Why short stories?
It started with my local writers group in Newcastle, it was one evening a week and the coordinator would send out an email full of writers prompts prior to the meeting and we were asked to select a prompt as inspiration and write a piece of flash fiction. When we had a larger group we were asked to stick to 350 words or less and when the group was smaller we would write to 500 words. Each writer read their work aloud in the meeting, so the shortness of the stories was for time management. In the meeting we would also read a classic short story and discuss it, and I got a real appreciation for the artistry that goes into a short story. I am a technical writer in the engineering world as my day job so I am trained to make things as concise and informative as possible. So for me I’m mixing an art with a craft. I have a natural desire to get down to brass tacks, but I want the result to be beautiful and unique.
What is the shortest story you have ever written?
The shortest story in Sniggerless Boundulations is Deep Water, which is 127 words. That one is more of a vignette. There are a few vignettes at the beginning to set the tone of mystery and apprehension. They are like a hook to the larger pieces. In my new book Laissez Faire (soon to be released) the first story Sit Down is 111 words. I am doing a series through my Patreon page https://www.patreon.com/queenboxi, and through my mailing list sign-up where I get fans to participate and submit 4 words for me and I form them into a 100-500 word story, so there could be even shorter stories in the future.
How long did it take you to write it?
My little stories are often like a one-take shot. I could write them in one sitting while waiting for someone or something, or while attending a writers gathering (I get most inspired around other authors). Longer pieces, over 1,000 words can sometimes take a few weeks, piecemeal around my day job and other commitments. I do a lot of thinking before I write, and I write in sections with a lot of thinking and research in between each session. I basically form the entire story in my head before I open the word document to type.
Where do your ideas come from?
Many are inspired by real people or situations or current events. I rework little
tid-bits I am told or experience, and put a philosophical bent on them. Sometimes it helps to set the story in a fictional town or world to put a bit of distance between the reader and what they are reading, otherwise it would be quite confronting. I like writing stories directly from dreams. I strongly believe dreams are the recycle bins of our fears, these little misshapen collages where ideas clash and merge and repeat ad infinitum. I have very vivid dreams and will often write them down into my notebook first thing in the morning. The story Mrs Jackson is an example of an anxiety dream. The stories Telfer Speck and Garsdale were inspired my music, both lyrics and atmosphere, by Blitzen Trapper and Soundgarden respectively.
Is there any author in particular who inspire you?
I really like Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff for short stories. Also Cate Kennedy, Margo Lanagan, Tim Winton, and Jim Crace. Neil Gaiman writes a good short story, I recently saw him speak (and sing) at Sydney Recital Hall and he read a piece called “Adventure Story” that was pure perfection. Cate Kennedy’s “A Pitch Too High For The Human Ear” and Tobias Wolffs “In the Garden of the North American Martyrs” are must-reads for short story lovers.
To date how many short stories have you written?
There are 18 published, with another 17 to be published this year. This includes the contents of Sniggerless Boundulations, Laissez Faire, my story Midnight Daisy from the She: True Stories project, and stories in anthologies like Novascapes and Prints Charming. The rest just sits in fragments in my note books until I pull a bit out and expand it or mash it together with something else.
How did you come up with the title of your book Sniggerless Boundulations?
That phrase came to me in a dream. I was dreaming about red coconuts that took one-hundred years to ripen and the enveloping warmth of reconnecting with an old friend. It was like the word “silencio” in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. All this implied incomprehensible meaning due to the repetition. I felt like my sub-conscious brain was trying to tell me something. Symbolically I think of it as one small step for mankind, one giant leap for this woman (me).
When I read Sniggerless Boundulations I was left wondering what the purpose of some of your short stories were yet wanting more. I was curious as to who this author named Morgan Bell was. How would you describe yourself?
Neurotic, paranoid, idealist. I am the person who sits back in the corner and watches other people and wonders what they are thinking. I can read people really well, I probably missed my calling as a cold-reading psychic charlatan. I love interesting words and phrases and the etymology of names and expressions. I also love the variations of English accents and slang and the stories behind how people in different locations came to speak the way they do. I love language evolution and portmanteaus and film quote memes. But when I write my purposes is always to express raw emotion in the closest approximation that the English language can get. I aim to convey a feeling rather than a plot, the plot is just the vehicle. The best compliment I can get is someone saying that my stories kept them thinking long after they are read. I loved that I had you scratching your head and pondering meaning, that, to me, is the aim of the game.
If you had to write a 350 page novel what would it be about?
I have a bare bones plot structure of a speculative fiction novel that I’m currently working on. You may not get 350 pages out of me, it might be more like 200 pages, maybe more novella length, like Steinbeck’s Of Mice & Men or Hemingway’s The Old Man & The Sea. However to my defence, I write very densely. So its like having a skinny slice of an ultra rich chocolate mud cake. My novel has a working title of Daughters of Mallory and is a feminist dystopia that appropriates an reimagines some of western literatures most underrated villains and sidekicks.
What next for Morgan Bell?
