Meet Steve Manchaester:
After returning home from a difficult tour of duty in Operation Desert Storm in 1991, I stepped back behind the walls of a Massachusetts penitentiary where I battled each day as a prison investigator. Needless to say, there was great negativity in my life at that time, and very little opportunity to heal from my wartime demons (or pursue my dreams of being published). I finally decided to return to college to finish my degree in Criminal Justice. During one of the classes, my professor, Barry McKee, detailed police work, but barely touched on other topics. I finally raised his hand and asked, “As the criminal justice system is so vast, what about the courts, probation, parole – corrections?” Barry smiled and told me to see him after class. I thought I’d done it! In his office, Barry explained, “Except from the slanted perspectives of inmates, there’s no real written material out there on corrections, or prisons.” Barry smiled again and then dropped the bomb that would change my life forever. “If you’re so smart,” he said, “why don’t you write it?” It was the last push I needed to get writing. Nine months later, I placed the first draft of 6-5; A Different Shade of Blue (under the pen name, Steven Herberts) on Barry’s desk. From then on, I was hooked. I was a writer.
Today, 25 years later, I am the author of four #1 national bestsellers: Twelve Months, The Rockin’ Chair, Pressed Pennies and Gooseberry Island. My long-anticipated, critically-acclaimed novel, The Changing Season, has just been released. I’m also the author of the award-winning novel, Goodnight, Brian, while my work has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning and BET’s Nightly News. Three of my short stories were selected “101 Best” for Chicken Soup for the Soul series and I’m the produced playwright of Three Shoeboxes.
When not spending time with my beautiful wife, Paula, or our four children, I’m either promoting my works or writing..
Stop by tomorrow to learn more about Steve’s latest novel: Ashes
Who would you most (or least) like to trapped in a car with for a cross country trip?
This is an appropriate question, given that ASHES is a story about a cross-country trip with two estranged brothers and the ashes of the cruel, deceased father. If I bring someone back from the dead and travel cross country, I’d pick my grandfather. I still have a lot of questions to ask and even more to share with him about the things I learned along my journey. If I had to choose among the living, I’d actually pick Stephen King. I am very much a student of my writing craft and I believe I could learn more from him than anyone. Not to mention—it would be an incredible experience to witness his perspective and the ordinary things that inspire extraordinary writing.
What made you jump from a reliable career in criminal justice to the totally unpredictable life of a writer?
When I was a kid, I hated bullies—and that never changed. Fortunately, I grew big and brazen enough to be able to make a career out of standing up for people who couldn’t stand up for themselves. It was the perfect path for me—until I served in the first Gulf War and experienced things that changed my life and perspective of the world.
After returning home from Operation Desert Storm, I was working as a prison investigator in Massachusetts. Needless to say, there was great negativity in my life at that time. I decided to return to college to finish my degree in Criminal Justice. During one of the classes, the professor talked about police work but nothing else. I finally raised my hand and asked, “The criminal justice system is vast. What about the courts, probation, parole – corrections?” He smiled and told me to see him after class. I thought I’d finally done it! In his office, he explained, “There’s no written material out there on corrections or prisons, except from the slanted perspective of inmates.” He smiled again and dropped the bomb. “If you’re so smart,” he said, “why don’t you write it?” Nine months later, I dropped the first draft of 6-5; A Different Shade of Blue on his desk. From then on, I was hooked. I was a writer.
Why do you choose to write the books you write? From your author photo (and your life before becoming a writer) I would have guessed you were a “P.I. with a heart of gold” kind of writer but I couldn’t have been more wrong!
Great question! I started my career writing books about prison (through the eyes of an officer), as well as experiencing desert warfare (through the eyes of a soldier). Once I exhausted my knowledge of these areas, I still wanted to write—I needed to.
I’ve always believed that good writers make people think while great writers make their readers feel. I’ve always aimed for the heart. If my work does not connect me to other humans and move them emotionally (confirming that none of us is ever alone), then the time and effort to do the writing just isn’t worth my time.
After all I’ve experienced, I’m most comfortable writing heartfelt stories—which sometimes surprises even me.