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/

Review of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (Niki Slobodian, #1)Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by J.L. Murray
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I picked up this book, I didn’t know what to expect but I was immediately hustled into the world of Niki Slobidian. She is an Abnormal living in a world where Normals persecute those who have abilities and powers seen as unnatural. She’s put on the registry to be watched closely but when a case opens after a Dark is released from a portal to Hell, she regains her normal life back and begins this mission to find out why and how the portal was opened.

This first novel of the series had me intrigued from the beginning. I was drawn to Niki as a very strong, female lead. She was fiercely independent and passionately caring about, Sofi, the woman who brought her up, she knows she must solve the mystery and find out why her dad is involved. It’s very clear there’s a lot of story of Niki that we don’t know yet but I have to say I’m looking forward to finding out.

The novel moved at a very quick pace, full of action and intrigue that kept me guessing and wanting more. I’ll be back for more from this girl!

View all my reviews

Review of Horns by Joe Hill

HornsHorns by Joe Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was both recommended and sent to me by a good friend of mine. It’s one of those where unfortunately I had seen the film first so I knew the storyline, but that didn’t stop my enjoyment of the novel.

Ig is suspected of raping and killing his girlfriend Merrin after a huge argument in the local diner. While he can’t prove his innocence, he falls into a black hole of despair while hoping that one day her killer will be brought to justice.

When Ig wakes the morning after the night before with horns growing from his head, his first instinct is to panic. He goes to the doctors and as the day goes on it becomes abundantly clear that the horns are more than just protrusions from his skull, they have given him abilities to see what others truly desire and see fragments of their past.

It’s through this that he learns the true identity of the killer and plans to murder him.

Horns is a great read that had me hooked right the way through. The relationship between Ig and Merrin is really well developed and idealised throughout and the reader truly sees what soulmates are in them.

There is an unexpected twist at the end of this that left me shocked, but it was well done. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a good horror!

View all my reviews

Male or Female protagonists?

I just finished reading the last book in the Maze Runner series, The Death Cure. Compared to the other two books, this one didn’t hold my attention the way the first two did but it was enjoyable none the less.

In the Maze Runner series, this third book was the culmination of everything Thomas had been through with his friends, The Gladers, and the people he has met along the way. I’ve seen Thomas grow through the books, develop into a character who fights for what he believes in and will not back down to anybody. He has a lot of courage and a lot of stamina and at the end, when it looks like they might finally get a shot at real life, he’s still concerned about the others in the facility.

The Death Cure brings together all of the trials and tribulations Thomas has been through in a final gut wrenching read.

I have to say I admire Thomas as a character. He’s tough, courageous and loyal. He has to face a lot of things in his lifetime, all the while struggling with his memory loss, not really knowing what he’s doing or why he’s been put to the trials.

What it did make me realise is that I much prefer reading books with strong, female protagonists. Perhaps it’s the feminist in me but I love reading a plot and seeing a young woman develop into someone strong and unafraid. The likes of the Hunger Games for example, with Katniss as she leads the rebellion. In Harry Potter I always felt drawn to Hermoine Grainger who, lets face it, was both the brains and the courage of the operation. If it wasn’t for her Harry wouldn’t have gotten as far as he did.

Women are often portrayed as counterparts, companions for the male, a love interest, but I think that women do and should represent much more than that.

What do you think? Do you prefer to read a male or female protagonist?

Final Resolutions

So I decided I wanted to formalise my New Year resolutions formally as a way to not only hold myself accountable, but as a way to look back and remember what they were (yes my memory is that terrible!) and to be able to tick off what I have achieved and when. I’m am also one of those people who likes to have lots of lists–the tickier the better–and so this is something I can print and relate to and tick to my hearts content!

