Let's Make A Proper Entrace: Co-Founder David Collins Interviews Co-Founder Morgan Wright!!
Interview by David Collins with Morgan Wright (guest).
Originally published on September 7, 2018 on WriterWriter
In March 2017, at age 18, she joined Twitter in the hopes of hitting the 1000 follower-milestone within a year. 10 months later she became a Twitter influencer in writing and reading with a current following of nearly 50.000 people.
She is the daughter of singer/songwriter Sara de Ville and granddaughter of pianist/producer/composer Tio Jazzy.
Morgan’s currently in her last year of studying a BA (Honours) English Literature and Creative Writing at the Open University which she began at age 16.
#1 So, Morgan, tell us: when did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been making up stories since I was very young, my earliest imaginations sparked by the fantastic tales of C.S. Lewis and Gothic oeuvres such as Dracula by Bram Stoker and The Sandman by E. T. A. Hoffman.
Most of the tales I read weren’t exactly age-appropriate (but then again, I’d been allowed to watch 18+ movies since I was 3- yes, granddad, I’m looking at you :D!!). Yet it was encountering these tales, these masterpieces that prompted me to write my own first story when I was 7 called “Teethless", featuring a starving vampire who'd lost her fangs. From then on, I kept writing every day, driven by this inexplicable urge to commit words to paper but I didn't accept nor realize what I was until someone else pointed it out to me.
It was in high school during the winter of 2012. I don't remember the exact date but I do know that it happened during an hour when one of our teachers was on sick leave- meaning we were pretty much free to do whatever we wanted to. So, while everyone else was chatting or playing video games on their phones hoping that the person standing guard wouldn't notice, I was writing- I wasn't exactly what you would call a “social” teenager. Then, without warning, this girl, who I'd barely shared a word with all year, walked up to me and asked what I was doing. I shrugged and told her I was writing a story.
And that’s when it happened. The girl cocked her head to the side, her nose crinkled judgmentally, and said, "Oh, so you're a writer?". I remember freezing for a moment, my pen halting mid-word because I hadn’t a clue what to answer. I mean, yes, I’d heard my mother say many times that I’d practically been born with a pen in hand and sure, I’d seen my granddad glow with pride whenever I showed him my latest story, but was I a writer? No one had ever asked me that question, least of all so bluntly… and yet that was the question that made all the difference. Because the thing is that I was a writer, regardless of the fact that I was just a child, regardless of the fact that I was not famous or published… regardless of any excuses I could come up with. Because that’s not what writing is about. Age doesn’t define ability just as fame doesn’t define quality. I was a writer because I wrote, because writing was an inseparable part of my identity.
And so, for the first time in my life, I plucked up the courage to nod my head and, with more confidence than I'd felt in a while, finally confirmed, "Yes, I'm a writer."
#2 What does your typical writing day look like?
Umm... messy and scattered all over the place. No one day is like the next. Sometimes I start writing the moment I open my eyes in the morning and write on until lunchtime, other days I wake up in the middle of the night and write until sunrise. I don't usually write at all in the afternoons though- that’s about the only thing that's truly consistent in my writing schedule at the moment.
#3 Are you a full-time or part-time writer?
Full time writer. It’s both an exhausting and exhilarating ride but I wouldn't want it any other way. Writing is my passion. It always has been. For someone who lives and breathes through words, writing part time, I believe, would be agonizing for me. Whenever there's a day that I can't write for whatever reason, I literally have withdrawal symptoms- moodiness, glumness, you name it. But offer me a pen and a piece of paper on days like that and you'll see me switch to happy in record time.
#4 How do you believe being a full-time writer affects your writing?
Well, being a full-time writer is every writer's dream. Basically it allows me to get everything done in the timeframe that I set out for myself. The only occasional downside I see to it as a writer who has "Overwriting Syndrome” like I do (or, at least, that’s what I’ve come to call it) is that I wear myself out sometimes without realizing it and bear the consequences later. I have days when I physically cannot stop writing, days when- come hell or high water- I. Need. Must. And. Will. Get. That. Chapter. Finished. NOW.
