Here's how the questions went:
1. Edmond, how do you believe that your character Vin Vanbly determines what activities to include in his ‘Kinging’ weekends, and in what order? By this I mean, what are his evaluative processes that help him decide what to do, how far to push someone, when to back off, what strings to pull… how does Vin figure out what to do?
This topic is definitely discussed in the fourth book in the series. Vin meets a man who wants to be taught how to king other men. So we’ll see some more specific conversations about Vin’s process. But I think I can answer the question without giving away spoilers.
Vin looks at what the man needs emotionally. How he needs to be ‘broken.’ For Perry, Vin would have said, “Perry needs to feel vulnerable, relaxed and in love and then irrevocably abandoned. I need Perry to have spent a whole weekend believing in me, even after having his heart broken in smaller ways, so that each time, he practices forgiveness. How could the “big forgiveness” take place without smaller acts of forgiveness all weekend?”
As far as sequencing events, Vin would have thought about it this way:
1. He will forgive me at the pier and still go with me.
2. He will have to forgive me for tricking him to sleep on Alcatraz Island and go with me.
3. He will forgive me for breaking into the prison enough to have sex with me.
4. He must forgive me Saturday morning when he finds out I know the security guard.
And so on.
Each of these events require a unique flavor of forgiveness. You’ll note that between each massive event requiring forgiveness, Vin forces Perry to forgive in small ways: forgive the riddles, the stories, the lack of explanation, the ski masks, the secrecy…all of it designed so Perry practices forgiveness over and over and over.
2. In King Mai, Vin mentions some "higher ups," people who fund his ventures and adventures, and maybe give the orders. Are they kings themselves and has Vin kinged any of them himself? If so, does it smart to know that he's helped them, but doesn't get to enjoy being one of them?
Insightful question! This question is answered in The Butterfly King. Vin doesn’t have traditional ‘bosses’ who dictate his actions. But he is guided by their influence. And yes, it smarts. It hurts to know he can’t play with them on the same playing field.
3. Would you consider Vin to be a martyr?
No. No way. No, he has way too much sex to be a martyr.
Great question, because I sometimes worry that he comes across that way…the great sufferer, taking on all these men’s life transformations with no transformation for him…but that’s only one perspective. In each of the books, the Found Ones offer Vin the chance to cross over. In King Perry, they offered him Billy (well, this is how I see it at least – open to interpretation of course), giving Vin the chance to reach his kingship through forgiveness. Vin said, “No way.”
In The Butterfly King, Vin gets more opportunities to walk the path and he gets frustrated and snotty and hurt. I love, Vin. I really do. I ache when I think about shitty things that happened to him. But he’s like all of us: flawed, wonderful, trapped, glowing with power and goodness, tired, short-tempered….he’s no martyr. But I think he’s a good man.
4. Do you travel to research for your books, or does your travels LEAD you to your plots?
Both. (Sorry, I can’t ever seem to answer a question without complications.) Before I started writing King Perry, I had planned out the locations and high-level plots of the first six books. Which means, I knew I’d have to go to New York for a month. I had no idea what landmarks I’d use in the story, where Vin and his guest would go, how long it would take to get places. The first two weeks I walked the New York sidewalks, I kept saying, “Would they go here? Would Vin use this location?”
I really wanted them to visit the Cloisters, just outside New York. There’s a room with nine tapestries. The tapestries show three Christian, three Jewish Kings, three pagan kings. But they call them “heroes with crowns.” Why not call them kings unless the tapestry makers were trying to convey a different “flavor” of kingship? These true-to-life details allowed me to write this exotic piece of New York into The Butterfly King without Vin and Terrance making an actual stop in the book. The Cloisters is so very cool. I really wanted the guys to go there, but it wasn’t in the cards.
I would have never discovered the cool Cloisters stuff without going and living in the physical location of the story for a month.
5. Have you ever been surprised where your own story has taken you?
I was surprised how much of King Mai was set in a corn field.
Do you think I said to myself, “I’ll write a book about corn fields because everyone loves 300 pages of running through corn.” Hahahahha…noes. I kept writing and writing and every twenty pages or so, I’d take a break and think to myself, ‘Golly, they’re spending a lot of time in corn fields.’ Even one of my beta readers said, ENOUGH WITH THE CORN, so I cut out about 30 pages of corn running.
The final book doesn’t show some of the nuanced understandings and skills these guys acquired running corn. I myself ran some August corn fields so I could better understand how you ‘get better’ at this skill.
In retrospect, watching Vin and Mai run corn is one of my favorite aspects of this story. What a lovely surprise that was.
6. “If you could sit on (this) bench with any person, living or dead, for one hour, who would it be?” I’d like to know Vin’s answer to that question.
