I have some great news.
All right, so this month gets the official title of Angela Morrison Month, 'cos - you guessed it - it's gonna feature an interview, blog tour and a guest post..all from the immensely talented ANGELA MORRISON, author of TAKEN BY STORM (hardcover out now, paperback coming out in Feb '10) and SING ME TO SLEEP (coming in March '10).
You can tell I'm super-excited to have her here. First up, the interview! Hold your breath (on second thought, don't -I don't want you guys turning blue)..here goes.
Time you reveal your identity *big grin*...
No, no, please don't make me. . . . I'm a mother of four--three boys and my perfect daughter. My oldest son is married and he and his wife have the cutest baby boy in the world. Being a grandma is great. You get all the fun and no poopy diapers. I was a full-time hands on cookie baking super mom for about two decades. When my youngest son, went to school, I did, too. I enrolled in Vermont College's fabulous Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults low residency program.
I've always wanted to be a writer, but I realized I needed to qualify myself. Learn from professionals. I tell high school kids I speak to that the arts are the same as any endeavor. You can't expect to be a professional without some darn good coaching. At Vermont College, you attend two residencies a year and then work with a mentor via mail or email--like you would an editor. I learned from some of the best--Ron Koertge, Sharon Darrow, Louise Hawes, and Susan Fletcher. They set me on my way. It took three and half years of rejection and revision post graduation to land a contract, but it finally happened! And now I get to share my books with readers all over the world. It's pretty fantastic.
Bee tells me that a lot of you readers are up and coming writers. Don't give up. Keep writing and revising. Qualify yourself every way you can. When opportunities come up, don't be afraid to push through the door and grow from them.
The cover of SING ME TO SLEEP looks so tempting, what's it got inside to tempt us to read? (This is for cynical readers, I'm gonna read it anyway 'cos I'm so in love with with your writing already)
SING is Beth's journey from the ugly, harassed girl at school--the Beast--to someone who is truly beautiful. Her physical transformation takes place early on. All of the sudden she's hot, and she doesn't trust herself or anyone. But by the end of the novel, what she has learned through love and pain transforms her. She is truly stunning--inside. A beauty anyone would love.
So SING ME was inspired by The Phantom Of The Opera?
You are writers . . . so I'll let you in a huge secret. Editors, agents, publishers, marketers are always looking for a high concept (ie. commercial) hook that they can hang a story on to sell it. I'm not that great at thinking like that.
SING was inspired by a dear friend of my daughter's who sang with the Amabile Young Men's Ensemble. My editor suggested the Phantom hook. I rebelled at first, but as I wrote the novel, it worked perfectly. My editor is a genius. One of my favorite scenes is the Phantom spoof Beth dreams.
Music plays an important part of Beth's life in SING ME..How important is music to your writing?
I work best in silence, but I listen to music to get myself to the emotional place I need to be to create. I play the piano and sing in the choir at church. Music helps center me so I can tune in to what is important. And it gives me ideas for ways to express my characters emotions.
I have a playlist of the most romantic songs in the world that I listened to when I wrote STORM. No matter how far away from the manuscript I've been, listening to those songs takes me right back to Michael and Leesie. Maybe that's why I feel compelled to keep writing about them.
I did the same thing with SING, but added a lot of other songs of all types because I had to write lyrics. I actually dissected many, many songs--wrote out their skeletons on a big piece of paper--and then filled it up with my words. Remember writing haiku or sonnets? It was kind of like that.
TAKEN BY STORM spoke about the Mormon faith --did you set out specifically to become a Mormon writer or did it just happen along the way?
I set out specifically NOT to become a Mormon writer. I discovered that was impossible. It was kind of like my French. I know enough to say basic things, but it sounds dumb. What I wrote sanitized of my faith was dumb.
