Meet the very cool Christopher Mannino


I'm delighted to have Christopher with me today. I was introduced to him recently when he sent his book trailer in to feature on my YA Trailer Park. I was so taken with the trailer (scroll down to see it) that I invited him here for an interview...

Can you tell us a little about your latest book? 
School of Deaths, a novel recently released by MuseItUp Publishing, is the tale of thirteen-year-old Suzie Sarnio. Forced to become the first female Death (or Grim Reaper), Suzie is alone in a world where all the Deaths are men. Her schoolmates and teachers bully and harass her. In the School of Deaths, she finds herself training to bring souls from the Living World to the Hereafter. Attacked by both classmates and strangers, Suzie is alone in a world where even her teachers want her to fail. The novel is a Young Adult Fantasy, but also contains many aspects of mystery, as Suzie tries to discover why she’s been brought to the School of Deaths, the first female Death in a million years.

What inspired you to write it? 

In fall of 2012, I was stranded on a cliff in Cornwall. As part of a semester at Oxford, I decided to journey to a new place at least once a week. On one such trip, I visited Tintagel Castle, the supposed birthplace of King Arthur. The trip took eight hours by train and bus, and I miscalculated the infrequency of return trips. I walked to the Visitor’s Center, only to find it closed, along with the local hostel. I went pub to pub, asking for a room to sleep in for the night.
Before dawn the following morning, having received no sleep at all above a loud, crowded bar, I climbed to Barras Nose, a rocky peninsula overlooking the ruins of Tintagel. No other people were in sight, as I clung to the cliff face, trying not to get blown into the North Sea. Winds assailed me from every direction, and I was completely alone, yet unafraid. I pictured an isolated character, being attacked from every direction; a girl completely alone in a world of men, buffeted by sexism. Once I got back to Oxford, I started to write.

How did you come up with the idea for the cover? 
My cover designer was Anna Spies of Celairen Art, in Bamberg, Germany. My publisher put me in touch with her and I told her I wanted an image of a girl with a scythe. The first six drafts of the cover were not what I wanted, but in the end, she got it perfect.

If it was made into a movie, who would you like to play the main characters? 

photo credit: GabboT via photopin cc
No real preferences for most of the characters- though I’d like Sindril, the head of the college, and someone with a booming base voice, to be played by Christopher Lee. I’d also love to see Hann, one of her chief teachers, played by Benedict Cumberbatch. 

What is it about this genre that appeals to you so much? 
I grew up reading fantasy. For a period, when I was in elementary and middle school, I didn’t really have any friends. For a long time, I’d escape into fantasy worlds, dreaming of far-off places and epic quests. I loved the idea of magic and adventures. As I read more, I realized that fantasy allows for a breadth of imagination not seen in many other genres. I worked in Borders during the release of the Harry Potter novels, and was amazed at how powerful reading could become. Although I started writing YA Fantasy, eventually I’d like to write in other genres including historical fiction.

What made you want to become an author?
I’ve actually wanted to write for a long time. In seventh grade, we were given an assignment to read “three” books and then write a story based on the style of one of the authors. Most of the class picked books like “The Cat in the Hat.” My “three” books were The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, the four books of Evangeline Walton’s retelling of the Welsh myth The Mabinogion and part of Robert Holdstock’s Mythago Wood series. Yes, I was a nerd and overachiever. I then wrote a story based on Tolkien’s style, about the Entwives. I think the story was the first time I’d ever tried to write creatively. While I’m sure if I was to read it now, I’d think it was awful, the story helped encourage me to write.

How do you come up with character names? 
The first novel I wrote (which I shelved, and might return to someday) I spent hours and hours agonizing upon perfect names with deep meanings. For this novel, I honestly just picked as I went.

Name one of your all-time favourite books?
I have far too many. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Rowling’s Harry Potter, Adams’ Hitchikers’ Guide to the Galaxy and Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth are probably my all-time favorites. The most recent book I read and absolutely loved was Brian Selznick’s Wonderstruck.
Awesome choices... Pillars of the Earth is one of my favourites too!  