My response: Well, I’ve always been a big fan of—oh wait…you don’t care. No, that’s cool. *pouts*
Vin’s response: my mom.
7. How much did symbolism play a role in this series?
Huge. Always, huge. Each of the books are about a different world religion, so for starters, there’s a lot of religious symbolism. For example, in King Perry, there’s a duck. The duck was the original mascot for Christianity but they switched to a fish because they felt the duck was not terribly dignified. And it’s not. But that’s why the duck makes a perfect religious icon—a religion like Christianity should choose love over appearing dignified. In addition, there are dozens of symbols in the book to reflect Jesus’ journey. Perry’s abandonment on a mountain top, rising again on the third morning, the climactic line, “Perry weeps” parallels the Bible’s most famous line, “Jesus wept.”
And not just religious symbolism. Symbols associated with Vin, who he was, who he’s becoming, etc. I think there are some intriguing symbols yet to be revealed. I love playing with themes and symbolism.
8. Is there one place you’d love to travel that you haven’t been yet for this series?
Italy. I love Italy. I love all things Italian. I mean, I LOVE ALL THINGS ITALIAN. The food, the history, the art, the fascination with death, the language, the humor, the Renaissance. I want to live in Italy, working on an organic farm. Well, for a while. I couldn’t write about a king from Italy without living there and learning a lot about life there. More than a two week trip, I think.
Ireland is a fascination as well. Those are my top two kinging destinations outside the United States.
9. If you could commit a crime and get off scot free what would you do?
First crime: steal money from the assholes who caused the Enron scandal. I know this scandal is over a decade old at this point, but thousands of people lost their life savings and retirement. This has happened a dozen times in the past decade and I’d like to go back to a prominent big scandal and steal that money back for the people who lost it. Send a warning to others that this kind of embezzlement will not be tolerated, even though it *was* tolerated by the courts.
On a daily basis, the crime I most often want to commit is to scratch the hell out of someone’s car who took up two spaces. You know how someone with a car they think is special parks in a way that they take more than their fair share? Drives me nuts. I would like to be able to scratch “Nice parking” into the side of their car with no consequences.
For my next crime, I’d like to—oh wait. I should probably stop. Two answers are enough.
10. If you were on death row what would be your last meal?
I like thinking about food, so even if it’s my last meal, this question appeals to me. I would want my mom’s spaghetti. And not just spaghetti in general, but MY MOM’S spaghetti. Garlic toast soaked in butter and extra garlic, a fruit salad (no watermelon or that icky green melon), Caprese salad with fresh summer basil and backyard tomatoes, and a massive piece of chocolate cake. In short, I want to so full, so wildly uncomfortable, that when they come and say, “It’s time for you to be executed,” I rub my belly and say, “Oh thank god.”
11. If you had to crown yourself King, what would you be?
Is this question asking, ‘What is my king name?’ I think so.
I already have a king name. I’ve inserted it into The Lost and Founds twice. (Sneaky bastard that I am.) But I won’t reveal it here, not here in an interview. Don’t get me wrong – this was a really fun question. But here’s my philosophy on king names…they are magic. They contain power. You share your king or queen name when you want someone to see that power. For me, I would share my king name under quiet, one-on-one circumstances, when it felt right. I would share it when I have a gift to give the other person, a gift related to my unique talents.
Does everyone have to be secretive about their king or queen name? Hell, no. For some people, embracing that power means shouting their special name to everyone within listening distance. You do what’s right for you. This is what’s right for me.
12. Will Vin ever encounter a lost king he can NOT crown?
I think there are many men who Vin feels he can’t crown. Not every man is an automatic candidate. In fact, we’re going to see Vin give up on a man within the first six books. It’s coming.
13. I know this is gay romance but I’m curious. Will there ever be a heterosexual man Vin will have to crown that won’t succumb to his charms?
I’ve considered this. I think I’d like to write this book. Vin has a lot of seductive charms but what if sex and physical intimacy is off the table? I think Vin has to be a lot more capable or stronger before we see this kinging. Of course, it’s my theory that Mai Kearns is gonna end up kinging all his straight buddies from King Mai. Of course, Mai has different abilities and skills than Vin. So, yeah, it’s possible for gay men to king straight men (and vice-versa).
Also, in The Butterfly King, Vin talks about kinging a straight man: “I kinged a straight man once but he was utterly destroyed in grief over the death of his son. The path to his kingship lay wide open.” Those special circumstances allowed Vin to king a straight man.
14. Do we ever see a Queen?
Do we ever see Vin queen a woman?
I don’t know.
