Welcome! Today I’m featuring an interview with Morgan Talbot, author of Smugglers and Scones. I’m very grateful that she was willing to answer my questions. I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I have!
1) Do you set aside time to write every day or do you write more sporadically? When you write, do you aim to complete a set # of pages or words? How does music/other noise affect your concentration when you’re writing?
I used to write every day like a mad thing, but I think I’m done with that phase of my writerly evolution. Nowadays, I still have a schedule, but it’s slower. Schedules are important for me, or I’ll just wander off and get interested in something else. I usually aim for a chapter per writing session, because that fits with my writing speed, chapter length, and pain tolerance—too long at any one manual task and I’m all achy for the rest of the day. Background noise is pretty useful for me—if I’m not in a coffee shop with the babble of voices, I’ll put on my headphones and listen to some Doctor Who soundtracks. Or whatever I’m into at the moment—right now, it’s the music from Doctor Who Series 6: Madman in a Box.
2) With this book, you not only create the storyline, but the whole backstory of the house and the author that lived there. How easy/difficult was that for you to do?
It took some time, but that kind of backstory/research is right up my alley, so I enjoyed every second of it. I also write epic fantasy under another pen name, so I’ve created entire worlds from scratch. Focusing more tightly on a single house and its famous occupant has been so much fun. I’ve spun all kinds of plots and events from Moorehaven’s past that’ll come out in future books. A building that old must have plenty of thrilling secrets, and I love discovering what they are just as much as everyone else.
3) How did you break into the publishing world?
About eight years ago, I first got published a startup small press I’d heard of through a friend on a writing site, but I soon found myself back out on the street due to creative differences. It felt more like I’d ricocheted off the wall of the publishing industry—confusing and disheartening. But I found a job reviewing indie books, and eventually the owner shifted to publishing instead. I had just written my first mystery novel, First to Find, and I submitted it with bated breath. To my delight, my book passed acquisitions and was accepted for publication. I’ve been very happy at Red Adept Publishing ever since.
4) If you could spend one day with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day?
I’d pick Uncle Hilt to spend the day with. He’s the kind of septuagenarian who’s full of wacky stories to tell, which may or may not be entirely truthful. He could tell me all about the famous mystery writer A. Raymond Moore, who lived in Moorehaven and wrote his novels. Hilt would also have great tales of being a policeman in Seacrest during the sixties and seventies. And he could give me a great perspective on my main character, Pippa. He could also teach me how to fix a leaky pipe and how not to electrocute myself when repairing a faulty light switch. I’d buy him his favorite sub sandwich from Mozzie’s for lunch, and let him regale me with his secret techniques for cooking all of Moore’s old favorite recipes. The man is a treasure trove of useful and historical information, and I need people like that in my life.
5) Have you ever learned anything thing from a negative review and incorporated it in your writing?
Not yet. I have excellent editors, so my negative reviews tend to have ideological differences rather than grammatical ones. No book is perfect for everyone who reads it. Although, now that I think about it, that is something I learned by reading my negative reviews: no matter what I write, I can’t please everyone, so I should write to please myself. And if I’m honest, I appreciate a well-worded negative review. I check them out myself when I’m looking for something to read. If a reader mentions an issue they didn’t care for, but the issue doesn’t bother me, I’ll be even more likely to buy the book. And if it does bother me, then I’m forewarned and may steer away from a purchase that won’t be enjoyable. I want nothing less for my own potential readers—that they be happy with their purchase of my book.
6) If you’re writing about a city/country/culture you haven’t physically visited, how much research do you conduct before you start writing?
I love research. If possible, I physically visit the location or experience the culture/environment. The Oregon Coast has a lovely collection of bed-and-breakfast inns, and I’m slowly making my way through them. It’s a very enjoyable research technique. I take hundreds of reference pictures every day when I’m on a research trip, and I handwrite pages and pages of additional notes. If I can talk to or email an expert who has the information I’m looking for, I always do that. I also do additional online research for specific details I may have missed on my trips. I really enjoy researching things—it’s a great outlet for my natural curiosity.
7) If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction, contemporary/historical who would you write about? Why?
I’d write historical fiction about people who’d been lost to history, but who contributed in some major way to historical events around them. Sure, we hear about the kings and warlords and political heavyweights who change the world, but who changed them? Who whispered in their ear or dragged them into a critical event in their youth, who loved them or hated them through a tumultuous era in their lives? Everything in history has already happened, but we can only see a mere scratch on its surface. There is more underneath, more in the shadows. There are stories there that would broaden our perspectives, if only we could see them. This is why I love historical fiction novels, as well as books about time travel.
8) What are some great books you’ve read recently?
I loved being creepily fascinated by Katrina Monroe’s dark fairy tale All Darling Children, and Jeannie Zokan’s historical women’s fiction The Existence of Pity really did carry me away into another time and place. These ladies are amazing authors, and you should check out their writing.
9) What books have influenced your life the most?
Agatha Christie’s novels—her Miss Marple books especially—Dorothy Gilman’s Mrs. Pollifax books, Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Curse of Chalion, the Nancy Drew books of my childhood, the Dragonlance novels I read in high school. Would it be weird to mention the dictionary? Because I wouldn’t be the word nerd I am without the dictionary.
10) Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in future? Conversely, did you make any marketing decisions that had an immediate impact on your sales?
I can’t pinpoint any one tactic I’d definitely avoid in the future. I’m probably working somewhere right in the middle of all the marketing strategies. The only crazy success I’ve had wasn’t due to anything I did myself. One of my previous books’ first reviews was a one-star rant accusing me of an ideology I do not hold, and it set off a cascade of curious readers that shot my book up onto several of Amazon’s Top 100 lists, where even more readers found and purchased it. I’m not upset about that at all! But there’s no way I can replicate that result. I just think of it fondly as that one time the universe smiled on my book.
Many, many thanks to Morgan Talbot for agreeing to be interviewed and answering my questions! I hope you enjoyed reading her answers as much as I did! I had to laugh at her answer of the dictionary, because as a kid, I’d randomly open the dictionary to different pages and read just for fun (yes, I was a complete geek – still am!). I’m certainly going to check out those authors she recommended too!