Morgen Bailey is an indefatigable spirit, a mere glance at her blog will convince you of that. Take a look and you’ll find it’s full of great interviews and lots of goodies for us writers.Today I am featured in her blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more – number 206!
I thought it would be fun to reciprocate so here is Morgen Bailey answering some questions I put to her
Hi Morgen – please tell us something about yourself
Hello Avril. Thank you for inviting me today. OK, short answer (because I can waffle for England!): I’m a tall (5’10 / 1.78m) mid-40s English blonde who’s always been an avid reader (Stephen King in my teens, mellowed to crime and humour more recently) but came to writing after stumbling across crime writer Sally Spedding’s creative writing critique workshop late 2005 at my local university and haven’t looked back. I took over when Sally moved to Wales early 2008, added a writing workshop a year later and we’re still going strong. I’ve written four and a bit novels (three of those for NaNoWriMo), two anthologies (including Story A Day May), over 100 short stories, some poetry (although I still don’t ‘get it’ and admire those who do) and loads of flash fiction. Plenty of fiction fodder to eBook, mostly dark and light with a distinct grey area in between. :)
Where do you write? Can you describe the space – the things around you and how you get started? Do you for instance need coffee and music before you can write?
I’ve just moved desk actually. I converted my back bedroom into a study (the joy of living alone, well… with a dog). It’s the second biggest in the house and catches the sunlight (I have a gardener’s dream: a south-facing garden) and I’m a morning person so it’s perfect for me, plus it backs on to other gardens so little road noise. I have two Mac laptops; the main one on the old (proper) desk playing through my iTunes 2-star rated songs so I can delete the ones I don’t want to upgrade to 3-star (I’m a nerd by the way) – this I can do while emailing but I have to have classical (noise but no lyrics) when I’m actually writing – then on my desk (actually a fairly small round pine table given to me by my aunt / uncle when they upgraded their conservatory furniture – my whole upstairs is pine, suits the 1930s wooden floors) I have my smaller laptop (a MacBook Air – which goes everywhere with me) and a great 19” monitor so I can have two things open at once and drag from one to the other (see earlier ref to nerdiness – inherited from my brother – his studio apartment in Zurich looks like a scene out of Minority Report, although I don’t remember Tom Cruise having to step over things to get from one side of the room to the other, thankfully not something I’ve inherited from my brother). I also have a magazine rack of display books containing printouts from everything that goes on my blog and Morgen Bailey Daily e-newspaper. :) I also have a pot of pens, another of mints (I love humbugs) a clock (not sure why as I use the laptop’s), Bluetooth keyboard (I have long arms but not that long) and magic mouse and a couple of noteblocks for scribbling stuff (usually jobs lists).
I’d like to like coffee (I love the smell) but it’s tea, or at the moment the dregs of a cup of tea and pineapple juice and lemonade.
Oh yes, I missed a bit. How I get started. It depends really. I’m on a work-in-progress at the moment (anthology called ‘Calendar Girls’) which came from having written a story called April’s Fool and then I thought why not do another 11 stories about the other women. Unless it’s dreadful it’ll be buffed and polished to death and then go online next year as another $1.49 eBook.
You seem to favour stories and novellas. Any tips for other writers tackling either of these forms?
I do, well spotted. :) I used to read novels (see earlier reference to Stephen King) but I don’t have so much time now (although I love listening to audio novels – just finished the 7-hour ‘Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’, which was great by the way, despite having too many people hesitating / pausing / deliberating – but then we writers will always have a pick at something) so I love short stories and novellas because I can read them in one go; plus I’m often too keen (either if it’s gripping or extremely dull) to get to the end!
As for tips, it depends on the story but best just to concentrate really on one scene or event. Don’t have more than four characters or you’ll confuse the reader (and make their names very different to each other). I’d say every sentence counts in a novel but every word counts in a short story. It should have the usual factors; mix of short and long sentences, dialogue and description – and everything written should be there for a reason; does it keep the story moving? Do we learn more about the characters.