I’d like to write that book. I think I need to be a better writer first, and also, Vin has to get better at his abilities. I fear writing this book because I wouldn’t want to ‘screw it up.’ I would want this book to honor the woman, honor all women, and it’s too important to do casually.
I felt the same trepidation about writing a King Weekend for a black man. It’s dangerous when a white middle-class man says, “Oh yeah, I can write about this,” for a group who has traditionally been under the thumb of the white, middle-class man. Doesn’t mean that white guy can’t write it…but he better be damn sure to check his privilege and work hard at understanding the unique flavors of this person.
I’d like to write a Queen weekend and I already have a few ideas…but I’m letting this idea mature in me over time.
15. What’s your greatest fear?
Being eaten by zombies.
Being eaten by sharks.
Hell, being eaten by feral raccoons.
I’m going to go with “being eaten” as my greatest fear.
16. If you could be any animal in the world what would you be, AND what would Vin be?
Me? Penguin. No doubt. I don’t love raw fish, but I would love to waddle and play and float around on an iceberg. I’m exuberant! I have penguin energy!
Vin? Deer. Deer are quiet. Prefer wandering alone in the woods. If you startle a deer, it stares at you, gazes into you, trying to discern if you are a threat or a friend. If you’re a friend, he will eat out of your hand.
17. Describe a perfect weekend for you?
Friday night, happy hour with friends, eating deep-friend cauliflower with cheese, and drinking beer. We laugh and tell stories. Go home by 8:00 where I lie on the couch and watch a great few episodes of a television show I love. Cold, satisfying glasses of milk (possibly Oreos) are involved in this couch evening.
After luxurious sleep, I wake up Saturday morning and write on the back porch. The sun polishes everything in the yard. I look around and don’t see work to be done, I see beauty. After three hours of early-morning writing, a friend calls to spontaneously invite me to a late breakfast. We tell intimate stories over eggs.
Saturday afternoon, I hang out with my friend Joe and we get Reuben sandwiches. Nap on my couch while the cool breeze blows in. I goof around with online friends, sharing cat videos, talking smack on each other’s Facebook pages, and sometimes delving into deeper territory.
I write more in the evening. I go read some reviews on Goodreads and am pleasantly surprised.
Sunday, I join friends for a big brunch. I meet new people, friends of friends, and we bask in the glow of having fun with people who could become friends. I come home and find someone has mowed my lawn and trimmed the edges. Did a whole weekend’s worth of lawn and yard care.
My mom calls and says, “I’m passing through the twin cities and I thought I’d drop off some homemade spaghetti.”
In the evening, I would lie on the couch, listen to birds twittering, and think about how good life is.
18. What is the best life lesson you’ve learned?
Get over it.
If you don’t get over heartache, your heart won’t have room for more love. If you don’t get over your rage and hate toward someone, you will not have more room for new experiences. If you don’t forgive your shitty parents, your less-than-ideal life, you’ll never make room for better stuff.
While these words are simple, this is not easy advice. It has taken me a decade to “get over it” regarding some issues core to my identity. In June of this year, I had something really awful happen to me. I was wronged and treated so poorly that I wept. I was humiliated and broken more than I have been in years.
In the following days, I felt the story build around me, how I was wronged, how this person had done something borderline evil to me. And I felt I had a choice: feel ashamed, angry, enraged, and vindictive for years to come and let this awful experience create new chains around my heart. Or let it go—all of it—right away. Three days after the event, I chose to let it go, one of the best decisions I ever made.
The older we get, the more important to get over things. It’s hard to keep your heart open if you don’t.
19. Where did the idea for The Lost Kings come from?
Wow, fun question! I had come up with the idea of the Found Kings already…the idea for the King Weekends and Vin Vanbly. The question regularly surfaced in my brain, ‘If these men Vin kings are Found Ones, who are the Lost Kings?’ I pondered this and realized I didn’t have to look far. Child abuse. Bullying. People angrily defending their right to leave a dog in a car during 100 degree heat.
Lost Kings and Lost Queens are everywhere.
And not just outside of us. Don’t I sometimes act in a way that might be considered ‘lost?’ Don’t I make choices that are selfish and un-thoughtful? It’s easy to shake one’s head and say, ‘The world is full of Lost Kings.’ It’s harder to admit that I am a Lost King some days and I contribute to the world’s problems.
I wanted the Lost Kings to be the Found Kings’ enemy…but at the same time, Lost Kings *are* Found Kings who have forgotten. We must love the Lost Ones and show them compassion, especially when we ourselves are Lost Kings and Queens.
20. Do you have any regrets and if so can you name one?
I was in love with this guy. I was crazy about him. We spent New Years’ Eve together, 1999. We cooked dinner, called our respective families and wished them well. Around 11:00 p.m., we dressed warmly and went for a walk around a frozen, Minneapolis lake. This was a yearly tradition of mine and this year, I invited him to share it with me. We held hands (gloved hands). I was so happy.
