Like I do with many folks, I met Morgen through the Internet when I learned about the great interviews she does. I thought it would be fun to turn the tables on Morgen and find out something things about her, so here goes:
Morgen, except for the fact that you do terrific interviews I know very little about you. So here goes with my battery of questions. First, tell me something about your background, including where you live.
Thank you Marilyn. I live in Middle England really; Northampton. About as far away from water as you can get (3 hours) which I don’t quite understand as I love water; every picture (actually subconsciously until a friend pointed it out) in my house contains water. I’m one of two siblings, I have an older brother who’s an IT project Manager and lives in Zurich, Switzerland so I see him 2-3 times a year (birthdays, Christmas; the latter spent in my mum’s kitchen / diner with opposing laptops). My father died September 2011 so she potters while my brother and I chat / type. He’s my IT guru who finally made me buy a Mac and like dieting, I wondered why I didn’t do months ago (the diet hasn’t started yet by the way). Oh and I share my house with my 11-year old Jack Russell / Cairn cross dog who’s very used to me clapping when I’m particularly proud of a line or growling when my website software plays up.
Tell me something about your beginnings as a writer.
I loved English at school and it turned out to be my best subject (to be fair the sciences were never going to be high on my list, especially after my physics teacher told my parents at the first parents' evening that I should give it up!). I was also rubbish at history but enjoyed geography and art (I still have a head I made).
And I do go off at tangents, perhaps I should have said that at the beginning. Writer, beginning, yes. I moved to Northampton in 1990, didn’t know anyone so went to evening classes; computing, languages then in 2005 spotted creative writing on the prospectus. I took a Monday night workshop with crime writer Sally Spedding (can I tout her? http://sallyspedding.com - we still keep in touch) and was hooked. In 2008 she moved to Wales and I took over the group and it’s been going ever since; split into critique and writing (with some doing both) it works really well. We all get on well which is so important – and we’re all firm but fair; complimentary alongside “but if you just changed…”.
What genre(s) do you prefer to write in?
I can’t say “all” here can I? I’ve come to think more seriously now about the genres I concentrate on. I like quirky dark and humour and read crime and chick lit so I’m sticking with those really, although I tend to verge to the dark side more, especially when writing second person viewpoint; it just seems to lend itself to gloomy. So I’m sort of thinking of writing humorous crime and watched ‘Mad Dogs’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mad_Dogs_(TV_series)) recently and thought “oh yes, I’d love to write this” except I’d write it as prose. I tried http://scriptfrenzy.org in April 2010 and didn’t like the format of script one bit. I liked the story though and have since converted it into the start of a novel, so definitely worth doing. I prefer http://nanowrimo.org - the 50,000+ word novel in November project (this year will be my fourth time). Even though I plan to stick to short stories I’d still keep doing it as I’m best with deadlines. If I’m told to do something then I just do it.
What was (is) your path to publication?
Technically it was very easy. I sent out a sheet of 60-word stories to Woman’s Weekly (back when their Fiction Specials were taking 60-worders) and they published the first one on the page (I saw it in the magazine, which I bought anyway, before they sent me the £10 cheque which looked too colourful to cash so I never did). I then thought they would print all the others but it didn’t happen and they’ve rejected everything (which to be fair hasn’t been much) I’ve sent them since. As have Take a Break and My Weekly… and a few others. But hey, that’s part of being a writer. I’ve had some articles published with NAWG (National Association of Writers Groups) – including ones the editor asked me to write – which is great, but is done for free, which is fine as it still gets my name out.
I’ve also had a couple of novels rejected by agents (by email and in person) but now we have the facility of eBooks I’m really excited by that. This sounds like I’ve had hundreds of rejections for appalling writing but it’s less than 30 and pieces I’ve had online recently have been well received so I’m pleased with that. Besides time’s moved on since the rejections and I know now that I wasn’t presenting the best I can do. Whilst it may seem that I was wasting the editors’ / agents’ time, and mine, it was a learning curve. Now I employ an editor who, like me, is firm but fair so I’m confident with the books I’m getting together to go online. That’s it’s… they’re ‘me’.
What do you most like to do for promotion?
