Name Morgan Bell
Where are you from Newcastle NSW Australia
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I am a civil engineer and technical writer, currently studying postgraduate linguistics at the University of Newcastle, and living with my best friend in a unit in Sydney. I have a sister who is close in age to me, and close emotionally and intellectually. I have two tabby cats: Romilly and Sansa (sisters from the same litter). And I currently have five goldfish: Carl, Oscar, Newt (large, medium, and small black moors), Ramona (orange), and Blossom (white).
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Morgan: I am very excited to have an anthology out this week, Novascapes: Speculative Fiction from the Hunter Region of Australia (buy here http://www.hunteranthologies.com/shop.html). The collection has been nominated for a 2014 Aurealis Award. My story is called The Switch and I got to collaborate with some wonderful friends and share the volume with established names in speculative fiction, such as Margo Lanagan and Kirstyn McDermott.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Morgan: I have been a social, business, and academic writer as long as I can remember. I actively pursued creative writing around the time of turning 30, it started as a creative release from a stressful job and a mental focus, and inevitably morphed into my method of exorcising demons and conveying complex emotive messages.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Morgan: The first Live Reading night I went to with my Newcastle Writers group, I read out my story Earth Mites (published in my debut collection Sniggerless Boundulations) and the organizer gave all the readers a mock certificate saying ‘You are now a Writer’. The formality of seeing it in writing made me consider myself to be a “real writer” henceforth.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Morgan: My first book is a collection of fifteen short stories that was written over a period of three years. I was going through a turbulent time with work and money and living arrangements, and the process of collating and editing and formatting the stories was a transformative and cathartic experience for me, boosting my self-worth, and accepting my unconventional world views as legitimate.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Morgan: My writing has been described as postmodern and minimalist, with many stories having surrealist and speculative aspects to it. My collection Sniggerless Boundulations has vignettes, micro-fiction, flash fiction, and more traditional short story formats. It is very experimental in length and form. I use a simple vocabulary, realistic dialogue, and sparse description.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Morgan: I have very vivid dreams, and often wake up and jot down imagery and phrases. Sniggerless Boundulations is a phrase from a dream. They are invented words from my subconscious, and I decided to stick with them because they represented who I am as a person and a writer. It has a certain sleepy creativity vibe to it.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Morgan: I love it when people re-read the stories and try to see themselves in the characters and scenarios described. There is a moral ambiguity to much of what is presented. The collection examines time, fear, and aging, but also gives evocative impressions of the streaks of mental illness in all of us.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
Morgan: I think it is all realistic, with a few pieces taking place in unfamiliar settings. It could be the prose equivalent of hyperrealism.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Morgan: Many pieces were born out of work interactions, office intrigue, but I twist the real events and fill in the backstory with something invented, so they are often more a reflection of me than the events that inspired them. Two of the stories were inspired in part by music: Garsdale inspired by the Soundgarden song Mind Riot, and Telfer Speck inspired by the Blitzen Trapper album Furr.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
Morgan: Stephen King’s The Eyes Of The Dragon, Angela Carter’s The Passion Of New Eve, Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club, and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Morgan: Tobias Wolff or Cate Kennedy
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Morgan: I just finished Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn and am starting Dreams & Shadows by C. Robert Cargill
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Morgan: I read an extraordinary debut novel by Ann Leary (wife of Denis Leary) called The Good House this year, it was this perfect delicate balance of intrigue and poetic justice, I loved it. I also have Jasper Jones by Australian author Craig Silvey on my nightstand that I have been itching to read, it is touted as a coming of age story akin to Catcher In The Rye.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Morgan: I am currently putting together a second collection of short fiction called Laissez Faire, and in August started plotting a speculative fiction novel called Daughters Of Mallory.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Morgan: I am forever supported by the Hunter Writers Centre and the Newcastle Speculative Fiction group and everyone in the creative scene in Newcastle and surrounds and from all over the world on Facebook and in the blogging community. Writers are a secret society that always have their arms wide open.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Morgan: It’s probably not realistic, with the high cost of living, and the low probability of commercial success, but it would be nice! I am a little uncompromising with my vision of what I want to write, so I don’t know if I’ll be churning out a massive franchise based on any one character, or sticking rigidly to genre conventions, but plenty of off-beat writers are successful too.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Morgan: I really wish it had a matt cover, rather than gloss finish, and perhaps the title on the spine, all cosmetic things, but as for the filling I love it all and wouldn’t change anything other than a typesetting error, if one exists.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Morgan: We moved around a lot when I was a kid, and I always wrote letters to my old friends to keep in touch and express myself. When I was in my mid-20s I was a prolific blogger, I spent a period of three years separated from friends and society due to distance and finance, and the writing kept me connected, kept me feeling like I was making a contribution to culture and people.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Morgan: The following is an excerpt from my latest story, entitled A Deer In The Shunting Yard:
Iggy ignored the tramp, he had an odour of stale gin, but he continued, “Don’t be fooled by their paper tickets and brass buttons. Every once in a while a paper ticket flies out of the carriage and I hold it in my hands. It is so smooth and clean, this thick creamy texture, I want to rub my fingers all over it,” Iggy looked to the tramps black fingernails as he motioned the rubbing action, “there is a romance to it. But when I feel myself being taken in I drop it like a hot coal and I look around at reality. Do you see any trees in the corridor?”
