T. Haven Morse
- Guest Author -
Welcome to my interview with a multi-genre author and poet.
Welcome, T. Haven Morse ...
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I’m a poet and writer who loves crafting pieces that are character-driven and grab readers by the heart. Since I jumped into this craft a bit later in life—not starting until I was 38—I brought a lot of life experience to the table. I’ve travelled all over the world, lived in foreign countries, met a wide variety of people, and have learned to pick myself up when I fall – with grace and gratitude, most of the time. Makes this writing-thing easier since my ego doesn’t drive the bus as often and I’ve risked way more than failing in writing. Doesn’t make me fearless but makes the rejections and edits more palatable.
2. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
I’ve only been at this writing thing for about two years, but I’ve had an incredible journey thus far. I’ve explored fiction, nonfiction, and just about everything in between. I’m not sure if I can tell you the exact moment that I became a writer. I think I’ve always been a writer, I’m just honing my skills and learning the marketable craft of writing now.
3. WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
I’m a plotting pantser. I initially come up with the outline for the story or poem - basic plot points, main characters, themes. But then as I get rolling, I allow the characters, rhythm, or mood to play and interject. So, the piece might take twists and turns that I never saw coming in my initial outline. However, it always seems to work out in the end and the two combine into a cohesive piece of storytelling or collection of poetry.
4. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
The flexibility. I can write anywhere, at any time, with or without anyone else being present. Yes, there is some coordinating to be done with beta readers, editors, publishing, reading/signings, etc. But, on a whole, it’s a much more flexible process than I’ve experienced in previous jobs and situations.
5. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Picking which project to focus on. I have so many stories and poems and articles and blogs floating around in my head and heart that having to pick which one to focus on and when can be a chore. Sometimes, there’s a battle between projects—each vying to be in the written word spotlight.
6. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
A world traveller and an adventurer. I’ve danced across Europe with a touring company, lived in Manhattan – working with Broadway shows, worked with Doctors Without Borders in Guatemala, and transported rescue dogs from state to state.
7. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
Honestly, starting my writing career at thirty-eight-years-old without a degree would have to be my greatest writing achievement. Not letting people tell me that I was too old or too late to start a new career or live a new dream. As well, I never finished college. So, I don’t have an MFA in creative writing or a degree in English. I think those are valuable assets for writers to have but I want other writers, like me, to know that you don’t have to have those credentials to be a successful writer.
8. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
I’m marketing my poetry book that came out back in March, Flooded By, doing rewrites/edits on book one of my fantasy novel series due out later this year, and penning numerous blogs, newsletter articles, interviews, and other tidbits for various publishing and writing-related entities.
9. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
People’s emotions and how those emotions drive us to act or react to one another and to ourselves.
10. WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
Poetry and fantasy mostly. However, I write other genres from time to time – memoir, flash fiction, and nonfiction pieces.
11. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
You’re coming into writing in a time when anything is possible. If you want it bad enough, are willing to be patient, understand the basics of marketing (as well as writing), and work well with others, you can do this. Network like a beast and stay open to possibilities that may come your way—those help too.
12. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
Nope. I’ve got more ideas and stories in this crazy-train of a brain than I could publish in a hundred years. From time to time a scene may befuzzle me or I might struggle with a character detail but I just sleep on it and within a day or two, the answer will come to me—usually while driving or in the shower. No need for Pepto or Immodium AD to get things flowing.
13. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
Not really. I enjoy writing first thing in the morning, mostly because I have vivid dreams that inspire shorter stories or scenes. But I can write whenever my schedule allows and the spirit moves me.
14. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
The balcony, at my home, is an amazing place to write – when it’s not 100 degrees and 90% pure Texas coastal humidity. Enclosed by huge, ancient oaks and pine trees, it’s isolated and I’ve made it my own version of heaven on earth – with flowers, bird feeders, and comfy patio furniture.
15. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
Readers reactions. Tears in eyes, thoughtful lip biting, nodding heads. When they look up from the page or when I finish reading aloud and they are either so lost in the moment that they can’t respond or they say, “I felt like that was written just for me”.
16. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
Tough call. I’m such a diverse reader. Hard to choose between Suzanne Collins on one hand, Robert Fulghum on the other, Elizabeth Gilbert on one foot, Margaret Atwood on the other foot, and Paulo Coelho on my lap. All of these people write stories (fiction or non) that connect with me. I feel like I know them or their characters after reading their work. The moment is real to me and I’ve had an experience after spending time with them or their characters.
17. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
In one of the five-star reviews for Flooded By, a sweet reader wrote, “This is the most powerful poetry I have ever read. The authenticity of emotions is awesome.” There, that’s it for me. Achieving authenticity and reaching a reader’s emotions. Nothing better for me to hear than that.
18. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
Good question. I had a beta reader once said, “I just don’t get her. She doesn’t feel real to me.” I don’t think this was a bad comment at all, it gave me the information I needed to rework the character and the scene. But I did have a moment of crushed writer spirit that took some deep breaths and dark chocolate to get over.
19. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
Absolutely! I dedicated Flooded By to Hans Zimmer, whose film scores I listened to while writing the collection, and to everyone I’ve ever met, observed, or heard about. Experience is the fuel that feeds my writing and gives it that foundation of authenticity.
20. OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
Connecting, helping, and have I mentioned dark chocolate yet? I have a tattoo on my forearm that reads “Iunctus” – Latin for connected or adjoined. And I was born with a servant’s heart, I’m happiest when helping make the world a better place. Yep, sounded corny as soon as I wrote it. Oh, well. It’s true. Corny or not.
21. DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
Yes and no. I had my poetry collection read by beta readers – some of whom are professional editors by trade. They made suggestions on word choice here and there, and questioned a few themes but didn’t really edit per say. Not a formal developmental or copyedit. Then I did have two fellow poets give the entire book a once over for proofreading.
22. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
Oh, this is like the favorite author question. (Pardon my American spelling.) There are so many possibilities. A day floating in a bay, in the shadow of a volcano, in Hawaii would be stellar. But, so would a day hiking in the woods, just me and my dogs, the birds and the bees. An afternoon touring art museums with friends could make me just as happy. As would getting to train with the cast of Cirque du Soleil then write a story about it??! So many perfect possibilities.
23. IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
Can I pass on this question? I’m afraid any answer I give with either be atrociously corny or make someone feel bad because I didn’t choose them. I plead the Fifth.
24. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
I would collect all of the quotes, passages, lines, and quips from the people I’ve met, observed, or heard about over my lifetime. Then read them aloud with as much love, heartfelt authenticity, and genuine passion as I could. When I was done, I’d say, “This is why I’m alive. This is the world I want to live in.” Then I give them all dark chocolate – as it solves everything.
25. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
Where to begin? Is the moon out of the question? Write more, read more, love more, learn more, see more, feel more, grow more, be more. Yep, that’s about it.
26. WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON BOOK TRAILERS? DO THEY SELL BOOKS?
Not sure. Jury’s still out on trailers. I’m not ready to invest my time and money in producing one just yet. But ask me next week and I may have already started on one.
27. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
All of them. Because they’re all emotional creatures, who feel and think, act and react. I’ve yet to pen a character that is devoid of emotions, feelings, thoughts, actions, and reactions. Maybe that’s a new writing challenge for me.
28. DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
Well, I haven’t yet dealt with the traditional publishing world. When I pitched my poetry book to a handful of decent-sized, well-known presses, I was told “We’d love to publish it, in two years”, “Sure, we’ll publish your book for an 80% cut and no advance”, and “While we love your idea, we want to completely change everything about your collection”. So, I went with a small, start-up, boutique press and enjoyed the process. No frustrations, as of yet.
29. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
Well, since I just started writing two years ago, I’m not sure I’ve earned the right to quit yet. I’m not much of a quitter anyway. I adapt, adjust, and finagle but don’t often outright quit anything.
30. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
The one I’m currently working on, of course. Can’t live in the past or the future. So, the manuscript of now is my favorite.
31. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER.
For me, I label myself a success, if I do something within the scope and field of writing every day. Growth is important to me, so learning something about the craft of writing regularly also facilitates success in my book (ha, ha, accidental pun). Everyone’s goals for being a writer are different, so I say you’re a successful writer, if you’re meeting your writing goals. Yep, very vague and PC of me but that’s how I feel.
32. WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
Knowing – a bit more about themselves and/or life. Feeling – connected, like they’ve just stepped back off the pages as the cover closes.
33. WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE YOUR BOOKS MADE INTO MOVIES? EVER WRITTEN A SCREENPLAY?
Sure, I’d love to see my words and concepts shared in as many mediums as possible. What I write, I write to be shared and experienced. If I can reach movie-goers, music-lovers, theatre-patrons, and readers, that’s the holy grail of connection to me. I haven’t written a screenplay, as of yet, but some of my early beta readers on the fantasy novel I’m working on mentioned that it felt like a screen or stage play. They could see actors performing it in their heads. So, who knows.
34. HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
For me, almost as much as the writing itself. The cover is your chance to catch the reader’s attention visually. It’s the interview process to determine if you get the job. Because I love collaborating with others, I found an artist whose work speaks to me and asked to use one of his pieces for the cover of Flooded By. I love the idea that my readers might discover his art because of my book and vice versa.
35. WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
Wow, I am seriously a corny human being. Oh well. My ultimate dream is to love and connect with everybody. Yep, it’s a lofty one. Probably not achievable by a human being but it’s my ultimate dream. I hope that writing is helping me get there by connecting with readers.
36. WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
Writing is only a smidge of the job of a writer these days. You also have to be an accountant, marketing guru, promoter, salesperson, public speaker, tech wiz, self-editor, and office manager. This is particularly true for those of us that work with smaller presses or self-publish. Unless you have a stellar agent, publisher, cover designer/artist, editor, formatter, and promotional director, you’re going to end up doing some of these tasks along the way. So, my best suggestion is to learn as much as you can and fake-it-till-you-make-it with all the rest. Or marry a sugar-daddy/mama and get them to hire you a staff.
37. ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
My only solo-authored, published book was published by a boutique publishing house called Bountiful Balcony Books. So, technically, no. However, being a smaller press, I’ve done a lot of the work myself and I’m good with the collaboration.
38. DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.
Collaborative, Open-minded, Open-hearted, Optimistic, Emotionally-driven
39. WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?
People reacting out of ignorance or fear. (I’ve been pissed at myself plenty over the past forty years?!?)
40. WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?
It was a tie. I like to read two books at once. One in bed before going to sleep and one in the morning to kick off the day. For dawn, I’ve been reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and at dusk, The Spy by Paulo Coelho. Yep, both are stellar. Connection and authenticity through and through. Plus, amazing female protagonists.
41. WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?
Before I die? “My peace I leave you.”
Before the end of this interview? I don’t know I’ll tell you in two more questions.
42. WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE?
If everyone in the world were able to glimpse, for just a moment, into the hearts and minds of everyone else. To get to walk a poem in another’s shoes. Feel that we’re all made of the same stuff – blood and molecules, energy and stardust, magic and mystery, hopes and fears. Could you take care of that for me, Clancy?
43. ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
Thank you. I love doing and reading interviews like this one. They make me feel like part of a huge community of writers and readers, all coming together to get to know one another through the written word. Pretty powerful and, in my corny, little heart, amazing. Oh, and I guess this is the traditional place to plug myself and my work. Check out BountifulBalconyBooks.com for more about me, my persona poetry collection, Flooded By, blog posts, and for where to stay tuned for the release date of book one of my fantasy novel series, “Feathers of the Phoenix” – due out later this year. Thanks, Clancy!
Clancy's comment: I enjoyed this interview. It was easy and relaxed. Many thanks, and keep writing, T. Haven Morse.