|Posted by Morgan Bell on February 12, 2018 at 6:15 AM||comments (32)|
1. Was it easy to pick the title for your book?
The title, Sniggerless Boundulations, came to me in a dream. It is essentially jibberish, but as an invented phrase, linguistically, it means a calculated step forward, which is what I was attempting to do with my life at the time.
2. When writing do you prefer typing or long hand with pen and paper?
I write most first drafts with pen and paper, I re-write and edit on the computer so I can rearrange paragraphs and restructure the prose with the power of cut and paste.
3. Do you manage to write every day?
Not even close. I write fairly sporadically. I keep an ideas journal that I jot things down in fairly regularly, but I mostly write when in the company of my writer friends, at writing days and groups and festivals, and sometimes, if a fully formed story is begging to get out of my head, I will stop and crack out paper and pen whether im on a train or waiting in a queue or for a dinner date or an event. Waiting for things to start, that’s where the magic happens.
4. How do you conceive your plot ideas?
My stories are not plot-driven, but the key moments of action or interaction that my characters experience are often centred around salient points that I want to convey to the reader for their consideration. I try to drop the reader in to that crucial moment in a character’s life where the character changes.
5. What is one book everyone should read?
Angela Carter’s The Passion of New Eve, a dystopic feminist novel, it’s a real trip and a gender bender. You will question everything you know about relations between men and women, and the imagery will stay with you forever.
6. What type of books do you enjoy reading?
Two novels I recently read are Ann Leary’s The Good House and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. I like a bit of suspense, some domestic drama, and strong deeply flawed characters. For the art of the short story done beautifully I can’t go past Cate Kennedy’s collection Dark Roots.
7. What is your favorite part of a book?
A good last line or last paragraph. Something that ties it all together but is still unexpected. One of the best is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World: “Just under the crown of the arch dangled a pair of feet. Slowly, very slowly, like two unhurried compass needles, the feet turned towards the right; north, north-east, east, south-east, south, south-south-west; then paused, and, after a few seconds, turned as unhurriedly back towards the left. South-south-west, south, south-east, east….”
8. Do you buy a book by the cover?
I am the worst for buying books based on their covers, well a combination of the cover design and back blurb and dust jacket quotes etc, all the bits that are pure marketing. In recent years I have been trying to make a point of reading the first paragraph to see if I like the writing style and if the story has a good early hook.
9. Is there a particular movie that you preferred over the book version?
I thought the film of The Devil Wears Prada was better than the book. They changed the characters substantially in the screenplay to make them more complex with more universal themes and punchier dialogue.
10. Night owl, or early bird?
Total night owl. I have gone through periods in my life where I would stay up all night writing and sleep all day. There have been recent sleep studies that identified that being a ‘lark’ (early bird) or a ‘night owl’ is a genetic predisposition. There is an alarm clock gene. In hunter-gatherer society we night owls were the watchmen and lookouts, protecting the rest of the tribe while they slept. We were also the creatives, intellects, and deviants, jumping in bed with other men’s wives (or women’s husbands) under the cloak of darkness.
11. One of your favorite quotes –
"Battle not with monsters lest ye become a monster; and if you gaze into the abyss the abyss gazes into you." Friedrich Nietzsche. A powerful warning against becoming the thing you most fear due to studying it.
12. What are you scared of? Bugs, Snakes?
Snakes and bugs don’t worry me, I wouldn’t go out of my way to hang out with them but I don’t get panicked by their proximity. I am actually really scared of being near amusement park rides, especially those that swing around creating centrifugal forces. I don’t like to be anywhere near them because I fear them flying off. They always seem to be full of rusty bolts, and when not in use they sit unmaintained in a carnie’s backyard. I have a standard fear of heights, and a peculiar fear of pregnancy.
13. Who is your favorite actor?
I am a huge fan of Tom Hardy, he is an acting genius. He has very emotive eyes and brings complexity to stereotypical villains. I just love everything he does, including stoic hillbilly in Lawless, homeless alcoholic in Stuart: A Life Backwards, Bane, Heathcliff, and Bill Sikes in Oliver Twist. He is the best character actor working today.
14. Where in the world that you would really love to visit someday?
I would love to go on a geological tour of Iceland, and a zoological tour of the Galapagos Islands. I like to keep it nerdy at all times.
15. You get to travel in a Time Machine, do you go to the past or the future?
I would like to go to the future, hopefully a nice future where cancer has been cured and conflicts have been solved and the average person has a nice happy productive life where they can contribute to the community with whatever their best skills are and afford to have families and a roof over their heads without undue stress or struggle. I am such an idealist. I watched a lot of Star Trek Next Generation and Voyager as a kid, that’s kind of how I imagine the future.
16. If you could be anyone you like, who would you be?
I would love to be Helena Bonham Carter. I often joke she is living my life, she has my fluffy unruly hair, porcelain skin, pseudo-gothic sensibilities, eccentric fashion, droll sense of humour and vague memory. But she gets to dress up as witches and hang out with Johnny Depp and Tim Burton all day.
17. If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
It would be called Queen Boxi, my online handle for most social media including Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. It stems from playing dress-ups with my drag queen friends and choosing the name Boxi Von Toona. It’s all a bit of a laugh, but I know it will find its way into my written work sooner or later.
18. What advice you would give to new and aspiring writers?
Keep your sentences short. Do not use adjectives. Show, don’t tell. Break these rules every once in a while to prove you’re not a robot.
19. Where can readers find you?
Originally posted on Bunny's Book Blog 6 October 2014. Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20140910072950/http://www.blog.kybunnies.com/author-interview-morgan-bell-queenboxi/
|Posted by Morgan Bell on February 12, 2018 at 6:10 AM||comments (0)|
MY GUEST AUTHORS
AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT ~ Morgan Bell
Posted on Thursday, June 12, 2014 10:24 AM
AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH MORGAN BELL
Is there a particular book or author who inspired you to write?
