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Roger Morris Interview

Posted on 09 September 2005. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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WriteWords talks to author Roger Morris, about to be one of the first writers to be published in the Macmillan New Writers scheme.

Tell us something about your background.

I sold my first story when I was still a student, to a teenage girlís magazine called Look Now. I sold another to a magazine called 19. Anybody remember that? So a few early successes then nothing, in terms of publications, for years and years and years. I started working on novels, you see. My wife tells me Iíve written 8 novels. But I donít believe her. I challenged her to name the titles and she couldnít. Couldnít get them all. Currently, Iím taking a bit of a breather really. I do have a couple of things lined up Ė at least in my head.

Iíve always written really. Started as a kid at school, like everyone. I used to love writing stories. Proudest moment, in secondary school, was when a stand-in teacher during the English lesson asked the class, ĎWhose story should I read you?í and they all shouted back ĎMorrisísí. I went to one of those schools where everyone was called by their surname. I blame early encouragement for everything, really. So I suppose the answer to Ďhowí is it always seemed natural to me. The answer to Ďwhyí is harder. Some sort of need I think. I donít know where that comes from.

Have you ever collaborated with another artist or had any work performed?

I collaborated with a composer called Ed Hughes. Heís a fantastic composer Ė his music is wonderful, so I was very lucky there. We collaborated on a piece of music theatre called The Devilís Drum. What actually happened was I showed Ed a load of stories Iíd written and he picked this one. The text he used was a stripped down version of the story. He then used to come to our house every now and then and play me what heíd done on the piano. It was a fantastic thrill to see it taking shape. My job at that part was to sit back and say brilliant. It was performed in the Purcell Room at the South Bank and we took it on a short tour around some secondary schools. The response was amazing. Iím very pleased to say Iím going to be working with Ed on something else very soon.

Who are your favourite writers and why?

Oh, this is the hardest one. I get something out of everything I read, I mean in terms of learning something new, really, even the bad stuff helps. But Iíve been reading a lot of Russian writers recently and Taking Comfort was definitely written under the influence of Dostoevsky. Thereís something incredibly dynamic about his writing, and the way he constructs his stories. He has the reputation of being a sloppy writer. But really thatís because he is into voice, I think. I donít read Russian, so I have to be careful here, but the best translations confirm something Iíve felt - that he knew exactly what he was doing, in terms of the writing. And what was taken for sloppiness was really an attempt to convey the voice or voices of his characters through the actual narrative. That seems natural to me. I love Zola. The great set pieces, the compelling visual imagination Ė and of course, the drama. Trying to think of more recent writers now. Josť Saramagoís Blindness was Ė paradoxically Ė a great eye-opener for me. Sorry about the pun. Somehow it allowed me, gave me permission, to take risks. I saw what was possible, what you could do. I was very impressed by Jonathan Safran Foerís Everything is Illuminated, although the funny mistranslation voice bit slightly annoyed me after a while. Yann Martelís Life of Pi, I loved, though I was determined to hate it, given the thing about that other book that he supposedly got the idea from. Some people have put me on to George Saunders, and heís great. Again, fantastic sense of voice. He really gets inside his characters heads, and the writing itself is part of that. DeLillo was an early influence, though I donít keep up with his work as much as I should. I loved White Noise. It was funny, and somehow got to the heart of what it feels like to be alive today, or should I say at the moment of its writing. Itís something like that Iím trying to achieve in Taking Comfort.

How did you get your first agent?

First agent came about the usual way. Sending out queries and sample pages. I got an answerphone message asking for more. The agency in question also repped J.M. Coetzee and Anne Fine and Roald Dahl, so I felt in good company. They never placed anything of mine, though. The agent in question was lovely though. She continued to believe in me and curse the narrow-mindedness of the publishing industry. She even helped me find my current agent when she couldnít help me any more. Basically, her agency was taken over and she lost her job.

What's the worst thing about writing?


And the best?

When someone gets in touch to say a piece Iíve written meant something to them. All it takes is one reader to get what youíre trying to do.

