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Interview with author JC Morrows

One of the joys of working at McKay’s is getting to speak with the authors that share their literary works with us. And when we’re lucky, those authors return to us when they finish new projects. JC Morrows is one such author who will be back at McKay’s for a second time (!!!) with the latest book in her Order of the Moonstone series. I recently had the pleasure of talking with this bestselling author of YA Christian speculative fiction and am happy to share our conversation with you. Read on, and be sure to mark your calendars for when JC will be at a bookstore near you!

McKay’s: I would love to hear you talk a little bit about the world(s) you’ve created. What drew you to them? What is it about that time/place that keeps you writing in it? I know that talking about inspiration can be hard, but if possible, can you talk about what inspired you to “live” in that setting?

JCM: I have always been a fan of fantastical, out-of-this-world stories. Of the different series I have written (only one of which is published so far), each one takes place in a very different “world.” As a young child, I was miserable with my own life much of the time and I escaped into books. Those worlds were my safe place. That love of worlds has naturally carried over into my own writing. Now they are so much more than a safe place. They are a warm haven when I’m having a rough day.

Typically, I write from a dream… or from an idea. My writing buddies and I have lots of in-depth conversations, and I love watching my ideas develop into possible stories during these sessions, including character development, world-building, plot and series mapping.

McKay’s: Your stories seem to have a number of steampunk elements to them, but it seems that most people place you in a young adult/Christian/speculative fiction box. Do you consider yourself to be a writer of steampunk fiction in addition to these other labels? If so, are you involved with the Steampunk community at all?

JCM: I am an oddity among even the few Christian writers I know of who weave their stories around a steampunk theme. I am completely fascinated by pieces of the steampunk world, but only pieces.

I love the Victorian clothing, but only the ones that are modest. And I love the idea of finding a way to utilize steam power instead of gasoline or nuclear energy. Those things fit so nicely into my story worlds, adding a layer of intrigue and endless possibilities.

As far as considering myself a “steampunk” author, I actually have a page on my website where I talk about the difference between “steampunk” and what I write – affectionately calling my own work SteamTheme.

McKay’s: What are your writing habits like? Do you have a set routine for when/where/how often you put pen to paper (or finger to keystroke)?

JCM: This is sort of a running joke in my family. I am not a morning person . . . never have been one. However, as a single mother who also home-schools, the only time I can truly concentrate on writing is when all is quiet – so I get up between 4 and 5 am every morning to write and/or edit.

There are days that see me still writing throughout the day (mostly when I’m on deadline), but I try to do so only when the children are occupied with other things.

McKay’s: I’ve read that you’ve been a storyteller since you were a little girl. Think back to the earliest stories you can remember telling. What were they about? Are there similar elements from the stories at that time that can be found in your current works?

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JCM: The earliest stories I remember telling were about castles and dragons and princesses. I was always crazy about fairy tales. I just had a tendency to make the damsel one who could get herself out of distress. That is certainly true of the heroines in my current series. I did not purposely base Kayden’s story on any fairy tales. However, there are definitely similar themes throughout the story. Kayden goes to the palace and falls in love with the Prince. Of course, instead of running away at midnight, she has to decide whether or not to follow through on her mission to assassinate him.

McKay’s: I know that A Dangerous Escape just came out, on the heels of your other recent publication A Dangerous Love, which released back in February. Congratulations on that! When you publish one of your stories, do you take any time to rest and celebrate? Or do you simply move on to the next story?

JCM: With my schedule, I can actually do both. We always celebrate when a book is finished – and then again when it releases, but if I take time away from writing, it’s a struggle to get back into my routine, so I do some sort of writing or editing every day – even on vacation.

McKay’s: Do you think you will ever stray away from young adult books and write anything geared more for adults? Why or why not?

JCM: I actually have already. I wrote the Andarii Chronicles for an adult audience. However, after my beta readers and my writing buddy read through it, they all begged me to rewrite it as a young adult series. I fought against this for a long time because I felt that it was more important to stick with my original plan. That is why the Order of the MoonStone series was published first.

After many conversations and some deep introspection, I have realized that ultimately it’s more important to give my readers what they want than to stubbornly stick with an idea that may never see the light of day.

So, to answer the question . . . I will most likely stick to writing for a young adult audience. Besides, it’s not as if there aren’t plenty of adults who enjoy reading YA fiction (myself included).

McKay’s: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

JCM: I spend time with my family. I read. I enjoy swimming and I’m learning (slowly and somewhat painfully at times) to play the piano and violin.

McKay’s: When and where can readers find out more about you and what’s next?

JCM: The best place to keep up-to-date on what’s happening is my Facebook Author Page or my Newsletter. I make every effort to update my website frequently, but I post on Facebook almost every day. All of my updates in GoodReads and other social media, as well as the posts from my blog, show up there as well.