When midnight came, I was too chicken to say the words, “I love you.”
I felt it. The time was right. And I never said it.
We aren’t dating now. He’s still a good friend and I treasure him. But I should have said those words at midnight, January 1, 2000. I regret that.
21. Life is hard for a lot of LGBT youth and The Lost Kings is a huge beacon for them. I can’t help wondering if you believe in your heart that all the castaways, the children thrown out by their parents, do you believe they are lost kings?
It would be damn hard not to see yourself as a Lost King or Queen after the people who were supposed to be your biggest champions in life toss you out. I’m mystified when parents do this. They aren’t just tossing out their own kid, they’re tossing out their own potential to be Found Parents.
There are plenty of kids who realize they aren’t trash, they deserve better. They know this. But it’s hard to reconcile that knowledge with the reality of a parent’s rejection. It’s heartbreaking. People feel sorry for Vin because he was abandoned so young. But to be abandoned when you’re 13-15…when your parents have known you all those years and got to see the person you are becoming…isn’t that worse? I’m glad it’s becoming less commonplace these days, but honestly, but even if this happens twice a year, it’s two times too many.
22. Do you see this series as bittersweet? Seeing as Vin hasn’t had his HEA?
No, I don’t. I think the definition of romance has to expand to include those times when two people are truly, deeply in love and it doesn’t last forever. I don’t think that’s bittersweet. I think it’s amazing two people find love, even for a weekend.
Plus, Vin is healed on every single weekend we’ve seen him. In King Perry, Perry kissed his rat. Mai helped carry the burden of the gas station story in King Mai. Vin doesn’t have to carry that memory all on his own. Vin is loving and loved. How can that be bittersweet? We don’t always get the outcomes we want in life, but to experience love is one of the best things ever.
After my first breakup, my first true love, I was sobbing (ugly cry) with a friend who stared at me with this strange, detached expression on her face. A moment later she said, “I’m three years older than you and I’ve never experienced love, never experienced the kind of passion that would make you cry so hard when it’s over. I know I should feel bad for you right now, but instead, I feel jealous.” I felt so horrible in that moment, it was inconceivable someone would feel jealous of me. But she did.
Love doesn’t always turn into a lifelong relationship. That doesn’t make love bittersweet. It makes our expectations about the world bittersweet.
23. I know a lot of people say you’re Vin in these books but you’ve set us all straight saying you aren’t. I have to ask, have you modelled one of the lost kings as yourself?
Well, I can be aloof, like Perry. I can get growly about how life was ‘supposed to work out,’ like Mai. When I am afraid, I can get haughty, like Terrance. But I think the Lost King I am most like is the man we’re going to meet in Book 4.
24. Edmond, whose questions did you vote as best questions?
Is Vin a martyr?
If you were on death row, what would your last meal be?
If you could commit one crime and get away scot-free, what would it be?
But in all honesty, there were a LOT of great questions in this interview. This was really fun! I loved being asked if I considered this “bittersweet.” I thought the question about queening a woman and a straight man were fun. I loved answering the questions about a life regret and life lessons learned. And when I wrote about my “ideal weekend,” it made me realize that this past weekend was pretty darn close to that. Thank you, Meredith, and ALL who contributed questions. This was delightful.
I don't know about you but reading these answers was as beautiful as reading an Edmond Manning book!!! I thank you ALL who contributed such well thought out and amazing questions. And I thank Edmond for sharing them.
As I said the winners were notified but I implore you ALL to read The Butterfly King. Read ALL The Lost and Found books!
Terrified by the unjust imprisonment and the possibility of a life behind bars, Terrance searches for proof of his innocence while Ghost seeks the elusive Butterfly King. But neither man seems in control of the weekend’s direction and the consequences of missteps are life-changing. As Ghost’s manipulations come to an explosive head, each man must decide amid danger and street violence what kind of man will triumph, lost or found?
Narrator Vin Vanbly (a.k.a Ghost) returns in the most revealing King Weekend yet, where he faces the dark side of his dangerous manipulations, and learns mistakes can be deadly. Vin must confront sinister dealings from his past—and a future promising disaster—as he waltzes Terrance across Manhattan in spring, searching for the elusive and charismatic, Butterfly King.
All of Edmond's books are outstanding!To buy any of The Lost and Founds or his other books you can simply do so on Amazon!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Edmond Manning is the author of romance series, The Lost and Founds. The first three books in this series include King Perry, King Mai (a Lambda Literary finalist 2014), and most recently, The Butterfly King. Feel free to say hello at firstname.lastname@example.org.