Happy Friday, yall! Hope you all had a great week and are ready to kick off this weekend! It has been another super busy week here at home wearewordnerds headquarters, that’s for sure! Cataloging new books, photography, and some general organization have been keeping me so busy. And then, of course, life has a way of conveniantly sending Mr Murphy over, just when you are busiest, to throw a wrench into the plans. REGARDLESS! One of the things I wanted to start doing a little more of was AUTHOR INTERVIEWS, so that’s what we have for you today! A few weeks back we featured the book What Lies Within by James Morris and he was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.
On to the show! (I mean interview….)
Interview with author, James Morris
I saw in your bio that you used to write for television, was that a lot different than writing novels?
Writing teleplays and novels is very different; a script is really just a blueprint, and it requires a team of people to make it come alive: actors, sets, camera operators, costumes, music, editors. It really is a team effort. Scripts also generally only show what the character can see and hear, rather than interior thoughts (voice-overs are the exception). And there is generally a lot of input into scripts from other writers, the network, the studio, actors, so it’s hard to have complete “ownership” of an episode. Novels, on the other hand, have to be done with words and that’s it. It’s both freeing (no budget limitations for novels!), but it’s harder to convey a mood sometimes, when it would be easier just to see the reaction of an actor’s face. Both have their pros & cons. I love them both, actually. The other big difference in TV versus books is the amount of reach; TV episodes, even low-rated ones, still garner in the hundreds of thousands, if not low millions, of views on one night. Books, even in a best case scenario like a massive bestseller, are lucky to reach 2 million worldwide, and that’s after months of the book percolating.
What genre do you usually write? Do you ever see yourself writing other genres?
I tend to write more “thriller-y” stories, things with a faster pace. But I do write in other genres. I have a women’s fiction book in the works that’s a relationship comedy. I think the idea of writing in only one genre is mainly a marketing idea; it’s easier for people to know, oh, that’s a Stephen King book, I know exactly what I’m going to get when I open those pages. It’s the writer as a brand, which isn’t a bad thing. But I do like to explore outside my own preferred genre. It’s what makes writing fun and interesting: exploring different ideas, different ‘what ifs’ and seeing where they lead.
ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BOOK:
Tell us about WHAT LIES WITHIN! What’s it about, where’d the idea for it come from?
WHAT LIES WITHIN tells the story of a 17-year-old girl who finds with one text message that her life is in danger, and she doesn’t know why. She goes on a journey to explore who wants her dead, and it turns her life upside-down. I can’t really point to a certain ‘eureka’ moment, but I’d always been curious in the last ten years or so: why the proliferation of violence among young people? In my mind, it seems as if there is a Before Columbine high school shooting and an After Columbine moment, and it’s never been the same. To paraphrase a quote from INCEPTION, the scariest thing in the world is an idea, because once an idea is acted upon, it proves that it can be done. It’s not just an idea anymore, it’s become real. And once something is out in the world, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle, you know?
Is there a message in your novel that you hope your readers come away with?
I’m not much of a “message guy”; I think people read for entertainment, and I aim to give them their money’s worth. Of course, there is always a theme that I personally am working on, and maybe Easter Eggs laid in for readers who want to do a deep-dive. But I like to think of John Greene’s statement that books belong to the reader, not the author. I do my best, and then when a book hits the world, it doesn’t belong to me anymore. It’s yours, the reader, for good or bad. The reader brings their own individual experience to the book, and interestingly, their reaction to the book is more a reflection of their thoughts/experiences.
What was the hardest part of writing WHAT LIES WITHIN?
The hardest part of writing WHAT LIES WITHIN is the same with any project, I find: is it something that will still interest me days, weeks, months, or even years later? It’s so easy to get excited by an idea, but does the idea have “legs” where on Day 203 I still feel like sitting down at the computer and writing it out? Does the concept excite me enough to keep going? And to make sure that doesn’t happen, I spend most of my time just noodling an idea, going over it again and again; then I outline and outline again. So when I actually start writing, the writing process itself is pretty quick. And then there are the more scene-work questions: am I telling the story in the right order? Am I giving away too much or not enough? Is the pace right? Am I making the characters real without being boring? Are they likable? Are they flawed enough that the audience relates to them, but not flawed enough that the reader is repelled? All those questions. A writing instructor once told me that writing is just the act of answering questions over and over. The instructor was kind of right!
What was the hardest part of getting published?
