MA: Born a Military Brat, Marilyn Morris attended schools overseas, in Seoul Korea (1946-47) and Linz, Austria (1949-1952) and various schools stateside. From this background, she has crafted her autobiographical Once a Brat, relating her travels with her army officer father from her birth in 1938 to his retirement in 1958.
Her first novel, Sabbath’s Room, was published in 2001, followed by Diagnosis: Lupus: The Intimate Journal of a Lupus. More novels quickly followed: The Women of Camp Sobingo; Forces of Nature; Sabbath’s Gift; and Sabbath’s House. Additionally, she has published a collection of humor/human interest articles written for a newspaper over a 10-year period, titled: My Ashes of Dead Lovers Garage Sale.
She has taught creative writing at Tarrant County College, Fort Worth TX and survived numerous book signings and speaking engagements. She is a member of the North Texas Chapter of the Lupus Foundation of America.
When not writing or editing emerging writers’ manuscripts, she enjoys her family and friends worldwide and near her home in Fort Worth TX. True to her Brat heritage, she has a suitcase packed under the bed, ready to travel at a moment’s notice.
I have to thank you for your service as a military brat! I’ve got three of them myself, and they were real troopers each time we moved. We also served in Korea, and believe it or not, it’s one of the places my kids loved the most. It was the hardest place for us to leave.
You began writing as a young girl, as I recall you mentioning to me earlier.
MM: I think I was born with a pencil in my hand. All my family read voraciously, and when I was in kindergarten, I figured out that the squiggles the teacher made on the blackboard were letters, and letters made words, and words made stories. My mother says I was “writing” stories from age three on. In school, I wrote for the school newspaper. I didn’t start writing “for real” until I was about 50; I was divorced, my children were grown and I had the time to do what I really wanted to do.
MA: So why choose fiction over non-fiction? It would seem with your background, you could produce some great real-life stories for a compelling book.
MM: A vivid imagination. Writing non-fiction, such as articles where accuracy is required, intimidates me. I would much rather write imaginatively, than be bored with dry facts. I’ve read that the definition of a novelist is “Telling lies for fun and profit.” So far, lots of fun; very little profit. But I wouldn’t trade fiction writing for anything.
MA: I’d have to second that! I spent a quarter of a century of my adult life writing non-fiction…reports of investigation, intelligence reports, analytical pieces, and so forth. It was dry and boring. I like the escape that fiction gives me. Tell us about your novels.
MM: My Sabbath books — two are published, one more is coming soon — could be described as paranormal, or supernatural mystery. My first novel with Vanilla Heart Publishing is The Women of Camp Sobingo. This novel is based on my mother’s experiences as an army wife in the post-WWII years in a remote military compound outside Seoul, Korea.
Forces of Nature came from a thought while shopping in a suburban shopping mall: What if one of the Air Force bombers from the base nearby would crash into the mall? Add to that, what if the plane would be blown into the mall by a fierce tornado? Who would live and who would die?
Sabbath’s Gift is a reprint of my first novel, Sabbath’s Room, and deals with a black cat who “once belonged to a witch” who is witness to a double murder and provides answers to the mystery of whatever happened to the couple who lived in the remote farmhouse?
Sabbath’s House is the second in the Sabbath Trilogy, and deals with the beleaguered Elliott family who trade one haunted house for another in the Texas Hill Country.
I also have a collection of humor/human interest columns written for a suburban newspaper over a ten year period, titled: My Ashes of Dead Lovers Garage Sale (and other stories from a single woman of a certain age) and two non-fiction books that arose from my own experiences:
Once a Brat arose from a request by the president of The American Overseas Schools Historical Society for me to please document my experiences as having been one of the first military brats to be deployed overseas after WWII with my army officer father. I gladly complied, and he then urged me to have the ms. published. The original ms. is in the archives in the museum in Wichita KS. I am currently writing a sequel that will feature contributions from other military brats.
The second non-fiction book is Diagnosis: Lupus: The Intimate Journal of a Lupus Patient where I took pages from three years of journaling about finding a diagnosis and treatment of this puzzling disease. It has received the designation of Recommended Reading by the Education Committee of The Lupus Foundation of America. As with my army brat book, I am also writing a second book about lupus; while the first is from my own personal perspective, the sequel will feature contributions from other lupus sufferers.
MA: You have unique protagonists. Tell us about them.
MM: I think with all my novels, all the protagonists are strong women. In my upcoming historical romance, The Unexplored Heart, the heroine is a strong young woman who strikes out on her own in Victorian England. The heroes and heroines in my novels have flexibility that enables them to take unorthodox paths to attain their goals. And, conversely, it turns out that in many instances, that very strength turns out to be one of their weaknesses. My characters are always surprising me.
MA: What kinds of antagonists do you manage to insert into your stories to wreak havoc on the heroines?
MM: I think circumstances in which the characters find themselves is the “bad guy”, be it the isolation of a remote military compound or confronting a natural force like a tornado and surviving. It’s an interesting thought…..my characters must search deep inside themselves to not only solve the problem, mystery, or isolation thrust on them, but to survive.
MA: I know many of your own real-life experiences influenced your writing. Can you elaborate more on that?
MM: Oh, yes. I tell people my first novel was written in revenge. I had gone through a terrible, protracted divorce, and no doubt took out my frustrations on my soon-to-be ex husband….the bodies in the cellar could certainly have had his face on them! While it was my mother who had the true-life experiences portrayed in The Women of Camp Sobingo, I also felt the impact of that unusual life, even as an eight and nine year old girl.
MA: What are you working on now, and will you migrate any of your current characters to future stories?
MM: Oh, yes. The protagonist in The Women of Camp Sobingo, Trudy Cavanaugh, who suffered a tragedy while she was in Korea as an army wife, will get her very own sequel, to be called, That Cavanaugh Woman. This will show how her innate strength carries her from her years as an army wife to her world-wide fame as the CEO of a publishing empire in an environment and era where she made her own path. Other characters from the original book will make appearances to test her mind and spirit. I can’t wait to get this book under way!
MA: I know you are also involved in some wonderful programs to support the troops. Tell us about that.
MM: All my books from Vanilla Publishing are available in eBook format. Recently, through the wonder of the Internet, I was asked to participate in Operation eBook Drop, through a partnership between Smashwords and Vanilla Heart Publishing, It will enable our deployed military personnel to gain access to my books through any of their reading devices. Free. Absolutely free. As many books as they would like. My late father, RM Morris, US Army Artillery during the WWII and Cold War eras, would be so pleased I’m able to participate and support our troops.
MA: Thanks, Marilyn, for being my special guest today, for your service, and for your continued support to the troops. Folks, check out Marilyn’s blog: http://mcmauthor.wordpress.com/ as well as her author’s page on the Vanilla Heart Publishing website: http://www.vanillaheartbooksandauthors.com/Marilyn_Morris.html