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Morgan: I write with so much tension, sometimes it is difficult to sustain over a long time, I often need to construct deliberate ebbs and flows to add some reprieve to all the suspense.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Morgan: I love Oscar Wilde, his droll tone and his unique perspective on the world, I like how he flips expectations about social institutions on their head. For that reason I also love Jane Austen, the pressing social commentary and biting wit, I think that’s what writing’s all about.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Morgan: Just up and down the F3 freeway between Sydney and Newcastle, I am very involved in the Newcastle writing scene, but due to the recession I have relocated to Sydney for work. It’s only a two hour drive so when the Newcastle Writers Festival is on, or any workshops or meetings or launches, I hightail it on up there and relish in the creativity.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Morgan: I have designed all my covers so far, using the Kindle free cover design tool, and I’m designing one at the moment using Canva.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Morgan: Having the discipline to sit down and write regularly, it takes me a long time to get content together because I write sporadically, that is my vice.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Morgan: I learnt a lot about myself. I thought I was writing a huge variety of unconnected stories, but when you run them all together there are obvious themes. The more I learn about mental health, my own and general info, the more I can see the melancholy and anxiety just simmering in all the stories.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Morgan: Show up in person to your local writing community and read your work aloud. Be kind to other writers on the internet, and don’t dismiss the value of genre writing, a splash of a well-worn genre trope can be exciting in a non-conventional setting.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Morgan: Thank you for reading my work, I feel a little more sane with every new person I get to share my experience with.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Morgan: As a little tot I used to read the Grug books, as for proper novels I remember Rasco & The Rats Of Nimh by Jane Leslie Conly.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Morgan: I am a YouTube addict, mostly for American political and social commentary, I have laughed to the point of crying at some of the critical remarks made by The Young Turks, The Drunken Peasants, The Amazing Atheist, The Trews, and Real Time. My sister make me laugh until I can’t speak or see sometimes when we talk on the phone, we are close in age and speak most days. I will cry in sad movies, most recently I bawled my eyes out in Saving Mr Banks.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
Morgan: I would love to meet the Australian painter Charles Blackman, he has created some of the most beautiful and haunting figurate art images I have ever seen, I would be a real honour.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
Morgan: Visitor – People-watcher – Storyteller – Scribe
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
Morgan: I am a photographer and sometimes visual artist (drawing, mosaic, digital art). I am passionate about live theatre and drag performance, production with a cross-over of both will win me as an audience-member in a heartbeat.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
TV: Shameless (US), True Detective, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Girls, Big Love, Oz, Northern Exposure, The Tudors
Films: Inception, Garden State, Last Days, Moon, Party Monster, Death Defying Acts, The Boat That Rocked, Intolerable Cruelty, Cemetery Junction, Identity, Death Becomes Her, Remains of the Day
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Morgan: Chinese food, the colour green, the music of Chris Cornell, David Byrne, David Bowie
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Morgan: By day I am a civil engineer and technical writer who works for government (mostly local). I would love to teach in some capacity later in life.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?