Author Spotlight: Morgan Bell @queenboxi #interview

Author-Spotlight

Morgan Bell
Morgan Bell

About the Author:

Morgan Bell is a young Australian woman, born in Melbourne, Victoria in 1981. She attended primary school in the regional areas of New South Wales, including the Northern Rivers, and the South Coast, and attended secondary school in the southern suburbs of Newcastle. She currently lives in Sydney and works in Local Government as an engineer. Morgan is university educated in civil engineering, traffic engineering, technical communications, linguistics, and literature. She is a member of Hunter Writers Centre, Newcastle Writers Group, and Newcastle Speculative Fiction Group. Her short story “It Had To Be Done” was first published in the Newcastle Writers Group Anthology 2012, and her short story “Midnight Daisy” was published by YWCA Newcastle in 2013 as part of the She: True Stories project, with live readings on ABC 1233 in February 2014 and Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2014.

Connect with Morgan:

Website | Amazon |Facebook | Twitter: @queenboxi | Goodreads

Interview:

MF: Sniggerless Boundulations developed from a collation of scraps of paper that you had scrawled on during your weekly writers groups. Did the scrawlings and eventual stories emerge from prompts, observations or pure imagination?
MB: Most of them were from prompts. Telfer Speck, Shark Fin Soup, and Granted were all short story competition entries. Mrs Jackson was from an anxiety dream. Mini Play was, ironically enough, originally a short play that I converted to prose and extended. But the other ten stories were all from weekly writers prompts that were distributed through my local writers group in Newcastle Australia. We would get a mixture or photos, art works, words, phrases, and quotes. A story like It Had To Be Done was literally generated from the prompt phrase “it had to be done”. The Package was from the iconic image of John and Yoko where John Lennon is nude and in the foetal position. But of course that is one prong of the inspiration, then they are filled with little snippets or paraphrases of real life with my own imagined motivation, backstory, or extrapolation attached. I should also add a fair bit of googling goes into expanding a prompt into a purposeful narrative, I do a lot of free association and leading myself down the virtual rabbit hole until I find something meaningful.

MF: Sniggerless Boundulations is a collection of short stories. Do you have a novel in you dying to be written?
MB: I do actually, I have been working on an outline for a speculative fiction novel with all female protagonists, based on some fairy tales and urban myths, working title: Daughters of Mallory. There is also a novel I really want to write based on my experiences living in Darlinghurst, the gay and lesbian suburb or Sydney, Australia, when I was in my early 20s, about share-housing and the night life scene, I just haven’t decided how to write it. I am a fan of John Birmingham’s He Died With A Felafel In His Hand (which was made into a movie of the same name in 2001 starring Noah Taylor), and that is written in a scrapbook or diary style with a series of anecdotes from thirteen different houses he rented a room in. I would like to do something similar with some longer character arcs and a bit of gender bending.

MF: Your writing has been called ‘engaging’ ‘crisp, clean, sharp and vivid’. What is your editing process like?
MB: I am a technical writer by trade. I spend my work days trimming down technical burble to plain English, in a civil engineering environment, so it is a built-in response to brutally cull excess wording. Although because it is so automatic I often edit as I write, which I am aware is generally a big no no, but it’s hard to turn it off. I attend a writers group with the director of the Hunter Writers Centre, Karen Crofts, and she has been influential is getting me to reassess my adjective use. In editing I try to get rid of redundancies and tighten up phrasing and sentence structure. Richard Curtis (screenwriter, Notting Hill) said in the audio commentary for the deleted scenes from the film The Boat That Rocked, when explaining why he could delete the backstory of Gavin Kavanagh (Rhys Ifans) and not lose anything from the feel of the total film, that sometimes a whole elaborate joke could be executed with one word if is spoken by a fully formed character like anti-hero Edmund Blackadder (from his TV show Blackadder).

MF: Are there any specific themes in the stories of Sniggerless Boundulations that you want readers to discover?
MB: Mental illness is what feeds the subtext of the collection. I recently did a guest post on Laura Brown’s blog (http://www.laurabrownauthor.com/2014/06/02/guest-blog-post-morgan-bell-writing-about-mental-illness/) outlining how many of the stories tie in with my own experiences with mental illness, particularly anxiety and depression. The intention of many of the stories is simply to emote, so if a reader can get a sense of that horrifying panic or despair than I have done my job.

MF: As a self-published author, how do you market your work? Any marketing tips for other authors thinking about self-publishing?
MB: A couple of methods I have been sticking to are maintaining an online presence, and never being afraid to ask. If you want someone to read and review your book you first have to ask and secondly have to provide them with a copy. Having some pre-prepared marketing materials such as a leaflet and website that include a blurb, bio, excerpts, purchasing links etc ready to go will make marketing a self-published book much easier to market. I was a bit of an old internet attention-whore from way back, but now I am shameless. If you ever had an old blog or profile that is just lying dormant full of cobwebs, dust it off and change the ‘About’ section to being about your book, and share all your interviews and reviews across your big woven web. Other indie authors are doing the same thing and are usually keen to reciprocate. Reactivate that MySpace or Blogger or WordPress or Stumbleupon or Tumblr and get sharing.

