Q1: Why do you write?
I started writing when I was in junior high school and discovered that it was one of the few scholarly things that I was good at. Being able to write got me through college, got me my first good job (at a newspaper) and has given me untold hours of joy. I think for most writers you finally get to the point where you’re reading a book and you stop and say, “I can write as well as this guy.” If you’re devoted enough to learn the craft, willing to get shot down a lot before you see success and if you really do have a story inside you that wants out, you really don’t have a choice. I’m not happy unless I’m writing. It’s an addiction and I love it.
Q2: How would you describe your writing ‘method’?
The strangest thing about my writing method is that so frequently I do my best work in the late afternoon into the early evening. Twilight seems to inspire me. One of the toughest things to learn to do as a writer is to get words on the page. When I first started I would beat my head against the wall about every sentence, but the key for me is to just get it down. There will be rewrites and rewrites. I can clean and polish it up then. I just have to get the story on the page first so I often go along pretty fast with it at first. As a Christian and a writer of dark material, I often find myself dealing with how to write about evil without being graphic in a way that is going to insult my readers. I have a column up at my website about that – http://www.chrismorrow-writer.com/Rants.html – I often bring others into my writing experience early on in a work. I have a couple of friends who give me feedback as I go. Sometimes I take their advice and sometimes I don’t, but it’s nice to have. Offending the reader isn’t always a bad thing, at least the reader is feeling something, but at the same time it’s possible to write the subject matter that I write without being gratuitous about it.
Q3: How would you respond to the classic question, “Is there Christian art, or artists who are Christians?”
I think that being a Christian shapes a person’s worldview and the way a writer or artist sees the world colors what they create. That said, it seems that it’s the critic who tries to categorize a writer or artist as a Christian. Most the writers or musicians I know who are Christians don’t necessarily set out to try and create something that is Christian, it just happens that way. Most of them don’t worry about whether it’s perceived as being Christian or not. If they’re true to themselves, it’ll come out on its own. I just try to write good stories and usually the reader can see the Christian worldview in it if they look hard enough.
Q4: Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?
This is the question I am most often asked and it’s a good one. I’ve been given a lot of advice from a lot of different people. The best advice I would give to someone who is just starting out is to write short stories. I know a lot of writers don’t want to hear that because everyone wants to write the next great novel in whatever genre they’re working, but short stories do a lot of things for a writer. It teaches how to pare a story down. Almost every editor or agent I’ve ever talked to tells me the biggest problem most inexperienced writers have is overwriting. You can’t do that with short stories. Writing short stories also allows you to develop your voice and that is really tough to do in the course of a novel. I had been writing short stories for several years before I embarked on my first novel, The Devil’s Choir, and I still found that as I was writing that one, my voice as the storyteller was changing. I was getting better as a writer (as only practice will do) and I had to complete a very intense rewrite to get a voice that was consistent all the way through. The more stories you write, the more you define who you are as a writer and develop that style and voice. Writing a variety of short stories gives a writer the chance to learn the craft. Another big advantage is that in order for an agent or publisher to take your stuff seriously, it helps to have some writing credits. There are a lot of different places to get short stories published these days. There are print magazines, print anthologies, online magazines, etc. The more you’ve had published the better chance someone is going to take your novel seriously.
Q5: Which of your creations has brought you the most joy?
Oh wow, this is a tough question because ultimately, when I write, I have to please myself first. Writing is a tough job and you never know how your work is going to be received so you’d better make sure that at least you enjoy it. That’s one of the reasons I rarely plot my stories out in detail beforehand. I love the experience of seeing where the characters are going to take the story. To try and answer your question, I enjoy it when people come and tell me that they liked The Devil’s Choir, but like most people who work in a creative field, my favorite project is the one I’m working on at the moment. I’m writing a thriller about a little boy who is determined to free a bunch of dogs from a puppy mill. The book is set in the early 80s and includes a cast of different characters. I always loved the way Stephen King’s Needful Things gives such a strong sense of the town of Castle Rock. That’s the kind of thing I’m going for and it’s a lot of fun to work on.
Q6: Which has brought you the most heartache?
I guess that The Devil’s Choir, while being something I’m very proud of and something that I get a lot of positive feedback on, is also the thing that has given me the most heartache. My father had just finished reading a rough draft of it when I got the news that it was going to be published. I am blessed that he knew that and had a chance to read it, but he unexpectedly passed away a few weeks later. He was only fifty-five and that took quite a toll on me. I wish he’d had a chance to hold the finished product in his hands. Still, I’m grateful he knew that it was going to be published.
I’m a horror writer so I can’t give such a short answer to a question about pain. So here’s a bit more for the aspiring writer — the painful truth is that you’d better have thick skin. There’s going to be A LOT of heartache. One of my favorite stories, Dinner for the Dead (which is currently available through BnB) was turned down all over the place before I found a publisher who loved it. It was released and then was nominated and finished in the top four or five of a large online reader’s poll for short stories in the horror genre. Goes to show that this business is pretty subjective so when they beat you down, keep your head up. That publishing company dealt mostly in romance novels, but they decided to start up a horror line with me as one of their principal writers. But then, as is prone to happen in this business, they suddenly went belly up. Be prepared for that sort of thing too. That was pretty discouraging. But I’m better off now being a writer with BnB. The moral of the story is that you’re going to get shot down a lot, but you have to hang in there. If you believe in your work, don’t give up on it.
Q7: Is there anything you’d like to say?
The world of publishing is changing and I appreciate Tony letting me be a part of BnB. This is a bold new idea, but for it to take off, readers are going to have to help us. I’m a veteran of sales and I know that the best way to sell a product is by referrals. If you like what you read, tell others about it. Send them a link or email them. Talk to your friends about what you’re reading or mention it on Facebook or Twitter. Heck, if you can put a photo of what you’re eating for dinner on the web (so many people do), surely you can put what you’re reading on there. You, the reader, hold the key to what is published. That key is no longer held by some literary snob sitting in a high back chair at a New York publishing company. Writers can bypass those fat cats and there are writers who are anxious to deliver what you want. Let them know you like their stuff by shooting them emails and telling your friends about their work. Don’t be afraid to look for books off the beaten path and if you like them, please help get the word out about it. I write to please myself, but I’d be lying if I told you that’s the only reason I write. I write to be read.