I’m delighted today to welcome back Roz Morris, novelist, ghost writer, long-time friend of this blog and now travel writer. Her new book Not Quite Lost is about her journeys around the UK and it’s currently picking up lots of nice publicity and rave reviews!
Tell me a little bit about yourself as a person?
I’m an over-expressive person trapped inside a shy one. An inquisitive person who is more entertained by questions than answers, and ‘why’ rather than ‘what’. I love stories, especially stories that flirt with the edges of science fiction or fable and seem to suggest new metaphors for life. I guess all of this makes me the ideal temperament for an author.
I’ve kicked around the world of words and publishing for all my professional life. I’ve run the editorial department of a small publishing imprint. I’ve ghostwritten bestselling novels that famous writers put their names on. I’ve been a writing coach for one of the literary consultancies and I’ve mentored prizewinning authors. I’ve taught masterclasses for The Guardian and written a series of books for writers.
I love being involved in the many processes of making books, but my dream was always to write and make my own mark. I’ve completed two novels – one about going to a future life by hypnosis (My Memories of a Future Life) and the other about a theme park set in the last surviving piece of countryside (Lifeform Three). I’m working on a third – which I can’t talk about – and I’ve just made a diversion into travel diaries.
One of the untrammelled joys of the authoring lark is that, from time to time, you get to meet fellow authors who turn out to be talented and interesting people. I met John Holland when we were both involved in last year’s Evesham Festival of Words in Gloucestershire, John as judge of the festival’s short story competition me giving a talk on writing stories to win competitions. John is a short story writer who reads his work at lots of events. He also runs a popular event here in Gloucestershire called Stroud Short Stories – I thought it would be great to get to know him a little better.
Tell me a little bit about yourself as a person?
I’m a Yorkshire man who has been living in Stroud in Gloucestershire for 25 years. A librarian by profession and a library campaigner (I was on News at Ten!), I also wrote topical satirical gags freelance in the 1980s and early 1990s until the BBC gave me a contract. My gags appeared regularly in Punch magazine (Sideswipes), on Weekending on Radio 4 and The News Huddlines on Radio 2. I also wrote for a few short-lived TV comedy shows, the names of which happily I have forgotten.
As well as short stories and comedy, I’m an avid fan of modern jazz and rock music, Wolverhampton Wanderers, nature, modern art and studio pottery.
I am getting married (to Christiane) on Saturday 7 October 2017.
When did you last see someone reading a book? Not someone you know, just someone you happened to pass who was reading.
Of course, I know it’s not a spectator sport, there wasn’t some point in history where the public used to gather in concert halls or football stadiums and hold mass book reading ceremonies. It’s always been a private activity, which takes place behind closed doors in small groups or in isolation, almost as though there is something shameful about it.
But I do feel that these days I just don’t see people reading books as much as I used to.
Sigh – I came across a new low recently in the rapidly evolving book world – reviews for sale.
A random Twitter follower sent me a direct message asking if she might review one of my books on her blog. I didn’t know her, but then I have close to 27,000 Twitter followers so that’s not unusual. I checked out her book blog, it seemed superficially legit – there were reviews on there, it seemed to be regularly updated.
She didn’t use her name, just a pseudonym concerning her hair colour, but that didn’t seem too fishy – not everyone wants to be a public face. She described herself as a military wife, living somewhere in the USA, with a young family.
I’m off to see the Shakespeare on Wednesday – Romeo and Juliet. I do love Shakespeare and I’m happy to see the same plays over and again, perhaps because no two versions are really the same.
This one sounds like it’s going to be a lot of fun. The production is by a group called the Watermill Theatre and I will be seeing it at Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre, near where I live.
There’s an aspect to this version which will be a big plus for some people but perhaps not so much for others – it’s described as being contemporary.
Where do you stand on Shakespeare being given a modern look? Does it sound interesting or fill you with horror?
The British novelist Barry Hines told a story of sitting in a staff room after giving a reading at a school in Lincolnshire when a member of staff asked him the weirdest question he had ever been asked about his writing.
“You know that novel you wrote, A Kestrel for a Knave” asked the teacher sitting next to him. “Did you write it on purpose or by accident?”
Hines was momentarily at a loss. He could just about grasp the idea of someone writing a few lines of verse by accident, but a whole novel? Thousands of words, years of work? That would be some accident.
Recently I was interviewed by the amazing and successful author Jane Howard for her website, you can find that interview if you click here. And among other things she asked me which authors inspire me.
And what I said was this:
All authors inspire me – all of them, good ones, bad ones, self-published, small press, big publisher. I think writing books and stories is a tremendous thing for people to be doing, we hold a mirror up to society, we are its conscience and its soul. That’s no small thing to be involved in.