It's healthier, I’ll concede, to set a specific time for writing, then take a break and return to writing later, and while I do have days when I can force myself to do that, those days are few and rare in between. Thus, "Overwriting Syndrome”. The advantage of this, on the other hand, is that you eventually find yourself writing more in a week than many writers manage in a month. So, yeah, self-imposed stress and pressure aside, full-time writing is my dream job and I am extremely thankful to my mischievous grandfather and talented mother for supporting me in my endeavors every step of the way.
#5 Is it true that you’re awesome?
Haha!! YOU think so!! Am I allowed to disagree?
#6 Morgan Wright is your pen name, how did it come about?
Well, originally, I had another pen name. One I'd been writing under since I was 10 though I never published anything under that name (luckily, now that I think about it!!). And before you ask me to share that now-so-very-embarrassing pen name, David, nope, not a chance!! It's mortifying (and that just makes you want to know it all the more, doesn't it?).
Anyway, I was never completely convinced about that pen name so when I turned 16 I started contemplating unisex pen names. There's still some prejudice about women writing fantasy, just as there's a prejudice against women writing horror or hard sci-fi, and the prejudice isn't limited to men but women also. It's a proven fact that a female name on a book makes readers hesitate- more so than a male or unisex name. And well, I didn't want to go 18th century style by choosing a male pen name to conceal my gender so I compromised with a unisex name.
Morgan sprung from the name Morgana Le Fay. I've always been an avid lover of old myths and legends, and the tale of Morgana is one of my favorites. At the same time, the fact that it was based on a legend presented a direct link to the genre I prefer writing in the most- namely Fantasy.
Wright has a longer history. Most obviously it's a pun on "writing", but it's also a pun on being "right". When I was a child, my family had this inside joke about me wanting to always be “right”. I would argue a subject to death, always managing to find a way to support my argument with evidence to give it the “aesthetic” appearance of making sense... even when it actually didn't. The inside joke stayed in the family even though I eventually grew out of that quirk (for the most part *cough, cough*). And then there's one last connotation that Wright possesses which is a very personal one- one I didn't reveal to anyone until much later on. It carries the subtle implication of my romantic aspirations of being Mrs. Right one day; sentimental I know, but you just can't be an English Lit student and not be a hopeless romantic at heart. So when I started brainstorming last names, Wright came along and that was that.
#7 Are you a Plotter, Pantser or Plantser?
I have a different approach to every story so it depends. With an ongoing series, for example, I'm a plotter through and through. I need to know absolutely every detail of world-building, all the way from the skeletal structure of my magical creatures to the cultural way of humanoids greeting each other in different societies. My entire story is outlined chapter by chapter before I start writing and though I leave a little wiggle room for further development, I typically don't waver too much from my outline. I've found that if I allow myself to wander from my outline, I tend to go a completely different direction than I'd originally intended and end up not liking the direction I’ve taken. Outlines save me time in books such as these.
In my short stories, however, I'm a Plantser. My “outline” there functions more like a guide, roughly mentioning what needs to go in the backstory, what the setting is like, what the plot is etc. But I only decide how the story is going to go whilst I'm writing, leaving me to explore any developments my heart desires. And as short stories are short, I can allow myself to work without a true outline since having to rewrite a short story later on isn't nearly as earth-shattering as it would be with a 500 page novel. However, if I suspect the short story will be more than 10.000 words, I tend to go Plotter style again. So it really does depend, and it changes from one story to the other. I just go with my gut feeling and see where that takes me.
#8 What are you reading at the moment?
Well… a lot, to be honest. I don't usually read one book and wait until that one's finished to start reading the next. I read at least 5 books simultaneously, sometimes switching from one book to another in the middle of a scene.
I like the challenge of having to be able to distinguish each book's storyline completely and memorize what belongs to what book. I've trained myself in it since I first got hooked on reading, so much so that now while I can be engrossed in one book, the moment I close its pages and flip open another, the other book's storyline closes off in my mind completely, allowing me to get immersed in the book I'm currently holding. It's a technique that has also helped me with my writing as I’m a juggler- a writer who writes multiple books simultaneously- and thanks to that, I've never gotten my storylines mixed up.
