Morgan Bell Talks Short Stories and Red Coconuts with Jennifer Douglas Literary Publicist

Posted by Morgan Bell on February 12, 2018 at 5:05 AM

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, 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.

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