What I love most since starting Literary Wealth is the discovery that that is such a broad range, should I say wealth, of different types of literature out there. Literary Wealth has been live for less than two weeks and so far, we (me, too!) have met authors ranging from comedy with Cindy McDonald to children’s literature with Robert W. Sweeting to romance with Jessica Lauryn and now to Marie-Anne Mancio’s historical fiction: Whorticulture.
Marie-Anne Mancio trained as an artist in performative practice at Manchester Metropolitan University prior to undertaking her D. Phil in contemporary live art practice and a subsequent M.Phil in Creative Writing at Glasgow University for which she was awarded a Distinction.
Her art practice is primarily text based and recent works include Pocket Bible (2011) created for New York artist duo Praxis & James Franco’s Museum of Non-Visible Art (MONA) and An A-Z of The Ting: Theatre of Mistakes (2009), a set of 16 e-books based on this 1970s performance collective’s private archive and from original research conducted by herself and curator Jason E Bowman. She is also a freelance lecturer in critical theory and art history.
I hope you are as thrilled as I on this ride. Let’s meet Marie-Anne Mancio.
Welcome, Marie-Anne, to Literary Wealth, the blog to find those undiscovered jewels of literature! Would you tell us a little about yourself?
I trained as an artist, specializing in performance art, and have been an art history lecturer for many years. I’ve also been a writer/artist in residence for a few organizations so my work is mostly text based now. I don’t really distinguish between writing fiction or non-fiction, making an art work or a novel, so I use Hotel Alphabet as an umbrella term for my various activities.
A lot of people are on Twitter these days, so can you describe Whorticulture for us in 140 characters or less (which is the size of a tweet)?
Four migrant women in antebellum America: the compromises they make, the lies they tell, and the crimes they commit to survive.
When did you begin writing Whorticulture? What inspired this book and how much research was involved in writing it?
I started writing a version of Whorticulture for an MPhil in Creative Writing at Glasgow University back in 2006. I’d read a snippet about a brothel madam in New Orleans who killed three husbands and escaped conviction and this got me thinking about this period and what it meant to be a woman then. I did a lot of research, I read slave narratives, Gold Rush diaries, flower dictionaries, passenger lists, historical fiction, non-fiction like Catherine Clinton’s The Plantation Mistress…
My wonderful agent Lesley Thorne at Aitken Alexander Associates was a huge help in editing Whorticulture and sent it to a few of the major presses. Despite some very encouraging responses, no-one bit. I intended to redraft before trying the smaller presses but at that stage I don’t think we knew what to do with the book so I put it in a drawer and got on with other projects.
I had moved to Thailand, back to London then Thailand, got married, back to Europe… but all the time the story was nagging at me. So, about a year ago, I revisited it and I suddenly saw the book it was supposed to be.
What or who made the biggest influence on you wanting to become a writer?
My family and latterly artist and author Peter Stickland (http://www.77books.co.uk/) who made me realize writing a novel is like making any other kind of art work: it’s great to have critical input but ultimately you have to make the kind of work you want to see/read and have the courage of your convictions.
What was the first book you ever wrote and was it ever published?
I was about fourteen, I think, when I started writing a novel about a lunatic asylum! I have no idea why or what happened to it.
Do you have any writing habits that people might find unusual?
It’s probably not unusual but I’m a terrible snacker! I like to have a big pot of tea at hand and something to nibble on.
Do you have a favorite character or one that is especially close to your heart?
I love all the women in Whorticulture but Seraphine especially because she was fun to write. Though one of the book’s themes is prostitution, she’s the only one of the four protagonists who is a professional whore and it was a challenge to make her likeable without glossing over the less admirable traits in her character. There are so many clichés – the tart with the heart, the abused victim, the consumptive tart etc. – that it was important to me to create a fully rounded being and to celebrate her resourcefulness.
Of the male characters, Jerome Seften. I’m fascinated by how we can reinvent ourselves and he is a master of that.
What is the best gift you have ever received, do you still have it and who gave it to you?
I’ve received some lovely gifts, many from artists and writers of their own work, and kept them all.
