Author Interview: Morgan Bell - by Roberta Capizzi (originally published 18-06-14 on the Roberta's Dreamworld blog)
|Posted by Morgan Bell on October 14, 2014 at 9:30 AM|
The following interview was conducted by Roberta Capizzi on the website Roberta's Dreamworld on 18 June 2014 (06:00EST). The site has been down for maintenance for a few months, so here is a reprint until it is back up and running. Be sure to check out Roberta's romance novels on Goodreads!
My next guest in the Indie Author Interview Corner is an author who writes short stories. Dear readers, please welcome Morgan Bell, author of the short story collection “Sniggerless Boundulations”.
Hello Morgan! Welcome to Roberta’s Dreamworld and thank you for your time. First of all, tell us something about yourself, both as a writer and as a person.
Hi Roberta, thank you for having me here. As a writer I am concise and community-minded, and I almost exclusively write in third person. As a person I am something of an amazon woman, I am six foot tall, and I am a people-watcher, a listener, and audio-learner, and an auditor. I am a local government engineer and a technical writer by day, and a youtube addict by night.
How/when did you realize you wanted to become a writer?
My family moved around a lot when I was a little kid, so my parents spent a lot of time teaching me and my sister how to read and write so we wouldn’t fall behind at school. Sometimes we did distance schooling on the road. I remember designing documents like little brochures and restaurant menus when I was in primary school. And I was a prolific letter writer, I had many penpals from previous schools and chain letters etc. Professionally my lean has been more towards technical writing, but around my 30th birthday in 2011 I joined a local writers group in Newcastle, Australia, and my creative writing really flourished being in a collaborative and diverse setting. I always thought I would write a novel when I retired, but now I think what am I waiting for?
Let’s speak about Sniggerless Boundulations. Can you tell us a little about what the book is about?
Sniggerless Boundulations is experimental contemporary literary fiction, and collection of fifteen short stories that range from vignettes to micro-fiction/flash-fiction, with story lengths varying between 150 to 2,000 words. The overarching themes are time, aging, jealousy, fear and anxiety. Some of the characters include killers, nosey office workers, seedy old men, competitive women, a galactic physician, and a haughty abseiler.
How did you come up with the idea and how did you create the characters?
Most of the stories were written either as flash fiction for my writers group, or as entries for short story competitions. I had been writing on scrap pieces of paper and saving word docs here there and everywhere with no system. Then I was retrenched from my job at the end of 2013 and in the process of packing up my work desk and copying my files to USB, and then packing up my house to move for a job in another city, I collected all my little stories together and begun to notice some recurring themes. Many of the characters are versions of myself, little iterations or refractions of my personality, and some that are composites of elements from family and friends and customers at work.
I usually have a hard time keeping the word count low, so I’m curious: how did you manage to write a complete story in only a few thousand words?
Many of my stories are only a few hundred words, as one reviewer said I have “the economy of a poet”, so the stories that get into the thousands are my long pieces. Basically the stories are not plot heavy, the characters are not in action sequence after action sequence, we just drop into their lives at a defining moment, so I am cutting all the backstory and letting the reader draw their own conclusions. If a traditional short story translates basically to a feature film in length, my stories are like one pinnacle scene from a movie, the scene where the character develops.
If you should describe your books in three words, what would you pick?
Tense, intellectual, awkward.
Do you have any favorite authors and did they influence your choice of the genre?
I was given confidence to present my work in its current structure by collections like Jim Crace’s “The Devil’s Larder”, Tim Winton’s “The Turning”, and Deborah Levy’s “Black Vodka”. As for voice I am a huge fan of Oscar Wilde and Jane Austen and their subtle witticisms with cleverly placed choice of words in dialogue and description. I am probably even more influenced by screen-writers like Charlie Kaufman and Stephen Frears.
What else do you enjoy doing, when you’re not writing?
I love watching movies and tv, and attending live events where people speak, such as writers festivals, comedy/drag shows and theatre, and the occasional contemporary dance performance or concert. I am big on dinner dates with my friends, especially if it is dinner and a movie, or dinner and some tv. I am currently doing a course in mosaic, and am attempting to care for some potted flowers in my window, and two eccentric goldfish: Carl (a black moor) and Kindra (a red comet), and studying post-grad Linguistics.
As a writer do you get support from your family and friends?