Jane Yolen, in TAKE JOY, says that if we leave our inner truth out of our stories, they are rags on a stick masquerading as story. That is so true. As I followed Michael to my home town where I so cruelly stranded him and introduced him to the only Mormon girl in town, I realized I had to involve my faith in a very open and realistic way. I had no idea how to do it without making it awful--boring, preachy or unintelligible. I had lots of helpful critiques at Vermont College, great mentors to guide me, and even ended up writing my critical thesis on how a person of faith can create great fiction. I studied Katherine Paterson. She says to let our faith be the "bones and sinews" of our work--not the outer dress. STORM has my faith written all over the outside. SING uses it as the bones and sinews.
Speaking of STORM, when are we getting more of Leesie and Michael?
You can read the first chapter of UNBROKEN CONNECTION, book two in Leesie and Michael's saga, on my website. It's in my editor's hands now. I have no idea if Razorbill will buy it or not. I'm going crazy waiting for news. I'll let you know as soon as I do.
Did you have an 'Eureka' moment or did you always know you were gonna become a writer?
As soon as I learned how to write in first grade, I knew that was what I wanted to do.
What inspires you to keep writing?
I'm incredibly grumpy when I don't write. I'm blissful when I do. I don't want to spend the rest of life miserable, so I write. And I have been blessed with loads of novel ideas that I want to develop. More than I can ever complete. Give me ten years, and maybe I'll be ready to slow down. Right now it's full steam ahead.
Why YA? (You have grown out of teendom, haven't you?)
Actually, I don't think I have grown out of teendom. My teen years are still so vivid to me. Especially the painful stuff. And I was a scribbler even then, so I have journals full of stuff that I can't bear look at. When I began writing full-time, my house was full of teen age boys. That's what came out of my pen.
My historical work is borderline adult fiction, but what will keep me forever technically YA is my fascination with the coming of age journey. That's a deep well that I can explore artistically forever. And if you want to be serious and literary, coming of age is the true definition of young adult literature--even if it's coming of age with vampires.
'Write what you know' or 'Write what you want to know'-- which school do you belong to?
"Write what you know" gave me writer's block for years. When I finally did it, I learned what that truly means. When I write a novel, everything I've ever done, seen, learned, known, imagined, read, watched, etc., gets broken into tiny pieces and spread out all over the ground. Then I have to pick up the pieces and try to fashion them into something with a beginning, middle, and end. That entertains and has meaning. What I want to know plugs the holes. I research a lot for every project. I never know enough.
I tell writers to write what they know, they love, they are curious about, they have just learned and are excited about, what they imagine--use it all. You'll need it.
Rewind to teenhood. If there was a classification of high school stereotypes, which would you fall into?
Believe it or not, I started out a cheerleader. My big sister was Varsity. I was Junior Varsity. This was back before cheering had become a sport in and of itself. Dark ages. You did routines and yelled the whole game. I am very loud and loved to dance. So I was good at that. What I stunk at was the social expectations of being a cheerleader. My sister managed to be a good Mormon girl and popular. I think I alienated the entire football team. I didn't get voted in again. My sister's coat tails--or glorious long hair--weren't long enough for that.
So I became the artistic nerd. Miss Writer. A loner. Very much like Leesie. Sat on the stage and read books. Escaped to wonderful writing workshops across the state where I fell in love with beautiful boys who were writers, too. Wrote long, long, letters to them. Haunted the mailbox. Ah, the internet would have changed my life back then! See, I still haven't outgrown it. That's why I write YA.
Time for five random things about yourself in the next 5 seconds.
Wow. Times up. I don't do anything in five seconds. I guess that's one. I'm left handed. I wear pink ballet shoes instead of slippers. I could eat Mexican food every day of my life. Arizona style Mexican food. I've been in coal mines in three countries. Phew. Five.
If you had a time machine that you could use only once, where would you go-- past or future?
To write my historical novel, MY ONLY LOVE (work in progress), I invested so much time and capital in trying to recreate the lives of my ancestors who emigrated to North America from Scotland in the early nineteenth century. I'd love to go back there with a video camera so I could get it all right!
Thank you so much for being here, Angela! We wish you our best in your writerly journey and I, for one, can't wait to see UNBROKEN CONNECTIONS out soon :)
Keep a watch out for the guest post and blog tour. I'll be posting updates on the sidebar.
And, oh yes, the SING ME TO SLEEP review's up next!