JCM: Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this interview. I look forward to my next author event with McKay’s… not to mention my next shopping trip. 

Be sure to stop by and meet J.C. at a McKay’s near you, and check out her events page  to see all of the places she’ll be visiting during her A Desperate Escape book tour!

Nashville – May 7th           1:00pm

Knoxville – May 14th         1:00pm

Chattanooga – May 28th   1:00pm

 

Tour Poster A

 

JC Morrows: Best-Selling author of YA Christian speculative fiction, drinker of coffee and avid reader – is a storyteller in the truest sense of the word. She has been telling stories in one form or another her entire life and once her mother convinced her to write them down, she couldn’t stop.


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Opening Line Challenge (Literature Edition)

Grab a scrap piece of paper and a pen; number 1 to 10. Read the opening sentence of these novels (pulled directly from the shelves of McKay’s). Write down what novel it comes from and once you reach the end, check your answers!   Simple enough, right?

Enjoy! I hope you find something that might spark your interest!

1.“A surging, seething, murmuring crowd, of beings that are human only in name, for the eye and ear they seem naught but savage creatures, animated by vile passions and by the lust of vengeance and of hate.”

2. “Lee Chong’s grocery, while not a model of neatness, was a miracle of supply.”

3. “I call our world Flatland, not because we call it so, but to make its nature clearer to you, my happy readers, who are privileged to live in Space.”

4. “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

5. “Mr. Phileas Fog lived, in 1872, at No. 7, Saville Row, Burlington Gardens, the house in which Sheridan died in 1814.”

6. “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

7. “When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.”

8. “On January 6, 1482, the people of Paris were awakened by the tumultuous clanging of all the bells in the city.”

9. “The boy with fair hair lowered himself down the last few feet of rock and began to pick his way toward the lagoon.”

10. “Marley was dead, to begin with.”

 

Answers:

  1. “The Scarlet Pimpernel” by Baroness Orczy
  2. “Cannery Row” by John Steinbeck
  3. “Flatland” by Edwin A. Abbott
  4. “1984” by George Orwell
  5. “Around the World in 80 Days” by Jules Verne
  6. “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
  7. “Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka
  8. “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” by Victor Hugo
  9. “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding
  10. “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens


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The Censorship Monster

Yesterday, author Saladin Ahmed tweeted this: “Censorship in America is less about making books illegal and more about a status quo that ensures certain stories never get a wide audience.”

As an avid reader, a good story is better than chocolate for me. I WANT TO READ EVERYTHING YUMMY. So this statement gets under my skin because it means I might be missing out on perfectly good stories because I never hear of them; or worse, they’re never even published.

A few weeks ago, I listened to an interview on the Sword and Laser podcast with author Cherie Priest, a Chattanooga native who’s published many popular steampunk novels, like Boneshaker. She mentioned how her agent had approached Scholastic with a middle-grade novel she’d recently written featuring a girl space pirate. Everybody likes space pirates, right? Especially 10-14 year olds? But Scholastic turned Priest down, along with several other publishers, saying that there was no audience for such a book—girls don’t read sci-fi, and boys don’t read books with girl protagonists. And this is in 2015. If publishers turn down authors like Priest, with many publications and awards, then what about all the other novels I’m missing out on? I like space pirates!

I’ve heard other horror stories- a woman author rejected by agents multiple times until she pretended to be a man; how The New York Times Book Review reviews almost exclusively white male writers; the difficulties of publishing while black. This isn’t to say only women and people of color have trouble publishing; I’m sure examples exist of white male writers being censored before an excellent story can land in the hands of readers, but it does seem like the industry’s weighted against them. What also seems evident is that there are plenty of examples of how readers’ choices are being censored without us even being aware of it.

Certainly Banned Book Week should honor the many classics that are frequently banned by schools and libraries—like 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and Ulysses—but these books, despite being banned in some places, are readily available for reading in the US. What worries me more, as an avid reader, is that my choices are being censured before I even know there are choices. And what can we, as readers, do about it? There are nifty book challenges, like this one from Book Riot, that challenge readers to find books and authors outside their comfort zones. Readers can also be more aware of the authors they’re reading—while I read about 50-50 male and female writers, I read too few books by people of color. Being aware of this prejudice, even if it’s subconscious, means I’m more likely to pick up an awesome sounding story by a person of color. And maybe if we buy more of these books, reviewed them, recommend them to our friends, then the publishing industry will start listening. This should be our market. Let’s tell the publishers that we want good stories no matter who writes them.

