Photo courtesy of Jana White.
0614 John Mantooth
Hoover resident John Mantooth was recently nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for his book, “The Year of the Storm.”
John Mantooth, a Hoover resident and Social Studies and English teacher at Calera Middle School, was recently nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for his work in “The Year of the Storm.” The Hoover Sun recently caught up with Mantooth to learn more about his craft, his future projects and his advice for fellow aspiring creative folk.
You already maintain a “busier than most” schedule with the demands of the classroom and family. How did you make time for this project?
I’ve always been the type of person to juggle multiple tasks. Before writing, I was a basketball coach, and before that, I was in a rock band. When I was writing the first draft of “The Year of the Storm,” I was completing one masters (Creative Writing from UAB) and beginning another (Library Science from UA), driving a school bus, teaching full time, and being a dad and husband. As for discipline, I don’t need a lot of it because I genuinely enjoy the process.
Describe your writing process.
I typically begin with a first line or if I’m lucky a first scene. Usually, I have no idea where it’s meant to go beyond that, but I start writing anyway, and try to find my way. This is the hardest part for me--finding my way. I don’t outline or plan very much. I rewrite quite a bit. Sometimes I start over from the very beginning and change everything.
Who are your literary heroes?
Growing up, I read everybody from Agatha Christie to Roald Dahl to Louis L’amour. The turning point came when I started pulling books from my father’s shelf. He had a lot of books by authors like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Robert McCammon, etc. I fell in love with these writers, but didn’t really start to refine my own tastes until my twenties when I discovered writers like Joyce Carol Oates, Pinckney Benedict, and Ray Bradbury. These days, my tastes run dark and literary. Favorites include Tom Franklin, William Gay, Holly Goddard Jones, Nathan Ballingrud, Megan Abbott, and Larry Brown.
Did you ever feel like giving up on the project? How did you regain your writing momentum?
The temptation to give up on a project is something I think most writers face. For me it happens when the project starts becoming difficult, maybe when I’m facing a huge rewrite, or I’ve totally lost my way. Usually, there’s something else that I want to write instead. I’ve learned from experience to just hang in there and tough it out. Because the new project that looks so great will have its own frustrations, and once you let yourself abandon a project it can become an endless cycle of always starting something new and never finishing. Nowadays, when I feel like giving up, I usually take a few days off. It’s always easier to look at it with fresh eyes.
Advice to other aspiring writers?
Stick it out. The only way to guarantee you won’t succeed is to quit. Also, set goals, and start small. Many writers (me included) start out trying to jump straight into writing novels. I think this is a recipe for failure. It was for me. Luckily, I stepped back and decided to try my hand at some short stories and after about five years, I was ready to try a novel again.
One more thing I find helpful to remember is even the best writers are still figuring it out. Nobody has all the answers, and even if he or she did, those answers would not apply to all writers. If your story works, it works. Nothing else really matters.