Today B.A. Morton’s Blog Tour touches down at Grey Wolf’s Blog.
Born in the North East of England, B.A.Morton writes across a number of genres including crime, romance, horror and historical fiction. After a twenty year civil service career, she and her family escaped the rat race and relocated to the remote beauty of the Northumberland National Park. She now works part time in the village GP surgery and lives in a cottage built on the remains of a medieval crypt. Her debut novel “Mrs Jones” a fast paced, romantic, crime thriller set in New York, was runner up in the Yeovil Literary Prize 2011, published by Taylor Street Publishing and closely followed by the sequel “Molly Brown”, and the first in a medieval trilogy “Wildewood Revenge”. Her latest book “Bedlam” is a psychological/horror/thriller.
Author Interview with B.A. Morton
How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in your book?
Not a lot. Most of my characters in Bedlam are knee deep in murder and mayhem and thankfully…I’m not. I do have a phobia of heights though, and the opening scene when Nell is poised on a bridge parapet two hundred feet above the chaos of Bedlam was fuelled entirely by my own fear.
How much of a story did you have in mind before you started writing?
Bedlam began life as a short story about loss and fear, penned the night before my daughter left on a great adventure to see the world. It was a very personal piece which took on a life of its own, won first prize in a Halloween short story competition and developed from that into a full length novel. I had no idea where I was going or how it would end. Usually my stories start with a simple prompt, a phrase or an image, a seed from which the story grows. I don’t ordinarily plan or attempt even the simplest of story frameworks as I like to give the story free rein. The exception to this is when writing my medieval books, where it’s essential to research a historic timeline so the plot can be woven around actual events.
Can you tell us what genre you write?
I generally write crime fiction, with an additional romantic element. My first two books Mrs Jones and Molly Brown feature an American detective and a young British woman. I also have a medieval time travel trilogy, The Wildewood Chronicles, and with my latest work I’ve taken a step to the dark side with a British horror thriller Bedlam. I like to try new things and mix genres within a story.
How do you cope with writer’s block?
I always have a few works on the go at the same time, so if I hit a brick wall I simply pick up something else. If that fails, a walk in the woods with my dog usually does the trick.
How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
I’m not big on physical descriptions. I shy away from information dumps that tell you everything you need to know about a character, down to the colour of their socks, the minute they appear on a page. I prefer to allow the reader to develop an image in their own mind. I do however invest a lot into what my characters think, how they feel and how they behave. In real life it takes a while to get to know a person, and indeed we may never fully know the person closest to us and it’s that element of discovery that adds intrigue. Little by little they are revealed, quite often as they respond to other characters or to the challenges I throw at them, and sometimes they surprise even me. Voice is particularly important. In Bedlam I chose to tell the story from two very different POV’s. Nell’s lyrical first person POV is in direct contrast to McNeil’s stark world-weary third person narrative.
Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?
I’m afraid I’m not that organised. The idea I start off with is rarely what I end up with, that’s part of the fun. I just take the leash off and let that rascal run.
How (or when) do you decide that you are finished writing a story?
Well, as it’s usually crime fiction, there’s a basic need to solve the crime and hopefully catch the bad guy, but sometimes you don’t end up with a happy ever after ending and it’s best to cut short and leave it at a scene that will stay in the readers mind. I do the same with chapters. Rather than have characters going from here to there, I’ll cut the scene and begin a new chapter. I don’t feel it necessary to spell everything out. The reader can fill in the gaps as long as you leave enough clues. When I do get to the end of that final scene there’s a sense of completion that I suspect every writer will identify with, an overwhelming YES! Of course that isn’t actually the end as it simply heralds the first round of editing. I love editing. I love the fine tuning, the deliberation over a single word that can transform a good sentence into a perfect sentence.
Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?
No. I write simply to entertain.
What are you working on right now?
I have a number of projects on the go. First priority is the second book in my medieval trilogy The Wildewood Chronicles. It’s a twisted, time travel tale of crusader knights and feisty damsels, which is based very loosely on the history of both the Northumbrian valley where I live and my home which is built on the foundations of a medieval chapel. I also have the early chapters of the third book in my Mrs Jones crime series featuring Tommy Connell. Mr Valentine moves the story and characters on by a few months and with a twisted plot involving a contract killer it allows the reader a further glimpse into Connell’s chequered past. Sub titled, Good Men – Bad Things, we get to see Connell pushed to the limit. I have two stand-alone British crime books that are pretty much complete and crying out for my attention and I’ve just found the perfect image for Maelstrom the sequel to Bedlam, so I shall have to be very disciplined indeed as I’m itching to get on with that.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always written, but never considered that my work might be published until my husband and I escaped to the country about 5 years ago and I began to take writing more seriously.
At what age did you discover your love of writing?
I’ve always enjoyed writing. At school, English was my favourite subject and I filled exercise books and notebooks with scribbled stories.
What was the first story that you wrote?
The first story I can recall was a tale involving a rabbit, which at the age of around 7 years I entered in a competition in a children’s comic. I remember using a green crayon, because I couldn’t find a pencil. Needless to say I didn’t win. The first of my published stories to be written was Wildewood Revenge book one of The Wildewood Chronicles, though it wasn’t actually the first to be released.
When were you first published? How were you discovered?
Mrs Jones took second place in The Yeovil Literary Prize in 2011 and was published in the same year by Taylor Street Publishing following a direct submission. Wildewood Revenge and Molly Brown were published in 2012 and Bedlam in August 2013.
What is the most difficult part of the whole writing process?
Finding the time to write is probably the hardest for me. I work part time in the village GP surgery, so tend to write late at night. After that I’d say marketing/promotion – a necessary evil, as it takes up time that I’d rather spend writing.
What do you like to read?
I’d say crime fiction is my preference – dark twisted plots with tormented heroes. But I also enjoy historical fiction.
What writer influences you the most?
I wouldn’t say I’d been particularly influenced by anyone. I grew up with Enid Blyton and Tolkien. Now I enjoy the work of crime writers such as John Connelly, Dennis Lehane and Ian Rankin, and historical fiction writers Bernard Cornwall and Ken Follett. Stephen King is of course the king of horror.
If your book was made into a TV series or Movie, which actors would you like to see playing your characters?
Oh dear that’s quite a difficult one. Hmmm, Joe McNeil is a bit of a wreck and has an aversion to authority. I think maybe someone like Colin Farrell would fit the bill. Philip Glenister (BBC Life on Mars) would make an excellent DI Todd. As for Nell, I think maybe an unknown British actress, someone a little quirky. The perfect soundtrack would be the album Graffiti on the Train by the Stereophonics.
Where can people learn more about you?
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself?
Erm…let me see. I once gave mouth to nose resuscitation to a Dalmatian dog. His name was George. Sadly he didn’t survive. I live in a haunted cottage and have a blue belt in Judo. I love dogs, chickens and chocolate and I’m terrified of heights. I think that’s about everything!