Interview with author MORGAN BELL

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Morgan Bell is a young Australian woman, born in Melbourne, Victoria in 1981. She attended school in regional areas of New South Wales, including the Northern Rivers, the South Coast, and Newcastle. She currently lives in Sydney and works in Local Government as an engineer. Morgan is university educated in civil engineering, traffic engineering, technical communications, linguistics, and literature. She is a member of Hunter Writers Centre, Newcastle Writers Group, and Newcastle Speculative Fiction Group.

Bell’s short story “It Had To Be Done” was first published in the Newcastle Writers Group Anthology 2012, and her short story “Midnight Daisy” was published by YWCA Newcastle in 2013 as part of the She: True Stories project, with live readings on ABC 1233 in February 2014 and Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2014. In March 2014 Bell’s short story “Don’t Pay The Ferryman”, an anti-travel piece, was shortlisted for the Hunter Writer’s Centre Travel Writing Prize 2014. Bell’s short story “The Switch”, based on Germanic folklore, is featured in Novascapes, the 2014 Hunter Speculative Fiction Anthology, alongside award-winning authors such as Margo Lanagan and Kirstyn McDermott.

 

 

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1. Has any life experience influenced your writing that you would like to share?

 

My experiences with depression and anxiety are the backbone of this collection. I come at it from a fragmented and metaphorical angle, on the face of it many of the stories seem like tales of adventure or misfortune, but experiences with mental illness (both my own and those of my friends and family) is what has driven this collection.

 

2. In one word, describe your latest book.

 

Uneasy

 

3. In 3 sentences, what is your book about?

 

Sniggerless Boundulations is about illuminating the horrors of everyday life, including the fears, jealousy and anxiety that punctuates human interaction. This collection contains fifteen very short stories, vignettes and flash fiction, that examine time, aging, and self-awareness. Each story is a key moment where a character grows, changes, or realises, told with humour and reverie.

 

4. What books have most influenced your life most?

 

A few of my favourite books from recent years are James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces, Michael Cunningham’s The Hours, and DBC Pierre’s Vernon Godlittle. From the classics I am very influenced by Oscar Wilde and Jane Austen, and for short story form Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff.

 

5. Is there a message in your collection that you want readers to grasp?

 

I have made the collection nice and short so readers can easily give it several parses if they feel so inclined. If you are in a contemplative mood try to walk a scene in one of the characters shoes. You may reassess a shrew or a curmudgeon or a wallflower in your life that you had previously written off as inexplicable.

 

6. How do you come up with the design of your cover?

 

I designed my cover using the free tools on Kindle. The intertwining twigs appealed to me. There is a famous Australian film called Lantana (2001), starring Anthony Lapaglia, that had a tagline something like ‘love is a mystery, its tangled’ and that’s what I thought of when I saw the twisted twigs: tangled thoughts, tangled lives. Lantana (the plant) is one of Australia’s most debilitating invasive weeds. It is like a bramble, thicket, or creeping shrub. I like the idea of the underbelly of a shrub being a metaphor for invasive thought.

 

7. What is your favorite part in the writing and publishing process?  The least?

 

I was driven slightly mad trying to embed fonts into my manuscript to create a print-ready document for Lulu. I did get it in the end, but it was an effort. Similarly creating a reviewers edition in mobi format took many many attempts until I downloaded Calibre. Its all part of the learning process, I should fly through it on the next book (hopefully). Strangely enough I have found doing these interviews and guest posts on the blogosphere to be the most enjoyable part. I am a former blogger and I get a real kick out of being back in the blogging realm and the sense of community and mutual reciprocation when it comes to promoting online. I am very grateful to all of the bloggers who have hosted my interviews and posts, I know how much work it is scheduling and formatting and embedding links and tags etc.

 

8. How do you come up with your characters?

 

They are usually composite characters of people I have encountered in real life or from other arts or media, with a healthy dose of my own personality traits. I enjoy taking stereotypes and reversing them or giving them unexpected actions or reactions or juxtaposing them with an unlikely setting or scenario.

 

9. How do you feel about negative reviews?

 

I hope I don’t jinx myself by saying that so far I have not received any entirely negative or scathing reviews, my readers have been very kind. I have had reviews that say they generally don’t like short stories but they enjoyed my collection due to the writing style etc, or that they didn’t know what to expect but a friend recommended it and they ended up loving it. Sixteen five-star reviews on Amazon so fartouch wood *knocks head*.

 

10. Do you and your characters have any similarities?  If so, what are they? 

 

Anything neurotic, paranoid, or self-doubting is essentially a little reflection of me. I am prone to exhausting myself with over-thinking. I am also the quintessential observer “straight man” to eccentric exchanges. I’m sure every character I write has some element of me in it.

