Welcome to the eighty-third of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with multi-genre author Paul Morris. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here.
Morgen: Hello Paul. Can you please tell us a bit about yourself.
Paul: I’m a Scottish writer, currently living in Brussels. I started writing at around 13 years of age and haven’t stopped since. I suppose I just needed to release the stories that were running around in my head.
Morgen: And presumably they’re still running. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Paul: I write across the genres, really. My first novel, just out, is sort of science fiction but there are no green monsters or spaceships—it’s a very human story, I think. I love writing comedy too…
Morgen: Me too. What have you had published to-date? If applicable, can you remember where you saw your first books on the shelves?
Paul: Other than the book ‘Pa Weathery’s Chickens’ which is just out, I have been commissioned for numerous screenplays, three of which have been produced to date. I am about to see my books on the shelves, at a launch in September…
Morgen: Ooh, how exciting! How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Paul: I really didn’t need to for screenplays but I’m finding that these days for books you can’t leave it all up to the publisher, especially a small one. I’m quite enjoying the learning curve.
Morgen: And I bet it is that. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
Paul: I have had two films in competition, one an animated feature, the other a drama set in Buenos Aires. It’s a shot in the arm, really, when you see the list and your title’s among the projects chosen.
Morgen: Absolutely. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Paul: Sore point.
Morgen: Ooh, sorry.
Paul: Had an agent until the start of this year but he joined a big firm and they wanted a client cull and I suppose since a lot of my stuff isn’t obviously commercial, I was among those jettisoned. I am looking for another because I think they can be useful, although it has been sort of exciting having to take things on your own: and you know there’s only one person to blame.
Morgen: Or congratulate. Do you use a pseudonym for any of your writing? If so, why and do you think it makes a difference?
Paul: For my next book (a comedy) I will be having a temporary sex change, writing as a woman for the first time. I have had quite a few pseudonyms for shorter pieces and I enjoy the chance to inhabit someone else’s skin for a while.
Morgen: It’s fun isn’t it? Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Paul: Yes, across all the formats (some of them I had never heard of). I think it’s fantastic. I like the feel and the smell of paper but, really, it’ll bring down the costs of books and ensure that young people continue to read (especially) fiction. I don’t yet own a Kindle but I have read some on my laptop and on Ipod Touch.
Morgen: What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Paul: I also had three plays produced when I was in my early twenties. And, for the first one, watching the curtain going up on the opening night was outstanding. And, yes, when someone asks me to write something, I do a little internal jig.
Morgen: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Paul: Whatever anyone says it’s not easy to deal with rejection. I’d like to say I use them to spur me on but sometimes it does stop you in your tracks for a while. One book agent read the opening chapters of my book which is now published and he said ‘I don’t understand it’. Not ‘I don’t get it…’ which would be fine. Luckily so far everyone has understood it. So sometimes you just have to accept that there’s nowt as queer as folk…
Morgen: Indeed. It’s just getting the right thing in front of the right person. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Paul: Completing the first draft of a screenplay adaptation of a wacky musical called ‘Stinkfoot’. And when that’s done I’ll complete the rewrite of my next book, a comedy set in a little English village.
Morgen: Ooh I like the sound of those. Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Paul: I write every day but I don’t think in terms of quantity—I’m happy if I review the material and find a few nuggets in there.
Morgen: It’s what we all hope for. What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Paul: I’ve never really suffered from it. Often takes a while to work something out but the answer for me is take it for a long walk…
Morgen: Absolutely… take a break and it’ll likely glare at you when you return. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Paul: I only start to structure them when I’ve already thought through to the end. Then I work on 20 major scenes that act as the backbone.
Morgen: Very thorough. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Paul: No method really, I let them in on it, for want of a better way of putting it, and they’re believable because I give them space. Names are always difficult but the yellow pages is a fine invention…
Morgen: Which I think are the white pages in the US? Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
Paul: My daughter, who is 16 and writes too…
Morgen: Ooh great… would she like to do an interview? Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Paul: I think as time goes on you edit as you go.
Morgen: It’s true for me too. I can feel myself waffling as I write. What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
Paul: I’ve never really thought about that—I just make sure I don’t leave the house without pen and paper.
Morgen: Me too. Pen and paper in every jacket / bag. Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
Paul: On paper unfortunately.
Morgen: Oh dear… that sounds like a sore point too. What sort of music do you listen to when you write?
Paul: Classical mainly, although rock and folk are what I listen to when not writing.
Morgen: Me too. I can’t have words when I’m trying to produce my own. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Paul: Good question.
Morgen: Oh thanks… it’s one I added a few interviews down the line (selfishly because I love second person).
Paul: I use first and third, almost alternately but now you mention it I might try a short piece in the second.
Morgen: Oh do, it’s a great pov… though much more suited to short so good plan. I’ll be listing some examples on my new sentence starts page. In your longer pieces, do you use prologues / epilogues? What do you think of the use of them?
Paul: Occasionally. I studied ancient Greek at school so they’re kind of ingrained.
Morgen: Greek… eek! I stuck with the basics (French and German) although Greek would have been handy on the three occasions I went to the Greek side of Cyprus (which I loved… and plan house no. 3 there – I’m still on the first but it’s good to have a dream; Brighton would be no. 2). Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Paul: Yes, lots—it goes with the territory.
Morgen: What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Morgen: Oh me too. I could so easily be a hermit… sometimes it’s only taking my dog out that gets me circulating. If anything, what has been your biggest surprise about writing?
Paul: Really that people are still reading books…
Morgen: They are… and with eBooks they seem to be reading more. “An exciting time for writers” is something I often hear. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Paul: Talk to people about your stories, you’ll find that stuff comes out that you hadn’t thought of before because your brain has to sharpen up as you tell it live. Really, sounds glib but just write.
Morgen: Not glib at all. It’s all practice. What do you like to read?
Paul: A mix but I am partial to a good detective story.
Morgen: Crime is very popular (especially with the agents). In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Paul: I’m in Belgium now, in Brussels, where there are a lot of English-speaking folks but these days the internet has shrunk the world so it’s not really a big problem…
Morgen: Yes, a lot of interviewees say that. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Paul: No, not really but I think I might do more of that in future.
Morgen: It’s great for getting people to know you exist (and ultimately your books ). Where can we find out about you and your work?
Paul: My personal website www.paulmorris.eu.
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Paul: The only way is up, now that writers have more control over their material but then again we will have no one to complain about…
Morgen: Oh I’m sure we can find someone. Thank you Paul, this has been great!
Paul Morris was born in Scotland in 1958, and currently lives in Brussels.
During a long and varied career he has been: writer/producer of radiocommercials, playwright, puppeteer, poet, graphic designer, pop promo director, screenwriter, feature film director, cartoonist, chef, painter and installation artist.
His new novel, Pa Weathery’s Chickens (JFK: the conspiracy is stranger than you think) was published in April 2011.
And you can read a review of his novel here.
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