Morgan Bell Talks about Life and Writing

Morgan Bell

Name: Morgan Bell

Age: 33

Where are you from? Newcastle Australia

Tell us a little about yourself ie. education Family life etc.

I am the eldest daughter of a couple of shopkeepers, Glenys and Steve. We moved around a lot as kids. My parents would renovate and flip local corner stores and I was the kid behind the counter selling confectionary and cigarettes. I studied civil engineering at uni, and later technical writing.

When and why did you begin writing?

I loved writing at school, and replicating known formats, like creating little restaurant menus or biscuit boxes with bar codes. I went from writing penpal letters and diaries in my childhood to becoming weighed down with academic writing and reading for most of my twenties. When I turned thirty I joined a local writers group and rekindled my passion for fiction and storytelling.

Do you have a novel/collection published? Would you like to tell us about it?

My debut collection of short stories, Sniggerless Boundulations, was published last year. The stories are short and sharp, and psychologically piercing. It is a series of concise scenarios based around aging, anxiety, and jealousy. There is a mysterious package delivered to an office, a medical oddity, an old man obsessed with public toilets, a door-knocking environmentalist, and the road to hell. The collection is quirky and colourful.

cover

What inspired you to write your first book?

I wrote the stories that appear in Sniggerless Boundulations over a period of three years. Many of them were written from prompts in my local weekly writers group, or were submissions to short story competitions. Some were typed up and printed, some were hand-written on the backs on envelopes or photocopies or in notebooks. I was made redundant from my day job in Newcastle and had to pack up the house I had lived in for those three years and move to Sydney. I am a terrible hoarder of paperwork, so I took the opportunity to sort through every piece of paper in the house and throw it out, putting anything writing-related aside. Sniggerless Boundulations is a ‘best of’ those three years of my life.

Do you have a favourite character from your book? If yes, who is it and why?

I love the titular character from the story Garsdale. He is a haughty abseiler on a rescue mission to save a boy that has been lost in a canyon for 99 years. He has a lot of attitude. It is one of the stories that came out best in the audiobook recording, and is the narration sound sample on Audible.

Is your book part of series? If so what can readers expect to find in your series?

Sniggerless Boundulations is the first of three short story collections. The second installation is Laissez Faire, it is close to publication. The third installation will be called Tardigradous. They are all stand-alone collections, but have some commonality with voice and themes.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I almost exclusively write in third-person past-tense, with a distant omniscient voice to the narrator, and using the technique of free indirect speech for character thought. I write very concisely, both stripped back and dense, there is no filler. There is a bureaucratic sound to my word choice, an amusing reflex I chose to accentuate rather than fight, as a testimony to my career in local government engineering.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Focus and discipline, you know, just the most important things. Writing is something enjoyable to me, so I don’t like to make work of it, I just write when I’m in the mood, and until I get distracted, which is a dreadful plan if you are aiming to be productive. But I am just enjoying the craft of it. I like to experiment and take risks.

What are your current projects?

I am currently editing an anthology of flash fiction about wicked plants called Sproutings (a Hunter Anthologies project). The call for submissions closed 31 May 2015 and I am in the guts of the editing process right now. I commissioned cover art from professional illustrator Tallulah Cunningham – who has also designed covers for the Novascapes anthologies – and her design is nearing completion. The cover has a clean green and black palette, and a creeping twisty vine motif. There are 45 pieces ranging from magical trees and capricious flowers to military science fiction and deadly grass and creepers.

I am also writing a speculative fiction novel, Daughters of Mallory. I have been plotting the novel for about a year and have a mockup of the episodic structure completed. I am just starting the fun bit now, typing up the detailed content. The novel is a feminist retelling of some minor characters from Dickens and Austen and a few fairy tales, with a portal and some potions.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

Excerpts from Sniggerless Boundulations:

“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)

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

I think most of my characters are different aspects of myself, with borrowed traits from friends or family or people I meet once at work. I have vivid dreams which sometimes set the tone for a story. The events usually have a center of reality that is a mashup of different events from my life, and I take creative license to give shape to the edges.

What books have most influenced your life most? Do you have a mentor?

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde changed my perception of what a book could be, such a unique narrative voice, so much philosophy and social snarkery. Also The Passion of New Eve by Angela Carter for feminist commentary and gender bending. I don’t have any one mentor, but I have a great network of co-conspirators within the Newcastle writing scene who share advice and experiences and ideas. I think that is better than a mentor.

Have you ever been able to travel in regards to your books? What was it like?

