Welcome, Victoria. What is your book about?
The Perfect Nightmare is about insanity – not the ‘padded room with a straight jacket’ insanity, but the kind that creeps slowly into your mind over time, and darkens your thoughts as well as the world around you. More so than insanity, this book (the first of three) is about Chaos taking over the world – that’s right, the chaotic forces in the universe take over Earth. Good times.
How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?
I started writing it when the idea slithered into my imagination over 6 years ago. However, only recently (this past November during NaNoWriMo) did I actually finish it and didn’t want to rewrite it for a fourth time.
What inspired you to write this particular story?
My own dark mind, honestly. I was 15 when I started this story, and I was dealing with the foster care system in California, my mother who was certifiably insane, and being a teenager. I felt abandoned, so I created a character that also felt abandoned. I was angry, hurt, and more over, I was starting to see and hear things – so, I made the character have these traits. She turned into something different when I started writing, but she (Nightmare) definitely came out of the two years I was not quite all there mentally.
How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?
More than a little, haha. I’d say that each character carries a part of me in them, a part of my life. I can’t think of a writer who doesn’t put at least a single thing in their characters that is from their experiences or just themselves.
Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?
Well, there are 5 main characters in the book – Jack and Charlie, Nightmare, Troy and Elena. I really can’t choose my favorite. They all have their merit, and they all have a special place in my heart. I guess, if forced to choose, I’d say Nightmare; not because she was the first character created, or because she has the most of me in her (because a lot of what is within that character is now no longer within me). It is because of her life – her parents hated her (which is where her name comes from, she was such a nightmare), no one at school would be her friend, her teachers thought that she was a scary little girl, and so on. She had a sad childhood – the only person who understood her passed away, and she was blamed for it. I understand why Nightmare let the house into her mind the way she did – anything to escape the reality where she was useless. She is a sad character, but I believe for all her maniacal glory, Nightmare is my favorite.
How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?
Depends on the story – the current book I am working on is taking so much outlining and research that it is crazy! I have never written a high fantasy story, so this is a completely new topic. However, because it is a challenge, I am having so much fun with it. However, The Perfect Nightmare was a single concept – a character in a house that has hallways to nowhere and she must feed the house death ß that was the very first concept for the story. So, I started writing with just that concept in mind. That is usually how I do it – no outlining, little research unless necessary.
Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)
For The Perfect Nightmare I had to do some research. I had to develop magic for each character, which took a bit of research on what types of magic were already out there, as well as for the one non-magic character, I had to research ways for him to kill. That was a hard one, because I was terrified the FBI or something was going to knock on my door – I was researching some pretty intense chemicals and poisons, haha. All of my research is done online because it is the most convenient and readily available research tool for me to use.
How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
I took different parts of insanity and divided them up, sort of… Haha, I can’t really explain it. Jack and Charlie are two halves that make a whole; their insanity and their powers compliment each other, and writing their interactions was difficult. You see more of their relationship in the second part of the first book. We already talked a lot on Nightmare, and I am afraid if I say more, it will spoil it all. Troy is the most human of them all, and that was his differentiation – he has no powers, and even begins to regret everything he did for the house, and for Nightmare; he was a necessary human element to the story. And Elena, the final character introduced in this book – she is Nightmare’s complete opposite, and that was how she was developed. I took Nightmare and more or less reversed her, and added some other things to make Elena a little more believable (but again, I don’t want to spoil it!)
How (or when) do you decide that you are finished writing a story?
It’s just a feeling I get. During NaNoWriMo, I tried so hard to force 50k out of my mind, but at about 41k I was done, and I knew it. The book had detailed all it could without being overly descriptive of the characters and the setting. It’s just a feeling.
What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?
I don’t really know. I didn’t start writing it to get it published, I wrote it because I needed an outlet for my own insanity at the time. The concept has changed so drastically over the past 6 years that I can’t adequately say what I want readers to take from it. You don’t get the gist of the whole story from the first book – it’s just death and darkness and some magic thrown in. In the end, when all three books are out, I want people to read them and see that history really does repeat itself, because that is one of the main themes of the whole story.
Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?
Don’t walk into a dark doorway that wasn’t there before… haha. Not really a message, aside from history repeating itself. I will probably have another answer for this question once the second and third books are done and published, because this first book is mindless insanity really.
What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?
When I was crazy, it helped get everything out, it helped me balance – but as I finished writing it in 2011, after having gotten my issues under control, I started seeing and hearing things again. Though this time it was more having to do with my story. I have a very vivid imagination, and my characters often come to life for me… and not just my human characters. I was scared of the dark again, hearing creepy sounds in the apartment… you know, scary stuff. It was probably because this story holds more terror for me than it will for most other people.
Do you think writing this book changed your life? How so?
Of course! I finally finished something, which is hard for me to do, which made me feel accomplished. I got out my insanity, which helped me feel more balanced. While working on this book, I had two amazing miracles happen – I have two wonderful and beautiful children (probably not because of the book, but hey, it happened during writing it). I’ve lost friends, made friends, and have started a family, all while writing this book.
How has your background influenced your writing?
Dark, depressing, brooding and insane is how I describe a lot of my earlier work, though I would describe it all as fantasy. As a kid, I wanted nothing more than to be someone else – not your average “Let’s play dress up!” kid, but the “I don’t want to go home, why can’t I be Sailor Moon” kid. It sounds harsh, and I don’t fault my parents for raising me the way they did, but I always wanted to be someone that I wasn’t. This is why all of my stories have the fantasy element in them – in fantasy, I can create worlds and live in them with my characters, and not be scared. Haha.
Do you have any rituals that you follow before sitting down to write?
COFFEE. ^__^ And always have a cigarette on hand – I don’t smoke inside, but man a cigarette is nice after pounding out 1k.
Where can readers learn more about you?
Writing Blog: http://victoriamanning.wordpress.com/
Facebook Fanpage: https://www.facebook.com/VAM.writer.photo