Interview with Award Winning Author: Angela Morrison

Takenbystorm_Cover_frontToday our guest is author Angela Morrison as part of her M+L Forever Blog Tour. She wrote the YA novels: Taken By Storm Saga, books 1 2 & 3 as well as Sing Me to Sleep, 2010 Goodreads Choice YA Nominee.

Margaret: How has belonging to Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) helped you in your writing career?

Angela: I should be their poster child. I’d still be wandering around lost without SCBWI. I joined them when we lived in Canada. I’d published a short story in THE FRIEND magazine and felt I was ready to be a member. You don’t have to be published to join–many members aren’t–but I didn’t know that. I devoured their Bulletin and went to a local conference. Then I went to their annual conference in LA. I found a brochure for a low-residency MFA program on a table of freebies. I picked it up and noticed all the faculty had MFA’s from Vermont College. I researched Vermont College of Fine Art’s MFA for Writing for Children and YA and, gulp, applied. Their program is the original in low-residency MFA programs. They let me in and changed my life. Still, even with all the contacts and the network I developed at Vermont College, I needed SCBWI to find the right editor for TAKEN BY STORM. I met her at Sequester, a writing retreat SCBWI Paris sponsors every few years. One of those fairy godmothers who put on that retreat, is now my agent, Erzsi Deak of Hen & Ink Literary.

Margaret: What was the low-residency MFA program from Vermont College like?  How long did you have to be away from your family?

Angela: Twice a year you attend a residency in Vermont that lasts about a week and a half.

Margaret: How did you handle the child care while you were away.

Angela: My husband stepped in and did the mom thing. My youngest was seven when I started the program, but my other children were teenagers. Residencies are in January and July. The July one was easy. January with getting the kids to school and everything was more difficult. He still worked while I was gone, but he didn’t travel, and he had to take time off.

Margaret: Was your family supportive of your educational process?

Angela: Yeah. They were. It was tough because I worked on it twenty-four/seven. But they saw how happy it made me. I’d been a full-time mom for close to twenty years when I started my MFA. My brain was melting to Jell-O. My degree got the synapses firing again. It was toughest on my youngest son. His birthday is in July, and I had to miss three years in a row. He milked that for everything it is worth. But now, he’s not one of those kids who need the world to turn upside down because it’s his birthday. In fact, he is my most independent child. Maybe I mothered the others too much?

Margaret: How does your family support / assist you in your writing career?

Angela: My husband makes a good living so I don’t have to. I couldn’t devote myself entirely to writing without him. My writing career makes no sense financially. Writing is more of a vocation than an occupation. With my MFA, I could teach on a college or university level–and I’d like to do that someday–but right now I want to write novels, and my husband makes that possible. When my daughter was still living at home, she’d bring me dinner in my office while I was revising. She read early drafts and gave me good feedback. My older sons are great at graphic design and have made me trailers, blogs, book covers, and even designed the interior for my independent titles.

Margaret: Wow, that’s wonderful. I enjoy the support of my daughter Serena. She’s designed my websites and blogs and helps me maintain them. I wouldn’t be able to do it without her help. How did you go about obtaining your family’s cooperation?

Angela: My husband is a professor of international business, and we’ve moved a lot so he could advance his career and find greater challenges. He travels all the time. I nurtured the kids and kept things together at home. Now that the kids are older, he still travels and continues to seek challenges. I don’t complain when he leaves and have always supported the moves he needed to make. The payoff for that is a I get to spend my days writing. He loves to travel, and I love to stay home. So, for a compromise, last summer we traveled to the Scottish Highlands where his ancestors originate, and I wanted to research for a novel. He’s a great sport.

My children’s cooperation? My daughter was worried I was going to starve if she didn’t feed me. Love. And I paid my sons for the professional work they did for me. And my youngest son has learned infinite patience and amazing independence because his mom is a writer.

Margaret: While reading your bio I got the distinct impression that your life was the inspiration for the Sing Me to Sleep plot. You also tell us that where you grew up is the setting for Taken by Storm. How do you use your life experiences in creating your novels?

Angela: I drew on a lot of my high school experience for TAKEN BY STORM. I stole SING ME TO SLEEP from my daughter. When we lived in London, Ontario, Canada, she sang with the Junior Amabile Singer’s–an all-girl competitive community-based choir. I got to travel with them and everywhere we went teen girls from choirs that competed with Amabile’s famous senior-girls’ choir, the Amabile Youth Singers, would attack us. “Are the guys here?” The guys. Amabile has an all-guy tenor/base choir. They are amazing. I always wanted to set a novel in that unique world, but I didn’t have a story until a tragedy involving one of my daughter’s closest friends in the Amabile Young Men’s Ensemble hit the choir.

When I write a novel, it feels like a giant wave hits my life, and everything I’ve ever done, known, dreamed, read, heard, and feared, gets broken up into tiny pieces and scattered on the beach as the wave retreats. I wander around and pick up pieces, glue them into the mosaic of my story, and fill the gaps with imagination and research.

Margaret: The imagery you evoke with that description speaks to my heart. Thank you for sharing your time with us today.  Check back the next two Wednesdays – 7/6 for Part 2 and 7/13 for Part 3 of Angela’s Interview.

 

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