... Morgen Bailey
1. Tell me about your book ‘The Serial Dater’s Shopping List’ and where you got your inspiration for it?
Isobel MacFarlane is a recently-turned-40 journalist who usually writes a technology column for a newspaper based in Northampton, England, but her somewhat-intimidating boss, William, has set her the task of meeting 31 men, via a local internet dating site, all within a month. Having an active, though fruitless, social life with her friend and ‘Health & Beauty’ colleague Donna, she knows what she wants in a man, so creates a shopping list of dos and don’ts, and starts ticking them off as she meets Mr Could Be Right Except For, Mr Not Bad, Mr Oh My Goodness and Mr Oh So Very Wrong. Follow the ups (there are a few) and downs (there are many) of the dating process and intertwined with her experiences, get to know her colleague and family, including her niece Lola who, apart from being an amazing storyteller, can eat ambidextrously whilst wearing a Princess glove puppet on her right hand, and Baby, William’s non-too-healthy African Grey parrot.
As for the inspiration behind it, the research had already been done. Apart from the times when I’ve been single and online dating seemed like a good idea (I grew up with an older brother so being a techie runs in the family), I had two friends who ran dating agency franchises. I did some work for one so as a ‘bonus’ she’d line me up with anyone nice over 6ft / 1.83m (there weren’t many … Robert ‘Mr Jag’ Hilton was based on one of them!). The other friend wanted to check out another area’s events so we went speed dating (where I really did meet a dodgy builder touting for business) so that’s where that chapter came from.
2. Who has had the most influence in your life? What lessons did this person teach you?
My father. He was the very hard-working owner of a small chain of photography shops and was of the ‘if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well’ philosophy, which I try to stick by. He died the same week as 9/11 and I still miss him.
From a writing point of view, Roald Dahl inspired me with his ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ and I love writing dark tales with a twist.
3. If you could interview anyone from your life, living or dead, but not a celebrity, who would it be and why?
My father, for sure. I’d grill him about Roald Dahl (they lived near each other and my father did some photography for him) and ask all the questions I never got to ask him (or both of them) when he was (they were) alive.
4. If someone came up to you and wanted to tell you about an idea or a book they were writing, what would you do? Or what advice would you give?
Ideas aren’t copyright but I certainly wouldn’t use their idea – apart from not being that devious, I have far too many of my own to write about. As for advice, I’d say put pen to paper / fingers to keyboard and see what happens. Too many people are in fear of the blank page but they soon learn that when they create the characters, they inevitably take over the story.
5. How would you describe yourself in three words?
Determined, passionate, focussed.
6. How do you react to a bad interview of one of your books? Review?
Technically it was that a lady on Goodreads read my free eShort Feeding the Father and said she never wanted to read anything of mine again. I know that what I read will probably not be liked by everyone but it made me laugh because she’d previously read April’s Fool and loved it.
7. Have you ever killed someone in a novel and regretted it later?
I’ve killed off many of my characters (even in my love stories!) and not regretted it yet. If anything it’s made me focus from writing a variety of genres to crime writing. I loved writing ‘The Serial Dater’s Shopping List’ but I still managed to get a dead body in there. :)
8. Which do you find more embarrassing to write violence or sex?
Sex, although I didn’t find it embarrassing as such. I had a couple of scenes in my NaNoWriMo 2012 novel – one between two teenagers, the other a rather twisted sex scene between a husband and wife (just after the husband presented his wife with a dead girl’s shoes which the wife wore, knowing where they’d come from) throughout. The novel’s still in a first draft and I may tone it down but it’s a crime novel and does show us an insight into the characters so I’m hoping it will stay.
9. Do you research your novels?
Research and editing are my least two favourite aspects of writing, although the internet makes research much easier. I’d love to just write my books and pass to my editor to whip into shape; maybe when I’m rich and famous. :)
10. Are you jealous of other writers?
Not at all. Successful writers have usually worked hard to get where they have and I admire them for that – they clearly don’t want to be anything but a writer. Some have just been in the right place at the right time and if they have the passion it takes, they’ll hopefully have longevity too.
11. What do you like most about being a writer?
Creating something out of nothing. I have a friend in Germany who I occasionally send my stories too and she once said, “I could never do anything like that.” I replied that she should try. I left school (in the mid-80s) not knowing what I wanted to do and as soon as I wrote my first short story (for an evening class) it was a definitive light bulb moment. There’s nothing as exciting as writing fiction.
12. What three things would you save from a fire at your house? (assume that all your family get out safe.)
My computer, external hard drive and photographs. The first two contain everything I’ve ever written and the photographs would remind me of the people and animals who meant something to me when I’m old and my memory’s failing me.
13. What are your current projects?
I’ve just finished doing my first Camp NaNoWriMo (and wrote the second of a crime series) and although the minimum word count was much lower (10,000 words in the month) than NaNoWriMo (50,000), I still aimed for that. I’d done NaNoWriMo five times (The Serial Dater’s Shopping List was a 117,540 first-draft for NaNo 2009) so I knew I could do it.
14. Do you recall how your interest in writing occurred?
Vividly. Although I’d read Stephen King novels prolifically in my teens (under the duvet with a torch so blame him for me wearing glasses) and dabbled with limericks in my 20s, I’d never thought of writing as a career but I moved area late 1990s and knew no-one so went to evening classes, languages then computer skills, then spotted creative writing and despite my first effort (a poem) being slaughtered, I was hooked.
15. If you could choose one person, living or dead, real or fictional to mentor you, who would you chose?
Probably Stephen King. His ‘On Writing’ is the most recommended book in my blog interviews, rightly so. Apart from picking his creative brain, I’d love to chat about his books I read (everything up to The Tommyknockers).
16. If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Keep your first house. You think you can’t afford to but wait a couple of years and it’ll treble in price then when you sell it you’ll be mortgage-free (and you can become a writer much quicker and not rely on the income of two housemates).
17. Name one thing that drives you crazy.
At the moment, my next door neighbour’s extension. It’s been going on for two years’ and turns out much more elaborate than he told me and the house is a shell so will probably take another two years to finish.
More generally, impoliteness. No-one seems to say “please” or “thank you” anymore. And emails that just have content, no “hello” or introduction. I’m a human being. We like interaction.
18. If you could have an unlimited storage of one thing, what would it be?
Information in my brain; being a writer makes me want to know everything about everything. I have an ‘improve your memory’ book that used to belong to my father but I can’t remember where I put (I kid you not).
19. If you had your own talk show, who would the first three guests be?
I’d have Kate Atkinson, then Roald Dahl, then my father, and I’d keep them on the sofa together as I’m sure Kate would want to speak to Roald as her writing is as equally quirky. My father used to say how proud he was of me but died before I discovered writing (and before I rehomed my dog so I’d like them to meet each other – they’d get on famously).
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, Chair of NWG (which runs the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition and creative writing tutor for her local council. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She also recently created five online writing groups and an interview-only blog. Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List.