Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
My name is Paul Mansell and I have published two books with Kevin Mayhew Ltd. My first book ‘Classical Uke’ features 20 classical pieces of music by composers such as Bach, Tarrega and Carulli all transcribed for ukulele by me. My second book ‘Ukulele School’ is a tutorial book for helping to teach the ukulele to primary school children. It features 12 original, fun songs for children to learn. It begins with songs that feature just one chord, going through to more complex songs with seven chords in them.
What is/are the story(ies) behind your book(s)?
‘Classical Uke’ was written to add to the repertoire of classical music for the ukulele. There has been a massive upsurge in the amount of people playing the ukulele in recent years. In England quarter of a million ukuleles are now sold each year. I have been playing ukulele professionally for many years and had transcribed many classical pieces for the ukulele. I decided to out these pieces into a book and approached Kevin Mayhew Ltd who then published the book.
After the success of ‘Classical Uke’ my publishers, Kevin Mayhew Ltd, commissioned me to write a ukulele tutorial book for young children. The result was ‘Ukulele School’ which is aimed at teachers in primary schools who wish to teach the ukulele. It features fun songs that are really easy to learn and teach, but ensures children get the basics right.
What inspires/inspired your creativity?
A lot of my inspiration comes from reading books and listening to other musicians and songwriters. I also draw inspiration from the students that I teach. I enjoy seeing what inspires them to learn and want to become better musicians. I often test out new songs/books with my students first before publishing them.
How do you deal with creative block?
Luckily I am yet so suffer from creative block.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
In a music book you have to make sure all of the pieces are actually playable. It is no good writing music that may sound fantastic, but that no one can play. When writing children’s music books it is important that they offer ‘instant accessibility’. By this I mean that the children need to be playing their first sings within minutes – do not make the mistake of making children have to wade through pages and pages of dull information before they can start playing.
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
When you start out, for non fictional book – titles need to say what the book is about.. Covers also need to represent what the book is about.
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
I always try and convert any negative feedback into a positive experience. If someone mails me directly saying ‘I don’t like this in your book’ or ‘this is wrong in your book’ then I try and enter into a dialogue with them. I ask them about their musical background and what they would like to see in future books. Try not to react or take it personally, instead try and engage and learn from it. Thus far any negative feedback I have received has luckily been turned into a positive one where the person appears to end up much happier than when they first mailed me.
How has your creation process improved over time?
I think the only thing that has improved is my time management –publishers deadlines sure do focus the mind!
What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
The best thing was signing a publishing deal in the first place. It validated what I was doing. The most surprising thing was how quickly the publishers commissioned the second and third books. So far there has not been a ‘worst’ thing in the whole process.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
The two go hand in hand. If you serve your readers, you will gain personal satisfaction. I am humbled when anyone gives their hard earned cash for one of my books and if they enjoy it, then that is an amazing feeling. When someone says that your book is their favourite, or that it means something special to them, that makes you feel so rewarded and all the hard work worthwhile.
What role do emotions play in creativity?
Emotions do not control creativity, but they do heavily influence it. I am so lucky that I wake up every day with a smile on my face and for that I am grateful and I hope that comes across in my writing.
Do you have any creativity tricks?
I try and listen to little phrases that people say. Funny little phrases that might seem off hand can often become a line in a book, or a song title. If I hear someone say something I think is interesting, then I write it down and try to use it.
What are your plans for future books?I have so many plans. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have written 2 books thus far and as long as the publisher believes in me, I will keep writing. Next up is a book of ukulele duets that I am co writing with another very talented author and musician called Tony Mizen. After that there will be a ‘repertoire’ book to accompany the ‘Ukulele School’ book. After that there will be an adult’s ukulele tutorial book. Then I really want to do the follow up to ‘Classical Uke’.
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
As a child I played chess for England. I drive a bright green 35 year old VW camper van.