Author Q&A: Michelle Morgan
This week I'm debuting another new feature for the blog, which is a Q&A with a fellow writer, in this case the infuriatingly talented Michelle Morgan, author of a staggering collection of biographies as well as her upcoming debut crime thriller!
Hi Michelle!! Thank you so much for agreeing to appear in my first ever author Q&A – I am honoured to welcome you to my virtual studio. (I haven’t decided yet if it’s a welcoming modern space with neutral pastel shades and an array of healthy smoothies, or a sinister dungeon with rusted manacles and bloodstains… any suggestions?)
Hmm, I think it should be a fluffy, pink room, filled with marshmallows and unicorns… and, of course, tonnes of great books!
Your website, which is absolutely ace (www.michellemorgan.co.uk), contains a really interesting Q&A for anyone interested in you and your work. However, this means I need to craft some much more unusual and probing questions to reveal new insights into your psyche. I will start with something deeply hard-hitting and personal: how do you feel about Marmite?
Ha! Well, believe it or not, I’m a Marmite freak! I love it, and actually my favourite thing at the moment is Marmite and peanut butter on a bagel! Not much good for the waistline (especially in lockdown!), but it’s a nice treat every now and then. And I know you didn’t ask, but I’m sure you’re dying to know… yes, I do believe that pineapple belongs on pizza!
You are a writer (see, I did my research!) and you have written as astonishingly impressive number of books, in both fiction and non-fiction. Do you have a favourite, and if so, why?
Well, I am grateful for every book that has come my way, so they’re all my favourites – but a few that stand out are:
Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed. This book holds a special place in my heart first of all because it was my first full-length biography (and about my favourite star), but also because it reached number 16 on the WH Smith bestseller chart. I’m so proud of that, and it continues to sell, eight years later.
Another favourite is The Girl: Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch and the Birth of an Unlikely Feminist. This book is all about Marilyn’s New York years, where she created her own film company, went to acting school and immersed herself in creativity and literature. I loved researching this book and writing about her kick-ass attitude, which is often overlooked.
My biography of 1930s actress Thelma Todd has brought me a lot of joy. That book was a hard sell because a lot of editors hadn’t heard of her, so when someone finally said yes, it was a huge celebration. It was fantastic to be able to write about Thelma’s life, instead of her horrible death, which is sadly what a lot of people concentrate on.
Of course, I can’t not mention my novel! It isn’t out until October, but I have wanted to have a novel published for about thirty years, so I’m terribly excited and also quite nervous!
From a genre perspective, are there any genres you would like to tackle, but haven’t yet had the chance to? Or any you love reading but don’t have any desire to write?
I enjoy reading all kinds of books, including psychological thrillers, rom-com, and historical. I would love to write a historical novel one of these days, but for the moment I’m going to stick to writing psychological thrillers and rom-coms. I’m still new to this novel-writing malarkey, so we’ll see what the future holds.
The story of how you stumbled across, and wrote a book about, actress Thelma Todd, including her suspicious and tragic death, is fascinating. Are there any other famous (or maybe unknown) people you’d love to investigate and write about?
Yes, for those who might not know, I stumbled across Thelma while writing about Marilyn. Director Elia Kazan wrote to Marilyn and told her to stay away from a man called Pat DeCicco. I didn’t know who he was, so I Googled him and discovered that he used to be married to Thelma… that’s how my obsession with her kicked off!
Several years ago, I wanted to write a book about 1920s actress Clara Bow, but unfortunately publishers felt she was no longer relevant. I thought this was a real tragedy, not only because I wanted to write about her, but also because I felt – and still feel – that it’s sad that someone who achieved so much in Hollywood is no longer considered relevant.
So, I’d still like to write about Clara one of these days. I’d also love to write an official Madonna biography, but I’m not holding my breath on that one! LOL!
What is your writing ‘process’? Do you have certain times you prefer to write, a dedicated workspace, certain things that must be done before you can sit down to work, etc?
In normal times (remember those?!), I write all through the day while my husband is at work and my daughter at school. I sometimes write in my study, then other times I’ll write in the living room or the garden (if the weather is nice!). I don’t have any rituals, but I do like to have a nice cup of tea and a biscuit, when I sit down…
But I think we can safely say that the past few months have been anything but normal. To be honest, I’ve found it incredibly hard to write during this time, because of the worries associated with the coronavirus and lockdown, coupled with the entire family being home all day. I’ve spent hardly any time at all in my study, and instead I’m generally in the living room, trying my hardest to find the words! I have been enjoying doing research for possible future non-fiction projects, because that is a nice distraction, but working on a new novel has been much harder and at times, impossible. I don’t think I’m alone in this, and I think that pretty much every creative person I know, is finding things hard. I am hoping that we can get back to some kind of normality soon, but until then, we just need to do the best we can.
Do you have any major frustrations as a writer? For me it’s always hard to stomach people finding out you’re a writer and immediately asking whether you’re self-published, whether you’ve sold many copies, and how much money you make, as though they’re trying to catch you out (‘a-ha! So you’re not a real writer…’)
Yes, I have had lots of people who are shocked when they discover that I’m traditionally published. Some are even surprised that I get paid for writing – as if it’s not a real job. That’s a real pet peeve of mine, I must say!
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
That’s such a hard question, and I think my answer changes from day-to-day, but basically, I’d say that the most important thing is to first of all finish the book, and then don’t get precious about it. If an editor or an agent says they like your book but it needs some tweaks or changes, don’t stamp your feet and refuse to listen. It’s really important to take advice and listen to what they have to say. Nobody wants to work with a brat, and if you react that way, you’re doing yourself no favours whatsoever.
The previous question is one that writers are often asked, but to give it a slightly different twist, what advice would you give to other established writers? (Basically I’m after some free tips!)
Gosh, that’s an even harder question! I think I’d say to be grateful for your success so far; don’t get precious; keep working hard; but don’t forget to sit back and celebrate on a regular basis!
What is your current favourite book, and why?
I’m reading a lovely book called Wartime at Liberty’s, by Fiona Ford. This is the third book in the series, and reading it is like visiting old friends. I haven’t been able to read much over the past few months, but I keep downloading new books, and hope that my reading groove will return very soon!
Have you got any upcoming releases or interesting projects in the pipeline?
I have my novel coming out on 21 October, and I’m so excited about it. It’s been a long road writing this novel, and when Bloodhound Books told me they wanted to publish, I cried with joy. I was reading the email and desperately looking for the word ‘unfortunately,’ but it wasn’t there! Not only that, but they offered me a two-book deal! Months later, it’s still sinking in that I am going to be a published novelist. I am so grateful and happy.
As well as my novel, I have two official Marilyn Monroe products out this year – one is a mini box set with teeny posters and fridge magnets; and the other is a yearly planner, full of beautiful photographs. I also have two official books related to the TV show, Friends, which I can’t wait to see!
Thanks so much once again for being my first victim, errr, I mean ‘guest’! I really hope this has been fun. Where can readers find and follow you online if they want to seek out more of you and your work? And also feel free to add anything else you want to mention!
I’m really grateful that you wanted me to be your first guest/victim! Thank you for the opportunity! Readers can find me on Twitter and Instagram @MMWriterGirl and on Facebook: The Official Michelle Morgan Author Page. I also have a website and blog at www.michellemorgan.co.uk.
Thanks so much once again!!
I hope you enjoyed finding out more about this ace and very talented lady. I have taken her advice and scattered marshmallows and unicorns liberally around the catacombs, so they will hopefully be more welcoming for my next visitor...
Until then, look after yourselves!