You can obviously elaborate in a novella more than a short stories but the above still holds true. If a reader starts to glaze over, just one more bit of waffle (something I’m good at) will make them put the book down and move on to someone else’s. I really think that the eBook will be the making of short stories (certainly hoping so anyway) – we’re busy, our attention spans are shorter and I think now that established writers will actually start making their books shorter for this very reason. There aren’t many people out there who’d read 100,000 words on their iPhone, a Kindle maybe but I think it’s the way eBooks are going to lead writing… and I for one will be walking right alongside it. :)
Is there a kind of book you’d like to write but haven’t got round to yet or haven’t dared?
My NaNoWriMo book last year is probably the one that will never see light of day. It was based on an experience I had (not a good one) and I had my character (a Lara Croft, incredibly successful, version of myself) get her own back on the man involved. It’s inspired by what happened and I’ve kept his name (but not mine) because it’s also a great play on words. I’d have to change his name if it ever went out in to the ether and it would lose that meaning. It may go out in some form as I have a few wonderful prison scenes that I had such fun writing but generally it was a therapeutic write, one best left in a ring binder.
I’m fascinated by The 365-Day Writer’s Block Workbook – can you tell us something about it and where we can get hold of it?
Absolutely. This was my first eBook sale so it’s my baby. :) I have been podcasting since August 2010 and in the hints & tips episodes I usually include seven sentence starts for anyone listening to continue, one a day, if they wish (some have and told me so!) and I’d gathered over 3,000 of them (many written when I was temping and was on a too-quiet reception, something I’d relish now). I did put a load of them on Twitter but then I changed it to report the news of one of the writing groups I belong to and put the sentence starts on my blog.
Sentence starts are one of the exercises I use regularly in my Monday night workshops and they’re one of my favourite prompts so I thought I’d create new ones for a writing guide and The 365-Day Writer’s Block Workbook (Volume 1) was born (there will be other volumes of other exercises, not more sentence starts – not until volume 21 maybe). It contains over 1,000 sentence starts split into 21 a week (three a day) and a mixture of first person (days 1 and 4), second person (rarely used in fiction but my favourite – days 2 and 5), third person (days 3 and 6) and then any pov (i.e. As the piece of paper set light…) for day 7. At the end of each week there’s a tip of some description so plenty to keep a writer (whether they suffer from writer’s block or not) or writing group going for a year.
Like the Story A Day May anthology (they’re both $1.49) and free eShorts, it’s currently accessible via http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/morgenbailey. They’ve only been online since late October / early November (2011) and I’m very pleased with the feedback (although I’d love more reviews!) so far. Every time I receive a Smashwords ‘purchase notification’ or ‘review notification’ email comes in a stupid grin spreads across my face.
What does the future hold for writers and what do you hope it holds for you?
In a word ‘exciting’. We have more control than ever before and whilst it’s more difficult than ever to get an agent or publisher we can build up a reputation online before we catch their attention. And some, like me, will go their own way with eBooks with the thought at the back of their mind that one day they may have their books in bookshops but in the meantime have a wonderful time connecting with, and occasionally selling to, their potential readers. I have a LOT of content that can go online but it’s a slow process. I’ve gone through the Smashwords formatting hurdle (still with a smile on my face), enjoyed designing my own covers (it’s made me look at photography in a new light – leaving plenty of room for title, author name) and have Amazon next on the hit list with the seven items (four free shorts, the workbook and two variations of a 31-story anthology; one just the stories, the other prompts and author comments). I wouldn’t do it without an editor and I have a great one (hi Rachel!) which is why it’s slow, because we’re being thorough and for a writer who means business, that’s the only way to go.
Favourite inspirational quote:
<laughs> One of my favourites is a Douglas Adams but I wouldn’t call it inspirational. “I love deadlines – the sounds as they woosh by”. I’m generally very good with deadlines (the worst thing anyone can say to me is that’s there’s no hurry). A fellow Script Frenzy (I did http://scriptfrenzy.com April 2010) writer said “you can’t edit a blank page” and that does it for me.
Thank you Avril, I’ve enjoyed being on the other end of the mic. :)