I have been inspired by Angela Carter. Ursula Leguin, Aldous Huxley, and Virginia Woolf. Some home grown (Australian) short story collections that really motivated me to publish my own collection (Sniggerless Boundulations), and/or encouraged me to keep promoting and creating, are Margo Lanagan's Black Juice, Cate Kennedy's Dark Roots, Tim Winton's The Turning, and Angela Meyer's Captives.
How many books have you written? Do you have a favorite?
I published my debut collection of short stories, Sniggerless Boundulations, earlier this year. It is my baby, I love it like it's my own flesh and blood. It is actually a great little snapshot of what's going on in my head most of the time Out of the stories in the book, Garsdale, the final story, is my favourite. It was inspired in part by the lyrics of Chris Cornell from a song called Mind Riot, and is an allegory for struggling with depression.
What are your challenges in writing?
Remembering my ideas, and finding the time to write. I need to write things down straight away or I will lose them. I keep little idea journals in my handbag to try and counteract having a mind like a sieve. I work full time as an engineer, so creative writing is my relaxation time for weekends or sometimes on a Thursdaynight in between dinner and waiting for my movie at the cinema to start.
How do you come up with the names of your characters?
I absolutely love looking up baby names on online databases or on YouTube. I like name etymology and meanings and derivations. I often give little nods to points of reference, but mostly go on the sound of the name. I have on occasion, as I work in managing road traffic, been inspired by a street name.
If your book was a movie, which actors would you choose for your characters?
I would cast Eva Green in It Had To Be Done. Crispin in The Dermoid Cyst is a Hugh Laurie type, Dawn is a Sarah Silverman, Amy is Juno Temple. Mrs Jackson would be Tilda Swinton. In The Package, Madeline would be Kate Winslet. Constable Skillion would be Aidan Gillen and Telfer Speck would be Barry Pepper. Garsdale would be Cillian Murphy.
Are you working on anything new? How far along are you with your new project?
I will have a second collection of short stories released by the end of the year. It will be called Laissez Faire. I am collating and polishing off content as we speak. I have a story (The Switch) being published in a speculative fiction anthology called Novascapes, and another story (Don't Pay The Ferryman) being published in a travel writing anthology.
Originally posted on Donna Marie's World of Writing in June 2014. Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20141021200010/http://www.donnamarieauthor.net/blog/2014/06/12/AUTHOR-SPOTLIGHT-Morgan-Bell.aspx
|Posted by Morgan Bell on February 12, 2018 at 5:30 AM||comments (0)|
RH: Morgan Bell, thanks for stopping Author Snapshot for a chat. Congratulations on the publication of your debut short story collection, Sniggerless Boundulations! You are our first micro- and short fiction author. Tell us a little about your collection of stories and how they came about.
MB: Hi Rowena, I’m really excited to be doing an Author Snapshot. Strangely enough I often refer to Sniggerless Boundulations as a little snapshot of my mind, my stories are a string of impressionistic vignettes that form a larger narrative about mental illness in everyday life. The stories were written over a period of three years, mostly as flash fiction in my local writers group, with some as short story competition entries. I am a bit of a hoarder, rarely throw anything away, but have no real system for storing things, so I would write on scrap pieces of paper and then they would get organically filed in the layers of stratification of my paper piles, never to be seen again. As fate would have it, my day job was made redundant and I had to move houses. In the moving process I brutally culled my piles of useless papers, putting anything crucial aside: a few group certificates, my cat registration papers, a friend contact list from back when phone numbers only has six digits, and any creative writing pieces. From amongst the rubble emerged the contents of Sniggerless Boundulations. Once they were in a group I could see the recurring themes: fear, anxiety, jealousy, time, aging. It was a moment of clarity, so I just had to publish it.
RH: Share with us a little about your road to publication—why you decided to go the Indie route and some of the lessons you learned along the way.
MB: I initially self-published because I had been curious to try it and it seemed like a fun learning activity. The process led me to refining and polishing my work and putting a lot of thought into presentation. I just wanted the collection for me, and the self-publishing process gave me a tangible goal and a format and other tools to shape and deliver the work. But when it was finished I was just so proud of it, I couldn’t help but show it off and share it around, its like my little baby, I sometimes refer to the collection as “baby snigs”.
I have learnt a lot about marketing, and I still have much more to learn.
A few tips:
• Use Goodreads giveaways https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/new
• Use Calibre Ebook file converter (free, requires download) http://calibre-ebook.com/download
• To get reviews you need to have hard copies and electronic copies (in various formats) ready to go, so order a box of your books and make some review copies/ARCs (Advanced Readers Copies) using Calibre
• Participate in local writers festivals and events, volunteer, ask the festival/event bookshop if they will stock your book on a consignment agreement (ie they only pay you after they sell)
• Make a website, twitter, facebook page, blog etc and link them all together with fresh links regularly
• Spend a bit of time writing your book’s blurb, author bio, one page promotional leaflet, bookmark, press release, promotional tweets, brief excerpts etc - if you give people information in a ready-to-go format they will share it around more readily
RH: What advice would you give others wanting to publish a collection of short stories?
MB: Read some other single-author collections to see how the stories are arranged. I find a short story collection to be a bit like the old “mixed tape” or the modern ipod playlist, there is an art in the order. If your stories have an evolving theme they can be like a concept album.
Keep submitting your individual stories to competitions and anthologies, a short story gets more cred the more it is published and lends to the prestige of your collection.
