Monday, March 9, 2015

Interview with D. E. Morris

D. E. Morris is one of the bright young stars of the Christian Fiction world. Her most recent book, Age of Valor: Heritage, ties together great fantasy with enduring faith. She is surely a figure to watch as she rises and I am very thankful that she has taken the time to appear on my humble blog. Without further ado, D. E. Morris.

This is my single favorite question because I believe it says a little bit about all of us: Coffee or Tea?

Coffee! Actually, I like both but I drink coffee more often. I have a bad habit of collecting different kinds of tea and letting them take up space on my shelf. It's horrible.

What has been the single biggest influence on your life as an author? Was it another author, a different kind of artist, a parent, a friend?

I feel like saying Life has been my biggest influence is sort of a wishy-washy answer, but it's really the truth. I started writing as a basic form of escape from a life that was not very easy. Reading was something I did all the time for that very reason, but when I realized I could create my own worlds to escape into, well that was something that became addicting and wonderful. I looked to my favorite authors at the time like Melanie Rawn, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Susan Fletcher to give me inspiration. After reading “Dragon's Milk” by Ms. Fletcher and crying my eyes out over something that happened near the end, I knew I wanted to do that; I wanted to be able to move people with my writing, make them celebrate the victories and mourn the losses, and still have them wanting to come back for more.

Of course, I can't forget Richard Adams. Since I was in my twenties I've read “Watership Down” once a year, every year. The subject matter, rabbits, seems like the simplest, most obscure subject matter but the complexities within the story are so delicious. I find something new or understand something a littler better each time I read it, and that is something I aspire to accomplish in my own writing.

Who do you most look forward to reading your work?

Kids I went to high school with. No, seriously. I'm not a person to hold grudges, but when I was in high school I was the girl who sat at the back of the classroom and got made fun of because I preferred the company of the fiction characters I was creating over real people. It will give me great joy, even if it only happens in my mind, to know they see something came from that. Sure I was weird, but you have to be a little weird to be creative in this world.

Are there any upcoming projects you’d like people to know about?

The second book in the Age of Valor series is almost complete it's first draft which is extremely exciting for me. It's been almost a year since the war that closed out Heritage, characters have grown, changed, and some have even departed. You would think the world is a bit more at peace, and perhaps on a larger scale it is, but the darkness our heroes thought they defeated is not as absent as they might think. This book is darker than Heritage was, but it also has some really lovely light moments as well as some interesting new characters.

I'm also working on the first book in a planned YA Supernatural series, the first of which is called Shadow Keepers. This entire series was inspired by one simple song, “The Keeper” by Kina Grannis and Marie Digby. I was so moved by the haunting melody, the harmony, the lyrics...then I saw a number on “So You Think You Can Dance” that further inspired me. So I began writing this story about a young man who was killed during the prime of his life, before he was able to achieve his dream of becoming a published author. Several years after his death his unfinished manuscript is found by a young woman who becomes slightly obsessed with it. Because of her strong connection to the manuscript she eventually learns about a race of people stuck in the in-between called Shadow Keepers, and finds out that not all of them are as kind and protective as the one who wrote her treasured manuscript.

What’s your favorite part of the writing process?

I love the conversations that happen in my head. Sometimes they're lovely, simple conversations about back story as characters both new and old reveal things about themselves to me, sometimes it's heated arguments when I see the story going a certain way but the characters are very much opposed. I make sure I always listen to them, though. They can be helpful when they want to be.

Tell us about your most recent project or projects.

Heritage is the first book in the Age of Valor series, and an introduction into this fantasy world that has many similarities to our own. There is love and hatred, good and evil, justice and injustice. Of course one of the chief differences is the fact that there are those who can turn into dragons and other creatures. The setting revolves around the seven Celtique Nations, very much akin to our own, and largely takes place in a country with a strong resemblance to Scotland. The young and newly crowned High Queen Ashlynn takes the throne after assassinating a high king who sought to rule all seven nations and beyond, as well as destroy the fabled Elementals, dragons who control particular elements within the world. The son of the slain king soon preys upon Ashlynn with the wrath of his armies behind him, as well as a dark and murderous armies controlled only by his own Captain of Guard. It is truly only the beginning of a very long battle that will span many years and at least two generations. Right now the plan is for this to be a six book series. We'll see if I can stick to that or if another book decides to come after what I already have planned out.

Heritage is also being produced as an audio drama and should be out sometime this year. In the style of the radio dramas of old, it's being brought to life by sixteen amazingly talented voice actors, an engaging narrator, original music, and sound effects. This has been such an exciting experience for me to be a part of and I can't wait to share it. It will be available on Audible, iTunes, and Amazon once the production is complete.

What do you find the most challenging about being a self-published author?

One of the hardest things I've found is simple publicity. While there is always Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. it is hard to get that initial following. Without a publicity team to back you, you have to do all the work yourself. If I want to keep getting attention for my book after the initial rush of purchases from friends and family, I have to be the one to pound the virtual pavement, to introduce myself to sellers, bookstores, buyers. I have to think of marketing and implement it in a way that lasts in people's memories. I have to approach event coordinators at different locations to arrange signings and publicity events. It can be pretty exhausting and, for someone who has never done this before, quite overwhelming at times. But I know it's important to push through and continuously search for new ways and venues to get both my name and my books out there.

If given the option to go the traditional publishing route, would you take it?

It depends on the day. On days when I'm particularly frustrated in the lack of returns from inquiries or promotional things I've put out there, I would say yes in a heartbeat. Because they know what they are doing and I don't. Plus I think a lot of people take you more seriously as an author when you can tell them which house you've published with. Saying you're a self-published author really doesn't say much in the eyes of a lot of people. Self-publishing is for fanfiction-turned- “original” novel these days and that's really unfortunate because there are a lot of fantastic novels out there that have been self-published, but are overlooked because of the stigma surrounding self-publishing. However, most days I am glad I've taken this route. I have a lot more control over the content, the timing, the cover, everything. That's really quite nice.

What’s one thing you want your fans to know about you?

I'm very approachable and absolutely love talking with people. Even in casting for the audio drama I had people who treated me like I was in some higher social status than they were and it really bothered me. I am certainly no higher or better than anyone else. My favorite thing about getting to know someone is really getting to know them, listening to them talk about their lives. I love that. Let's sit down with a pot of coffee, some good gluten-free munchies, and talk. But be careful! You may end up in one of my books in some variation or another. It wouldn't be the first time that's happened.

With your newfound riches, what is the one thing you want to do?

Riches may be exaggerating quite a bit. I have no grand illusions of becoming the next JK Rowling or anything, though that would be nice. I'd love to be able to live off my writing. But in reality, what I really want is for the book to make enough to get me a couple of weeks in Scotland. I have strong blood ties there (all the way back to Mary, Queen of Scots!), have family I've never met there, and have always felt a heart-calling to be there to the point where I feel homesick even though I've never been there. My biggest dream is to be able to move there but for now, I'd settle for a couple of weeks.

That's all for now.

You can find D. E. Morris on Facebook [Age of Valor] Twitter [@phasingirl] Website [http://phasingirl.wix.com/demorris] Kickstarter [Age of Valor Heritage Audio Drama] and you can always comment to the post for more interaction with the author. Remember you can get her book HERE and if you happen to be the New Hampshire area she will be appearing at the New Hampshire Renaissance Festival in May. Don't miss the chance to see her in person.

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