Sword of Deaths is the second novel in my YA Fantasy trilogy, The Scythe Wielder’s Secret.
It continues the story of 14-year-old Susan Sarnio, who in book one decided to spend the
rest of her life as the only female Death. Last year she was bullied and ostracized. Now,
to her complete bewilderment, four Deaths vie for her affection. Yet, something is
terribly wrong at the College of Deaths. When a ship carrying scythe metal is attacked,
many blame the newly-freed Elementals, but Susan knows the Elementals are innocent.
Shadows from the distant past come to light. Dragons circle the horizon, blood spills, and
nothing is what it seems. Susan and her friends struggle to stop a war. They search for the
fabled First Scythe, hoping to sway the balance, but who is the true enemy?
Where did the idea for the book come from?
In 2011, I was stranded on a cliff overlooking Tintagel Castle in Cornwall. I’d crept out
onto a long promontory before dawn, clutching to the rocks of a fifty foot cliff face which
dropped directly into the sea. Winds attacked me from every direction, and I was on all
fours, trying not to slip. I imagined a character completely alone, attacked from every
direction, yet a character who wasn’t a victim, but a hero. I found the sight of dawn over
Cornwall invigorating, not frightening. In a similar manner, Susan uses her unique
position as the only female Death to change her world. Ultimately, the story incorporates
themes about sexism, bullying, racism, and self-identity, all while dealing with the
underlying image of a character battling forces beyond their control.
Who and what inspire you to write?
I’ve always had stories I long to tell, and many dreams and tales yearning to be told. I
love to inspire people, both as a teacher (my day job) and as a writer.
Each author has his or her own inspiring journey. How did you begin writing?
When I was in middle school we were given an assignment to read three books, and copy
one of the author’s styles. One of my three books was Lord of the Rings, and I decided to
write a story about the Ents searching for the lost Entwives. It was my first time
attempting creative writing, but the spark never really left.
What has been the most pleasant surprise about writing? How about an unexpected down side?
The biggest surprise is how quickly I’m growing as a writer. I was immensely proud of
School of Deaths, but then wrote Sword of Deaths, which is easily ten times stronger.
Then, this summer I finished the final novel Daughter of Deaths, which is by far the best-
written work I’ve ever completed. I look forward to seeing where my writing journey
takes me next. I’m already working on my next novel, which is an adult science fiction
The biggest unexpected downside to the writing world came after publishing the first
novel, when I realized how tricky and time-consuming marketing is. Just because you’ve
written a good book doesn’t mean anyone will read it. Marketing is probably my least
favorite part of the writing process, but a necessary step.
Do you have any writing rituals?
With any book, I start by imagining a set of images, specific visual pictures that will
somehow be incorporated into the story, though I don’t know how yet. For Sword of
Deaths, for instance, two of the images clearly in my head before writing a single word of
the novel included a ship on fire off the coast of a city, and two Dragons soaring over a
desolate sea. Each of those images does appear as a major moment in the book.
Do you write your books in order?
For the most part yes, I start at the beginning and work to the end, incorporating the
visual outline I mentioned. For this series, I also wrote all of book one before starting
book two, and so on. However, I do go back and edit out of order. This book incorporates
three very different points of view, and at some points in the writing of book three (which
uses the same three POVs), I followed one of those points of view for several chapters,
and then went back and inserted earlier chapters in different viewpoints.
What is on your writing playlist for this book?
I actually write to music, especially Pandora’s film scores station, a lot. Pretty much
anything by Lindsey Stirling is a great inspiration, as is Karl Jenkins’ Adiemus.
Any favorite writing snacks?
Kale chips or strawberries.
What advice would you give writers who aspire to be published?
Don’t give up. And don’t expect the struggles and work to end when you sign a contract.
Are you working on anything new right now?
Yes, until editing work begins in earnest for the final book in this trilogy, I’ve started a
new novel that is an adult thriller. The style is sort of Dan Brown meets Michael
Crichton. That’s all I’ll say about that.
Who is your favorite character in your current book?
What is your favorite book of all time?
That’s a really tough question, there are far too many amazing books. My favorite recent
read was Brian Selnick’s Wonderstruck. I also just finished Neil Patrick Harris’ Choose
Your Own Autobiography and loved it. All time favorite authors are probably Tolkien,
Shakespeare, and Pratchett.
Tell us in one sentence why we should read your book.
A riveting page-turner that’s unlike anything you’ve read before.
Susan Sarnio made a choice, and will spend the rest of her life as the only female Death. Last year she was bullied and ostracized. Now, to her complete bewilderment, four Deaths vie for her affection. Yet, something is terribly wrong at the College of Deaths. When a ship carrying scythe metal is attacked, many blame the newly-freed Elementals, but Susan knows the Elementals are innocent. Shadows from the distant past come to light. Dragons circle the horizon, blood spills, and nothing is what it seems. Susan and her friends struggle to stop a war. They search for the fabled First Scythe, hoping to sway the balance, but who is the true enemy?
Thrust into a world of men, can a timid girl find bravery as the first female Death? Thirteen-year-old Suzie Sarnio always believed the Grim Reaper was a fairy tale image of a skeleton with a scythe. Now, forced to enter the College of Deaths, she finds herself training to bring souls from the Living World to the Hereafter. The task is demanding enough, but as the only female in the all-male College, she quickly becomes a target. Attacked by both classmates and strangers, Suzie is alone in a world where even her teachers want her to fail. Scythes hungry for souls, Deaths who enslave a race of mysterious magicians, and echoes of an ancient war with Dragons. As her year progresses, Suzie suspects her presence isn't an accident. She uncovers a plot to overthrow the World of Deaths. Now she must also discover the reason she's been brought there: the first female Death in a million years.
Christopher Mannino’s life is best described as an unending creative outlet. He teaches high school theatre in Greenbelt, Maryland. In addition to his daily drama classes, he runs several after-school performance/production drama groups. He spends his summers writing and singing. Mannino holds a Master of Arts in Theatre Education from Catholic University, and has studied mythology and literature both in America and at Oxford University. His work with young people helped inspire him to write young adult fantasy, although it was his love of reading that truly brought his writing to life.