As an author, I realize that there are many reasons why your book may not be picked up. But I still don't get why Morgan Smith is not a household name. I just done. It's not fathomable. I love this author's work, so I'm taking this moment to get Mogan to tell me a little more about herself, and share her with other geeks. Cuz, Geeeks, this a a woman you want to know more about. She's fascinating and her books are off the hook.
Geek Chat: Author Morgan Smith
Morgan! The Madames Geek are very happy stopped by our hovel of a website. Can you tell us a little about how you came to write your fantasy books?
Well, the first one was written on a dare. I used to own a bookstore, and one day a publisher’s rep from a big name house came in with the new catalogues.
“This on,” he said. “ this one will be huge, and I know you guys specialize in fantasy and sf, so I snagged you an ARC.”
Three months later he comes back and wants to know how many dozens we are going to order.
“None,” we said. He was aghast. Nope, none – we were firm. He began to argue.
“Look,” said my business partner. “We tried. I got about halfway down page two and couldn’t go on. Morgan made it to page three before she was defeated.”
“We really did try,” I said. “We gave it to the staff. We sent it home with customers. Nobody made it as far as the end of the first chapter. It’s a dog.”
He was still arguing. I said the problem was that not one tree should have given their life for this – it was a piece of rubbish that shouldn’t have made it through the first minute’s worth of the junior-junior-junior intern’s time when they pulled it out of the slush.
The rep said, defensively, “It’s their first book. It isn’t easy to write a book.”
“Obviously,” I said, ”it is easy to write a book. Just not easy to write a good book.”
“I dare you to do it,” said the rep. “I dare you – I’l buy you lunch if you can come up with a book by next year.”
“I never said I could –“
“I dare you.” Publishers’ reps are nothing if not stubborn.
“I double dare you,” said my business partner. Business partners are nothing if not dangerous.
I figured out my main character while stuck in traffic on the way home, sketched out a plot while doing the dinner dishes, and started writing the next morning. Nine months later, I had the first draft of A Spell in the Country, and the rep had to take me out to lunch at a very expensive restaurant.
That's awesome. I'm very happy you were dared, as Spell is one of my favorite fantasy books. It’s clear you have a good idea of the history, society and even religion of the people who occupy your books. Can you tell us a little about the world your characters inhabit?
What I did was to imagine how Britain would have evolved socially if Claudius had never looked across the Channel and had ideas about conquest, and if the Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and Normans had all stayed home. It’s an idea about where an Iron Age society might go if left untrammeled well into the Middle Ages.
But for plot purposes, I gave it a bit of apocalyptic back story of a “Golden Age” with a developed magic taking the place of technology.
I was drawn to all of that largely because it was easy: I had the background from my education and training: I’d been steeped in archaeology and art history of those periods for about thirty years by then, and that’s how I interpreted “write what you know”.
I think that's probably why your world came across so clearly. You knew what you were talking about. We are a very geeky blog, here. We are passionate about things that are on the fringes. Would you consider some of what you do to be geeky? If so, what are some fringe obsessions Morgan has?
Textiles. Making them, unearthing them, analyzing them. How do they relate to the society that makes and uses them – what do they signify, what can they tell us about the people. My entire MA Archaeology was about textile tools in Anglo-Saxon burial contexts, because contrary to popular belief, not very many are found as part of the grave furnishings.
Even just knowing *how* they made things can tell you so much.
I once made a Norse hangeroc (a kind of pinafore dress from around 800AD) starting with the raw, unwashed fleece and combing it, dyeing it, spinning it and weaving it on a vertical loom my husband made me. I even got him to make me some bone needles to sew it together with. Because I really, really wanted to know how that felt, to do all that.
As a fan of weaving, I do that that you are such a geek for it. What a wonderfully unique experience. I hope a future character weaves magic. That would rock. Your book combines some truly spooky elements with epic fantasy very seamlessly. Are you a fan of paranormal horror?
I am. I really love the ones that combine some scary things with smart aleck humour: Ilona Andrews, Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher – they manage to tread that line really well.
And I love Anne Rice for when I want to stretch my mental muscles, because no one does horror with a literary twist better that she does.
We are agreed. Some great choices. I am also a Rice fan. She really is the master of what we now know as modern paranormal/vampire lit. She took old literature and themes and made them so vivid and intriguing for a new age. What are some of your favorite fantasy/sci-fi books?
Kate Eliot’s Jaran trilogy. Barbara Hambly’s Sun Wolf series. Anything by Ursula LeGuin, and ditto Neil Gaiman and Guy Gavriel Kay.
If one of them read something of mine and didn’t think it was awful, I could die happy.
We should be best friends. I'd probably pass out on the spot just be to near LeGuin or Gaiman. What are some hobbies you take part in that are unique?
I play a Viking on occasional weekends. It’s part of a worldwide Viking re-enactment thing I belong to: we do demos to educate people about what those times were really like.
That's fantastically geeky. You must post a picture for us sometime. Tell us more about your character Keri. Where do you draw your inspiration for this character? (Keri is one of my favorite fantasy characters, btw).
You know, I’m not entirely sure. I knew that I didn’t want to write about “The Chosen One” who spends most of time whining about “Why me?” And I knew it to have it be a woman, and that, in the same spirit of “write what you know” it was easier for her to be a fighter/soldier type, because I had, by then, put about three decades of doing martial sports combat with various degrees of armour and different weapons styles. So I went with what seemed to need the least amount of additional research.
It was the 90s. Research was a lot harder before Google.
Yes, you can (and I do) google everything these days. But hands on training (espeically in combat like you did) is way cooler and often more believable. Where can we get your wonderful books? I mean, I already have them, but what if other people don’t?
A Spell in the Country can be bought from multiple places – here’s a quick link for all of them:
And here is one for Casting in Stone (which is technically Book One, but they can stand alone, and I wrote Casting in Stone fifteen years later, anyway.)
Is there another book in the works to go along with A Spell in the Country and Casting in Stone? *she asks enthusiastically*
I’ve just started plotting the third book: “The Roots of the World”. (I am hoping that it won’t take me too long to write it. I’d like to get it out this coming spring or early summer. But I have learned that I cannot rush these things. They get there on their own time.)
Plus I have about half of a related book that takes place a good bit after “A Spell in the Country” is part of the “cycle” but not exactly related directly, although some of it happens in Keraine. (If I can figure out what to do with the really incredible plot twist I threw at it, I might get that out around the same time as Book Three, which would round my year out pretty well.)
That news makes me so happy! You made this geek girl's day! You know I'm good for a beta reading. Thank you for coming onto our geeky site, Morgan! We will do all we can to promote you, even throwing your book at the heads of innocent bi-standers.
Morgan Smith has been a goatherd, a landscaper, a weaver, a bookstore owner and archaeologist, and she will drop everything to travel anywhere, on the flimsiest of pretexts. Writing is something she has been doing all her life, though, one way or another, and now she thinks she might actually have something to say.