I am planning on doing a call out short stories so I can edit an anthology. It is going to be called Sproutlings and will have a sinister flora and vegetation theme. Novascapes 2 (speculative fiction from the Hunter Region of Australia) will be out this year, so I will be looking forward to helping with the promotion of that. The big project is Laissez Faire, my next flash fiction collection, and that is nearing completion. I would love to have it finished before Newcastle Writers Festival 20-22 March 2015, however that is drawing near so I don’t want to make any promises. Sniggerless Boundulations will also be available in audiobook within the next month, I have been working with a voice artist Jon Severity to get my book into audio format, he has been doing a fabulous job, expect to see it on Audible soon.
1. Where did you grow up? Did your childhood have any impact on your writing?
I was born in Australia, but I am well-travelled, having lived in four countries. Yes, I am sure that I write young adult fiction because of my childhood. I still recall what it is like to be a kid. Hence, I have role models in all of my stories. Sadly, many kids today would not know what a role model is.
2. Tell us about the first story you ever wrote, published or not?
It was a short story called, ‘Topsy The Orphan’, based on my mother’s early childhood. Topsy was her nickname as a kid. The story is about a family of rabbits, and I still have the original manuscript.
3. What are you currently working on, writing wise?
I am revising the manuscript for my next 3 books. Also, I am deeply involved in research for a possible non-fiction story. It involves a famous incident, and alleged murder, that happened about 12 years ago in Australia and made world headlines for months. Hopefully, I might just have the evidence that will again be world headlines. Not a word more will I say. Watch this space …
4. What is your favourite character you have ever created and why?
Difficult question to answer. I use male and female protagonists. However, probably Smokey ‘Gun’ Danson; the main character in my first book – Gunnedah Hero. Why is he my favourite? Smokey is a very noble character with ethics, loyalty, empathy and passion.
5. Do you have to write in order or do your ideas just come to you and you put them in order later?
I have an idea and shoot from the hip. The story takes on its own life. I never plan a story. It normally takes me three months to write a manuscript of 100,000 words, working 12-14 hours a day, seven days a week.
6. What was your path like until you found writing?
I first wrote when I was about eight-years-of-age.
7. How is your relationship with your publishing company?
It’s excellent, considering I’m the managing director of my own publishing company. However, I’m always seeking interests from traditional publishers. Should they come to fruition, I would be prepared to negotiate on most things except two: changing the stories I write, and the covers for my books.
8. Tell us about your covers.
As a photographer, I do my own covers.
9. What inspires you to write?
I am well-travelled, and have done my travelling with an open mind. Travelling is the best university on earth. Also, people inspire me. I am very intuitive, perceptive, observant and interested in what goes on around me and the world.
10. How do you get book reviews?
With great difficulty, but I’ve been lucky enough to have had some brilliant reviews which can be seen on my daily blog: http://clancytucker.blogspot.com.au/p/book-reviews.html
11. What is harder: writing, editing, or marketing?
Writing is very easy for me. It just rolls out. Editing or revising is a discipline you must accept as part of the journey and a major part of learning your craft. You cannot become intolerant of sitting for hours with a red pen, looking for better ways to write or say things in a manuscript. Marketing is an absolute pain, but sadly necessary. It takes me away from what I’m good at – writing. However, I write a daily blog and have a variety of guests from around the world. My blog has introduced me to some fantastic friends. I am always seeking the silver bullet.
12. If you could publish every book idea you’ve ever had, how many books would you have out right now?
I’d say at least 500. I have a folder where I keep ideas that I’ve jotted down on various scraps of paper. Trust me. I will never live long enough to write what I have.
13. Have you ever considered co-writing a book or series with another author?
No. Doubt I would do it. Nor would I write science fiction or fantasy.
14. What do you do to relax?
Not enough. I read, keep abreast of world affairs, fish, watch sporting events, and entertain.
15. If you could tell your 14 year old self one thing, what would it be?
Not sure what you mean, but anything is possible, providing you are passionate enough. If you want to be a writer, find something you are passionate about and write passionately about it.
16. What advice would you have for this upcoming generation?
Leave your mobile phone and laptop at home and get out and do things. Travel, learn, observe, smell and do things for others. Life is short … use it … there is plenty to do.
17. Have you ever read a book that changed your outlook on life?
No, not really. Writing did! It’s great therapy for an open mind. Retain your own voice and let it out.
18. Do you have a classic piece of literature or a classic author you are fond of? How about one that is overrated?
Mm … writing, reading, music and food are very subjective, like most things in life. So, who am I to judge? However, it always shocks me that Harper Lee wrote one book that sold 42 million copies – ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird’.
19. Any type of music that gets your writing juices flowing?
No. I write in silence.
20. If you could pick three people who are your heroes or role models, who would they be and why?
I have many, and for the same reason: Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Junior, My mother, Lech Walesa, Gandhi, the king of Thailand, Aung San Suu Kyi, Princess Diana – people with passion, empathy and a great belief in human rights. They also did things because they believed it was right.
21. Dog or cat person?
Australian cattle dog.
22. What do you want to eat right now?
23. What is your favourite holiday or time of year?
Summer. I hate the cold.
24. Anything else you would like to add?
Thank you for inviting me. I wish you enough …
Check out his website for inspiring blogs and updates on his works: http://clancytucker.blogspot.com.au/