  • Reading: I want to read at least one book per two weeks. It doesn’t sound like much but lately, it’s not something I’ve been achieving due to work and other such excuses. I will make time to read (and already have been) and I forgot how much I love it so.
  • Reviewing: for each book I read, I want to leave a review for the author. Since becoming a published author, it’s hit me how important it is to have those reviews and learn what your readers think of your work not only in a bid to promote but in order to make sure they’re enjoying what you’re writing because that’s pretty important. So if I can help an author by leaving a review, I’ll do just that!
  • Writing: the basic premise for my writing resolution is to have no zero days. I’ll keep it marked on a calendar for each day I manage to write at least something so I can keep track of my progress.
  • Submitting: I want to submit something every month to an anthology project or something else if possible. It won’t always be but it’s important to keep trying.
  • Editing: I have a lot of nano novels that are in dire need of attention. This year I’ve chosen four of them and I have divided the year up in three-monthly slots during which I will begin working on the edits of the drafts of each of these novels.
  • Blogging: I want to blog at least once a week this year. I want to have specific topics to focus on so I have direction and keep up my blog that way. I’m actually really looking forward to this one!
  • Room for change: However, despite all of this, I also want to recognise that sometimes things change. Life gets in the way and can’t always be ignored. I work full time which leaves me often tired and rather emotionally exhausted. Other times I can’t do anything until my house has been blitzed (does anyone else have this?) So therefore, if things don’t go according to plan, to give myself forgiveness and a break. Sometimes I’m just as bad at being too hard on myself for not achieving something I wanted to as being determined to achieve it.
  • The generals: On top of all of that I want to make sure I’m eating a little healthier and going back to the gym. I want to stay on top of the housework as much as possible and when I write, take some time for myself and retreat into my little space.

So there it is all laid bare in honest truth. My resolutions for this year. How do they resonate with your own resolutions? What do you want to achieve for the new year and what steps will you take to make sure you achieve them? Please feel free to comment and leave your own opinions and suggestions on the best ways to keep track and on target of the goals for the year. I’ll look forward to hearing from you!

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 500 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 8 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

What an awesome way to be able to look back on the previous year to consider certain things, themes, people, writing, blogging. I had no idea I had posted that many times, in fact, I thought it was much lower as my normal blogging pattern is pretty bad. But it appears that I did quite well! Hopefully 2015 will be even more productive and with the determination I have, I know I’m going to achieve it!

New Year and Resolutions

How was everybody’s Christmas? I have to say that mine was just as it should be. I got to spend time with both my family and my partner’s family, ate so much food I was fit to burst and got so spoiled it was unbelievable. I’m now the proud owner of a Tassimo machine. I had my first drink yesterday (a Costa latte) and it was lovely. My parents got me a big, mixed box of pods so I can try out different drinks. When my partner suggested he could get me the machine for Christmas I never thought I would consider using it to make tea but alas, I’m also excited to try those flavours too! I got some dollars ready for my trip to New York next year, a lot of notebooks (and let’s face it, when don’t I need notebooks?), snuggly pjs of different kinds that I can’t wait to climb into bed in, a lot of Gorjuss notebooks as well as two really cute figurines and lots of other stuff too. I can’t believe how spoiled I was. Have you ever seen the Gorjuss range? If not, check this out:

http://www.santoro-london.com/shop/collections/gorjuss/

  • First thing is first, a must for any writer is to read and lots of it. Reading has always been a highlight for me and I’ve loved it since being a kid. The only thing is, time seems to slip away from me a lot and before I know it, I haven’t picked up a book for two weeks. I set myself the target of reading at least one book every two weeks. That’s enough to keep my hand in (for now) and keep my mind active and also to bring me some nice, quiet time for myself.
  • Next thing is obviously writing! I want to make time to write at least once a week. It’s sometimes quite hectic trying to fit it all in with a full time job that gives obscure shift patterns as well as everything else in life but it’s so important to not only keep writing to keep my brain from exploding but also to keep improving (there’s always room for it!)
  • Alongside writing, comes editing. I have at least four novels sitting there in my spare room waiting for some much needed attention. I’ve set myself a plan for looking at each of these this year and beginning to get something that could resemble something worth publishing!

There will be other resolutions such as the typical eat better (which I think I’ll find impossible considering the amount of sweeties in my house!) and going back to the gym (which I know I’ll feel the benefit of) at least twice a week.

What are your new year resolutions going to be? Have you given it any thought yet?

Writing is like the Gym

I forced myself to go to the gym this morning after a late night (and a takeaway) with the girls. Did I want to get up that early and go outside where it was slightly rainy and blustery? No. I did not. But I did it anyway. And after around forty-five minutes of gruelling sweat-inducing exercise, I’ve come out of it feeling rather uplifted and happy.

