Author Interview: Morgon Newquist

Morgon_NewquistMorgon Newquist started life by causing an international incident in Central America, and has been marching to the beat of her own drummer ever since. She grew up in the Rocket City—Huntsville, Alabama. After a stint at the University of Georgia to study Latin, she has returned to the place of her upbringing where she wrangles two dogs, a cat, and four children daily. She is an avid fan of fantasy, science fiction, gaming of all types and other nerdy pursuits.

Morgon has worked as a freelance writer off and on since 2007, and written for video game mythologies, table top RpGs, online game guides, and blogs as well as her own short works. She has several published short stories and is currently working on several novels. Her current focus is an ongoing saga of sword and sorcery short stories called The School of Spells and War. The first novella, Down The Dragon Hole, is highly rated and continues to introduce many new fans to the series.

DownDragonHoleAlis was a quiet librarian at the campus library of the School of Spells & Magic—that is, until the sword wielding buffoon Cahan had the audacity to battle a dragon in her library! Now she’s following him off on some foolhardy adventure. As they try to save the university from the mysterious Formless, she fights an equally important battle—to maintain her self-respect! The School of Spells & War is an ongoing collection of old fashioned sword-and-sorcery adventure stories following a wizard and warrior duo as they gallivant across the continent of Thillon. Good-humored, powerful warrior Cahan and intelligent, skilled wizard Alis work together to serve their university, the school of spells and war, by battling dragons, investigating plots against the king, hunting witches, and dealing with the ongoing threat of the ancient and mysterious Formless.

Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeyMy novel Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is an historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure. Click here to read an excerpt.
An invading Persian warrior becomes obsessed with Dodrazeb, a strange isolated kingdom that possesses incredible technology. Ancient Dodrazeb’s puzzling choice to hide from the world pulls him deeper into layers of mysteries as its sly princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What are the Dodrazebbians so desperate to keep hidden?
Get your copy on! Available in both e-book and paperback.

Q. Dragons! Magic! Swordplay! Tell us about your amazing series and why you chose to write it as shorter stories rather than novels.

As you’ve already stated, my current series is a Sword-and-Sorcery short collection, sort of like the serials of old. It follows the wizard Alis and the warrior Cahan as they have various encounters in the world of Thillon. It’s very DiscWorld-esque, and probably a little reminiscent of Dungeons and Dragons.

It kind of became a series sort of by accident; the first novella, Down The Dragon Hole, was written for a short story anthology. The first iteration of the story was a lot more serious and a lot less fun. Then when I rewrote it, I realized I enjoyed the characters and the setting and didn’t want to stop. Digital distribution makes it much easier to release shorts now, so that obstacle was removed. It also meant I could write whatever story came into my head at the length it needed to be, instead of having to figure out how to make it hit a certain length.

Q. Alis and Cahan were sort of thrown together, very suspicious of each other at the beginning. How does their relationship evolve through the series?

Well, I can’t tell you too much of that, because I want it to stay a surprise! But they definitely grow from strangers to a sort of coworker relationship, which then evolves into a real and lasting friendship. As to whether it goes any farther than that, you’ll have to wait and see 😉

Q. What do you like most—and least—about Cahan? About Alis?

What I like most about both characters is the actually the same trait, but each of them is one side of a coin. Cahan is confident – he’s a little older, more experienced, and knows his own skills. Alis is younger, a little anxious, unsure, and still learning. So many stories, in their quest to have a strong female lead, seem to forget that everyone starts out nervous and uncertain and grows. I really wanted to have that arc for Alis – the shy, bookish type finding her legs in the world outside the library.

Least favorite traits of them both stem from the same traits, actually. Cahan can be a little arrogant, sometimes dismissive. Pride is his greatest sin, and is something he struggles with. He also likes to box off the small number of mishaps or tragedies in his life and pretend like they don’t exist. Alis, conversely, doubts herself too much sometimes, and can also be a little self-centered and whiny.

Q. Without giving away too much, what can you tell us about your stories’ villains?

Well, there are several, a few of which move in and out of stories. But many of them only appear once, in a monster-of-the-week sort of format, which short stories lend themselves to. The Formless are the background, overarching villain in the series. They’re a shadowy mass that have no bodies of their own, and seek to steal them from living things. The first book has a dragon in it. We’ll see giant spiders, golems, treasure guardians…magical beings have long been lost in Thillon, but suddenly they’re making an appearance again, so we’ll see a lot of them. One story that I hope to release by the end of the year has the villain that killed Cahan’s brother in it.