It is your prerogative to publish a story one way, make changes, and publish it another way. The same bones of a story may have different meanings or messages in different context. Some writers might be afraid of wasting a good idea on a short story, but you are the artist, you can rework it into as many iterations if you like. If Nobel Prize-winner for literature Alice Munro can do it, so can you. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice_Munro)
Fast Five (the first answer that comes to mind)
RH: What is your all-time favourite book/movie?
MB: book - The Passion of New Eve by Angela Carter; film – Locke (2013) and Adaptation (2002) and A Serious Man (2009) (that might seem like I cheated by picking three, but im a huge movie buff so it was really me exhibiting restraint by choosing less than fifty lol)
RH: What are you reading now?
MB: The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman and The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
RH: What is your favourite word?
RH: What is your worst writing habit?
MB: disorganisation (as a subconscious form of procrastination) ie I have a small window of time where I can get some writing done and I spend all my time searching for previous notes or the right notebook or which computer the file is saved on, I am my own saboteur
RH: What is the best bit of advice you ever got (about writing or life in general)?
MB: "He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged." Benjamin Franklin – or to expand further, ask people for help with small things as it is an opportunity for you to display your gratitude and develop loyalty for the time where a big favour may need to be asked
RH: So what’s next for Morgan Bell? Will we see another collection?
MB: I have another flash fiction collection due out at the end of the year. I am starting to see the xmas decorations being put out in shops, so I had better get cracking. The next collection is called Laissez Faire and I have completed the cover art, just wrapping up the content.
RH: Thanks for joining us today, Morgan. Where can we find Sniggerless Boundulations?
MB: Thanks for having me, and thanks for supporting independent Australian writing, I love your blog! Also good luck with your new novel Pieces of a Lie. Sniggerless Boundulations is available on Amazon in ebook and in paperback format.
Morgan Bell is a young Australian woman, born in Melbourne, Victoria in 1981. She currently lives in Sydney and works in Local Government as an engineer, but calls Newcastle home. Bell is university educated in 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, being awarded a Story Commendation at the exhibit launch, and with live readings on ABC 1233 in February 2014 and Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2014. Bell contributed a short story to Novascapes, the 2014 Hunter Speculative Fiction Anthology, called “The Switch” which is based on Germanic folklore, alongside award-winning authors such as Margo Lanagan and Kirstyn McDermott. Her short story "Don't Pay The Ferryman", an anti-travel piece, was shortlisted for the Hunter Writer's Centre Travel Writing Prize 2014.
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.
“Her eyes were itching and beginning to water, she pawed at them with the backs of her hands until they went red. A mosquito buzzed in her ear, she trod on a bee, and a single line of tiny black ants curled up around her flamingo shin. She began limping, her foot swollen, shaking the other leg like a cat who had stepped on sticky tape.” (Tiptoe Through The Tulips)
“The tune was the call of his love, a tune only he and she knew. But it was different, peppered with some menacing mannerist malice. Constable Skillion swaggered out from the scrub with a shovel slung over his shoulder, tobacco smoke unfurling. He spied Telfer lingering over the dirt mound and stopped his whistling. Telfer snapped to face the silence.” (Telfer Speck)
Originally posted on Rowena Holloway's blog as an Author Snapshot in October 2014. Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20150214175408/http://rowenaholloway.com/meet-morgan-bell-micro-and-short-fiction-author
|Posted by Morgan Bell on February 12, 2018 at 5:15 AM||comments (0)|
Hello and welcome to the Author Alliance. Thanks for making time to join us today.
It is a pleasure to be here. Thank you for the opportunity to tread the same (online) floorboards as all these other fabulous indie authors. I am excited to promote my new book Sniggerless Boundulations, a collection of experimental contemporary literary fiction, with characters that include killers, nosey office workers, seedy old men, competitive women, a galactic physician, and a haughty abseiler.
What is the title of your latest release?
Please tell us about your latest book release and provide a brief description & tell us what inspired it.
From the official blurb: "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. 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."
Many of the stories were inspired initially by writers prompts ie images, words, phrases, quotes, scenarios, from my local writers group or from short story competition themes. When considering how to elaborate on the prompts I was inspired by observed human interactions, song lyrics and theme, especially from the music of Soundgarden and Blitzen Trapper, and the desire to articulate those feeling of unease the come with anxiety and depression. What inspired me to weave all these stories together into a collection was the recurring motifs. It was like a jigsaw puzzle coming together and revealing a monster and the monster clawing its way out of the second dimension.
Is there a specific genre that you focus on?
As a whole my collection, Sniggerless Boundulations, is contemporary literary fiction, but many of the individual stories are actually speculative fiction. On the face of it it is pure domestic realism with the occasional surrealist element or twist. I am working on a post-modern speculative fiction novel - working title: The Daughters of Mallory - which riffs off some fairy tales and nursery rhymes and classic novel archetypes. I have a short story in the Hunter Region 2014 Speculative Fiction Anthology, Novascapes, called "The Switch", which is based on germanic folklore. Other pieces such as "Don't Pay The Ferryman", which was shortlisted for the 2014 Hunter Writers Centre Travel Writing Prize, are portraits of urban/regional Austr alian life.
What do you like best about developing characters?
I love picking out the names for my characters, researching the origins and meanings of names, and working with short and long syllables and dull and sharp vowel sounds to develop a name that is absolutely perfect for a character. I also I love giving my characters unique speech patterns where appropriate. And I'm a sucker for the big reveal of a hidden quality in a character, something unexpectedly bad or good, something refreshingly unusual or comfortingly common. I like my characters to have flaws and vulnerabilities and quirks. Horrible characters are the most fun to write, but they usually have some redeeming personality trait or motivation. I like imagining a reader really connecting and relating to my characters. My work is mos tly character-driven.
Do you have a set writing time? Please describe your writing habits.