I am no different than most writers when they focus on getting published. But the fact is, the manuscript is the most important thing. It needs to be right. Because once it’s out the door and out in the world, there’s no taking it back. The reviews come in, and these days reviewers don’t hold back. They tell you what they love, which makes you feel good, and they tell you what they hate, which makes you feel not so good. So the marker shouldn’t be: how to get published; the marker should be: is this manuscript as good as I can make it? Having said that, publishing, like network TV, is filled with smart people, passionate people who love storytelling. But at the end of the day, they are all guessing as to what is going to make money; what is going to make a splash in the marketplace. And no one really knows. If they did, every TV show would be a hit. If they did, every book would be a smash. So, you need to remind yourself it’s all a crapshoot. People put their best guess into your work (and sometimes you get chosen, but more often you get passed on). It can be frustrating, but remember: it’s not personal. For every book they say yes to, they say no to a hundred others; they simply don’t have the bandwidth to pick every book they like.
Are you a “timeline it all out” kind of guy or do you just start writing and see what happens? What’s your process like?
Coming from screenwriting, I definitely need an outline. Personally, I’ve found the “let me go with inspiration and see where it leads” takes me exactly nowhere. I need the outline because then I know the story works; there’s comfort in having those borders to bounce around within, which then allows me the freedom to “see where the inspiration” takes me on the scene-level.
Was it a hard change for you to switch from writing for tv which is primarily dialog (script writing) to writing in the novel format?
Yes, actually. So much on screen is conveyed with a look, or a musical cue, or an editing choice. Prose writing is still something I continue to learn about, and I like to think with each book I write, the writing itself gets a little better and better. But I will continue to learn forever!
Do you have any advice for other writers?
I jokingly tell other writers to quit. I don’t really mean it, but it’s just a way of saying: this career is ridiculous. I say over and over again, unless you’re JK Rowling during the height of HARRY POTTER that no one is waiting with bated breath about your next book. Face it, most books don’t sell much. This isn’t a business in which you generally make any money. You write for only one reason: because you love it. Because you can’t not write. If you’re writing for any other reason, you’re in it for the wrong reasons. Because the writing life is filled with rejection and hurt. Why put yourself through it unless you love the act of telling stories?
What are you working on now / whats next for you?
Right now, I’m working on a YA horror. And yes, each book has its own narrative riddles that I need to solve, and I am very much in “trying-to-solve” mode!
Who is your favorite author & what do you think draws you to their work?
I always say Ray Bradbury because when I was introduced to him as a young teen, it was the first time I saw that words had power; they were magic on the page. He could weave a story, just creating this experience you could feel. Of course, there have been many other writers since then that I’ve enjoyed and inspired me, but Ray Bradbury will always reign as king.
Any books you think were awesome and surprised they aren’t best sellers? Why aren’t they? We hate seeing books that just didn’t get enough buzz!
Too many! It’s true the ones we all hear about get the most amount of marketing (and then sometimes disappoint). I’ve actually been inspired of course, by Andy Weir’s story about THE MARTIAN (though, personally, as someone who never understood math, it was a bit math-heavy for me); and Josh Malerman’s BIRD BOX. That one came out in early 2014, and yet, we’re closing in on late 2015, and it’s really popping. And when it came out, I don’t remember it having a big splash; it percolated and found an audience and just kept going. I think those are the stories that every writer thinks of when they publish their books – the hope that those seeds will grow into large trees!
And because our readers would LOVE to know: What book are YOU reading right now?
I am currently reading READY PLAYER ONE. I read across a wide variety of genres, but I do like to see what’s currently “popping.”
What Lies Within by James Morris
Release Date: 2015-06-02
Available in: Paperback and Ebook
“You’re going to die”
Shelley Marano is an ordinary, unexceptional high school senior…until the day she receives a cryptic text message, and her world tilts sideways. Now she’s in real danger, although she doesn’t know who would want her dead, or why. As she starts to unravel the mystery, the truth about who she really is proves to be more frightening than she ever imagined. With the lives of her and her friends hanging in the balance, one thing is certain:
Nothing will ever be the same.
Packed with suspense, What Lies Within is a page-turning, plot-driven roller-coaster ride that fans of Stephen King, James Patterson and Rick Yancey will be sure to enjoy.
About James Morris
|James Morris is a former television writer who now works in digital media. He is also the author of the Kindle Scout selections WHAT LIES WITHIN and MELOPHOBIA. When not writing, you can find him scoping out the latest sushi spot, watching House Hunters Renovation, or trying new recipes in the kitchen. He lives with his wife and dog in Los Angeles.|