Q. What’s different or unique about these stories from other sword-and- sorcery works?

It’s pretty much your standard sword-and-sorcery work, to be honest. That’s what I set out to make it, to be a throwback to the old type of stories you used to see. I think my series villain is interesting and unique, and I want Alis and Cahan to be more than archetypes. I’m trying to take some cues from the Pulp Revolution for the structure and tone, so it will be different than a lot of things currently published, but not from older stories.

Q. What kind of research did you do for these stories?

Since it is in a fantasy world, not a lot. I did some research on what needed to happen for a saw mill to blow up in one of the upcoming stories, but most of it all is coming from me. I have a lot of world notes so I can keep up with everything.

Q. Which works and authors would you say influenced your work? How?

For the School of Spells and War specifically, it is definitely influenced by Terry Pratchett. I wanted to go for the same fun, tongue-in-cheek tone present in his books while perhaps making them a little less silly. The wizards of the school were directly inspired by the wizards of the Unseen University.

Q. What is your favorite type of scene to write?

Characters are always what interest me, so important character scenes tend to be my favorite to write. I like the emotional ones! Sometimes I like action scenes too, but those take a lot of work and plotting.

Q. What type of scene is the most difficult for you to write?

Info-dump and/or connecting scenes. How do I show and not tell? Am I going on too long? How much do I need before just skipping to a new scene? That’s mostly what I struggle with.

Q. What inspired you to write these stories and these characters?

I wrote the first story for Silver Empire’s first anthology, which had the theme of manly courage. Cahan is obviously the character that was meant to fulfill that theme. Then it just kind of came together from there, once I decided I wanted to put a little bit of a twist on the normal knight vs. dragon story.

Q. What are your plans for this series? Are you interested in expanding into other genres?

I currently have a 46 story plan that covers the entire Formless arch, and that can change at any time. The great thing about this format is that I can just write a little story and send it out if I am inspired. I hope to have published a couple more stories by the end of the year, and then round them up into an anthology.

I definitely would like to expand into other genres. My other project right now is a superhero novel called Serenity City that I am super (hah!) excited about. Whenever I’m not working on Spells and War, I’m working on that. It’s currently about a quarter of the way done.

Q. What made you decide to get serious about writing? How long were you “dabbling” before you felt the time was right to publish your work?

This might be a bit of a long answer! I’ve been writing for as long as I remember. I actually still have a little pink notebook with a note from my grandmother in the front of it, dated in 1996, saying “it was for me to write my stories in”. And then I was supposed to bring the notebook with me when I went to visit them, so she could read the stories.

I wrote stories through elementary school (including a 40 page Star Trek novel with my own characters) and then once I hit middle and high school I kept writing. It was mostly fan fiction, which is still out in the ether of the internet. I had designs on being an author, but various adults in my life chased me away from it as a career because of how little money writers made. I also got several very (I, feel, at least) unnecessarily cruel rejections for my short stories, and decided that I’d keep it all to myself. So for a while it was just a hobby.

I actually wrote short stories and world building info for a Greek gaming company in my early years of college. I was paid a salary and everything, one that wasn’t too shabby for the type of work I was doing. Then when that ended because of downsizing, it went to the backburner because of school. I kept writing – I did a couple years of NaNoWriMo in there.

In 2014, I decided that I wanted to make one of my goals for the year to publish something. I went to work on one of my old novels, but when the end of the year rolled around, it wasn’t done. So I pulled out one of my old shorts, edited it, and threw it up on Amazon on December 31st before midnight. And that’s also when Silver Empire started. Russell decided if I was going to start publishing things, why not go in on it together? And I’ve been writing seriously since then.

Q. A lot of writers seem to despise the editing process. Do you like it or hate it? How do you approach the task of editing?

I like to edit, actually. Sometimes I feel like my eyeballs are going to fall out of my head from staring at things so long, but I like the tweaking process. It makes it easy for me to really see and feel the work I’ve done, and it’s satisfying. I usually do several passes to clean up my wording, the text flow, that kind of thing – but not a lot of major work – and then send it off for notes. I don’t want to put too much time into it if there are big changes that need to be made in plot order or pacing. After I get all the notes back I really delve into it, from tightening up the plot to checking for grammatical, spelling, and story errors.

