I’m breaking away from the norm on my blog today. Usually I write about my writing experiences but today, I’m interviewing another author about hers. So, dear reader, perhaps I’m up for learning something new too!
I would like to introduce you all to Morton S Gray, fellow Choc Lit author, who recently had her debut novel, Girl on the Beach, published in eBook form:
Good morning Morton and welcome to my blog. First of all, congratulations on the release of your debut novel, Girl on the Beach, which is flying high in Romantic Suspense on both Amazon and Kobo.
To kick off the interview can I ask you to tell us a little about yourself?
I live with my husband, two sons and Lily, the tiny white dog, in Worcestershire, U.K.
I’ve been reading and writing fiction for as long as I can remember, penning my first attempt at a novel aged fourteen. As with many authors, life got in the way of writing for many years until I won a short story competition in 2006 and the spark was well and truly reignited.
I studied creative writing with the Open College of the Arts and joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) New Writers’ Scheme in 2012. I am member of the RNA and The Society of Authors.
After shortlisting in several first chapter competitions, I won The Choc Lit Publishing Search for a Star competition in 2016 with my novel The Girl on the Beach. This debut novel was published on 24 January 2017. The story follows a woman with a troubled past as she tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her son’s headteacher, Harry Dixon.
Previous ‘incarnations’ were in committee services, staff development and training. I have a Business Studies degree and am a fully qualified Clinical Hypnotherapist and Reiki Master. I also have diplomas in Tuina Acupressure Massage and Energy Field Therapy.
I love crafts, history and tracing family trees. Having a hunger for learning new things is a bonus for the research behind my books.
When did your writing journey begin and what was the trigger?
I would say that there have been two crucial phases to my writing journey. The first was at infants’ school. I could already read by the time I went to school and loved stories thanks to my mother reading loads of them to me. We also went to the library as a family every Saturday morning. I enjoyed writing stories which emulated my favourite author Enid Blyton, so my early work was peppered with gold ingots, big brothers and caves. I wrote a novel when I was fourteen and let my best friend read it – I still have that somewhere. I studied English up until O-Level, but chose other subjects for my A-Levels, degree and professional qualifications.
Life got in the way for many years and then in 2006 I entered a short story competition on a whim and won! It started me wondering if I could write something longer. I enrolled on an Open College of the Arts Creative Writing course and got hooked. I also began to do the annual NaNoWriMo writing challenge to write 50,000 words in November, last year was my seventh year of doing this. I started entering competitions, mainly for first chapters and began to get shortlisted. In 2016, I won the Choc Lit Search for a Star competition that resulted in my debut novel The Girl on the Beach being published this year.
Who are your favourite authors and did any of them inspire you?
I’ve already mentioned Enid Blyton above. I have lots of favourite authors and love their work for different reasons. Sue Moorcroft inspired me to write romance with her book Starting Over. Other favourites are Pamela Belle, Anya Seyton, Barbara Erskine, Linda Gillard, Jane Austen, JoJo Moyes and a newly discovered favourite, LJ Ross.
All of the above and many more I haven’t mentioned inspire me to write. I think you need to pen books that mean something to you, so that you can write from the heart.
Like myself, your journey to publication has been coupled with raising children. What are your top tips for aspiring writers trying to juggle writing time with the demands of bringing up children and the school run?
Good question! Top tips for aspiring writers … hmm …
I use the school run as a frame for my writing. I’m lucky not to have to work outside the home now, as I did with my first son. Several mornings a week I go straight from dropping my son to a café and write, or plan blogs or publicity. This stops me returning home and immediately getting embroiled in washing, tidying, etc.
Allow yourself time to write. It might be that you get up earlier, go to bed later or set aside an hour each day, but do it. Motherhood is a ticket to guilt anyway and it is so easy to put yourself last, even to the dog! Your children will be better off if you indulge your writing, because not to do so can often lead to frustration and irritation.
