Sunday, May 15, 2016

East Jesus

Chris Manno
Genre: Contemporary Literary Fiction
Publisher: White Bird Publications
Date of Publication: March 8, 2016
Number of Pages: 314
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In the summer of 1969, a small town in west Texas prepares to send one of their finest young men off to fight a faraway, controversial war. A parallel battle of domestic violence erupts at home as a younger generation struggles to reconcile older notions of right and wrong and even fractured family ties with the inevitable price that the fighting demands. 
Much like today's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Vietnam war is little understood by those left behind, but the lessons of strength, commitment and duty are timeless, then and now. East Jesus, the story of that national struggle today as well as back in 1969, is a plangent, soulful journey lived through the eyes of a wide-ranging, colorful array of characters, with a conclusion readers will never forget.
There's more.  "East Jesus," said one editor, "is a message of hope for our children." Too often, teenagers who've survived a young lifetime of domestic violence believe "this is the hell I was born into, this is the hell I must accept for life." East Jesus turns that notion on its ear: though there's a price to pay, there's a better way that rises above the violence.
The novel is peopled by strong characters, particularly women, in a salt-of-the-earth, small town, west Texas community. The price of a far away, unpopular war always comes due in small town America, then (set in 1969) as well as now (Iraq and Afghanistan). But the lesson of hope, sacrifice and redemption is timeless.
To read East Jesus is to live that story, to transcend the fighting at home and abroad, and to embrace the hope and faith in what's right above all else.
Experience East Jesus, live the story--you'll never forget it.


How has being a Texan influenced your writing?
Some of the best writing comes from real experience, which is a practical restatement of the old saw “write what you know.” I know west Texas in particular and Texas in general. Texas is a wide-ranging palette of colors and geography. I think Texas is the perfect setting for a character-driven novel like East Jesus and in fact several readers have cited the setting as an additional character that lives, breathes, grows and changes. That to me is vital for a story that readers don’t just “read,” but in a visceral sense, they live.
Are you a full-time or part-time writer?  How does that affect your writing?
Part time. I teach university English classes part time as well; the rest is spent in the cockpit of a Boeing 737 as an American Airlines captain. That pays the bills.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?
I’ve studied writing my whole life, from my undergrad degree in English to my doctorate from Texas Christian University in rhetoric and literature. Most of my academic research has been in the area of literary theory and criticism and I teach a university writing class today. For that reason, aesthetic fiction in the creation as well as the interpretation has been a natural core for my writing. I admire short fiction the most because I see short fiction as the bridge between poetry and aesthetic narrative. I’ve written and published short fiction, but I’d always planned a longer aesthetic narrative that captures the best intensity of shorter prose. That’s what has driven East Jesus from concept to publication.
Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?
Even as a kid I read voraciously and all through grade school and high school, writing and reading came easily and naturally to me. I decided in college that I needed to major in math so as to be competitive as an Air Force officer striving to get one of the very few pilot slots granted to the very competitive group vying for the assignment. After I flunked college calculus the second time, I came to my senses and declared an English major. I did get into USAF flight school and became an Air Force pilot for seven years. I often think my English degree helped: the Air Force needed engineers and technical major grads, but had no idea what to do with a newly commissioned English major. I think the arrangement worked out just fine.
What kind(s) of writing do you do?
I publish a lot of non-fiction in periodicals such as, Conde-Nast Traveler and Airways Magazine. I also do a regular amount of research and academic writing in my specialty, which is pre-Raphaelite aesthetic criticism. Of course, I’m always working on short stories and have another novel in the works.
What did you find most useful in learning to write?  What was least useful or most destructive?
Reading most useful; proscriptive “teaching”—which I try to avoid—the most destructive.
What was the hardest part of writing this book? 
The characters become real for readers, and so much the more so for me. So the losses that come with an authentic life story are hard to bear, much less write, for lovable characters. But to be a real story, rather than a fairy tale, you have to stand by as a writer, just a parent must, and watch your beloved bear the vicissitudes of life and humanity. As a writer, I find that both difficult and essential.

Chris Manno matriculated from Springfield, Virginia and graduated from VMI in 1977 with a degree in English. He was commissioned in the Air Force and after completing flight training, spent seven years as a squadron pilot in the Pacific at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa and Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. He was hired by American Airlines as a pilot in 1985 and was promoted to captain in 1991. He flies today as a Boeing 737 captain on routes all over North America and the Caribbean. He earned a doctorate in residence at Texas Christian University and currently teaches writing at Texas Wesleyan University in addition to flying a full schedule at American Airlines. He lives in Fort Worth.

Each winner gets an author signed copy of East Jesus PLUS 
a free download of Chris's cartoon book #RudeLateNightCartoons 

  May 10 - May 19, 2016
5/10   Texas Book Lover  – Guest Post #1
5/11   Missus Gonzo  – Review
5/12   Country Girl Bookaholic  – Promo
5/13   Forgotten Winds  -- Review
5/14   StoreyBook Reviews     – Excerpt      
5/15   A Novel Reality            – Author Interview #1     
5/16   Book Chase      – Review      
5/17   All for the Love of the Word     – Guest Post #2     
5/18   My Book Fix Blog – Author Interview #2                                      
5/19   Hall Ways BlogReview

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