Q. Tell us about your publisher.

Well, my publisher is my husband and I! We run Silver Empire, and as I mentioned in a previous answer, we started it when I wanted to publish my short story. And we’ve been working on it ever since. I enjoy it. We’d like to be known as an independent publisher that really treats its authors’ right.

The upside to being my own publisher is that I can basically write whatever I want and know it has a place, but the reality also is that I’ve got to think about what makes the most business sense to write. Which is why instead of starting a new series after Serenity City is done I’m already plotting out sequels to it.

Q. You have a husband and four small children. Without a Harry Potter-style time turner, how do find time to write?

Well, the honest answer is that I don’t write a lot. That’s one of the reasons the School of Spells and War is a collection of novellas and short stories. I can’t pour a lot of time into it. But now that summer is over, we’re working into a schedule again, and I basically have a couple nights a week that I write. I’ll do it sometimes during the day, but usually I’m being interrupted too much to focus. I’m making the effort to get some regular time in, though, and now that I don’t run my wedding videography business anymore, even more time is opening up for me.

I’ve basically accepted that for now my output isn’t going to be huge, and that my progress may be slow, and that’s ok. Someday everyone will be older and I’ll be able to do more :).

Q. When you aren’t crafting amazing stories, what do you do for fun?

I like to game, both video and board gaming. I enjoy reading, though I don’t get to do as much of that as I used to. I spend a lot of my free time writing just because I enjoy it. I also watch a lot of Netflix.

Q. What advice do you have for writers who want to become published authors?

My biggest bit of advice is to write. Productivity is huge in the current market, and at the same time, the only way you get better is by actually writing. Don’t agonize over editing too much, don’t wait for someone else – just write, get it out there, and keep going.

Q. Is there anything about the writing life that you think is misunderstood by the public?

Oh, I could write about that for paragraphs and paragraphs. I think the biggest one is how little money most authors make. I mean, everyone knows authors are poor, right? It’s a constant joke. But I don’t think most members of the public realize it is as low as it actually is. In conjunction with that, how few books most authors sell as well.

Q. As a reader, what about a book turns you away?

Lots of info-dump done in a boring way. In this age of self-publishing, when a book doesn’t have at least a minimum level of editing. I don’t really like message fiction – stories that put “teaching you a lesson” or preaching to you above the actual story. I don’t mind meaning in books, or even some politics, but I don’t like being beat with a brick about how I should think.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite book? Why?

This is a hard question. I have a list….I can give you a list! There are the standard ones, like Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings. I recently (finally) read Dune and loved it. Some other favorites are Iron Chamber of Memory by John C. Wright, Deerskin and Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley, the Dresden Files, and a whole lot more. Characters are super important to me, so if you can write a good story with exceptional characters, I’ll latch onto it.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite TV show? Why?

That’s a good question. I watch a lot of TV, and have many shows I enjoy. I think it is a toss up between Babylon 5 and Pushing Daisies. Babylon 5 is deep and layered, and I adore the fact that it had a plan that it more or less stuck to. The show has a real ending, with real closure, and in an age where producers want to keep cash cows going until they die, it’s refreshing.

Pushing Daisies never really caught on – it’s not even on streaming right now – and then the writers strike effectively killed it, but I love it anyway. It is bright, beautiful, over-the-top, touching, and more than a little ridiculous. If you’ve never watched it I’d suggest it. It’s a very unique show, with a distinctive style. The stories are very human and very bittersweet despite their absurdity, and I love the writing.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite movie? Why?

This is another hard question. Secondhand Lions has been a favorite of mine for a long time. Other favorites include The Dark Knight, V for Vendetta, Captain America: Civil War, The Prestige, and Moulin Rouge. Characters are another huge portion of why I like those movies.

Q. Where is one place you’d like to visit that you haven’t been before? Why?

Rome. I would love to go to Rome. I speak Latin and studied classical culture in college, so it would be amazing to go there. I’m also Catholic, so the chance to go to Vatican City and the heart of my faith would be great too. All the good Italian food doesn’t hurt either.

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Author Name: Morgon Newquist

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