Interview with Leslie Tall Manning

Published 2022-05-22.
What are you working on next?
I just wrapped up a stageplay version of my YA novel, Upside Down in a Laura Ingalls Town; getting ready to edit an Appalachian adult novel that I wrote a few years ago; and my agent is currently shopping an adult Bildungsroman. (A bildungsroman is a coming-of-age novel that takes place over many years.) : )
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I spend my evenings as a writing specialist/tutor and study skills expert, helping kids of all ages feel more confident in everything they do.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I do not remember the first story, as I was more of an oral story teller as a child, and a great admirer of playing "house."
But I do remember my first poem, written at age 10. It made it into the Minipage in the local paper! Here are the first few lines:
"One dark and stormy night I was woken by a wasn't a very creepy noise, and it wasn't a great big pound.
It was a kind of whistling noise outside there in the dark...maybe it was a robin, or perhaps a meadowlark..."
Ugh. I think you know where this is going...think wind...
What is your writing process?
As soon as one novel is nearing final edit, the next one starts making its way into my head. For months I will research the topic, then prior to writing, for a few weeks I will mull over scenes, writing notes on Post-its, only a fraction of which will ever make it to the page. By the time I start a book, I have the beginning and the end, and a few scenes in the middle. The rest comes together when I sit down to write, when the characters take over, until about a year later, when I begin the awesome process of editing. I write four days a week, two to three hours a day without fail, unless I am in between books. (I take weekends off to spend time being a real person.) A year or two later, once the book is complete, I send to my literary agent for review, who calls me with gobs of notes. We go back and forth a few times, then when we are both happy with the changes, he begins to shop to the large pub houses. It really is a long process. Writers know that time is a relative term in this industry.
How do you approach cover design?
I am so lucky! My husband is a designer and fine artist. We will brainstorm over morning coffee for weeks, drawing out ideas on note paper. After a while, one begins to stick. If I still love the final choice after a week or so, then that is the winner. He keeps me in line, as sometimes I try to be too clever with my covers. Having someone to bounce off of is invaluable. And yes, I read him every word of every book so he has a sense of what the cover should look like. He's a great listener!
What do you read for pleasure?
LOL. I read such a variety! As an English tutor, I have to read every single thing my kids read, so that could be anything from Shakespeare, to biography, to a war story, to Middle Eastern literature. Not always easy, as I only read before bed each night for about 30 minutes. Lately I've been getting into some speculative fiction. I can honestly say I do not have a penchant for any particular genre. Which is probably why I do not write in any particular genre. I am genre-less! (Or genre-full?)
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
So...after a year of marketing my first adult fiction book, followed by my second, a Young Adult novel, and now on to my third, also an Adult, I am starting to see what works and what does not. Firstly, no one will find a new author on their own these days. There's no way around it. If the author does not have a traditional publisher to back them up, a marketing team, or a gob of money lying around to pay her while she writes, then she has to take things into her own hands. That said, it takes SOOOOO much time and energy to market each book. As a writer, this can be quite daunting, taking time away from what I love most: writing. I have lately begun to use Dr. Phil's famous line as my mantra: "'s that working for you?" There are a lot of ways to get books to readers, but I have enjoyed dealing with libraries and schools, which are incredibly open to my work. For the next three YA's, my goal is to get them into the schools. As an educator, this is sort of a no-brainer for me! But if you are a writer, don't necessarily do what I do. You have your own type of book, your own audience, and your own path. Just try to narrow down who your REAL audience is, and somehow try to target them.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
After writing fourteen books (and five plays and one musical) over the course of 20 years, landing an awesome literary agent, submitting my works to top publishing houses, making numerous times to acquisitions (also referred to as the coveted "round table"), and seeing some of my writer friends take the plunge, I decided to jump on the indie pub bandwagon. My agent is very supportive of my decision to self-pub whatever books he does not sell. Do I still want to publish traditionally? Absotively. It has always been my dream. But with the way things are changing so rapidly in the publishing industry, I feel compelled to meet technology head-on. I'd rather have ten readers than none. Having books collecting cyber dust does not make me happy.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
My greatest joy of writing is when I've written the last sentence. Then I cry. With joy, of course!
