Sunday, November 27, 2011

Morgen Bailey - the Patron Saint of Writers


I have a “private” running joke with Morgen Bailey. On Twitter I call her the “Patron Saint of Writers”. I suppose you can have a patron saint who’s very much alive and kicking, can’t you? Well, anyway, she’s the most unselfish pioneer of writers’ careers that I believe exists. She organizes author interviews (as we speak she’s done 189 – I was number 5), and author spotlights. She champions indie-authors by listing their books on her site (http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-other-peoples/), gives out weekly writing prompts to get you going (they’re very effective too). She posts a weekly author’s short story in her Friday Flash Fiction spot and in August 2010, probably before anyone else thought of them, she started a regular podcast. As I write today she’s already done forty of them.

It’s exhausting, isn’t it? Well, not to Morgen, she thrives on it and is perfectly happy to help any author who contacts her. On top of all that she writes too – and some of her work is for free. You’ll find them on https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/morgenbailey

I’ve just read her free short story (I know, cheapskate, that’s me) “April’s Fool”. This is quality fiction, in my opinion, and reads like one of Roald Dahl’s short adult stories (“Lamb to the Slaughter” springs to mind).

I think that Morgen deserves a little compensation for all her hard work and the spotlight should be on her for a while. Let’s find out something about her.



Sue: Morgen, welcome to Lauracea. You know, I can’t help thinking that you’re the David Frost of author and publishing-professionals interviews. Who is one of the most interesting people you’ve met (apart from me of course LOL) and why?

Morgen: Thank you. Lauracea. I must admit I had to Google the name and came up with “The lauracea are usually trees, but the genus Cassytha are parasitic climber herbs”. That’s funny. :)  (LOL – the reason my blog’s called Lauracea is because it’s the Latin name for the endangered laurel forests (laurissilva) in Madeira Island. It’s one of the last remaining places in the world where this ancient forest still exists…)

OK, to your question (that’s why we’re here after all :)). Interesting people… oh my goodness, what a choice. For memorable my first thought was the one MBE (Member of the British Empire – Tony Thorne no. 171) but then no.17 Malcolm Brenner does for his book’s plot (I’ll let your readers go and investigate). I am in awe of the writers who’ve kept going despite bundles of rejections slips (which are shredded, wallpapered, binned, filed and quite possibly eaten!) and the most memorable was Sheila Quigley (no.192) who took 30 years to see any kind of success. I did say when I started writing (only a handful of years ago) that Barbara Cartland was still writing in her 90s so I had plenty of time, although I am hoping for a little sooner than that!

It hadn’t occurred to me when I started these that I’d be lining up over 250 (and counting) but I keep getting emails by authors asking to take part, which is wonderful, and I say that I’ll keep going for as long as people (I also interview agents, publishers… really anyone who wants to talk writing!). In between I am getting braver with the authors I ask too – I have Mark Billingham as my no.200 (he came to crime writing after being tied up in a hotel room and knew how fear felt! – I met him when volunteered at Oundle Literature Festival March 2011, on a panel with Michael Robotham – and I got to chat to them in the ‘green’ room, a memorable evening!) then at Christmas I have novelists Sophie King, Val McDermid and Stella Duffy (with Kate Long and Trishia Ashley before then, and Katie Fforde in March). But really every author (etc.) I speak to has a wonderful story to tell and it’s amazing how different answers can be gleaned from the same questions. :)

Sue: That is such an impressive line-up. And how lovely that you don’t turn anyone away! Do you believe indie authors need more help than traditional authors in getting their work known?

Morgen: Technically, I’d say yes but I am finding that even traditional authors are doing chunks of their own marketing; mainly from what they say on Twitter and Facebook (perhaps why they’re so willing to be interviewed!). I’m sure like most industries, staff at publishers are either being let go or not replaced when they leave so there aren’t the people or budgets to go round. It’s a well-known fact that the ‘cream’ of authors keep the industry going and pay for the other authors taken on. Even in the short time (six years – when I signed up for my first creative writing class) I’ve been taking notice it’s changed from nigh impossible to get a publisher to nigh impossible to get an agent. The ones I’ve spoken to though (four at Verulam and Winchester Writers Conferences in Feb and July respectively) have wanted more crime and historical so there’s still a need out there, just (in the main) for specifics. Of course, unless they’re genre-specific, if an amazing story hit their desk they’d be more inclined to sit up and listen. So I guess the trick is writing that story (I hadn’t in all four cases)!

There was a question back there, wasn’t there? ‘Yes’ is the answer I should have given, because indies don’t have the support network to back them up but just looking at the successes of indies (US: Joe Konrath UK: John Locke etc) a lot comes down to social networking so more of a level playing field (cliché alert, sorry about that) these days.

Sue: Yes, the publishing world is changing every day, it seems. If you could interview anybody connected with publishing in the world, who would it be? And what would you ask him/her?

Morgen: I’d LOVE to ask Kate Atkinson. She’s my favourite living author (other favourite was Roald Dahl – so thank you for that honour in your introduction! (I didn’t know that when I wrote it) ) and I nearly got to meet her a few months ago but I visited her events page and found she was at a bookshop local to my mum’s (Chorleywood, Hertfordshire – I actually volunteered at the literature festival last November, that was fun) a couple of days beforehand, then jetting off to the US. Since then she’s been to Germany and that’s about it. She did kindly release the hardback of ‘Started Early, Took the Dog’ on my birthday this year. :) Maybe with connections made with the aforementioned authors I might pluck up courage and contact her. Perhaps for no.300. :)

Sue: You HAVE to contact her!  You’re a gifted author yourself. How have you found Smashwords as a publishing platform and would you consider trying the traditional publishing route?