Only between Sydney and Newcastle, which is car travel, about 2-3 hours on the road. I am very involved in the Newcastle writing scene, and when I am working in Sydney I will travel back to Newcastle to volunteer at Newcastle Writers Festival, to speak at live reading nights for competitions, and to attend workshops and writing groups.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Keep your day job so you have material. Listen to people, whether they are talking to you or talking near you. Read your work out loud. Meet up with other writers in person.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I have a few opinion pieces on writing you may find interesting:

  1. Write what you know http://sniggerlessboundulations.webs.com/apps/blog/entries/show/43333617-a-place-to-shout-out-loud-featured-author-morgan-bell
  2. Why can’t I use a comma splice?

http://www.hunterwriterscentre.org/blog/rant-by-morgan-bell

  1. Writing about mental illness

http://laurabrownauthor.com/2014/06/02/guest-blog-post-morgan-bell-writing-about-mental-illness/

What book are you reading now?

Sister Noon by Karen Joy Fowler (novel) and An Astronaught’s Life by Sonja Dechian (short story collection). Also Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (ebook) and More Than This by Patrick Ness (audiobook).

Do you remember the first book you read? If not tell us what your favourite book is and why.

Im sure it was probably a Grug picture book. But the first novel I distinctly remember was Rasco & The Rats of Nimh by Jane Leslie Conly or The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton. I think I read every Babysitters Club book ever written and, a bit older, I enjoyed Robin Klein and John Marsden.

Other than writing do you have any hobbies?

I am a crazy cat lady. I have two tabby cats, they are twin girls. I have a big fat black moor goldfish called Carl, he often has other goldfish companions that don’t last, I secretly suspect he is a serial killer. I review books and films for a friend’s website Salty Popcorn. I am addicted to YouTube and Netflix. I dabble in visual art, including mosaic, photography, digital, collage.

Do you have a day job? If so, what do you do?

I am a traffic engineer and technical writer.

What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?

TV: Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Girls, Transparent, Grace & Frankie, Parks & Recreation, Orange Is The New Black

Films: Whiplash, Locke, Edge of Tomorrow, Oblivion, Transcendence, Predestination, The One I Love, Under The Skin, The Double, Breathe In, Far From The Madding Crowd, 99 Homes, Black Sea

Favourite foods /Colors/Music.

Pizza / Green / Chris Cornell, David Bowie, Bauhaus, Talking Heads, Sia

Want to find out more? Then check out these links:

Website: http://sniggerlessboundulations.webs.com/

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morgan_Bell

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/queenboxi

Twitter: https://twitter.com/queenboxi

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7790406.Morgan_Bell

 

Her debut collection can be found at:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sniggerless-Boundulations-Morgan-Bell/dp/1291712313

Audible: http://www.audible.com.au/pd/Fiction/Sniggerless-Boundulations-Audiobook/B00U8Q0V5K/

Post-publication and cats

Life post publication is still a little bit surreal. I still can’t quite believe my novel is out there and that people are buying it and reading it. I haven’t had any reviews for it yet though the people that I have spoken to ensure me that they are enjoying it. Still, I feel a little uneasy, you know? Having a review would at least be something concrete and give others a way to judge the book and hopefully encourage them to pick up a copy.

I’m getting quite involved in some anthologies at the minute too. So it means that although I’ve finished Nano and I’m taking a break from longer writing, I still have something to keep my brain ticking over. I just entered a short story to Sirens Call Publications this morning about a man stuck in a mental asylum who is desperate to get out. I’ve also got another short to work on today if I have time (as it’s due tomorrow) about spirits but considering I’m at the beginning of a twelve hour shift, I’m not convinced I’ll have time to get it done!

I’m looking forward to tonight too when I finish work as we have a night of bad food (burgers) and movies planned which should be nice. Then I only have a few more days left at work before I have a week off. It’s my six year anniversary with my partner and we’re celebrating my going to visit the Harry Potter Studio. I cannot wait, you would not believe! It’ll be awesome just to get away and to not have to drive it a brilliant concept too hehe.

We’ve also recently adopted another cat into our family. It belongs to my sister but her situation has changed dramatically which means she can’t keep her. At first it was a bit sketchy and she hid under the sofa out of claws reach of our other kitty for over thirty hours. She came out overnight last night and ate all of her food and used her litter tray which is a big improvement. And this morning I was in for a shock when she crawled out from under the sofa right in front of our kitty and done a few laps of the living room (with kitty following like a lost puppy dog) and then came for a cuddle before going back under. It’s slow but it’s progress!

For now it’s more work and contemplation on writing.

Kitty Kitty

So many of you will know that I have a kitty cat. I got her when she was eight weeks old from a friend of a friend and she was quite a gentle cat. However, over time she’s become a kitty who doesn’t like a lot of affection, anyone new and certainly not bed time! She gets quite vicious sometimes with biting and clawing when she’s in a bad mood and this can be simply when she’s not getting her own way or just because she wants to. Seriously, she’s attacked me several times before quite badly when I was so not expecting it.

Some friends of mine advised me to watch My Cat From Hell so guess what I’m doing now? Perhaps I’ll learn something that will help. I’ll keep you posted!