Wednesday, November 12, 2014

#INTERVIEW and #GIVEAWAY: How to be Manly by Maureen O'Leary Wanket


How To Be Manly
When Fatty Matty Sullivan finds a self-help book by former football great Tad Manly at a yard sale, he secretly starts following the old pro’s advice to get in shape and get the girl. Summer goals: lose the milkshake weight, join the football team, and turn himself into the kind of guy super hot Cassie Bale will love. But between taking care of his grandfather, trying to pass remedial Algebra, and getting caught up in his friend Jester’s half-baked weed-dealing schemes, Matty’s summer isn’t quite the game-changer he’d planned. When on top of it all his dad moves back in with his own plans to get rich quick, Matty suddenly has much bigger things to worry about than football and whether or not Cassie’s going to call him back. And it turns out that there might be more to being manly than he thought. Maureen O’Leary Wanket’s debut is a sharp, comic novel about trying to do the right thing… even when you’re not sure what that is.

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Put How To Be Manly on your TBR list  

Meet the Author:

MOW author pic_cr suzanne swansonMaureen O’Leary Wanket is a writer and teacher living in Sacramento, California with her husband and two daughters. How To Be Manly is inspired by the humor and courage of the students she’s met in her classrooms over the past twenty years. She loves high school football, but only when she happens to teach at least half of the players on the field. Her short stories have appeared in Esopus, Xenith, Fiction at Work, Blood and Thunder, Musings on the Art of Medicine and Prick of the Spindle. Maureen writes articles about issues in education for local and national publications. She also muses about inspirations for a writer’s life in Friday Free Topic at How To Be Manly is her first novel. Find Maureen on: Twitter | Blog | Goodreads


Tell us about the thought process behind your book and what caused you to sit down and write it

The year I wrote How to Be Manly, I was teaching full time in a high school where most of my students were struggling to survive some pretty serious life issues.  I became a fan of the football team because so many of my students were players. They opened my eyes to how brave young people can be, especially in adversity.  

How to Be Manly is in many ways a Recession-era novel.  As a school teacher over two decades, I’ve seen the way young people’s lives and perspectives have changed in hard economic times. I’ve seen many of my students think first of their families before themselves, which is what Matty in How to Be Manly does.  The character of Matty Sullivan isn’t based on one boy, but is a reflection of the courage and capacity for positive change I see in so many boys and girls.  

How to Be Manly is inspired by my students and their coaches.  I had to do something with the admiration I was feeling for the students and adults I was working with at that time. The real world can be a terrifying place for our kids. I wanted to tell the truth of that but to also tell the truth of the resilience and good intentions of the young people trying to navigate it all.  

What is the strangest habit of yours?

My strangest writing habit is that I am addicted to notebooks.  I have a different notebook for every function of my life.  It’s a huge pile.  I have one for new ideas, one for each novel, one for my fitness journal, one for my life goals and dreams, another one for my very serious life goals and dreams, one for my feelings, and one for my speeches. I have a notebook for my graduate school work, one for marketing work, one for submissions. I go through a lot of paper.

I showed my huge pile of notebooks to my writing class this past summer. I was proud of all of my notebooks. It was a great show and tell for me. It got real quiet.  Then one of my students just said what everyone was thinking.  “I think there is something wrong with you,” he said.
If having ten notebooks going at once is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.

What is your favorite book to read?

Don’t even get me started. My favorite books of all time are Sula by Toni Morrison and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I read those for the first time at seventeen and they changed everything about how I saw the world and myself in it. Raymond Carver’s stories were an important early influence for me as well.

I also love White Oleander and Paint it Black by Janet Fitch, Speed of Light by Elizabeth Rosner, The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, Rule of the Bone by Russell Banks, and The Shipping News by Annie Proulx.  I reread those regularly.

For evoking the male voice and experience devoid of sentimentality, I’m a big fan of Jodi Angel’s stories right now.  Steph Post is another one, with A Tree Born Crooked.  I crave real stories about real people and real voices telling them.

On the YA tip, Francesca Lia Block, Melissa Marr, Carrie Ryan, and a new author named Tricia Stirling are some favorites. I’ve also been enjoying indie press YA authors such as T.C. Mckee and Valentina Cano. There are some seriously cool stories getting told in the indie scene these days.  Unusual stories, with wicked and sharp voices.  It’s a cool moment in publishing.

Describe your favorite place to read.

I like reading with my students.  Communal silent reading is my idea of a good time.

Describe your favorite place to write.

I write at home.  I tried writing in a fancy coffee shop but it made me feel self-conscious. I couldn’t stop thinking, here I am, writing in this fancy coffee shop.  Then I worried about how much the fancy coffee cost me. Then I was distracted by the fancy pastries.  

It’s better just to be home, plugging away where nothing is fancy.

Do you have any pets?

I have a cat named Tiger who was born of a feral mother in our backyard.  He’s kind of a narcissist.  Then there are our three chickens: Sunny, Bandit, and Chicken Jane.

Matty’s neighbor’s dog Dirty Harry was inspired by my dog Zeus.  Zeus was my first dog ever, and he died last May.  Zeus was a great dog.  He was fiercely protective of my daughters and me.  I loved him. I’m still kind of mad that he died.  For some reason I really thought he was one of those magical never-dying dogs. Well, spoiler alert, he wasn’t.

Zeus was loyal and protective and cool, just like Dirty Harry is in How to Be Manly. I even mentioned Zeus in the acknowledgments.  He was that awesome.

What is the best thing you have done in your life?

With my husband, I have helped raise two good daughters.  We always put their needs before our own and that approach has worked beautifully for our family. Co-creating a loving and supporting family is the proudest accomplishment of my whole life.

List five adjectives to describe yourself.


I just threw the assignment out to my students, and those were the words they said.

Who is your favorite superhero and why?

Aquaman.  Because damn.  He looks good. Also, I like that telepathy thing he does with the animals.  Cool trick.

It's okay Maureen, if you're crazy for having notebooks, I'm right up there with you....I love a brand new notebook!

The author is giving away a $15 Amazon Gift Card and a paperback. Fill out the form below to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway

1 comment:

  1. Awesome interview and I cannot wait to read this book. How To Be Manly sounds so adorable. And I love the notebooks. I have a ton of them in my office. I even have a filing system. It may look like it was organized by a four year old but it's mine and it works. I must have a place to jot down my randomness. Some things just cannot be done on a computer. I'm glad I am not alone in the notebook universe.