Kingsbury Author Pic

Margaret Kingsbury’s short stories and poems have appeared and/or are forthcoming in The Devilfish Review, Pulp Literature, NonBinary Review, and Expanded Horizons. She lives in Nashville, TN where she teaches at Lipscomb University and, of course, works at the Nashville Mckay’s. You can follow her on Twitter @MargaretKWrites


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A Rose by any other Name May be as Sweet, but it May Cost More

Most people are familiar with Shakespeare’s line “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” from Romeo and Juliet. The idea that who or what we are is somehow separate from how we are defined is a swell one, but not one that is always based in reality. This is certainly the case with objects, where how it is defined can have an impact on how much it costs. And that cost, higher or lower, will have an impact on how many people purchase it, how frequently it’s distributed, and any number of other economic considerations.

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Books and the book world are not immune to the forces of these definitions, which can be seen in a recent debate over whether eBooks should be considered “goods” or “services.” For example, as Reuters pointed out last week, value-added tax (VAT) is cheaper for print books (considered to be a “good”) than it is for eBooks (considered to be a “service”). Two years ago, the European Commission stated that paper books can have a reduced VAT. France and Luxembourg have been applying these cheaper rates to eBooks anyway, but have recently lost their case. Unless they can convince the EU Commission to either change the definition of eBooks from services to goods, or to simply allow reduced rates for eBooks, it will be more expensive for EU publishers to provide them instead of paper books. While this may be bad news for proponents of the digital format, it’s good news for fans of print.

The book world isn’t alone in debating questions of definition and category in order to have a cheaper price. A similar story can be found in the land of toys, in the case of Toy Biz (a subsidiary of Marvel Comics) v. United States. In the world of action figures, the U.S. charges two different levels of tariffs. One level is for dolls (human figures), and another, lesser, amount for toys (nonhuman creatures). This led to a large debate for Marvel to essentially prove that their action figures were indeed superhuman, and, therefore, should fall within the category with the lower tariff rate.

Only time will tell whether or not the EU will eventually change the VAT for eBooks to be similar to those of print. But it’s worth noting that these definitional debates are impacting whether or not readers have cheap access to stories. So while the story may be the same whether it’s on an eBook or in a print book, it will not cost the same. And this cost doesn’t only vary because of the more obvious reasons of different production costs, supply and demand, etc., but also whether they are considered to be a “good” or a “service;” something that has nothing to do with the quality of work or the medium with which it is consumed.


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The Book Isn’t Always Better Than The Movie

Have you ever been involved in a conversation about a particular movie with a group of friends, when that one friend inevitably posits, “the book was better than the movie,” or “well, see, in the book…,” or, possibly the worst of all, “have you read the book”? If you’re an avid reader maybe you have read the book, but it’s more likely that you’ve only seen the movie and must therefore capitulate to the friend with the almighty book knowledge; but what’s the deal with that? Is the book always better than the movie? It seems like that’s always the case, but if you’ve read the title of this post then you know my possibly controversial stance on the issue. I’ll even agree that most of the time the book is better, but not always.

I recently picked up a book copy of The Prestige, Christopher Priest’s fantasy novel about two feuding magicians at the turn of the 20th century. The book was made into a film in 2006 by acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan, and holds an 8.5/10 ranking on IMDb.com, as well as the prestigious (see what I did there?) honor of being “Certified Fresh” by RottenTomatoes.com. While in theaters, this movie went under the radar for me but when it was initially released on DVD I picked up a copy. It has since become one of my favorite movies, so when I decided to read the book I was hopeful that it would enrich my enjoyment of the film. However, the book emphasized different themes than the movie and had an altogether different tone and form of storytelling — this is not my complaint, but it is worth noting.

Ultimately, the book was less than the sum of its parts; it told its story mostly through the diaries of the two main characters. It’s an interesting approach but it separates two sides of the same events by sometimes more than a hundred pages and in some instances can invoke confused back-and-forth page flipping. The movie version of The Prestige excels by intertwining the viewpoints of both characters into a single narrative causing the “big reveal” at the end to be effectively shocking, whereas the book splits the “reveals” between the two characters in a segmented and less graceful fashion. The book is actually quite enjoyable and stylistically is written quite well, but in what seems a practically impossible task, it serves as a rough sketch of story and characters for the movie version to distill and refine into masterpiece.

Lest you think me a bibliophobe, I have to say that McCarthy’s The Road is a much better read than the movie is to watch. The film serves as a good facsimile but with so much of The Road’s substance being in the prose, the book easily overshadows the film version. To my original point however, Palahniuk has said that he thinks Fight Club was improved by David Fincher, and having read the book (once) and seen the film (several hundred times), I’m inclined to agree. And then sometimes, going back to Cormac McCarthy, you get a book like No Country For Old Men, adapted to film by the genius Coen brothers, and the book and film versions are both so good that they are virtually equals in their respective medium. You just have to know that films and books are both equally valid forms of art, and comparing them can sometimes be like comparing apples to oranges.

I say reject the notion that books always possess intellectual superiority over films, but know that there’s a good reason that mindset exists. So the next time that friend tells you “the book was better than the movie” know that it really depends on which book and movie, and consider that each is its own iteration of the same story.