Tell us what kind of response you get from audiences/readers and if/how this affects/influences your writing

I donít know. A tough one to answer this. I had my novel Taking Comfort read by another writer Ė she lives in Canada and Iíve never met her Ė as part of a novel swap exercise. I was blown away by her response. She loved it in a way I couldnít have anticipated. When people comment on my stories, I always listen to what they say, even when theyíre being critical Ė especially then. But I donít really think it influences me. It may get me to correct some heinous mistake Iíve made. Or it may force me to be doubly sure that I believe in it the way Iíve got it.

What was your breakthrough moment?

Getting the word from Mike Barnard of Macmillan, I think I would have to say. Having it sink in that, yes, I am going to have a book published, after all these years of persevering. Seven novels later, according to my wife. But I seriously donít believe her.

A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Comments by other Members

Nik Perring at 13:51 on 09 September 2005  Report this post
Well done, Roger.

Best of luck with the book.


rogernmorris at 16:26 on 09 September 2005  Report this post
Cheers, Nik. It feels strange being interviewed - this is my first one! The book's going to be out in April, I heard this week.

Nik Perring at 17:35 on 09 September 2005  Report this post
That's great news. You must be feeling rather chuffed. I'll keep an eye out for it at my local book shop, that is unless you're planning to mail all WW members a free copy! ;)


rogernmorris at 14:12 on 10 September 2005  Report this post
Thanks again Nik. Chuffed is the word. By the way, I'm from Manchester originally, little place called Stalybridge - anywhere near you? Moved down to London 20ish years ago. You don't hear 'chuffed' much down here.

Dee at 14:20 on 10 September 2005  Report this post
Congratulations, Roger.

Great interview, and the fact that youíre a WW member makes your experience even more interesting.

I have to try and think of imaginative low cost ways to tell people about it.

Hope youíll share them with us!


ashlinn at 16:34 on 10 September 2005  Report this post
Congrats Roger,

Well done on getting published. It's the main dream for a writer after all. Best of luck and I hope the book sells by the thousand.


rogernmorris at 18:09 on 10 September 2005  Report this post
Thanks, Dee and Ashlinn, for your kind wishes. Hey Dee, I had a spot of bother with multiple posting too. Got no idea what I did wrong.

As for marketing ideas, I've got to have a meeting with Macmillan about that. One thought that occurred to me was to just read my book on the tube very visibly, exclaiming 'Christ, this is brilliant!' every now and then. Perhaps I could get out of work actors to do the same thing. Don't know how I'd pay them though. I could say I was doing some sort of experimental theatre thing and see if they'd do it for nothing. Mind you, it doesn't have to be actors. Hmmm. Any volunteers?

Dee at 18:13 on 10 September 2005  Report this post
I'll read yours if you'll read mine...


Best of luck!

rogernmorris at 18:42 on 10 September 2005  Report this post
Dee, I'd love to read your book. The Winter House? Let me at it! Hey, I checked out your ww showcase. That picture of the cat with the thing on its head - I think I've seen that somewhere? Could I have done? Is it your cat? Or you - in a past life? It slightly freaks me out, don't know why. But I have seen it somewhere else, I'm sure - or is this something people do to cats these days? I don't think either of mine would stay still long enough!

Dee at 18:55 on 10 September 2005  Report this post
Waddya mean? Cat? Thatís me!

No, seriously, I go the picture from someone at work and he canít remember where he got it from. I'd love to find out where it originated.


Dreamer at 00:07 on 11 September 2005  Report this post
I think it appropriate that a limie would have a cat with a lime on its head!

Roger, that is such fantastic news!

I'm thrilled for you.

Best advertising is free advertising. Hae you thought of sending out free copies to cepebrities in the hopes that they pick up on it? Your book sounds really relevant with what has been happening lately, maybe that will generate some interest.

Best of luck with it.

With regards to your earlier novels. Do you think this one is that much better than the others, especially the one just before this? If not do you think once you have one book published, if it is successful, publishers may look at your previously rejected books differently?


lieslj at 10:02 on 11 September 2005  Report this post
Bravo Roger!

Wishing you every success at Frankfurt.


Giulia at 11:57 on 11 September 2005  Report this post
Hullo from Zoe, Roger!

What interesting interview this is :) I'm so thrilled for you and your book! I wish you loads of luck with it.

*sighs* I wanted to read the full interview, and I signed up for the trial membership, but seems like you really have to pay to read it all. £35... it's not much for a year's membership, but at the moment, I'm so tight I can't spend them.

