Today on my blog, I’m very pleased to host my wonderful friend Morton Gray, during the week that she publishes her debut novel, The Girl on the Beach.
Good morning, Morton, tell us a little about yourself.
I live in Worcestershire, U.K. with my husband, two sons and Lily the little white dog. I won Choc Lit Publishing’s Search for a Star competition with my novel “The Girl on the Beach” in March 2016. The novel is e-published in all electronic formats on 24 January 2017. It is a contemporary romantic suspense novel set in the fictional seaside town of Borteen.
Could I ask, how long have you been writing and working toward the goal of being published?
Having delighted in the written word for as long as I can remember, I guess you could say since I learned to write, but, as with many writers, life and work got in the way for a long time. In 2006, I entered a short story competition and, unexpectedly, won. After that, I began to wonder whether I could write a novel. I soon discovered how little I knew and enrolled on courses to learn how to write the many stories in my head.
Can you describe the time you realised you were a ‘real writer’?
Tantalising glimmers of possible publication success appeared when I began to shortlist in novel competitions. One shortlisting for the former Festival of Romance New Talent Award in 2014, gave me the opportunity to meet you, Lynda, when you were shortlisted too.
I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) New Writers’ Scheme (NWS) in 2012, the scheme allows a critique by a novelist for every year you are a member and I began to see more encouraging comments in these reports as I progressed. It is all a learning curve.
I guess I’ve taken my writing more seriously since I began to get favourable responses from those reading my work.
I love the cover for The Girl on the Beach, but what was the inspiration behind it?
My novels tend to start from a spark of an idea. This one was born after a friend, who runs an art gallery in Worcester, held an art competition at my son’s high school. This, combined with a couple of headlines on a news website gave me the start of the story, which I began to scribble on the back of an envelope on a journey down the motorway. (I hasten to add that my husband was driving).
How did you come up with your story concept?
The wonder of writing for me is the unfolding of a story, almost as if it is downloaded from the ether. It feels like the story concept finds me, rather than me coming up with it.
Are any of your characters based on your life and experience?
My characters are purely fictional, but it is inevitable that snippets of my experience leak into the books. For example, my heroine in “The Girl on the Beach”, Ellie, hates opening birthday presents and I have a little of this phobia. I’d much rather give presents than receive them.
Who is your favourite character and why?
My favourite character is Ellie Golden, my heroine. She is a survivor and a fiercely protective mother.
Do you become attached to your characters and have a hard time letting go of them, or are you happy their story is told and you can move on to the next project?
I have so many stories to tell that I am happy to move on to the next book. Having said that, other characters in “The Girl on the Beach” have demanded their own story, so you are likely to see those characters in the future.
If you could be any of your characters, which would it be and why?
I guess it would be Mandy Vanes, the heroine’s best friend in “The Girl on the Beach”. She is more carefree than I’ve ever managed to be, but is it all an illusion? I’m writing her story at the moment…
What is your writing process? Which comes first, the story, the characters, or setting?
The characters come first, followed by the setting and then the story unfolds. If I am in the flow, it is as if the characters are speaking to me, sometimes so quickly that I can’t write fast enough. I adore the alchemy of this process. I tend to write long hand in notebooks, usually in cafes, as it’s too distracting at home. I type up my words when I get back.
Are you a meticulous plotter or do you just let it flow?
Before my writing journey began, I would have predicted that I would be a plotter, as I like organisation, process and logic, but to my surprise my best work is achieved when I just let the words flow. In this way, you could almost say that I act out of character when I’m writing.
How would you describe your writing style?
My books unfold as I write them, so I hope that my readers get the same experience. Beyond that I think I’ll have to ask for answers on a postcard when people have read the book.
How long does it take you to write a book?
I like to write a first draft quickly, usually in a month. Following this speed write, I need to undertake research for details, examine the way the story is written and the elements I need to discard or move around. I’m often writing more than one book at the same time because of the way I write.
What kind of research do you undertake?
I prefer to get the main bones of a story down before I undertake detailed research, mainly to avoid a huge dump of information and to focus the research I undertake. I will mainly be researching detailed things about an occupation or something that happens in the story beyond my own experience.
What part of writing a novel do you find most challenging?
I love the first draft. The thing I find most challenging is carving up my ideas and deciding what to keep and what to discard. Some of my favourite bits of the first draft are often red herrings for the final book and sadly have to go.
Have you used beta readers, and if so, do you recommend them?
I had two main readers for The Girl on the Beach. One read the novel when it was a raw first draft and the other when it was more polished. My confidence in my work can be quite fragile at the early stages, so I’d say choose very wisely who sees your work and always be specific about what areas or aspects of your work you want an opinion about.
What can your readers expect when they read your book?
Hopefully, they can expect to unravel a mystery alongside my hero and heroine. In ‘The Girl on the Beach” Harry doesn’t remember Ellie at all, but she is sure she has known him before, but in those days, he was not called Harry Dixon!
Can you tell us what you are writing now?
I am writing three books, all centred around my fictional seaside town of Borteen. One is the best friend’s story from “The Girl on the Beach.”
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Learn the craft of writing, read lots, write lots. Try different genres, different writing styles and approaches, so that you can find your own particular way of writing and voice.
Do you think being a member of an association, such as the Romantic Novelists’ Association is beneficial to new writers, or is a local writing group more helpful?
I would have to say both. My membership of the RNA New Writers’ Scheme was undoubtedly crucial in my success in winning Choc Lit’s Search for a Star competition, as I had benefitted from the critique of another writer.
Equally, my local writing associations with Sue Johnson’s Pershore writing class, the RNA Birmingham chapter and the little group of writers I meet with monthly provide an important sounding board and help with maintaining morale for those times you believe everything you are writing is rubbish.
Do you ever experience writers’ block? If so, how do you get past it?
I don’t tend to get blocked when I’m writing, more unsure how to proceed on some plot points. I find a coffee with a friend, a shower or even ironing free my mind, indeed anything where I can’t focus on writing, because my subconscious then does the job itself.
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.
For a woman trying to outrun her troubled past and protect her son, Harry’s presence is deeply unsettling – and even more disconcerting than coming face to face with a dead man, is the fact that Harry seems to have no recollection of ever having met Ellie before. At least that’s what he says …
But perhaps Harry isn’t the person Ellie should be worried about. Because there’s a far more dangerous figure from the past lurking just outside of the new life she has built for herself, biding his time, just waiting to strike.
Biography for Morton S. Gray
Morton lives with her husband, two sons and Lily, the tiny white dog, in Worcestershire, U.K.
She has been reading and writing fiction for as long as she can remember, penning her first attempt at a novel aged fourteen, the plot of which closely resembled an Errol Flynn film. As with many authors, life got in the way of writing for many years until she won a short story competition in 2006 and the spark was well and truly reignited.
She studied creative writing with the Open College of the Arts and joined the Romantic Novelists’ New Writers’ Scheme in 2012.
After shortlisting in several first chapter competitions, she won The Choc Lit Publishing Search for a Star competition in 2016 with her novel ‘The Girl on the Beach’. This debut novel is 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. Morton has a Business Studies degree and is a fully qualified Clinical Hypnotherapist and Reiki Master. She also has diplomas in Tuina Acupressure Massage and Energy Field Therapy.
She enjoys crafts, history and loves tracing family trees. Having a hunger for learning new things is a bonus for the research behind her books.
Twitter – @MortonSGray
Facebook Page – Morton S. Gray Author – https://www.facebook.com/mortonsgray/
Purchasing links for “The Girl on the Beach” at http://www.choc-lit.com/dd-product/the-girl-on-the-beach/