Due to the obligations of the daily grind I do not have regular writing times pencilled in to my schedule, I am an opportunistic writer, who snatches little moments of time in between work and socialising to jot things down in my notebook. If an idea is begging to be articulated I find the time, even if I have to stop mid-conversation or write down the margin of my meeting agenda. My most productive writing time is always in the presence of other writers, at writers groups or functions or festivals. Just sharing the same space as other creatives and hearing their work read out or their unique perspective on life really ignites the wordsmith in me.
What motivated or inspired you to become a writer?
I have always been a writer, its just something I really enjoy. As a kid I was a prolific letter writer, we moved around a lot and I had a bunch of penpals. In high school I loved writing essays for english and art history. In my professional life I am a technical writer, drafting and editing documents all day. I became a blogger in my mid-20s, and I wrote radio scripts and op-ed news articles and online content. Then it occurred to me that I ought to pair my love for the written word with my love for storytelling (or gossiping, as it is colloquially known), and in the year of my 30th birthday I joined up to a writers group in my local community (Newcastle, Australia) and started crafting stories according to prompts and competitions. So its all been something of a natural progression.
Who are your favorite authors? Why?
Oscar Wilde and Angela Carter, they were both breaking down boundaries way before their time, and they produced multi-layered works that were brutal social commentaries. For the same reason Jane Austen is also a favourite. At the moment I am enjoying books from Lauren Beukes, Margo Lanagan, Cate Kennedy, Julienne Van Loon, and Jim Crace.
What is your favorite indie book? Why?
I have a really odd book of short stories on my bookshelf called Writing In A Vacuum by Vincent Collazo, it is trippy and dreamy and philosophical, and virtually unknown, doesn't even have a Goodreads entry. Another indie gem is Dathan Auerbach's Penpal, it is a horror story about a man recollecting strange events from his childhood, it is brilliant at building suspense, and I do admire a book that can maintain tension.
What are you most optimistic about in the current publishing world?
I like how supportive indie writers are of other indie writers online. I have been given author spotlights and interviews on so many blogs, there is a wonderful community spirit. I am optimistic about what a viable alternative self-publishing is to traditional publishing, and creative freedom that that is extending to unknown authors.
If you could change one thing concerning the publishing industry, what would it be?
It would be nice if paperbacks were printed locally with much lower retail prices. Then maybe book stores would come back into vogue. I guess we are probably saving trees by switching to e-readers, but there will always be something magical about rummaging through a stack of books, looking at all the cover art and blurbs, and finding a gem that you keep forever. Full disclosure: I'm a known hoarder.
Who are your heroes? Why?
I idolise grunge rock musician Chris Cornell, he is an amazing lyricist and performer with a good heart and a nice face. I also really enjoy outspoken political commentators like Germaine Greer and Janeane Garofalo and Russell Brand and Bill Maher, I may not always agree with them but at least they are putting new ideas out into the public sphere. My favourite online news programs are The Young Turks (particularly humorous and thoughtful commentary from Ben Mankiewicz and Jimmy Dore) and The David Pakman Show, for truly independent news coverage. I also admire the unapologetic honesty of Australian stand-up comedians Greg Fleet and Judith Lucy, and british comedian Jenny Eclair.
If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
I would make it socially acceptable for night owls to work their jobs at night and sleep late during the mornings. We all need the flexibility to dream when we are sleepy. That and free unlimited after-hours mental health care for all that need it, that's the idealist in me.
What makes you a unique human being?
I am a triple-A human being: Atheist, Asexual, Australian. I am also a six-foot tall woman, so it would be fair to also refer to me as an Amazon.
What makes your books unique?
It is very short, only 69 pages, and contains some very very short pieces, from 150 to 2,000 words. It has been described as being a "bite sized treat", and as having a "discomforting aesthetic, taking hold of the awkward and suspending that tender unease for as long as the prose can cope" and "recommended for the reader that is ready to explore the rocky path and look deep into the secular modern heart". My writing style has been compared to J. D. Salinger and Stephen King, with "subliminal messages" and a "deliberate distribution of stories" with "many layers". As one reviewer said "Rarely is an author able to so clearly capture and convey emotions and small slices of life in so few words, with the economy of a poet."
Do you have an upcoming release? If so, please describe it.
Sniggerless Boundulations is available now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Lulu, The Book Depository etc. It was released in January 2014 as book a Kindle ebook and a paperback. It is a beautiful slim little book that is a stroll through the busy corridors of my mind. Read it for yourself and describe it to me, you will see yourself in it, it is like a literary mirror to your soul.
Thank you for joining us. We appreciate you taking the time to tell us a little about yourself and wish you the best of luck as an author.
Thanks so much for letting me ramble on. I have really enjoyed this interview and appreciate all you are doing to promote indie authors, this website provides a voice for all us little people, odd-bods and misfits, and people just passionate about distributing their point of view via the written word.
Originally posted on Author Alliance Interviews in June 2014.
|Posted by Morgan Bell on February 12, 2018 at 5:05 AM||comments (0)|
Why short stories?
It started with my local writers group in Newcastle, it was one evening a week and the coordinator would send out an email full of writers prompts prior to the meeting and we were asked to select a prompt as inspiration and write a piece of flash fiction. When we had a larger group we were asked to stick to 350 words or less and when the group was smaller we would write to 500 words. Each writer read their work aloud in the meeting, so the shortness of the stories was for time management. In the meeting we would also read a classic short story and discuss it, and I got a real appreciation for the artistry that goes into a short story. I am a technical writer in the engineering world as my day job so I am trained to make things as concise and informative as possible. So for me im mixing an art with a craft. I have a natural desire to get down to brass tacks, but I want the result to be beautiful and unique.
What is the shortest story you have ever written?
