Book Talk: Two Bronx-born Writers Talk ‘Soulless’

Writer.Larry BenjaminTwo Bronx Guys Talk Books, Writing and Soulless

by Larry Benjamin

Last month, Fantasy Works Publishing debuted new adult urban-contemporary fantasy author, Ismael Manzano with the release of Soulless. Ismael Manzano was born and raised in New York City, and has lived his entire life in the Bronx.

The Bronx Chronicle thought it would great if award-winning Bronx-born author, Larry Benjamin, interviewed Mr. Manzano.  Mr. Benjamin agreed. This week Larry chatted with new author Ismael Manzano, whose debut novel, Soulless, will be released on March 8, 2016 by Fantasy Works Publishing.

Larry Benjamin: Because this is the Bronx Chronicle, and I myself am from the Bronx—raised on Tinton Avenue and went to school in Soundview—I have to ask, what’s your Bronx connection?

Ismael Manzano: I’ve lived in the Bronx my entire life. From Fordham Road, to White Plains Road, to Co-op City, to Morris Park.

LB: Your new book is called Soulless. Can you tell us what it’s about?

IM: Soulless is about a woman named Charlotte Furio, who cares for her ailing father until a soul broker buys his soul in exchange for his health. After witnessing this miracle, Charlotte becomes enamored with this new world. She gets pulled deeper into it when she is framed for the murder of one of their leaders, and must prove her innocence while trying to protect her father.

That sounds intriguing. I can’t wait to read it. Tell me, what inspired you to write Soulless?

The original idea for Soulless evolved over time, but originally it was inspired by an old Alfred Hitchcock episode—based on a short story of the same name—I saw called “The Monkey’s Paw.” I was fascinated by the idea of being granted wishes that backfired on the user. I ended up moving on from wish granting, to soul buying because I wanted to write a story that took an established norm and showed it in a new light.

Ismael Manzano_lastcover1Soulless is classified as Adult Contemporary Fantasy. Can you describe what that genre is for those of us who may not be familiar with it?

Basically, Adult Contemporary Fantasy is a story with a magical element that takes place during modern times, and has a modern setting, such as a city.

What draws you to write the Adult Contemporary Fantasy genre?

Surprisingly, this is my first attempt at writing in this genre. My writing has predominantly been variations of the High Fantasy genre. Over the years, however, I started reading more Adult Contemporary Fantasy books such as Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files and Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld series. I had this germ of an idea about soul buying that I couldn’t fit into any of the High Fantasy stories I had been working on, so I decided to branch out and try another genre.

What sets Soulless apart from other books in the Adult Contemporary Fantasy genre?

I think what sets the book apart is the subject matter. I’ve read Adult Contemporary Fantasy books involving witches, magicians, werewolves, vampires, and even angels and demons. In Soulless, the main character is not magically endowed in any way. She is a normal woman, using the new world she was introduced to as a means of bringing her family together.

Like most of us, I know you’ve done other things, had other jobs. What inspired you to become a writer?

C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. I got so lost in that world I wanted to create something that someone else could read and get lost in.

What is your writing process?

My writing process varies. Usually I get an idea and for something, and I brainstorm it multiple times until I come up with a workable outline. Then I reread the outline multiple times, until I feel confident that I’ve worked out any plot holes and nailed down all the character motivations. I always find more as I write, but I can’t start writing unless I believe I’ve worked out all the bumps along the road first.

Where do you write?

I write everywhere. With a young son at home, I learned to write wherever and whenever I find a quiet moment–and even some not so quiet moments.

How long did it take you to write Soulless?

Start to finish, Soulless took me about a year to write. That’s from the concept to the final word, but I’ve written other manuscripts in half that time.

I know there are a lot of aspiring writers out there. What was the hardest lesson you learned on your journey to becoming a published author? Or what advice would you give those aspiring writers?

My advice and my lesson are the same: Leave your ego at the door.

Finish this sentence: “In 10 years I…”

I hope to be a household name, and to get over my stage fright.

What’s next for you?

Next I’m going to continue working on Book Two in the Soul Broker series. After that, I hope to revamp an old high fantasy novel I’ve been tinkering with for some time.

Ismael, it’s been a pleasure chatting with you and I’m looking forward to the release of Soulless. But before we go, can you tell us where readers can find you online?

There’s my blog, I’m also on Twitter @ismaelmanzano76, and Facebook page, And My Fantasy Works Publishing website:


Bronx-born wordsmith and award-winning author, Larry Benjamin considers himself less a writer than an artist whose chosen medium is the written word rather than clay or paint or bronze. His passion is words. Larry’s new novella, Vampire Rising, is set to be released Summer 2015.

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