Twitter is fun and it’s amazing how pared down you can be (140 characters) when you have to. I’m also on Facebook which is more of a ‘family’ atmosphere but useful for posting photos and having longer chats (the initial limit I think is 450 characters but then replies can be longer). I’m a fair newcomer to LinkedIn but belong to over half a dozen different writing groups and have got to know some great people. Really I’d say that I’ve gained interviewees, spotlighters etc from all three sources. The test will be when I have something for sale. I’ve built up the contacts and I’m sure they’ll help spread the word but I’m very conscious of not outstaying my welcome and plan to chat / provide info 90+% of the time, tout 10% max. The quickest way to lose followers on Twitter is by touting. Besides I’m a rubbish saleswoman. You don’t want it? Really? Oh, OK. That kind of thing. :)
When you aren’t writing, what do you enjoy?
Sadly I do little writing… at the moment anyway. I do in my fortnightly workshops and in another monthly group I belong to but it’s things like NaNoWriMo and http://storyadaymay.org that I do my chunks of writing – see earlier reference to being good at deadlines. :)
What would you like my blog readers to know about you?
That I can flip a dozen coins from the back of my right elbow, bark like a seal and always seem to have a sunburned nose? Oh, OK, not that sort of information. Ummm… OK well, I assume that your readers will enjoy writing so I’d just say that I live and breathe it and whilst I should get more sleep than I do, I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else… perhaps somewhere a little warmer would be nice (it’s August bank holiday weekend and I’m sitting here with 4 layers, jeans, socks and fleeced slippers, considering putting the heating on except that it’s nearing midnight and I should be going to bed). Having left school over (coughs) years ago not knowing what I wanted to do “when I grew up” I finally feel that I have… and I couldn’t be happier (OK, with a few eBook sales under my belt, my smile may be a little wider).
Is there anything you always wished someone would ask you but no-one ever has? If so write the question and answer it.
This is funny. It’s a question I’ve asked twice. The first time to novelist Marika Cobbold at a Bloomsbury panel event when I was volunteering at the November 2010 Chorleywood Literature Festival (my old stomping ground) – from memory her answer was why she hasn’t won the Booker… or it might have been the Nobel (we kept in touch so I could ask her) and then via an online Q&A with that year’s Booker winner Howard Jacobson and his reply was, from memory, about why he’s so dashingly handsome (which is why he won the Booker for his comedic novel).
I suppose the first thing that comes to mind is “Will you marry me?” No-one has, although I’ve had a couple of near misses (pardon the pun). Actually it turned out for the best as these things often do. I suppose if I was approached by a top agent or publisher to see my work now I wouldn’t have to hesitate long before clicking on ‘send’.
Do you have a goal that you have yet to achieve?
In the short term it would be having my eBooks online. So far my writing has made me very little money (no, really VERY little) – do I hear the sound of violins in the background? But to me it’s not about the money (really, it’s not). I just want people to read what I write which is the whole point of being a writer isn’t it. And as I’m planning to list everything at 99p I hope that a few will take the risk. Yes, I’d live to give up the day job but I’m luckier than most as I do 2.5 days with a job sharer so I get 4.5 days a week to do exactly what I want and 99% of that is writing-related. I think we all dream of paying off the mortgage, maybe even having a second house by the sea (Brighton or Norfolk for me; yes, I’ve thought about it… a lot) but who knows what the future holds but at least with eBooks we have some control over it and in that respect, I can’t wait. :)
And sort of a P.S.:
A group of girlfriends and I saw a clairvoyant recently (their idea although it was fun) and other than a couple of things that haven’t panned out, some of the things the lady said were spookily accurate (my love of water, she said “having swum the Channel”… actually she said the Channel as she said it felt a long way, it was actually a mile but it was 132 lengths of a 25m pool which is quite a way, especially as I couldn’t touch the edges or put my feet down – and at the end I expected a trophy but got a little black square cloth badge, which is in my loft somewhere, sitting in a box with a swimming medal presented by the late actor Sir John Mills so I can’t complain!). I’m still not sure about the hieroglyphics she mentioned (but didn’t know what they were) but I guess I’ll find out or not… maybe I’ll have a book signing by the Pyramids. :) She also said that August 2012 would be a turning point in my artistic career and a load of us (all but three of us are writers, the rest are readers) are going to Edinburgh Book Festival that month, which will also be my 45th birthday so we shall have to wait and see. Well, not ‘wait’ because I’ll be too busy with my eBooks. :)
Thank you Marilyn. It was fun to be on the receiving end.
And thank you, Morgen, it was great fun learning so much about you. When you have your books ready to promote, let me know!