Morgen: Ah, thank you. :*) I’d read so much on LinkedIn (Twitter, Facebook etc) about people’s experiences of eBooking; some saying it was a breeze, others struggling with some of the latter turning to the ‘experts’ to assist. The longest parts of the process for me (apart from the writing, editing, re-editing, sending to my editor, agreeing / changing etc) was reading the 70+ style guide that Smashwords provides (free). Because I knew it was so long (comprehensive; lots of screen prints) I went with Smashwords first. The plan was to then go straight on Amazon (which I’m assured is easier) but I’ve been hit by NaNoWriMo since then so I guess it’ll be early December. One thing I’d been quite annoyed about before I became involved with eBooks myself was the cost of some top-name eBooks. Just because they are known already and have a following it’s a bit much to expect their readers to fork out almost the same price as a paperback (and in some cases the hardback!) for an electronic version. (I do so agree with you). Fair enough, the mainstream (top publishers) are going to cost something to get a designer for the beautiful cover (although if the book’s out already they’ll have it digitally anyway) but the rest is minimal. No distribution costs and it’ll be the same expense for one person buying it as a million. Some authors aren’t happy either (although I’m sure the higher royalties are nice) but they don’t have a say, it’s down to the publishers. I do think they’re beginning to realise how many good books there are out there for not a lot (as far as I know Joe and John charge $0.99 for their fiction – mine are free or $1.49) and hopefully the price will be revised. But then I guess if you’re a (picking a name out of the air) Stephen King fan you’ll pay whatever for the convenience of having his new book on your Kindle. Anyway, off soap box now.

Oh yes, it was a two-part question wasn’t it. Although I love having control of my output if an agent and publisher said they wanted to put my books on to shelves I’d love to see them out there. I suspect that some of my writing isn’t particularly commercial so if I could have some traditionally published (though I suspect having slated the publishers earlier that may take a little longer to happen!) and eBook the rest that would be wonderful.

Sue: What are your writing plans for the future?

Morgen: I’ve quit my job, leaving at Christmas, so it’ll step up a gear from then. I have plenty of content (this NaNoWriMo is my fourth and I wrote another novel between the first and second) with LOADS of short stories to compile into anthologies. So once NaNo 4 is done (or at least November finishes – all too soon, I’m currently 21 days behind!) it’ll be all systems go – my current 7 items on Smashwords to be listed on Amazon then edit, edit, email to Rachel, edit others while she edits first and so on… get a production line running… whilst submitting stories and articles to magazines, competitions, websites etc. I also record a weekly podcast which is either hints & tips, red pen critique or reading short stories (the latter is a new feature) so there’s plenty to keep me out of mischief. Oh, and I run two writing groups and belong to two others. My mum said to me a few weeks ago, “Don’t let writing take over your life”. I didn’t like to tell her she was a year or so late. :)

Thank you Sue, it was fun being on the other end of the mic.

It’s a great pleasure, Morgen. And good luck with your new ventures, I’m so certain that we’ll be basking in your glory when we name-drop in the future!

Contact Morgen:


‘Over’ (the first story from ‘Story A Day May’ eBook anthology)


“Over,” I say, and my dog and I cross the road. Overnight, after oversleeping, I’ve become overcome with cold. I’m usually overrun with chores but I’m taking it easy today. A contrast to yesterday, blitzing my overgrown garden; now my pavement is overcrowded with overfilled brown wheelie bins and strong, green gardening bags.

I look in the dictionary and have never heard of ‘overhand’. Wikipedia tells me it’s a boxing term and a knot, and I’m not a violent person but right now I’m angry. My neighbour’s extension has gone over and above what was promised to me; it’s already overhanging the light into my south-facing garden.

I head to the bank to check that I’m not overdrawn, not dipped into my overdraft, then buy some over-the-counter medicine before this cold overpowers me. I think I’ve been overcharged. On the way home, another neighbour calls me over. So, switching off my iPod’s classical overture, we talk over the fence, while his England flag flutters overhead.

To say I’m fat is an overstatement. I’m a little overweight and could do with an overhaul of my eating habits, but it would be an oversimplification to say 5-a-day fruit and veg would do it. I often overlook them at the supermarket, an unhealthy oversight. My body’s been doing a bit too much overtime at the moment so it really wouldn’t hurt.
An early night is also long overdue but I have plans tonight (I’m having writing friends over) so an afternoon nap will have to make do.

My back is complaining, it does that a lot. When I go to pick something up it says, “don’t overdo it” but I never listen. Tomorrow morning I shall carry stacks of Red Cross-donated books which I’ll tip on to the counter and their shiny covers will slip against each other and overbalance on to the floor.

In the afternoon, what energies I have will be used to empty my loft (pre-electrician’s visit), bring down the boxes of already-bought presents that will overwhelm my mother in September, when she’s easily pleased, although I suspect she overplays it, oversells for my benefit. My aunt, her twin, will just look overawed, carrying her overladen gift bag into the kitchen, putting her Andre Rieu DVDs with the others. An überfan.

Then Wednesday lunchtime my job sharer will read me her handover notes as our shifts overlap, my turn to work two and a half days before another weekend arrives.

I usually travel overseas but my friend and I are busy so we’ll wait a year. She’s off to Mexico, me to Winchester. I’ve never been there before so I’ll need to pay attention so I don’t overshoot the junction, overstep the mark on the map for the venue.

If I played cricket I think it would be underarm not overarm, that’s just how I throw; like a girl.

Radio Litopia’s AgentPete calls me an overachiever but I like to think I’m just overjoyed with all things literary. We chat during Sunday night’s Open House then our Skype connection is terminated before I overstay my welcome. I live and breathe writing, albeit stuffily through a red overblown nose. I sneeze over and over again.

Having over-egged today’s prompt, this ditty is over. Well, anymore would be overkill, wouldn’t it?