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Saturday, 7 August 2010

Gwen Morrison: Author Interview.

Gwen MorrisonGwen Morrison has been writing ever since a teacher praised her early work at school. She has worked for an online publisher and had her writing published in many journals. Her novel, Ivy: The Story of a Friendship  is available from Amazon. She has also been a travel writer. Now a mum of 4 kids, with 2 and a husband at home and  a day job, she is writing her second novel.

SA: Tell us about Lost Things in a few sentences.
GM:  Lost Things is the story of a family. It’s the story of Francesca, a woman who escaped her mother’s alcoholic rages and silent retreats to build a new normal. But when her mother dies and Francesca returns home, she finds a list among her mother’s belongings. It’s a list that will transform her perception of the past and change the direction of her future.
SA: What qualities do you need to be a successful writer?
GM:  To be a successful writer you need to write, every day. “Practice makes perfect” was never truer of anything than writing. You can only get better at your craft by writing often—even if it’s just 10 minutes a day.
SA:  What is your working method?
GM:  I get up at 6 a.m. and I try to write for an hour, before I get ready for the day job. I work full time, have a home and a family, like many writers. In order to find time to writer, I have to make the time. It’s a choice. I can watch “The Real Housewives” or I can write.
SA:    What is the single biggest mistake made by beginners to writing?
GM:  I think the biggest mistake new writers make is writing to be published, rather than writing because you have a story to tell and you’re the ONLY one who can tell it. If you start out a project with “publication” on your mind, you’ll stifle your own creativity. Get the story down first.
SA:   How did you come to write this particular book?
GM: The characters for this book have been hanging out in my head for about a year or more. Especially Tess. She has a story to tell, and I’m the one who’s going to tell it.
SA:   If you have a favourite character in your novel, why that particular one?
GM:  I love Claire. The reason I love her is because she’s quirky and unpredictable. She’s a little bit crazy, literally, so I can put her in all kinds of situations and the reader won’t be surprised. I enjoy writing a character that is completely “outside the box.”
SA:   How can people buy your book?
GM:  Well, when it’s published – and right now, I’m focused on the story – I’ll be letting everyone in on it.

SA: To what extent are grammar and spelling important to a writer?
GM:  I’m a former editor and magazine publisher so I’m very critical about sentence structure and find myself editing everything I read. I think it’s much more difficult for me to edit my own work, so when the manuscript is done, I’ll be looking for an editor!
SA:    How much revision of your MS do you do before you send it off?
GM:  Lots and lots. I try not to revise during the first draft, but with this project I’ve had to stop myself. Once the draft is complete, I’ll go through it again, and again. And only when I feel like it’s completely polished, will I start looking for a home for it.
SA: Where and when is your novel set and why did you make these specific choices?
GM:  My novel is set in Ontario, Canada. I am from Ontario, living in Atlanta now, and I’ve always wanted to write a book that has a bit of “home” in it.
SA:  What are your writing habits?
GM:  I try to write every day. I have a fabulous office / library where my husband built wall-to-wall bookshelves. I have a beautiful writing desk, soft lighting, and my Macbook. There’s a window right in front of me and it’s just such a peaceful place for me to write. Every morning I write my blog ( about the prior day’s progress. It’s a way for me to keep myself accountable to this project. I’m 101 days in, now, and am going to need to kick it up a notch to reach my goal.
SA:   How do you know where to begin any given story?
GM:  After spending months in character development, I start wherever it makes sense to them. My stories are very character driven. I also believe that the first line is one of the most important parts of any story, so it takes me a while to nail that.
SA:  What sort of displacement activities keep you from actually writing?
GM:  Day job. House. Kids. Sleep.
SA:   Do you have support, either from family and friends or a writing group?
GM:  My husband and my children are my biggest fans. I couldn’t do this without them.
SA:   Is presentation of the MS as important as most agents and publishers suggest?
GM:  Definitely. Know what agents want before you submit, and follow the guidelines.
SA:  How long does it normally take you to write a novel?
GM:  About a year if I’m really being “good,” but my first novel took me about 3 years to write.
SA:  What are your inspirations?
GM: Other writers who are doing the same things I am doing. That, and the fact that I’m not getting any younger – the whole “now or never” is a big motivator to get it done.
SA:   If there’s a single aspect to writing that really frustrates you, what is it?
GM:  Outlining. The question of whether to do it or not to do it is one that haunts me. When I get stuck, then I go back to my notebook, but I’m impatient and I just want to get on with it.
SA:   Do you think writing is a natural gift or an acquired skill?
GM:  I think it’s a bit of both. I believe you have to have some talent, in order to want to write, but I think that it’s a skill that can definitely be grown through practicing the craft.
SA:  What are you writing now?
GM:  Novel. Blogs. 
SA:  Is there any aspect of writing that you really enjoy?
GM:  I enjoy creating characters. And I enjoy readers. I love it when someone reads a blog article or a scene from my book and connects with it. I’m a bit needy when it comes to adoration, I think. I am addicted to the stats on my Wordpress blog – checking them every hour – and have a little party whenever someone makes a comment about a blog article.
SA:  Do you have a website or a blog that readers can visit?
GM: Yes! Please visit the following (and comment!):
            A Novel Idea: 365 Days of Writing
            Write by the Water (where I co-host retreats for writers)
SA:  Given unlimited resources, what would be your ideal writing environment?
GM:  A tiny cottage by the water. The sound of water is so calming. I belong there!
SA:  Where do you actually write?
GM:  In my library, on a Macbook, with the sound of water playing in the background!

Word of the Day is divorced from the post that precedes it and produced in response to a request from a follower to provide just such a service.
Word of the Day; cant – (this word has, of course, many meanings; however, I’ve selected the following definition) hypocritical language, insincere phrasing, with the implication of non-existent piety. ‘The adulterous Bishop was wont to give long, thundering sermons full of cant concerning the wickedness of the sexual misdemeanours of his congregation.’

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