 

11. Which of the stories in your book is your favorite?

 

I have a soft spot for Garsdale. I think it was the third story I ever read out at my local writers group. The eponymous protagonist was named after a street in Newcastle, Australia, and some of the imagery is a tribute to the Soundgarden song Mind Riot, which is fitting as it is essentially an allegory for the internal mental battle someone suffering from depression faces.

 

12. Do you have a favorite review that you received?  Please share.

 

5.0 out of 5 stars

Short Stories in a Range of Genres, All with Emotional Impact

April 6, 2014

By E. Lucas (AMAZON TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   

 

“Sniggerless Boundulations” is a collection of very short stories (also called flash fiction, which seems to be rising in popularity); each of the entries has some sort of emotional punch—whether the story itself makes you cringe, laugh, sorrow, or merely wonder, they’re all entertaining and evocative.

 

The first story, “The Tunnel,” is a loaded exchange between a man and a woman in a car, driving through a tunnel—in a handful of words, the author manages to create a relationship defined by a desire to evade conflict on the woman’s end, and a relationship tinged with annoyance on the man’s. The author continues this trend of unsettling you with a sentence in stories like “It Had to Be Done,” in which a woman turns on her immigrant lover to solve a problem, and in “The Dermoid Cyst,” in which an irritated fiancé has the (hilarious) last word on his future wife’s medical condition.

 

The stories also tend to deal with the worst of human nature—selfishness, loneliness, the need to be the center of attention—in succinct ways that show those traits for what they are: terrible and laughable. The most disturbing story for me was “Mrs. Jackson,” in which a teacher frantically tries to protect her classroom from shooters—her inept fear and the students’ calm acceptance of what was about to happen is a startling commentary on desensitization and violence.

 

Rarely is an author able to so clearly capture and convey emotions and small slices of life in so few words, with the economy of a poet. The range of themes is wide—from marriage to murder to office politics to grief—and each story is unique and memorable. Recommended to readers who enjoy the short story genre as well as those who aren’t always enthralled by it—“Sniggerless Boundulations” is something different and special.

 

13. How do you market your book?

 

I love doing these blog interviews, that is my favourite form of marketing. I have a website http://sniggerlessboundulations.webs.com which I keep updated with links to everything online to do with the book and the creative part of my life. I have sold books through Hunter Writers Centre (it gets used as a working example of how to write/publish flash fiction) and through Maclean’s Booksellers at the 2014 Newcastle Writers Festival. I put out a press release, I have done a free ebook promotion on Kindle, and a paperback giveaway on Goodreads, and I am currently doing a free reviewers copy promotion on Story Cartel. I am a member of quite a few authors groups on Facebook and I follow a lot of indie authors on Twitter. I never did an official launch though, so that is something I am looking forward to for my next collection, Laissez Faire – I want streamers and fireworks!

 

14. The dinner question:  If you could invite 5 people, both living and deceased, who would you invite and why.

 

I will pick all live ones, and all men, so I can be the only (genetic) girl at the party. Book critic James Wood (his book How Fiction Works is my favourite non-fiction book), actor Tom Hardy (I am a little smitten with him, talented, handsome. and I could listen to his raspy voice all day), drag queen Jinkx Monsoon (stunningly beautiful, quirky, and genuinely nice), author/atheist Richard Dawkins (so smart and I love the way he speaks, old-school British no-nonsense), actor Vince Vaughn (so funny, I would love to hang out with him, just chill and laugh at the absurd off the cuff things he says). Vince would sit next to me and we could watch everyone else could talk amongst themselves.

 

 

 

 

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Debut collection of short stories by indie Australian author Morgan Bell. A cross-section between dreams and reality. An examination of the horrors of life, with plenty of peering, in the form of vignettes, micro fiction, flash fiction, and short stories.

Themes include fear, time, aging, anxiety, and jealousy.

This collection of fifteen stories contains bizarre medical conditions, industrious creatures, conniving cops, killers, dead bodies, a rescue mission, homoeroticism, nonchalant students, a secret garden, and the road to hell.

 

 

Excerpt

 

“Her eyes were itching and beginning to water, she pawed at them with the backs of her hands until they went red. A mosquito buzzed in her ear, she trod on a bee, and a single line of tiny black ants curled up around her flamingo shin. She began limping, her foot swollen, shaking the other leg like a cat who had stepped on sticky tape.” (Tiptoe Through The Tulips)

 

“The tune was the call of his love, a tune only he and she knew. But it was different, peppered with some menacing mannerist malice. Constable Skillion swaggered out from the scrub with a shovel slung over his shoulder, tobacco smoke unfurling. He spied Telfer lingering over the dirt mound and stopped his whistling. Telfer snapped to face the silence.” (Telfer Speck)

 

 

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