Nicola Morgan is an award-winning author from the UK with around ninety published books to her name and is well known as a speaker about all aspects of writing and publishing. She is the creator of the popular blog, Help! I Need a Publisher! and is proud to be the first Google result for the phrase Crabbit Old Bat.
Her new book coming out in June 2011, Write to be Published, is based on the blog and is published by Snowbooks. Notable works include her famously gruesome novel Fleshmarket; the Aventis short-listed Blame My Brain: The Amazing Teenage Brain Revealed; and her recent award-winning novel, Wasted, shortlisted for many awards and nominated for the Carnegie Medal. She lives in Edinburgh with her family and many pairs of boots.
As a novelist, you write for teenagers. Are you writing for boys or girls or both?
As it happens, almost all my teenage novels are equally girl- and boy-focused. Frankly, I want all the readers I can get! Honestly, I just write the story in my head. I write for whoever wants to read it. I believe that there are major gender differences, though they are only generalisations and not absolutes, whether you think those are mainly biological or environmental, but there are also many more similarities. So, it’s not hard to appeal to them as human and teenager, rather than boy or girl.
You were born and brought up in an all-boys’ school. How do you think that affected you as a child, and therefore as an adult and as a writer?
Various aspects of my life might be expected to affect my attitude to gender, fitting in (or not!) and confidence. Not only was I literally born in a boys’ school and went on to be educated in boys’ schools until I was eleven, I then went to an all-girls’ school as an eleven-year-old in a class of thirteen-year-olds – a child amongst teenagers. I am one of three sisters, with no brothers or male cousins; I have two daughters and no sons; all our pets have been female – apart from a cat which was supposed to be female but later turned out not to be! My only years of employment were as a teacher in an entirely female staffroom, in an all-girls’ school.
It would take too long to analyse all that but I think that what I’m left with is a feeling of being very at ease in the company of women, with whom I feel no sense of competition; but in the company of men I often feel the need to prove myself, or compete. (Not always – and I have many male friends with whom I’m relaxed, but they tend to be those who are relaxed with women and truly believe them equal.) This probably does go back to my early schooldays, where I was in horrible, constant, stressful competition with boys, always having to prove myself – and usually succeeding! I had to climb trees better, fight better, work harder, never cry, be stronger. I was always under scrutiny, not least because my father was the headmaster. How has this affected my writing? Well, it’s inconceivable that our words are not affected by the psyche of their creators. I know one thing, although I’m a woman and a writer, I don’t find the label “woman writer” a comfortable one. I’m a writer and I happen to be a woman. I’m also middle-aged, a parent, an artist, a cook, white, English and living in Scotland. And I love the smell of gardenia and sweet peas, the mouth-feel of meringue and the sight of a clear blue sky. Everyone is so much more than simply male or female.
OK, enough about you. What about your new book? Why did you write it and who is it for?
I thought you’d never ask! Write to be Published is inspired by my blog, Help! I Need a Publisher! It’s for anyone whose goal is successful publication. It’s equally for someone who has already been rejected many times, someone who has a first draft and wants to perfect it before sending it out, or someone who is just wondering whether to launch into this weird and sometimes stressful world. As to why I wrote it: because I took a horribly long, painful time (21 years) trying to become a novelist; I made all the mistakes invented and probably a few I invented myself; but now I have around 90 books published and I understand why publishers and agents make their sometimes painful decisions. I want to help good, hard-working, determined writers achieve their goals and dreams more smoothly than I did. And I think I can. The blog is now so huge that it’s hard to find your way around; but the book is structured and neat. And you can curl up with it and stroke it, which is hard with a blog… Also, while I tend to be crabbit (Scots word for grumpy) on the blog and have earned myself first place in the Google rankings for the phrase Crabbit Old Bat, I’m more gentle in the book. After all, people are paying for it (I hope) so they don’t deserve to be harangued. Too much.
Where can people order your new book from?
Details about how to buy Write to be Published are on my blog – it will be available for non-UK readers from Book Depository or on Kindle.
Thanks so much for doing this interview, Nicola Morgan! It’s a delight to have you as our first guest blogger on BooksbyWomen.org
My pleasure! Thank you for inviting me. Your website looks very beautiful.
Links for more information:
The blog for writers, Help! I Need a Publisher!
Her new book, Write to be Published
Her writers’ consultancy, Pen2Publication