So the books I'm reading right now are: “A New York Winter’s Tale” by Mark Helprin, “Vertigo” by Paul Auster, “Throne of Glass” by Sarah J. Maas, “Twitter: Surviving Change” by Kurt Seapoint, “Halt’s Peril” by John Flanagan and I've just bought "Frostfire" by Amanda Hocking so I'm pretty sure I'll be adding that to my list soon.
#9 Is it true that David is the awesomest, funniest, most brilliant, handsomest and best writer you've ever met?
Ha! Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, have I introduced you to David yet (i.e. see person above, scrutinizing me with these questions)? He is indeed all that he himself has just proclaimed... and did I mention how unbelievably humble he is? Truly one of his greatest of virtues *cough, cough* note the sarcasm *cough, cough*.
#10 How do you overcome writer's block when it comes knocking?
Well, I’m fortunate enough to be able to say that I’ve never experienced "true" writer's block- not on the same level many other writers have. I’ve had moments where I’ve felt stumped on a scene or a chapter but switching over to work on another project helps me clear my head, enough so that I can soon return to the obstacle that had me stumped in my other project with fresh eyes and write my way through it. So far, that has always solved the matter.
#11 How do you keep your writing motivation? (Psst, I know the answer: Shopping!!!)
Mostly I just remind myself what my life would be without writing. I've experienced it in one phase of my life when writing was close to impossible. Suffice it to say, it was a really bad time for me… actually, that's an understatement- bleak hole of emptiness and despair is more like it. Every writer has moments while writing where they want to find the nearest tree trunk, bang their heads against it and just keep doing that (desks may work here too- just saying), but there's nothing in writing that is so bad as not having it.
#12 What are your superpowers, apart from shopping, writing and awesomeness!?
Oh gee, superpowers? I don't think I have any. If I did have one though, I wish it was one that could ensure that all true writers make a living from their writing, that they all make it to where they want to be without unnecessary struggles or negative criticism that breaks them before they even have a chance to truly begin (oh, and Jedi powers. I'd definitely want me some Jedi powers *nodding sagely right now*. That mind-control thing- Blew. My. Mind. See what I just did there?)
#13 Have you ever taken pleasure in killing a character?
I haven't experienced a thrill in killing a character per se, but I can’t say I dislike killing them either. If the story necessitates a killing, then the killing must be done. Simple. Be it a good guy or a bad guy that dies, if they need to be dead, I kill them. It can make it extremely frustrating though when you want a villain to die, but you can’t kill him because it’s not the “right time” yet.
#14 What projects are you working on right now?
Right now I’m working on my debut, a collection of dark fantasy short stories called “The Company of Wretches” which I’m hoping to publish somewhere in 2019. Simultaneously I’m working on another novel called “Ashes & Bones” which is the first of an on-going dark fantasy series with deep overtones of medieval and epic fantasy.
I’m also working on two trilogies set in the same world as “Ashes & Bones” but I’m waiting to reveal those details for until after “Ashes & Bones” has been published- which I hope to do perhaps sometime this century?
#15 Where do you get your inspiration for your stories?
Everywhere, I suppose. Anything I observe, smell, hear… anything can be a trigger for a story. It can be something as simple as seeing an old woman holding a wooden ladle or the taste of woodsmoke in the night air. The truth is, writers don’t really know where their ideas spring from, whether it’s invisible fairies that come to besprinkle us with fairy dust or whether it’s something else, we don’t know. It just is.
#16 How important is research to you when writing a book?
Crucial. All my books are the result of continuous interplay between research and imagination, and so I have to be unforgiving with both. I need to know everything about my worlds before I start writing, and in order to build my world I need to unravel as much as I can about the one we live in. That means: ancient myths, mysteries that still haven’t been solved, the different styles in which castles have been built throughout the ages, types of poisons used in medieval times, the history behind past wars and so on. If I don’t know these things, I have no true foundation for my work, and if I, the writer, can’t grasp the reality of my own world, how could I ever expect my readers to? So yes, research is a crucial aspect to my writing process, if not the most important one.
#17 Do you have a writing mascot? If so, what is it and why?
