Author Interview with Christopher Mannino

Author Interview

Q. For people who haven’t read your story tell a bit about this world in ‘School of Deaths’?

 The World of Deaths is a place where Deaths live. Young Deaths, who reap souls and transport them to the Hereafter, train at the College of Deaths, which is an elaborate maze of canyons and stone stretching beneath two enormous stone towers. East and West Tower are each a hundred stories high (similar to the Empire State Building), and look like giant stalagtites. The world isn't an underworld, but more of a staging area. Deaths are alive, and are one of three races inhabiting the world. When Susan Sarnio arrives, she's the first female Death in a million years, and the last female Death was viewed as a traitor to Deaths, betraying them against the Deaths' rivals the Dragons. As the series progresses, Susan re-shapes her role in the world, as well as the world in general, and redefines the purpose of the World of Deaths.

Q. How would you describe Suzie Sarnio?

 Susan is a 13-year-old who just wants to fit in. However, she begins to drastically lose weight despite eating properly, and the doctors are baffled. She soon learns that she's actually being pulled to the World of Deaths, and must become a Death, learning to reap souls. She faces serious sexism and bullying, but it never deters her. Susan grows up over the course of the trilogy, and is exceptionally strong-willed. Her determination is admirable, and causes the entire world to shift.

Q. Is there a message you would like your readers to take away from your books?

The book deals with issues of sexism, racism, bullying, and overcoming feeling "different" in any way. However, the biggest message I hoped to impart was about believing in yourself. Susan sets her own course, and takes charge of events. She doesn't let anything stand in her way. I think everyone should endeavor to be that self-assured.

Q. Tell us about the College of Deaths?

Boys are taken from the Mortal World (our world), and forced to spend a year training to reap souls. At the end of the year, they're given a test, and if they pass they can return home with no memory of where they've been. If they fail, they must remain a Death forever. With this system, the youngest Deaths are 12 to 14. For six or seven years (depending on rate of progress), children train to become Deaths. Each year they reap more and more souls, moving from reaping in groups to individual reapings. When they graduate, they change their name and either become a certified Death, reaping for a living, or go into another profession in the World of Deaths. One of the main ways Deaths are evaluated is through boskery, which is a sport, but also a means to test reaping skills. Four teams compete at once, with double-scythes. Another means is through a Reapery, which is a contest to determine problem solving skills while reaping.

Q. Is ‘The Scythe Wielder's Secret’ the only books you’ve written/published?

Yes, for the moment however I've already started my next book, which is an adult science fiction thriller.

Q. Who did the process of your covers come about?

My publisher, Muse It Up, found a publisher, in my case a young woman in Germany. I shared my ideas about the cover, and described the books to her. Each covere took several drafts before I approved it.

Q. How did you developed the idea for this story?

In 2011, while studying abroad at Oxford, I took a trip to Tintagel Castle in Cornwall, which is the supposed birthplace of King Arthur. I became stranded there, and after a sleepless night above a pub, I decided to set out before dawn. I walked to Barras Nose, a peninsula of stone next to Tintagel, on sheer cliffs overlooking the ocean. In the dark, I crawled out to the edge of the prmonotory, fighting fierce winds that blew from every direction. I was alone, attacked by winds, completely isolated, with no one else in sight. I envisioned a character completely alone, attacked from every direction, who managed to find the situation invigorating.

Q. Do you have any tips for people who want to write their own books?

 Never give up, and just keep working at it.

Q. How do you overcome writers block?

 I don't believe writer's block exists. I write when I can, and work over 10 hours a day during the school year. I have to start and stop at the strangest, most inconvenient times, and yet never seem to slow down creatively, as long as I keep writing.

Q. Where and how are the best way for readers to talk to you about your book/s?

Shoot a message through Goodreads, Facebook, or Twitter. I also appear at many conventions, a list of which can be found on my site.


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