Well, maybe sometimes I will read the whole thing :)

comliments again!

rogernmorris at 19:39 on 11 September 2005  Report this post
Brian - I think I have learnt something from every 'book' I've written, which means that I should be getting better. My main strategy for dealing with rejection has been to say, okay, you don't like that... let's see what you make of this. Some of the stuff I wrote ages ago, frankly, I couldn't bear to read now. So I certainly wouldn't expect anyone else to.

There is a big 'if' in what you say:
if it is successful

I think the thing to do is to take it one book at a time.

As for getting celebrity quotes, yes, that would be nice. Unfortunately, I don't get enough free copies to send them out to a load of people. If I could only get one well-placed one... but I think it's pretty hard to get that stuff.

And hi to Liesl and Giulia - welcome and thanks for your kind wishes.

Cornelia at 11:23 on 12 September 2005  Report this post
I just read the interview, Roger, and enjoyed it very much. You seem to have a very baanced approach to writing, ie 'Just keep going regardless.'I know from experience that it seems obsessive to others. Good luck with selling lots of copies. Oh, I was reading at the weekend that Melville was many years dead before 'Mobt Dick' was unearthed from his papers and published - and only then because they'd found 'Billy Budd' first. Good thing he didn't give up! I suppose the heirs got the fortune.


rogernmorris at 20:53 on 12 September 2005  Report this post
Thanks Sheila. I hadn't heard that story about Melville. Hmm, Moby Dick is an amazing book - it seems very avant garde and experimental. So I suppose it doesn't surprise me that it was overlooked at the time.

Grinder at 18:50 on 13 September 2005  Report this post

Just got around to reading this interview, inspirational stuff indeed.

The best of luck, from one who hopes to make it to one that didÖ


Grinder at 18:52 on 13 September 2005  Report this post

Sorry about the misspell!


rogernmorris at 17:33 on 14 September 2005  Report this post
Thanks for your comments Grinder. And good luck with your own writing.

Jad at 07:07 on 15 September 2005  Report this post

Just read the interview and was touched by your honesty and the fact you never gave up following your passion of writing which has been in your heart and soul for so long.

I wish you all the best and I'll definately put "April 06" in my diary to remind me to buy your book.

However, as I live in Liverpool and your originally from Manchster, I won't hold that against you!!! (if you know what I mean?

God Bless and all the best,

Julie :)

Zigeroon at 09:49 on 15 September 2005  Report this post


Fantastic news, congratulations. I'm on book nine! Still grinding it out and enjoying.

Will buy in April. Good luck.


Myrtle at 09:55 on 15 September 2005  Report this post
Hi Roger,

Great interview. Congrats on the publishing deal. I'll definitely look out for Taking Comfort - sounds like my sort of thing.

All the best,


rogernmorris at 12:43 on 15 September 2005  Report this post
Thanks Julie, Zigeroon and Myrtle for your support and for saying you'll look out for the book. That's at least three copies sold then! Seriously I really do appreciate you taking the time to leave such nice comments.

aruna at 11:04 on 16 September 2005  Report this post
Congratulations and good luck - I'm really keen to see how this works out. You're sort of a guinea pig, I guess!

Nell at 17:41 on 16 September 2005  Report this post
Roger, an inspirational interview - many congratulations and be sure to keep us posted.


rogernmorris at 18:34 on 16 September 2005  Report this post
Thank you very much, Sharon and Nell. Yes, Sharon, I do feel a bit like a guinea pig, but I must say the whole experience has been very positive.

CarolineSG at 11:36 on 21 September 2005  Report this post
Really enjoyed reading this and wish you all the very best when the book comes out. The thing you said about writing being a compulsion really rang bells with me.....otherwise, why would we all put ourselves through the horrible mill of trying to get published!
I'll look out for the book in April.

rogernmorris at 12:51 on 21 September 2005  Report this post
Thanks very much Caroline. See you in Novel II, by the way!

chris2 at 11:25 on 05 November 2005  Report this post
Roger - Only just seen this. Congratulations!


anisoara at 15:40 on 08 November 2005  Report this post
Really nice interview, Roger. I laughed out loud where you say you resent being given a reason for your anxiety! I look forward to seeing Taking Comfort!


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