What is something that you have always wanted to do, but just haven’t gotten around to it yet?
I keep saying I want to run the New York Marathon. If you’re going to run one of those things I think you need to have some pretty stunning surroundings to distract yourself from the pain and I can’t think of another city I enjoy being in as much.
If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three things would you hope to find in your suitcase?
I am hopeless at anything practical – cooking, DIY – so my chances of survival would be slim. I may as well hope for a pair of sunglasses, a bottle of Badoit, and my Kindle.
What is your all-time favorite book?
So hard to choose but I keep coming back to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. There’s not an unnecessary word in it and the prose is so lyrical, the characters nuanced. It’s surprisingly short and it reminded me when I was re-writing Whorticulture that less can sometimes be more.
Other than yourself, who is your favorite author?
Jeanette Winterson is one. Gut Symmetries is another favorite book. She does such beautiful, unexpected things with language.
If a TV show was based on your life, what type of TV show would it be (i.e., comedy, drama, suspense, etc.) who would you choose to play the leading character (you), and what would the theme song be? Why?
Probably something with a fair amount of suspense and dark humor. My friends always joke that I end up in odd situations. I have no idea who would play me – hopefully someone far more glamorous like Nicole Kidman. The theme song: Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger” because I think it’s about living for the present.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Like most people I don’t have enough spare time but a game of Scrabble is always fun. Otherwise I am happiest on a beach somewhere hot.
Are you an early bird or a night owl?
These days I’m much more of an early bird – my cat is a good alarm clock.
What is your favorite TV show and/or movie?
One of my all-time favourite films is still Peter Greenaway’s The Draughtsman’s Contract. I think of him as a painter whose medium just happens to be film. There have been some incredible, gritty British TV dramas like This Is England which had me in tears. Americans still do thrillers and comedies best though and I was totally hooked on Homeland.
If you were throwing a dinner party and you could invite five people (fictional or real, dead or alive), other than family or friends, who would you invite and why?
I would have a Whorticulture themed party and invite eighteenth century courtesan Kitty Fisher because the details of her life are sketchy but we have a few intriguing portraits of her; Holly Golightly because Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s is another of my favorite novellas; Mary Elizabeth “Libby” Thompson (1855-1953) who was a famous prostitute then madam in Sweetwater, Texas; Madame du Barry (1743 –1793) mistress of Louis XV; and contemporary writer and activist Maggie McNeill who campaigns against the stigmatization of sex workers. I think the stories they’d tell would keep me entertained for months.
If you had the opportunity to go anywhere you wanted, at anytime in history, where would you go and why?
As a writer, I’ve always been more interested in social history – what were people wearing, eating, reading, how were they travelling etc. – than the big events but I’d love to have been in San Francisco during the Gold Rush to see if it is was how I wrote it in Whorticulture.
What are you currently working on?
I have three projects planned. One is a continuation of Seraphine’s story – not a sequel to Whorticulture as such but something that will stand alone and is set in Victorian London. Another is a novel set in the eighteenth century which will include real and imagined characters – though I don’t know who these are yet! The third is a novel based on my father’s experiences of con artists in the 1970s and 1980s. I’m not sure which one I’ll start on first but I’m researching…
Where can people connect with you online?
They can follow me on @hotelalphabet
Follow my blog http://whorticulture.wordpress.com/
or befriend me on Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/hotelalphabet
or Facebook http://www.facebook.com/hotel.alphabet
WHERE TO BUY WHORTICULTURE
At Barnes and Noble for Nook http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/whorticulture-marie-anne-mancio/1110622262?ean=2940033168255
At Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/151589
Thank you so much for having me as a guest and best of luck with Literary Wealth.
GIVEAWAY!GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY!
MARIE-ANNE HAS MADE FIVE E-COPIES OF WHORTICULTURE AVAILABLE TO OUR READERS!
Leave a comment (with your e-mail address so that we may contact you) to enter the drawing for a chance to win a copy of Marie-Anne’s book Whorticulture! Chance to win ends midnight, Thursday, June 28!