Yes, I bought it a few days ago actually but I've been wanting to get it for ages. I call him "Executioner". It's a Star Wars bobblehead- a Stormtrooper from the first order that now sits on my desk, glaring at me from over the top of my computer screen. It may seem like a ridiculous indulgence and it probably is, but Star Wars, along with Narnia, was my first introduction to the realm of the surreal so when I saw that bobblehead in the store, I just knew I had to have it. There’s nothing like a storm trooper aiming a weapon in your direction for motivation either- not for a Star Wars fan at least.
#18 In case one or any of your books make it to the big screen, which book would you like it to be?
I would love to see the series of which “Ashes & Bones” is the first to be turned into either a mini-series or a movie series. Next to seeing my books published, that’s my biggest dream.
#19 If you could spend a day with any author from the past who would it be and why?
Oh, I couldn’t choose just one. I’d want to meet Homer, Dante Alighieri, Christopher Marlowe, Edgar Allan Poe, E.T.A. Hoffman, C.S. Lewis, H.P. Lovecraft… There are just too many incredible writers I wish I could’ve had the privilege of meeting. I mean, most of these authors went through so many hardships in their lives and yet they still managed to pour everything they had into their masterpieces, regardless of criticism, regardless of the horrible conditions they had to live their life in… so I guess what I’m saying is that the only answer I have to the question of “why” is a question in reverse: What author wouldn’t want to meet them?
#20 What is the one piece of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?
My advice would be that perseverance is the key to success. And like a coin, this has two sides to it. First we have perseverance in the sense of pushing against the current, pushing through the hardships every writer faces throughout their career (rejections, criticism, writer's block, loss of self-confidence etc), but I also mean perseverance in the sense of finishing what you start, finishing your work. That’s actually my biggest regret, one I would change in a heartbeat if I had the power to turn back time. For a long time, I started projects, got a little past halfway and then switched over to a new one without finishing my former one. It's a curse of mine, I'll admit. In a metaphorical sense, it's like the apple that taunted Eve. I have trouble resisting temptation when the tantalizing freshness of something new is presented to me. So, my advice is to not make that mistake. Finish everything you start, even if you stop believing in it, even when the going gets tough… finish. You might just be surprised what you end up with.
#21 And what are your turn-offs? *oooh, maybe too personal, at least I haven’t asked for turn-ons!
Chiefly the everlasting saying that every writer hates to hear. “Oh, I wish I had more time, then I would probably write a book too”- and lo and behold, most people don’t even include the “probably”. They take writing for granted because they don’t know what goes into it. They know and understand what books are, but they don’t know and understand what writing is.
Writing is pouring your entire soul onto the page. It’s tearing out the words from your gut, reaching for them where it’s most painful, then packing everything up into the confines of a book cover and throwing it out into the world where it stands equal chances of being battered or admired. So it can be extremely frustrating to hear people obliviously make statements or observations about things that they truly do not understand, and it makes it even worse when they do it in the presence of a true writer. If that’s not a turn-off, I don’t know what is.
#22 Where can readers and writers alike connect with you online?
Twitter is my most active platform. I have two personal author accounts on there. My account as a writer, @byMorganWright, which is the account I’m most active on and another account specifically created for my first book, @CompanyWretches, where I'll be tweeting more once I'm closer to my book's publication date. I also have a collaborative account with David Collins called @byWriterWriter (the Twitter account of this website).
I’m also on Facebook under @byMorganWright, but I should warn everyone ahead of time- I’m not very “Facebook minded” so I’m not on there often. However, I’ll be making an effort to be more active on there.
And readers and writers alike can also find me at MorganWrightBooks (morganwrightbooks.com)- my official author website. I also have a newsletter on there where I'll start sending news out about my writing process and on The Company of Wretches towards the end of this year.
Soon I’ll also be starting a Youtube Channel, but please bear with me. I'm instinctively a shy person when I have a camera pointed at my face. I've honestly considered the idea of doing videos where I'm wearing sunglasses just to create some sort of barrier for myself. You have to admit- it would be a pretty original idea!! Albeit a bit bizarre? Maybe. I guess. Yeah, probably too bizarre *sighs wistfully*. All right, Youtube without the sunglasses it is.
As a last note, I want to thank you, David, for this oh-so very unconventional and amazing interview (you do have a knack for coming up with some interesting questions *raising thoughtful eyebrows*).