Who, or what, inspires you? 
Travel is a big one. As I was writing School of Deaths I was experiencing new places that filled me with wonder. Now that I’m a bit settled, teens inspire me. I teach high school theatre, and am surrounded by kids about to set off on their own careers and lives. Many tell me about their dreams and ambitions, and I find their enthusiasm to be absolutely inspiring. My other chief source of inspiration is my beautiful new wife, who I married three weeks ago.
Oh Wow... congratulations!

Where is your favourite place to write? 

If the weather’s good, anywhere outside with no internet access. I use the net just like all, but find it a huge distraction when working on a book. Unfortunately, living by Washington, DC, the summers (when I’m most free to write) are awful, so usually I write indoors.

What is your favourite movie that was based on a book? 
A tie between Stardust, Howl’s Moving Castle, and The Princess Bride. Those three are also three of my all-time favorite movies, books or not. I’ll also add Peter Jackson’s adaptations of The Lord of the Rings movies. I loved his movies, and got to experience them in a special way. I was part of a 200-person chorus that performed all of Howard Shore’s soundtrack to a showing of the movies at Wolf Trap Park for the Performing Arts- a massive outdoor theatre just outside Washington DC. The films were shown (one per year) on a screen, with all of the music removed. A full orchestra performed the music and sound effects, a 50-person children’s choir sang, and I was in the adult choir, singing in Elvish for the entire movie. It was wonderful. 
That is amazing!

If you could have a dinner party with any authors from any time in history, who would you choose and why? 
Shakespeare- definitely, still one of the greatest authors ever, and of course I’m a theatre person as well.

Tell us a random fact about yourself. 

I love to sing, and even sang to my wife as part of our wedding ceremony.

Tell us an interesting fact about where you live. 

Washington DC is a city where nothing happens politically. Ever. Yes, that’s cynicism.

What are your (writing) plans for the future? 
I am currently working on a sequel to School of Deaths called Sword of Deaths. I have many other books planned out, including other YA books, an adult Sci-Fi novel, and several historical fiction novels. I also wish to write more plays, and perhaps a musical someday. I have written one full-length play so far, which premiered at a local high school (not the one I teach at) in 2012.

Tell us one thing that's on your bucket list. 
Travel the world. I’ve traveled more than some, and less than others, but want to travel so much more!

Favourite myth / fairytale?
The Welsh Mabinogion, especially the Lady Guest translation, is one of my favorite myth cycles. I also always enjoyed stories about Loki from Norse Mythology and Coyote from Native American traditions.

How did you make your amazing book trailer?

I’ve been involved with stage theatre for over 25 years. I teach theatre full-time, and have been active in everything from playwriting to directing, designing to lighting, and so on. I’ve acted and performed since I was a young child. It’s amazing that given this background, I’d never done a thing with film. I approached one of my students named Montana, a senior who had filmed trailers for several of our shows, and asked for his help. I ended up hiring Montana to film the trailer. I wrote the script myself, and cast several of my students who resembled the characters in my book. We went to a forest and spent three and half hours filming, including some time by a green screen at Montana’s house. Then it took him another three months to edit. He’d send snippets to me, such as music, or screenshots, and we’d discuss changes. I was happy to premiere the book trailer at my book launch party, on Friday the 13th of June. There is now a contest running. If anyone shares the video at least five times, they could win a twenty dollar gift card. Details can be found at

Author Bio
Christopher Mannino’s life is best described as an unending creative outlet. He teaches high school theatre in Greenbelt, Maryland. In addition to his daily drama classes, he runs several after-school performance/production drama groups. He spends his summers writing and singing. Mannino holds a Master of Arts in Theatre Education from Catholic University, and has studied mythology and literature both in America and at Oxford University. His work with young people helped inspire him to write young adult fantasy, although it was his love of reading that truly brought his writing to life.
author site
Excerpt (chapter one)
Barnes and Noble
MuseItUp Publishing

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