People say, “ When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” In my mind, although that saying might be optimistic, it’s quite passive. I like to say, “When life hands you lemons, you throw that lemon right back and demand the mango you had asked for in the first place.” I find it inspiring when people take control of their lives. I get motivated when I see people search within themselves and liking what they find. I was very lucky to come across writer, Manuel Fernandez, who wrote a book about just that!
Michael: Manuel, can you tell us a bit about your background? How did your background influence the genre you write in?
Manuel: I came from an unstable background. My two stepfathers were drug addicts, so I witnessed a lot of chaos. I spent my teen years in and out of foster homes and juvenile hall. I joined a gang when I was 14 because I didn’t want to be at home no more. At this point my stepfather tried to beat me so I ran away from home. He nearly killed my younger brother, tying a rope around his neck and choking him. That’s just one of many stories.
Michael: Wow, that’s quite a traumatic childhood you must have had. From such a chaotic beginning, you have now developed into a writer. How did that writing journey start?
Manuel: My journey in writing began 8 years ago. My girlfriend at the time left me. I was crushed and fell into a deep depression. Something inside me snapped. I can’t explain it but it was like my brain woke up. I was a terrible student in school. I barely graduated but the breakup created a spark. I wanted to learn anything and everything I could-Politics, History, poetry. I started working on a novel, took up ballroom dancing. I got out of my comfort zone for the first time in my life, all because of the breakup.
Michael: It’s amazing how sometimes things seem to be a low point in our lives, but when we look back on it all, it was really the beginning of a new journey. So, after your journey began, you must have had many influences along the way. Who are your favorite authors and how have they influenced your writing?
Manuel: I am a big crime reader so I like Chuck Hogan, Lorenzo Carcaterra but my favorite author is Mario Puzo. Every word is poetic and meaningful.
Michael: Interesting set of writers there. So, with your life change eight years ago, you started this writing journey. How have you incorporated your writing into your daily life?
Manuel: Typical day for me…
Up at 6am, jog for an hour or working out with the P90x video tapes, off to work, then I will write for a few hours before I go to acting class or out to Salsa dance.
Michael: Seems like a very balanced and healthy lifestyle. How did you come up with the idea for your book, “The Rocky Approach To Life?”
Manuel: Ever since I was a kid I have been a fan of the Rocky Balboa films. When my girlfriend left me the only thing that would bring me back to life was watching the Rocky movies. The more I watched, the more I realized the peaks and valleys the Rocky character went through were similar to what everybody goes through. Rocky was an underdog, an average boxer. What made him successful was his will to win, never give up no matter how high the mountain.
The final installment of the Rocky franchise was the best one of the movies in my opinion because of the message. Rocky wants to get back in the ring and fight but everyone thinks he’s crazy. Even his son doesn’t support his decision at first. The whole world is against Rocky but he doesn’t care. The lesson here is what the theme of my book is about. Do what makes you happy, not what other people think you should do. Especially wise people. I don’t like to use the term OLD. There is this crazy notion in society where if you’ve reached a certain age you should accept simplicity. I think that kind of thinking SUCKS! A perfect example- I know this 75-year-old man who goes out dancing every week. He can do the splits and hop into different dancing routines like its nothing. He has better moves then a 25 year old. I went up to him one time and told him I want to be like him when I grow up. Most people his age are in bed by 8pm. He is living life, defying the stereotype.
Michael: Yeah, I want to be like him too when I’m 75 years old. I’m only in thirties and I feel like I should be in bed by 8 p.m. Your books seems to be within the self-help niche. That is an awfully difficult niche to break into. What do you think sets your book apart from all the others self-help type books on the shelves?
Manuel: Most self-help books focus on what you should do or give advice. My book focuses more on the readers getting in touch with themselves. Are you happy with yourself? If so, great! But, if not what can you do to change your mindset? Is there something you always wanted to complete? A goal, something you started 20 years ago and have the itch to complete it. If there is still that fire in the belly then brother, GO FOR IT! Damn what people think? Step out on that ledge. Take a chance.
Michael: I really like that whole idea of getting in touch which yourself. Why do you think that its imperative for a reader to read your book to have a paradigm shift for their life?
Manuel: I think the book opens the reader to self-worth. I had a woman write me a few months back. She explained how she was in an abusive relationship for years. Her husband would physically and mentally abuse her. She finally got the courage to leave him but her self-esteem was shot. She felt worthless. She was in her late fifties and scared to death of starting over. A friend of hers read my book. Thank God she liked it! LOL! And passed it on to her. She went back to school, studying to be a teacher. Stories like that I can relate too. I remember there was a time in my teens where I slept in parks or schools, scrounging to feed my stomach. It’s humbling and gratifying. She inspired me.
Michael: Sounds like your book can really help a lot of people. Which chapter in your book did you have the most fun writing?
Manuel: Every chapter I wrote was self-gratifying. Each one taught me more about myself and the realization that every chapter in ones life is a challenge. Its how you handle that challenge that defines you as a person.
Michael: What do you hope for your readers to take away after reading your book?
Manuel: I want the readers to come away with the message- ITS NEVER TOO LATE! Damn your age, what you have done in the past. If you have a dream or goal, go for it! We only get one shot at life. Don’t be that person who wakes up and looks in the mirror and says, I wish I had done this! Throughout my whole life I had roadblocks. My mother and father thought I would not live past 15 years old. As a kid I stuttered. It was so bad I refused to talk on the phone. There would be days I would go home and cry because I couldn’t complete a sentence.
Today I am acting. I have appeared in commercials, short films, plays. It is all about believing in yourself.
Michael: I love that “can do” attitude. What are your hopes for this book?
Manuel: I want people to start loving themselves. I am my worst critic. For years I thought I was worthless. Even if I achieved a little success or accomplished a goal I always thought I could have done better. Today, I am learning to love myself.
Michael: Well, I hope that for your readers too! So now that your self-help book is published. What do you have in store next for your readers?
Manuel: I have written three fiction short stories, A Prison Story, My Afternoon at Ebbets Field and Gang Related, which are available on Kindle and Amazon. My debut novel- Tainted Sins, will be available in the fall of 2015. I also wrote a comedic pilot that I am currently pitching to television networks called GUARDS. It is about three security guards who are anything but normal. Its funny and original. I am also working on a play, which chronicles the tough years of my life. My goal is to make it a one-man show, where I play different characters.
Michael: Sounds like you have some interesting short stories coming out. And I wish you good luck with the comedic pilot you’re pitching! Thank you so much for sharing with us your story.
If you are as intrigued about Manuel’s book as I am, please check it out on amazon by clicking on the book cover below.