My dad read my book in thirty minutes flat and said I needed to work on my endings, he is not a fan of modern or post-modern art in general, but his favourites were the last three stories which veered more towards speculative fiction and a traditional plot arc. My writers group friends have been amazing, buying and spruiking my book, and giving me lots of positive feedback. I was asked to speak at the Newcastle Writers Festival, and my book was used as a working example with membership recruitment for the Hunter Writers Centre. Some people still deride self-publishing as pretend publishing but are still supportive of my content. It can be confusing to people when you wear both the author and publisher cap.
Why did you decide to self-publish and how did you find the experience?
I was going through a turbulent time in my day-job career and home life and I wanted something positive to focus on, I wanted to experiment with Kindle and Lulu to try something new, I had a bit of spare time because I took a semester off study, I wanted to use my technical writing skills for page layout/formatting etc, and I wanted my work to be on public record uncensored. Kindle was the easiest to use, it had great cover design tools and converted my document to Kindle format exactly as I wanted it the first go. Lulu was a bit more of a beast, I was struggling to embed common fonts and get the page numbering right. I did one dud proof with the pages out by one because an extra blank page was added after the contents page by their conversion tool (probably a page or section break or something, but it took many many many goes to get it right). Im really enjoying the marketing component of self-publishing, making my own leaflets, blurbs, bios, writing letters and emails and press releases, however I do acknowledge it probably does distract from working on my next creative writing project.
Indie authors don’t get to have a dedicated marketing team and professionals to look after the marketing of their books. How did you spread the news about your books and did it work?
I have probably done it all arse-up, but in this order i:
• published on Kindle and announced the e-book on Facebook
• published on Lulu and announced the paperback on Facebook
• did some online interviews and posted them on Facebook
• authorized Lulu to open my book to wide distribution so it would be available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble as a paperback
• got a Goodreads author page and submitted my book
• got a website for the book up and running
• ran a free e-book promotion on Kindle for two days
• approached Maclean’s booksellers in Newcastle to have my book stocked at the festival bookstore for the 2014 Newcastle Writers Festival
• ordered a box of 60 of my books from Lulu so I had some hardcopies to give to people who don’t like the internet or don’t trust online purchasing
• create a Facebook fan page in addition to my personal page
• join some Facebook writers community groups
• ran a Goodreads giveaway promotion and sent five free copies of my book to places all over the world, including Libya, UK, USA, and India (which garnered a few additional reviews)
• posted hardcopies of my books to a few reviewers, including personalized letters and marketing leaflets
• posted a link my website everytime I get an article/interview/review published
• linked from my existing blogs and profiles back to my website to boost my search-engine ratings
• continue to contribute original short stories to anthologies and competitions to keep my name out there
I still have not done an official “launch”, and I did not get reviews on the manuscript before I published (to include on the back cover and forward-matter), I really have just been winging it, but im having fun!
What are your dreams and plans for your future as a writer?
I know I have a speculative fiction novel in me, I have the bare bones of a structure nutted out. I want to do two more skinny micro-fiction collections, the second one, which I have most of the content for now, will be called Laissez Faire and be released later in the year. The third one has no working title, I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. But possibly in future I will amalgamate all three collections into one larger collection. Im just sticking to smaller achievable goals at the moment.
Would you like to say something to the readers to encourage them to read your books?
Maybe I should amend my original three words with an additional four words: wry, droll, paranoid, and pithy, because the most stand-out element of my stories are my voice, my writing has a strong deliberate voice, and when you read it you will feel something, each story emotes, whether it be dread or inadequacy or defeat, you will have an emotional reaction and see some common elements of life from another perspective.
An excerpt from one of my favourite reviews by R. B. Fortune-Wood
“There is the authorial refusal to gratify the reader's expectations, a constant urge to transcend banality at the same time as studying it and the pathos of comedy and poignancy finding expression in identical and excruciating moments. Unaffected, without warning, Bell's narratives produce a discomforting aesthetic, taking hold of the awkward and suspending that tender unease for as long as the prose can cope.”
Finally: how can we get in touch with you?
Amazon amazon.com/Morgan-Bell/e/B00HXEIDA0 (Amazon author page)
She: True Stories shetruestories.org/midnight-daisy (short story Midnight Daisy by Morgan Bell)
Links to buy your books:
lulu.com/spotlight/morganbell (Lulu paperback)