What do your fans mean to you?
I don't really want to think of my readers as fans, but rather as friends. I love awakening others' senses through story telling and always have. My readers and I share intimate feelings, since I create a stimulus, and they respond to this stimulus. It is a symbiotic relationship. We are in this together. One could not be possible without the other. : )
Where can I find a video interview with you?
I was lucky enough to be interviewed for a LIVE morning show on a local network. To see the interview, click on the link below, and then forward to 30:30.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I inhaled every Disney record, as they came with books to help me follow along. Highlight of my childhood. Pinocchio, Dumbo, Sleeping Beauty, and so on. I was mesmerized by these stories. I would sit at the top of my basement steps--the record player was in the kitchen--and listen over and over again. I had them all memorized by the time I was five.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Western Maryland in a tiny cow town. Corn, rolling hills, four equal seasons, lots of cattle and forest. As a young person, I couldn't wait to get out. But as an adult, I remember my childhood fondly. I am able to put those long country summer days into my writing, as well as the things country kids do to spend time. Like play hide and seek in the woods. Climb trees. Wade in streams. Sheer sheep. Milk cows. Ride a tractor. As the saying goes, you can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl. I love that I am influenced by that time of my life.
Who are your favorite authors?
Ray Bradbury.
Toni Morrison.
Mitch Albom.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Coffee. And my husband.
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Books by This Author

Rules of Falling
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 70,420. Language: English. Published: May 21, 2022. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Thriller & Suspense, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Drama
A seventeen-year-old chromic fainter and odd-girl out must expose a deadly arsonist in her small town while dealing with her best friend's illicit affair.
Knock on Wood
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 120,310. Language: English. Published: November 15, 2019. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary, Fiction » Fantasy » General
A brain-damaged hero. An unrequited love. A lottery windfall. A jealous brother. A memory hidden just below the surface… Sharp contrasts of sunshiny music and life's dark periphery are delicately mingled in this extraordinary tale, putting a new twist on the age-old question: Is it possible to find the way home again when one's memory is nothing more than a blank slate?
I am Elephant, I am Butterfly
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 78,240. Language: English. Published: December 1, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Social Issues
When sixteen-year-old Simone Wheeler is accepted into the elite Camp Kamama—a place of self-discovery for the morbidly obese—she unearths a diary belonging to a beautiful girl from the despised Camp Felina across the lake. But Phoebe the Felina has done more than scribble words in a journal: she has carved a cryptic path that Simone will be compelled to follow—no matter what the consequences.
Maggie's Dream
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 83,280. Language: English. Published: September 16, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Historical, Fiction » Visionary & metaphysical
The line between dream and wake becomes blurred when a post-WWII "Rosie" falls into the magical world of her subconscious mind. Maggie's Dream, a cross between historical fiction and magical realism, is an adult fairy tale that will entertain readers of Alice Hoffman and Eowyn Ivey.
Upside Down in a Laura Ingalls Town
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 89,620. Language: English. Published: August 8, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Historical, Fiction » Coming of age
An out-of-control sixteen-year-old finds her life turned upside down when her father signs the family up for reality show. The time: 1861. The place: The North Carolina backcountry. For four months, Brooke Decker must leave behind the modern frills she can’t live without. But can a young girl’s wishful heart surrender to a time and place she believes she can never call home?
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 88,270. Language: English. Published: May 20, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Women's fiction » Chick lit, Fiction » Romance » Contemporary
Released from a stagnant marriage, forty-five-but-looks-thirty Monica Reese Taylor, freelance writer for Home & Goddess Magazine, goes undercover as a groupie to follow a comeback rock band. Main goal: to stealthily land an interview with the lead guitarist--a hot musician whose poster she kissed every night as a teenager--without exposing her true identity.