The shortest story in Sniggerless Boundulations is Deep Water, which is 127 words. That one is more of a vignette. There are a few vignettes at the beginning to set the tone of mystery and apprehension. They are like a hook to the larger pieces. In my new book Laissez Faire (soon to be released) the first story Sit Down is 111 words. I am doing a series through my Patreon page https://www.patreon.com/queenboxi, and through my mailing list sign-up where I get fans to participate and submit 4 words for me and I form them into a 100-500 word story, so there could be even shorter stories in the future.
How long did it take you to write it?
My little stories are often like a one-take shot. I could write them in one sitting while waiting for someone or something, or while attending a writers gathering (I get most inspired around other authors). Longer pieces, over 1,000 words can sometimes take a few weeks, piecemeal around my day job and other commitments. I do a lot of thinking before I write, and I write in sections with a lot of thinking and research in between each session. I basically form the entire story in my head before I open the word document to type.
Where do your ideas come from?
Many are inspired by real people or situations or current events. I rework little tid-bits i am told or experience, and put a philosophical bent on them. Sometimes it helps to set the story in a fictional town or world to put a bit of distance between the reader and what they are reading, otherwise it would be quite confronting. I like writing stories directly from dreams. I strongly believe dreams are the recycle bins of our fears, these little misshapen collages where ideas clash and merge and repeat ad infinitum. I have very vivid dreams and will often write them down into my notebook first thing in the morning. The story Mrs Jackson is an example of an anxiety dream. The stories Telfer Speck and Garsdale were inspired my music, both lyics and atmosphere, by Blitzen Trapper and Soundgarden respectively.
Is there any author in particular who inspire you?
I really like Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff for short stories. Also Cate Kennedy, Margo Lanagan, Tim Winton, and Jim Crace. Neil Gaiman writes a good short story, I recently saw him speak (and sing) at Sydney Recital Hall and he read a piece called “Adventure Story” that was pure perfection. Cate Kennedy’s “A Pitch Too High For The Human Ear” and Tobias Wolffs “In the Garden of the North American Martyrs” are must-reads for short story lovers.
To date how many short stories have you written?
There are 18 published, with another 17 to be published this year. This includes the contents of Sniggerless Boundulations, Laissez Faire, my story Midnight Daisy from the She: True Stories project, and stories in anthologies like Novascapes and Prints Charming. The rest just sits in fragments in my note books until I pull a bit out and expand it or mash it together with something else.
How did you come up with the title of your book Sniggerless Boundulations?
That phrase came to me I a dream. I was dreaming about red coconuts that took one-hundred years to ripen and the enveloping warmth of reconnecting with an old friend. It was like the word “silencio” in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. All this implied incomprehensible meaning due to the repetition. I felt like my sub-conscious brain was trying to tell me something. Symbolically I think of it as one small step for mankind, one giant leap for this woman (me).
When I read Sniggerless Boundulations I was left wondering what the purpose of some of your short stories were yet wanting more. I was curious as to who this author named Morgan Bell was. How would you describe yourself?
Neurotic, paranoid, idealist. I am the person who sits back in the corner and watches other people and wonders what they are thinking. I can read people really well, I probably missed my calling as a cold-reading psychic charlatan. I love interesting words and phrases and the etymology of names and expressions. I also love the variations of English accents and slang and the stories behind how people in different locations came to speak the way they do. I love language evolution and portmanteaus and film quote memes. But when I write my purposes is always to express raw emotion in the closest approximation that the English language can get. I aim to convey a feeling rather than a plot, the plot is just the vehicle. The best compliment I can get is someone saying that my stories kept them thinking long after they are read. I loved that I had you scratching your head and pondering meaning, that, to me, is the aim of the game.
If you had to write a 350 page novel what would it be about?
I have a bare bones plot structure of a speculative fiction novel that im currently working on. You may not get 350 pages out of me, it might be more like 200 pages, maybe more novella length, like Steinbeck’s Of Mice & Men or Hemingway’s The Old Man & The Sea. However to my defence, I write very densely. So its like having a skinny slice of an ultra rich chocolate mud cake. My novel has a working title of Daughters of Mallory and is a feminist dystopia that appropriates an reimagines some of western literatures most underrated villains and sidekicks.
What next for Morgan Bell?
I am planning on doing a call out short stories so I can edit an anthology. It is going to be called Sproutlings and will have a sinister flora and vegetation theme. Novascapes 2 (speculative fiction from the Hunter Region of Australia) will be out this year, so I will be looking forward to helping with the promotion of that. The big project is Laissez Faire, my next flash fiction collection, and that is nearing completion. I would love to have it finished by before Newcastle Writers Festival 20-22 March 2015, however that is drawing near so I don’t want to make any promises. Sniggerless Boundulations will also be available in audiobook within the next month, I have been working with a voice artist Jon Severity to get my book into audio format, he has been doing a fabulous job, expect to see it on Audible soon.
Originally posted on the Jennifer Douglas Literary Publicist website February 2015.
|Posted by Morgan Bell on February 12, 2018 at 3:30 AM||comments (0)|
Welcome to another great Writers on Wednesday interview. This week I am chatting with Australian author Morgan Bell ...
Tell me a bit about yourself …
I am 32 years old, I grew up in Newcastle NSW, and I am currently living in Sydney. I work as a Traffic Engineer and Technical Writer for Local Government. I have two cats, Romilly and Sansa, they are twins. I love Tom Hardy films and clove cigarettes and old-school grunge rock and queer culture and scarves.
Tell us about your most recently published book?
I recently published a book of fifteen very short stories, a collection of micro-fiction, flash fiction, vignettes and traditional short stories. I had a wonderful review describe it as “a hybrid of unfiltered reality, humanist morality play and whimsical Bizzaro”. The main themes are fear, time, aging, anxiety, and jealousy. There is everything from speculative fiction to awkwardly excruciating suspense to condensed domestic drama.