Of course, I know all that is to do with hormones being released and such like, but it’s still a nice feeling. I also got the chance to snap a picture of a lovely rainbow too (just wish I’d had my Canon with me). I’m already planning my next trip to the gym which I tend to do just after I’ve gotten home from a visit there.

So in that same vein, I was thinking about writing. Sometimes as writers, we can have dry spells. I think it happens to most people: Writers Block. Those dreaded words. It’s awful when you’re in the midst of it. There’s nothing you can do, nothing seems to inspire and then one day, something might just click and you begin writing.

I find that if I’m writing regularly, it’s becomes a habit, a ritual maybe. Currently, I’ve just finished the proof of my novel and sent it back and I’m working on Nano prep for November but I’m not actually writing any fiction and you know what? I’m craving it. I want to be drawn into the fictional world and tell the stories that are there. And it’s a brilliant feeling.

I don’t want to start working on a big project with Nano looming and the possibility of a dystopian YA novel on the horizon, but there are other things I’m getting involved with. I’m trying to write a short story for an anthology (zombie related) and I’m also pushing my brain to think of ways to organise my novels and a way I can go back and edit them to make them publishable.

I guess what I’m saying, is that once you get started it’s certainly a lot easier!

It’s been a while since I posted. Why? I couldn’t tell you. I finished the second round of edits of The Doors and sent that back. Other than that I have been working all hours under the sun while trying to look after my house and deal with some big family issues I have going on. It’s had me pretty stressed and worried.

But, things are looking up. We’re taking a few positive steps today regarding the family issue so that’s a little better. I am full of ill which isn’t great but hey, it happens more in times of stress because other than that I tend to have quite a healthy immune system.

I’m hopefully going to get the novel back within the next few days ready for a final, third edit before it’s polished and ready for publishing. You know, I almost doubled the word count in the last two edits. Doubled! The story is still the same, essentially, but there has been a hell of a lot of development with it. I can hardly believe it myself.

And all the while I find that now when I’m reading I’m picking up on things more, rewriting lines in my head, working out how I would have done it. It means that now when I’m thinking about writing, I’m really considering things I wouldn’t have before including structure and detail. I think that just shows how much I’m growing as a writer.

As most of you know, Nano is coming up in November. That crazy months where thousands of people test their endurance and creativity and knock out a novel in a month. This will be my fourth year of taking part and you know what, I can’t wait. It’s like an addiction. I have some vague ideas of what I’m going to do but using October as a month of prepping means I’ll get my ideas in order ready for the go on the 1st November. I’m also going to try and write an edit plan so that I can go back to my novel and really work on it, ready it for submission and then send it off. I owe it to myself to keep this up now!

I just finished reading the last book in the Experiment in Terror series. Wow, what an ending. I won’t spoil it in case any of you want to read it but it was the perfect conclusion and though I’m going to miss the duo of Perry and Dex, I know Karina Halle is a fantastic author with a lot to give.

After finishing that I’ve starting reading Finding the Way Back by Jill Bisker. It’s been a great read so far and I’m sucked right in! Check it out at:

http://www.melange-books.com/authors/jillbisker/findingthewayback.html

It’s here!

Can you guess what landed in my mailbox last night? That’s right, the second round of edits. My stomach did this little skip-jump. Was it excitement or apprehension? I think a mixture of both. I read the email from the editor who told me she loved the first round of edits that I did and hopes that this will only improve it further. Great! She’s so helpful. There were a few more points to look at within the email, suggestions if you will and then, onto the main manuscript. One hundred and twenty nine pages of novel. Doesn’t sound like a lot but the prospect of going through it is really quite daunting. I’m dying to get stuck in right now but at the same time, I think I want to wait until I have a substantial amount of free time and really start to rattle through it, you know?

So I’m waiting for my days off which happen to fall Thursday and Friday this week. Not long to wait really and I do have a few things planned on Thursday but they shouldn’t take all day and then I plan to make myself a pot of coffee, gather up my supplies around me and get stuck in.

Until then I plan to live a life of normalcy, work, and possibly cram in as much reading as I can. I’m reading a couple of books at the minute, Sphere by Michael Crichton and Gena Showalter’s The Darkest Night so I have a few things to keep me going.

Oh and during the editing process, I will require lots of chocolate!

Wish me luck!