Find something you can allow the children to do something they enjoy while you write, be it watching a television programme or playing a computer game. If they are interested in what they are doing they will let you write.
Inevitably you will get interruptions with children around, so perfect the art of writing in quick bursts. Use spider diagrams to capture thoughts about your plot. I’m known for writing on the inside of toilet roll tubes – the loo is often the only place for some peace, although even that isn’t always sacrosanct!
Try making homework time a family affair. Sit at the table together – you scribble in a notebook while they do their homework. Again, there are likely to be interruptions so use your spider diagrams.
And onto your novel. Girl on the Beach is set in the fiction seaside town of Borteen where artist and gallery owner, Ellie Golden, has settled with her teenage son, Tom, having escaped a brutal marriage to her ex-husband, Rushton, now serving a prison sentence. The novel opens with Ellie co-judging an art competition at Borteen High, where Tom is a pupil, with the soon-to-be new Headmaster, Harry Dixon. Harry seems ever so familiar to Ellie but as someone else, a dead someone else; Ben Rivers, her teenage crush. So, who is Harry Dixon? Can he remember Ellie? Do they still have feelings for each other and what will happen when Rushton is released from prison?
I am sure you have been asked this 100 times, but where did the inspiration for Girl on the Beach come from?
If you write, you will recognise that inspiration strikes in the most unlikely places, as if the cogs of your mind suddenly slot into place and often with no respect for where you are or what you are doing. I found this happening on one occasion when we were zooming down the motorway (husband driving). I frantically searched my handbag and I found a pen but, very unusually no notebook. A rummage in the side pocket of the car produced an envelope and I scribbled down what became the plot and first chapter of my novel on that in tiny writing.
The inspiration was the coming together of two newspaper articles I had read, one I won’t tell you about as it gives away too much plot, but the other was about mentoring teenagers and what a difference it can make to their school work. The other strand was my friend, who has an art gallery at Bevere in Worcestershire, running an art competition at my son’s school. Suddenly, in my mind, I was standing in the school hall and meeting a man who looked very familiar. I wrote the question on my opened-out envelope – Who is Harry Dixon?
Choc Lit are renowned for their hot, strong heroes and Harry Dixon does not disappoint. Where did the inspiration for Harry come from?
You will laugh when I tell you. I was throwing away one of those annoying clothing catalogues that seem to be sent through the post without you asking for them. On the back of this one was a model who I used as the basis to describe Harry Dixon.
The novel is well crafted at weaving in little details, to raise the reader’s curiosity and build up suspense; it’s well-paced with twists and turns. For anyone attempting to write Romantic Suspense, do you have any tips of how to plot out suspense to keep the reader reading on?
I think it is vital to layer in little clues as you go through the book and also to finish chapters on a cliff hanger or hook. Spider diagrams are vital to me for thinking up the strands that make up the story. My books tend to pivot on the back story of the characters. Things in the past will greatly influence the way they react in the present and how they have got to the point at which we meet them in the story. So, I suppose the biggest tip is to understand your characters, what motivates them and what makes them tick.
Finally, for those in love with Harry Dixon; are we going to be able to read more of him in the future?
Lol. I am definitely writing more about my fictional seaside town of Borteen and some of the characters you have already met in The Girl on the Beach. I don’t discount following up Ellie and Harry’s story at some point.
Thank you very much, Morton, for your time and I wish you every success with the novel.
The Girl on the Beach is available in eBook at the following outlets:
Contact Links for Morton S. Gray
Website – www.mortonsgray.com
Twitter – @MortonSGray
Facebook Page – Morton S. Gray Author – https://www.facebook.com/mortonsgray/
Blurb For “The Girl on the Beach” by Morton S. Gray
Who is Harry Dixon?
When Ellie Golden meets Harry Dixon, she can’t help but feel she recognises him from somewhere. But when she finally realises who he is, she can’t believe it – because the man she met on the beach all those years before wasn’t called Harry Dixon. And, what’s more, that man is dead.