Tell us about the first time you were published?
For a long time I was infrequently writing non-fiction opinion pieces for uni magazines and websites and blogs, but that kind of writing seemed to date quickly and I struggled to consistently produce content, because it felt like work. In 2011, the year of my 30th birthday, I did a google search to find out if there were any local creative writing groups in my area (Newcastle). I felt like a total fraud attending this group at first. I was half motivated to stay on with it as an excuse for socialising with like-minded people, and I half went to listen, as every meeting had live readings of flash fiction from all of the members. I was first published in the Newcastle Writers Group Anthology 2012, a very short story that was just a hand-written scribbling on a scrap of paper that I got down while listening to everyone else read. That first story “It Had To Be Done” is included in my debut collection Sniggerless Boundulations. I moved house in December 2013 and found a treasure trove of all these little scribblings that, upon further examination, when run together, were a perfect snapshot of the inner-workings of my mind. I basically published it for myself, but I have gotten a really great response from all sorts of people that I never expected would buy it.
As writer, what has been your proudest achievement so far?
I had the incredible opportunity to interview a 93 year old woman, Daisy, a close family friend, about her childhood memories from her rural northern England home town, about a month before the family took her back to the UK for her final tour. Daisy passed away in England on her holiday, after living over half her life in Australia, and was able to be laid to rest at her mother’s grave in the UK. The transcript I prepared of Daisy’s childhood stories was originally intended to be read at a school assembly of the primary school she attended in the 1930s in England, to give the current students an idea of how much daily life had changed in the last century. It was instead used in the UK funeral service and Australian memorial service. I crafted elements of the six page transcript into a 500 word short story for a competition celebrating inspirational women. The YWCA Newcastle published my story “Midnight Daisy” on the project website, included it in the exhibition launch, and invited me to do a live reading of the piece for Newcastle ABC radio. Daisy’s daughter and grandson have been really enjoying Daisy’s story being featured so highly in the project, and it has put smiles on all of our faces imagining how much Daisy would have enjoyed all this attention if she were here to see it. She was a real character.
What books or writing projects are you currently working on, if anything?
I recently contributed a short story to the 2014 Hunter Speculative Fiction Anthology (http://hunteranthology.blogspot.com.au/) called “The Switch” which is based on Germanic folklore. It is due to be published this year. I also just finished the cover art for my next collection of short stories, which will be entitled Laissez Faire, and be made available in Kindle ebook and Lulu print on demand hard-copy.
Which do you prefer? eBooks or Paper Books? Why?
I prefer to read paper books, but it is much easier to publish an ebook, so I am my worst customer. It might be because I get incredibly distracted on my computer with all my social media, or because I scan/skim so many electronic documents for work, but I can best concentrate on a book when I hold it in my hands.
Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing?
For me indie publishing all the way. I can be as weird as I like, experiment with form and length, be intentionally provocative. And im a qualified technical writer so I can edit and format my own manuscripts and do my own page/cover design. But having said all that, my primary motivation is not to monetise a hobby that I enjoy so purely, it is to express myself without censorship.
Aside from your own books, of course, what is one book that you feel everybody should read?
For perfecting the craft of the short form Australian author Cate Kennedy does it best in her collection Dark Roots, every story sticks with you and haunts you, she is the master. If you want a classic novel you can’t go past Angela Carter’s feminist dystopia The Passion Of New Eve.
Finally … is there anything you would like to say to your readers in Adelaide, Australia?
When I was a little kid in the late 80s/early 90s my parents used to haul me and my sister all around the country in a brown 1985 Toyota Corona like we were a tribe of travelling gypsies. I moved at least eight times that I can remember before settling in Newcastle. Many of the moves were between the eastern seaboard and Perth WA, via the Nullarbor Plain. Two adults, two kids, two cats, no air-conditioning, and a mattress on the roof. When my dad couldn’t stay awake to drive any more he would pull into a budget motel and make one of us kids go in and ask what the nightly rate was. If it was sufficiently low we would then try to sneak the cats into the motel room. We once lost a cat in Millicent SA due to this absurd routine. If you took in this lost cat and gave it a nice life, thank you.
Newcastle Writers Anthology 2012 http://www.amazon.com.au/Newcastle-Writers-Group-Anthology-2012-ebook/dp/B00AHM0INU/
Twitter @queenboxi or www.twitter.com/queenboxi
Midnight Daisy – She: True Stories http://shetruestories.org/midnight-daisy/
Midnight Daisy – ABC radio recording https://soundcloud.com/1233newcastle/she-morgan-bell-air
Originally posted on Kathryn White's blogspot Kathryn's Inbox in March 2014.
|Posted by Morgan Bell on February 12, 2018 at 2:45 AM||comments (0)|
October Author of the Month
So, what have you written?
My new release is a short story collection of weird literary fiction called Laissez Faire. It is the follow up to my first collection Sniggerless Boundulations. I have also edited a speculative fiction anthology called Sproutlings: A Compendium of Little Fictions which is available in hardback through Amazon.
Which writers inspire you?
Cate Kennedy, Margo Lanagan, George Saunders, Jim Crace, Charles Simic
Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand?
I generally draft and brainstorm with pen and paper. I used voice-to-text for the first time this year and hope to use it more in future. It is recommended for people who can’t sit a long time and who have ADHD and other barriers to writing. I recently attended the NSW Writers Centre’s Speculative Fiction Festival and had a chat session with John Birmingham who said he uses voice-to-text, a standing desk, and the pomodora technique for time management.
What book/s are you reading at present?
A couple of interesting short story collections I have on the go: Bream Gives Me Hiccups by Jesse Eisenberg, Dressing Up For The Carnival by Carol Shields, and Portable Curiosities by Julie Koh.
Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?
For the anthology I edited, Sproutlings, I had one round of proofreading done by contributing author and friend Sheree Christoffersen, and I couldn’t recommend it enough. A set of fresh eyes on a large project in invaluable. It got me out of an anxiety loop and helped get the book to print. For the ebooks of my single author collections, which are much shorter, I have done all the proofreading and editing myself, as it is simple enough to update the manuscript if I find a typo. However I plan on using a proofreader for all future print works.
Do you let the book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?
The benefit of having a terrible memory is that if I leave a bit of time between writing a story and editing it, it will be like I’m reading the work for the first time. I often wait many months, even years. If I am writing a story for a competition I will try to have at least a day off between completed draft and final polish.
Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about.
My Sproutlings cover was designed by local Newcastle illustrator Tallulah Cunningham. She also created the cover art for two anthologies I have been a part of, Novascapes 1 and Novascapes 2. All three covers are bookstore quality and widely complimented, I highly recommend her services. I have used Amazon Kindle’s free in-house cover designing tool for simple ebook covers, and I am becoming a pro with Canva for future projects.
Did you get interviewed by local press/radio for your book launch?
I was interviewed by two local newspapers in my area, Port Stephens NSW Australia, about my anthology Sproutlings. It was crowdfunded on kickstarter and contained content from a lot of local authors.
Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book/s?
I had two wonderful trailers made for the Sproutlings kickstarter campaign by contributing author and friend Vesna McMaster from Moosey Productions. So fun, and so effective. I would use Moosey again for trailers, top notch results.
Did you format your own book?
I did indeed. For print editions I have used free templates from Lulu and Createspace and adapted fonts, titles, and contents pages to give them a unique flare.
In what formats is your book available?
For ebooks I am exclusive to Amazon Kindle. I like being part of the Kindle Select Program, and I am a Kindle user myself, I’ve used their free apps for years. I make review copies privately available by email ([email protected]) in mobi, epub, and pdf using the conversion program Calibre.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t be too hard on yourself, you have depression. Invest money in your mental health. Don’t let anyone hold money over your head for unethical work. Know when to leave a job. Know how to be sick. Write about what scares you. You will meet your tribe in the writing community.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Short story collections are legit art. Be proud of any length of writing, including flash fiction. Not everything short of a novel is a fail. You know who wrote novellas? Hemingway (The Old Man and the Sea), Steinbeck (Of Mice and Men), Stevenson (Jeckyll and Hyde), James (Turn of the Screw), Orwell (Animal Farm), Wells (The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds) and Dickens (A Christmas Carol). If you’ve got 150 pages in you, you could have a classic on your hands. One well-formed paragraph on a page over 75 pages can win you a Pulitzer.
Social media links:
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Morgan-Bell/e/B00HXEIDA0
Book links for my new release Laissez Faire:
Amazon USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075HHSDC5
Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B075HHSDC5
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B075HHSDC5
Originally published on the C. J. Rose blog (Generation Son Inc on Wix) 9 October 2017.
|Posted by Morgan Bell on February 12, 2018 at 2:00 AM||comments (0)|
Rant by Morgan Bell
Why can’t I use a comma splice?
Every once in a while I encounter a grammar nazi, sometimes it can happen several times a day, sometimes I can go months without stirring the beast.
See what I just did there? That is called a comma splice. I joined three independent, but related, clauses with a comma only. I didn’t supplement the comma with a conjunction, and I didn’t end each clause with a full stop.
On this one hallowed eve in the not too distant past I found myself engaging in what is known as an ‘internet argument’.
There is a saying about internet arguments. My opponent immediately proved the following internet forum laws:
• Shaker's Law - those who announce their imminent departure almost never actually leave
• Law of Exclamation - the more exclamation points the more likely it is a complete lie
• Danth's Law - anyone who declares themselves victorious has probably lost
They asserted that my defence of the comma splice as a legitimate way of separating clauses in a run on sentence was a slippery slope to the ruination of the English language, and thusly would lead to the dismantling of the publishing careers of every individual who viewed it. My dissenting view was a grammar Medusa, turning aspiring and emerging writers to stone if they stole a single glance.
The ability to read and write is strongly linked to social class and wealth. Many of the ‘rules’ of grammar, spelling, and punctuation come down to regional preferences. The ‘rules’ are not set in stone, they evolve over time to reflect common usage. Grammar is the documentation of how people speak, devised through observation, and the identification of patterns, by linguists. There was no grammar bible sent from the heavens.
As a technical writer I was taught to consider the purpose, audience, and delivery media of any document or text when making choices about style, tone, and register. As a regular human being on the internet I acknowledge that the register of social media is generally informal. Writing a status update is supposed to be conversational. Facebook is an interactive forum, where people casually build upon each other’s ideas. The delivery of information is often from the touch screens of smart phones.
The language used in online chat and text messages is a recognised type of shorthand that has evolved due to limited characters and limited time. Online communications are different to that of a business report or an academic paper. With creative writing, the purpose is often to reflect back reality. Contemporary characters, or even the narrator, may utilise online shorthand to achieve authenticity of voice.
The purpose of punctuation is to aid in the understanding and correct reading of texts. We insert small marks, signs, or symbols, to divide a block of text into sentences and clauses. When choosing between a full-stop, comma, semi-colon, dash or bracket, we are instructing the reader on where to pause, and how long for. The marks direct us on how to read a text in the way it would be spoken so we can accurately interpret its meaning.
Meaning. Conveying meaning. The purpose of communication.
Next time you feel the urge to correct someone on their grammar or punctuation do two things:
1. Check your surroundings. Are you online?
2. Reread the text that just enraged you. Do you understand the meaning?
Why should the comma splice be outlawed as a matter of course? Grammar shouldn’t be there to knock people down, belittle them, or quash creativity. It should be a guide, a writer’s tool, to improve understanding, when transcribing thoughts or feelings or stories.