MF: What part of the writing process do you find easiest? Most difficult?
MB: Sometimes structuring can be difficult if you are trying to present a complex idea metaphorically. That’s where the old Microsoft Word comes in handy, cut and paste is a godsend. I have tried programs like Y-writer and sticky notes apps but sometimes I’ll just do a pen and paper mind map. I find writing dialogue easy, maybe I make all the character sound like me, I don’t know, but I enjoy writing a verbal exchange between two or more characters.

MF: What has been the toughest criticism given to you as a writer? What has been the best compliment?
MB: I have had a few comments about my writing having a childlike quality to it, a lack of sophistication in vocabulary, but it was never negative and quite honestly that’s the whole point. I want my writing to be accessible without being condescending, and my phrasing to be calculated without being wanky. I don’t use words that I wouldn’t use when speaking to you in person. As for true compliments, I can’t go past a comparison to a successful author, I got a couple of reviews that compared Sniggerless Boundulations to J. D. Salinger and Stephen King and thought it was fabulous. My friend Karen from Hunter Writers Centre once referred to me as Newcastle’s answer to Haruki Murakami, which was very kind indeed. I also like it when my work is recognised as being postmodern and containing tension.

MF: . Aside from polished and engaging writing, what three things do you think every new writer must do in order to succeed in this highly competitive and ever-changing industry?
MB: I am such a newcomer, I don’t know if I can tutor other on success. I know as a reader and as a human being I appreciate it when writers offer up a diverse catalogue, however I have read studies that show sales-wise it is most lucrative to have one relatable protagonist reappearing over a series of similar books, for building your brand and reader loyalty (http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidvinjamuri/2014/03/04/the-strongest-brand-in-publishing-is/2/). Forbes magazine declared Lee Child to be the most successful author at gaining loyalty over the likes of John Grisham and Stephen King for this very reason. One thing I know that gets you writing is short story competitions, because you write to a deadline and a prompt. Another thing is being actively involved in your local writers community so you can be perpetually inspired and encouraged by writers from all genres and walks of life.

MF: If I gave you a hippo where would you hide it?
MB: This question reminds me of the infamous Van Halen demand about brown M&Ms in the dressing room (http://www.snopes.com/music/artists/vanhalen.asp), a peculiar detail in a long technical contract as a double-check to see if the venue had actually read the sound and lighting specs for the bands elaborate gear set-up. I don’t know if you are testing me or we are testing your dear readers, but I like it. The answer is I would never hide a hippo, why should I be ashamed of being the custodian or such a magnificent beast. He would be the centrepiece of my home with his own hippo-esque quarters and unfettered access to the entertaining spaces. My mother is a bit of a pet-stealer (hoarder? borrower? fosterer?), you take a pet to her house for a bit of a holiday and it never comes back, the property is like a Noah’s Arc of animals. So if the hippo wanted to hide himself he could do so in plain sight at Grandma Bell’s house

MF: If you could jump into a book, and live in that world … which would it be?
MB: I think it would be something from my childhood like the sleepy woodland of pools that Digory discovers in C.S. Lewis’s The Magicians Nephew, or Enid Blyton’s enchanted wood with the folk of the faraway tree. Obviously I would want to be in woods of some kind, magical woods. I could possibly settle for Sherwood Forrest, I could wear green stockings with a bunch of merry men.

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Sniggerless Boundulations:

Debut collection of short stories by indie Australian author Morgan Bell. A cross-section between dreams and reality. An examination of the horrors of life, with plenty of peering, in the form of vignettes, micro fiction, flash fiction, and short stories.

Themes include fear, time, aging, anxiety, and jealousy.

This collection of fifteen stories contains bizarre medical conditions, industrious creatures, conniving cops, killers, dead bodies, a rescue mission, homoeroticism, nonchalant students, a secret garden, and the road to hell.

Contains the stories:

The Tunnel (173 words)
Deep Water (127 words)
Shark Fin Soup (507 words)
The Dermoid Cyst (384 words)
Mrs Jackson (644 words)
It Had To Be Done (206 words)
Granted (1034 words)
The Package (482 words)
Strings & Ribbons (131 words)
Mini Play (485 words)
Tiptoe Through The Tulips (523 words)
Poppycock (327 words)
Telfer Speck (1499 words)
Earth Mites (409 words)
Garsdale (539 words)

Purchase Sniggerless Boundulations:

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