5 Questions With Author Mandy Mikulencak @DurangoWriter

I recently discovered The Last Suppers and fell in love with Mandy Mikulencak’s writing. The story is deeply moving and there’s a mystery as well… In addition, the setting is fantastic: Louisiana in the 50s. Thank you so much to Mandy for answering my questions.

1. Tell me a bit about your most recent novel The Last Suppers. How did you come up with the idea? It’s a very unique concept.

A good friend of mine mentioned she’d seen a website listing real-life requests from death row inmates. One request – for just Frosted Flakes and milk – got me thinking about the psychology behind such requests. Then, I wondered what would happen if a prison cook became obsessed with preparing meaningful last meals. I didn’t have anything else to go on when I first started writing. Everything just flowed from that original premise. I thought it would be interesting to set the book in the 1950s because of the prevalent social issues of the time period like racism, poverty and prisoner rights. The characters are a product of the environment in which they live, which added more depth to the story.

2. How has your life changed since the publication of your first book?

It hasn’t changed dramatically. However, I do spend more time on social media and on promoting my books rather than the actual writing process. Expectations are also different. When I wrote my first book, I didn’t have a timetable or deadline. Once I got an agent and a couple of book deals, I had to treat writing as a job and not a hobby.

3. While reading your novel, I thought it would make a great movie. Would you like that? What director/actors would be your dream choices?

I think every author hopes his/her book is developed into a movie. While it’s extremely rare, it’s always fun to envision! When I wrote The Last Suppers, I pictured Josh Brolin as Roscoe Simms, the warden. A secondary character – Dot, who works in the kitchen with the main character, Ginny – is absolutely Octavia Spencer. I have a harder time envisioning who would play Ginny, so I’m open to suggestions from readers! My picks for director would be Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Taylor Sheridan (Wind River) or David Mackenzie (Hell or High Water).

4. What are your hobbies?

I live in Colorado so I love to hike. I’ve also been an avid baker since I was a little girl. Both my grandmothers were Czech and they instilled in me that love of baking. My research into the foods and recipes featured in The Last Suppers was a fascinating process. It’s the reason I decided to include a recipe index in the back of the book.

5. What are some of your favorite recent reads? And an all-time favorite?

I recently read Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult and Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving. Picoult had a very accessible writing style even if she tackles tough subjects. John Irving is my favorite writer so I tend to read anything he writes. My ALL-TIME favorite book is A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. What I love about Irving is that he can find humor in the perverse and tragic. His work shaped how I started to think about the duality of the human condition; that we can experience joy and hope in the face of great pain and tragedy. There doesn’t always have to be a happy ending.



5 Questions With Author Joseph Knox @josephknox__

Last year, I read a fantastic book called  Sirens. It was a great detective noir and Aidan Waits instantly became a favorite character of mine. The Smiling Man is the new installment in this amazing series, and I’m glad to say it was even better than the first one. I want to thank Joseph Knox for taking the time to answer my questions. Good luck with everything!

1. Tell us about your new book The Smiling Man. Will there be more books featuring Aidan?

The Smiling Man is based around a real-life unsolved murder. I’ve changed the location and some of the details but essentially the body is found of a well-dressed man who has no identification on his person. Things get stranger when it’s discovered that the labels have been removed from his clothes, that his teeth have been filed down, that his fingerprints have been removed, etc. The questions hanging over the book are: who is this man? Why has he gone to such great lengths to hide his identity? And, of course, who killed him?

There are also a couple of subplots, one involving revenge porn and one involving a series of home invasions. There is also a spate of unexplained dustbin fires that eagle-eyed readers might want to keep an eye on.

There will be one more Aidan Waits novel.

2. How has your life changed since the publication of Sirens?

In almost every way. I think I’d been overdrawn for ten years before I signed a book deal, and I’d certainly never done anything of note with my life. My first book took eight years to write, and for most of that time I thought I’d never finish it, so the relief of now having two novels to my name is great!

The most wonderful thing is to see the work get translated, though, and to visit new readers, cities and countries. It’s a great privilege which I try not take for granted.

3. What do you usually do on publication day? Do you have a tradition?

A great deal of alcohol is involved, although that’s less by tradition and more by instinct. For the launch of Sirens I went back to the Manchester bookshop I used to work in, and this year I’ll be returning with The Smiling Man. I’ll see family, old friends and colleagues, do a boozy talk about the book and then sign. I try to say yes to every opportunity the publisher gives me, so I’m also undertaking a short tour of some bookshops and libraries, as well as doing press and interviews. Last year I visited 70 bookshops in ten days! It’s exhausting but, once again, a great privilege.

4. What are your hobbies?

Reading is my main one. Without it, I’d be a mad man. After that, they’re movies and music. I just saw The Phantom Thread, which I loved, and went to see the US rapper Kendrick Lamar a couple of weeks ago which was BEYOND inspiring. I run four or five days a week as I find it helps me keep things in perspective and not get stressed about writing and the world in general.

5. What are some of your favorite recent reads? And an all-time favorite?

Fire and Fury, the tell-all about the Trump white house is ridiculously compulsive. I also really enjoyed Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer, a science fiction novel about a strange, unexplained zone somewhere in America and the search teams who’ve disappeared there. It’s just been adapted into a film, so that should be interesting. I also loved Midwinter Break by Bernard Maclaverty, a literary novel about an older couple on a short holiday to Amsterdam. It’s sad and romantic and wonderful.

An all-time favourite? The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley. From the 70s, it feels like a new and dangerous kind of noir, and was a big inspiration for me in writing crime.