This article was originally published on the Hunter Writers Centre blog 27 May 2015 in a polemic competition to attract comments for a prize (updated to remove ableist terminology).
|Posted by Morgan Bell on May 27, 2015 at 11:40 AM||comments (0)|
American short story writer Nathan Englander has said that aspiring authors can be paralysed by a misunderstanding of the advice “write what you know”.
Many people equate this oft quoted expression as an instruction to make all your stories thinly veiled autobiographies. Englander said “If you’re a drunken, brawling adventurer, like Hemingway, no problem.” Similarly, if you were the kid of a slave owner in confederate Missouri, in a Mississippi River steamboat port town, you will be well-positioned to pen the next Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer. This was Mark Twain’s real experience, and the “write what you know” quote is attributed to him.
Those of us who live hum-drum lives of suburban normalcy - straight, white, middle-class, middle-aged, middle of the road, average joes – may feel they are restricted to writing about laundry powder and grocery shopping and the perils of designing meals that are all at once tasty, healthy, and affordable.
I put to you that authors using an extended metaphor to explain their existence in this world does come under the banner of “writing what you know”. Genre fiction, such as fantasy, romance, or horror, is often dismissed as unrealistic escapism. But I think there is more.
Many people, including myself, believe the function of fiction is not merely to document a plot, but to express an attitude towards the events of the plot, and to use plot as a catalyst for conveying emotion. Can your thinly veiled autobiography occur on the moons of Saturn, or in Victorian England, or the Spanish Inquisition? I say yes, of course it can. All narratives are just a way of interpreting reality. Even a memoir isn’t unfiltered reality, it is one angle, one perspective, with emphasis on a few key events. What we are really writing about is less about facts and more about feelings.
Facts have their place. Historical fiction writers need to be as good at research as they are at constructing a sentence. If a character exists in a place or time that is not your own then you do them a disservice by not investing in research. Even if you are writing about a future or another universe, you will need to build that world with factual continuity. The consequence of not researching, is having a reader distracted by factual anomalies and plot holes.
At a writing workshop in 2014 I had a brief exchange with Australian fantasy and historical fiction novelist Kate Forsyth on this very topic. She makes it well known at her speaking engagements that she dislikes the expression “write what you know” because it limits people’s imagination.
Kate used her novel The Wild Girl as an example of how a person could write about something they don’t know and still produce a highly successful novel. She said her character Dortchen Wild (a real historical person who passed on folk tales to the Grimm Brothers) lived in a little village in Germany during the Napoleonic Wars, circa 1805. That was not Kate’s own life experience, as a contemporary Australian. She had nothing in common with the real historical figure of Dortchen. Kate didn’t speak Dortchen’s language, didn’t know first-hand what it was like to be in that time, place, or situation. It was not until Kate researched every detail about the culture and customs that Dortchen was submerged in, that she was able to form her on the page. Therefore it is possible for one to write about a topic or universe that they are not personally familiar with.
Now I begin to wax philosophical. My contention is once you complete your research, the constraints of your subject became known to you. You didn’t know them at first, but you found out, and now you know. Given this new-found knowledge, you are able to fill in the detail of how your character would have reacted in a given situation with how you would have reacted were you in her exact same shoes.
Here Kate and I come to an agreement. Yes technically my hypothesis is true. However it is also true that most people do not interpret the saying “write what you know” in the way I described. The majority of people take the idea of knowledge as literal and static. Pig farmer equals pig stories. Tyre shop owner equals car stories.
I also think that no matter your subject matter your real life will permeate your fiction. I work as a traffic engineer in local government, and my writing is littered with engineering terms. They are woven seamlessly into my descriptions and dialogue because they are an active part of my vernacular. My story Strings & Ribbons from my collection Sniggerless Boundulations shows the tugs of war between my artistic and practical sides, one always distracted by the other.
My story Garsdale is about a haughty abseiler on a rescue mission. In real life I am afraid of heights. But maybe I am the one being rescued. Or maybe they are both me, the high achiever and the recluse. It is often asked of authors, “How much of your characters are really you?” I think they are all me. The heros and the villains, the talkers and the mutes, they are all little slivers of the complexity that makes up who I am.
During a recent fan Q&A for Indie Author Appreciation Week I was ask if I thought writing was always self-reflective. I said yes, even if the author doesn’t know they are doing it, every word chosen over another reads like a confessional.
Sniggerless Boundulations is a collection of fifteen pieces of flash fiction, ranging between 150 and 2,000 words per story. After a year of positive reviews and feedback I now use the tagline “The horrors of life in fifteen slices”. Readers use the book like a mirror to see themselves, and their own fears and insecurities. Universal themes like jealousy, anxiety, time, and aging make Sniggerless Boundulations the perfect looking glass for introspection. And that is me writing what I know.
This article was originally published in the Jennifer Douglas Literary Publicist newsletter, which I recommend signing up to.
|Posted by Morgan Bell on March 23, 2015 at 8:55 PM||comments (0)|
Novascapes Volume 1 was launched at the 2015 Newcastle Writers Festival at Town Hall at 10am on Sunday 22 March 2015.
The panellists were Novascapes editor and story contributor Cassandra Page (introduction), and authors with stories in the anthology: Russell Blackford (host), Janeen Webb (reading except), Sheree Kable (reading excerpt), Danuta Raine (reading excerpt), and Samantha Fisher (reading whole story).
In the audience we had many of the other authors who contributed stories, including Catherine Moffat, Megan Buxton, Kim Ross, Jenny Blackford, Aiden Walsh, and Willie Southgate
I was the official photographer of the event. The full set of photos can be found on my Facebook here.