tinker with little stories.
TELL ME ABOUT THE ORIGINS OF YOUR CAREER, LEADING UP TO PUBLISHING THE DAUGHTER IN LAW…
Catering was where I ended up working. The last five years or so is where it has snowballed towards my career as an author. Beforehand, I had done a lot of blog writing online; I had my own blog and had done some food blogging for The Daily Echo online. And off the back of that, I managed to get a copy editor job with a food company, so that combined my food skills and my writing skills that I honed up to that point.
All that time, I had this story, The Daughter In Law, bubbling away for around ten years. It was at the stage where I had sent it out loads and loads of times and just had so many rejections. Probably had something like 100 rejections off the back of that one novel – publishers and agents. Eventually, last September, I had a very lovely email from an agent, who said they were interested in the book. Prior to that, I had had a lot of emails saying, “We’re interested in the book. If you could send us a full manuscript…” and all that. Obviously then it didn’t amount to anything. But this agent was very interested, read the full manuscript; two weeks later, I was meeting them in London. Golden handshake and they’re my agent!
They helped me polish the manuscript and sent it to 22 publishing houses, and three came back. There was an auction, if you like, with those three publishers, and then my agent and I collaboratively decided which one was the best for me. And we chose one called Boldwood.
WHICH WRITERS INSPIRE YOUR STYLE?
It’s really difficult to say that. This is my first book, so what I think will happen is once people read it, they will then decide who they think my writing is similar to. When I read books, I often say to people if I’m recommending it, “Oh, you’ll like this book because it’s quite like this writer or that writer.” I’m quite looking forward to people comparing me to other people. Or maybe they won’t – I don’t know.
Certainly, as an author, I’ve been inspired by lots of writers. Maggie O’Farrell, Elizabeth Gilbert, Marian Keyes, Lisa Jewell — all these great female writers that I have been reading for years. Maybe there’s little bits of their writing that has seeped through to mine.
LET’S TALK ABOUT THE DAUGHTER IN LAW A BIT MORE. WHERE DID THE IDEA COME FROM AND HOW DID IT GROW INTO WHAT IT HAS BECOME NOW?
Quite some time ago, I did a degree in psychology and criminology. I’ve always been really interested in people and the way their minds work. The psychology of relationships and all that kind of stuff. And I thought there was this universal theme about mothers-in-law and sons and daughters-in-law, and how mothers have very different relationships with their sons than they do with their daughters. I’ve always been really interested in that, so I just took that theme and ran with it.
Initially, The Daughter In Law was just a family saga, almost like a soap opera-type thing. And as I said before, I sent it out to hundreds of agents and publishers, and one of the agents that came back to me (who didn’t take me up, ultimately) said, “This is really great; I love the concept, I love the title, I love your writing. Would you consider changing it into a psychological thriller?” It took quite a long time, as you can imagine – to rewrite an entire book with the same characters etcetera. But by the time I sent it back to her, she had moved on and wouldn’t take it at that point.
But she inspired me to change it from the family saga novel into the psychological thriller it is now. And I found my darker side, I guess. I knew I wanted to take the book to a darker level — that was the point. It needed to go somewhere a lot darker and I always had the idea of a finale scene in my head, but I was a bit too scared to go there. I thought, “I’m not a psychological thriller writer – I’m just writing this lovely little family saga!” But I found my dark side and here we are.
AS AN AUTHOR, DO YOU PLAN TO STICK TO THE PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER GENRE OR EXPLORE OTHER AVENUES IN FUTURE?
I think I have so many ideas for books I want to write. I’m about halfway through writing a young adult book at the moment. That’s no particular genre, really; it’s just under the umbrella of young adult fiction. A coming-of-age novel about a teenage girl. I have a three-book deal with Boldwood, so I will be writing two more psychological thrillers for them, one due out for the end of this year, the other next year. As well as The Daughter In Law, which is out in August.
I would love to write an UpLit novel – that’s a very popular genre at the moment. There are so many books out at the moment with dark topics; people are very much interested in reading something a bit more uplifting. Very character-driven and a happy, quirky ending. So I have a few ideas for writing something along those lines.
ALONGSIDE YOUR AUTHOR CAREER, YOU PRESENT A BOOK REVIEW PODCAST. TELL ME HOW THAT STARTED…
Basically, I read so many books all the time, and I’m in a couple of book clubs. But quite often, we will talk about the book for five percent of the time, and then we talk about everything else going on in our lives, and we’d never really make it back to the book. And I would find that a bit frustrating — I wanted to talk about all these great books I was reading. I had only just started getting into podcasts; noticed a few around, listened to a few. A few people had said to me, “I’m doing a podcast.” I thought, “Oh, what’s that? I’m going to look into that!” And I discovered it’s actually quite easy; you just download an app, record it and upload it to any platform.
I put an advert out on Facebook, though I had an idea of who I wanted to co-host it with me anyway. Someone I knew read quite a lot. And as soon as I put the post out, she was the first one to answer it, saying she was really interested. So we got together and bashed out the first episode about a couple of books we had read around Christmas. We were really nervous – our first one is probably terrible!
HAS THE WRITING AND PUBLISHING COMMUNITY GOT INVOLVED WITH THE PODCAST?
Publishers send me lots of books and I can request books from publishers. Mostly we’re reading books that haven’t been published yet or are on the verge of being. We’re reviewing them around the publication date, so our listeners can hear what great fiction is coming out.
We also do a few author interviews. I do those as a sort of conference call on the podcast. Connect to the author on my phone and chat with them. Hopefully as we grow, we’ll do some giveaways. It’s still quite new at the moment, and with my own career as an author as well, I haven’t had as much time to dedicate to it as I would like. But as the podcast grows alongside my writing career, they may help each other out.
DO YOU INTEND TO BRANCH OUT WRITING FICTION FOR OTHER PLATFORMS? SUCH AS THEATRE, TELEVISION OR FILM?
Well, I’ll let you into a little secret. When I wrote The Daughter In Law, in my mind, I always had this vision of it becoming a film. And quite often when I read, I visualise things and imagine it playing out as a scene in a film or a TV drama. So, when I was writing the book, I always had this image that it could be a film as well. I think I would be thrilled if it got picked up. But that’s obviously something for which I have to wait and see.
WHAT IS THE DREAM OR END GOAL FOR YOU?
Just to continue to be a writer and for that to be my job for the rest of my days. It’s all I have ever wanted to do, and to be able to have a career out of it is the goal!