Author and Maine resident Genevieve Morgan has an instinctive ability to connect with people. I knew that when we first met last year on a trip halfway around the world.
In her writing, this natural gift is evident.
With an extensive -- and impressive -- career in publishing and writing, Morgan is about to release her new novel, The Fog of Forgetting. Recently, we had a chance to reconnect and talk about a few surprises she's encountered along her artistic journey, the significance of inspirational ideas and her guidance for writers.
Laura Cococcia: Your new novel, The Fog of Forgetting, is set to hit shelves soon. Aside from the characters and plot, what do you think differentiates this new work from your other writings?
Genevieve Morgan: It is my first work of fiction -- a middle grade adventure-fantasy. Most of my career I have written non-fiction, but this story just had to be told. I have been working on it a long time. The Fog of Forgetting is book one of a larger trilogy called The Five Stones. I guess when the urge to tell a story washed over me, it was more like a tsunami. However, the fiction has a lot of real history behind it, so all that non-fiction helped. I am a good researcher.
LC: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
GM: I was always reading as a kid, which inspired me to start writing, mostly in my journal and then more and more fiction in high school. I wrote a lot of really bad song lyrics, too. I was also really into theater, so I thought then that I would become a playwright--or a veterinarian. I quickly gave up the vet idea after almost failing chemistry in 10th grade. After that, I wasn't sure which artistic medium I would pursue--writing, music, or theater--but I did know that I wanted to connect with people and share universal experiences. It was a great comfort to me when authors or musicians shared their experience with me through their creative work, and so I set out to try and do the same for other people.
LC: What are you reading right now?
GM: I am reading a few things, from several different genres. I am also a senior editor at a book publishing company, so first and foremost, I read a lot of unpublished manuscripts. I am reading Jo Nesbo's The Devil Star, as my company is about to publish a big crime series and I'm curious about other detective novels (also, I'm part Norwegian so I love Scandinavian authors). I'm reading a non-fiction book called Vodou Shaman by Ross Heaven (if you read The Fog of Forgetting you will begin to understand why), and I just finished a novel by Kate Christensen called The Astral. I have started David Mitchell's Number Nine Dream. I am a huge fan of his.
Oh, and I also dip in and out of a book written for engineers called World of Wonders published long before the discovery of the atom bomb. It is fascinating to read how much scientists understood then about the world-ending power of fission and still chose to go down that road.
LC: What's the most surprising thing you've learned over the years about the writing process or writing as a profession?
GM: It sounds cliché, but I have been continuously surprised at how little the American "market" values creative expression relative to other professions. Making something meaningful from nothing (whether it is a novel or a song or a building) is absolutely the hardest thing to do, yet it is considered a luxury to be able to do it. At the same time, creative expression is what shapes a culture for the ages. Very few people travel to Europe to visit the financial exchanges, if you know what I mean. It all feels very backwards to me.
LC: What's your favorite thing about living in Maine?
GM: The proximity to nature and its relative emptiness. People in more crowded states have to spend so much time getting one place to the next. I'm spoiled by the ease of movement in Maine. That's changing as Maine gets more popular, but for right now I can still get across town in 15 minutes.
I also love my community in Portland. I grew up in Manhattan in the 70's and 80's and Portland reminds me of SoHo back then. Not so much the architecture, but the energy. It's a lot of really creative people getting out there and doing their thing. Plus, I love the sea, and nothing beats waking up to the call of gulls.
LC: What advice do you have for aspiring writers -- or even established ones -- looking to stay committed to the writing practice?
GM: I have enough trouble with this myself! My best advice is to not be afraid of the fallow times. I always beat myself up on the days when I don't write (and lately there have been more of them). I've come to realize that allowing space is not the enemy. It's not like you'll never write again. Of course, writing is like a muscle and it flows more easily if you've been exercising it regularly in some way, but you can work out the stiffness pretty quickly when you finally get down to it.
What matters most is to have an idea burning inside you that requires your sustained attention. Sometimes that idea will come on you like an inferno, and sometimes it's just a little ember that needs air and room to catch fire. In other words, it's okay to just be sometimes, and not do. It also helps to have deadlines.
LC: What can we expect next?
GM: Well, I am publishing a trilogy, so expect book two, called Chantarelle, next summer, and book three, called The Kinfolk, the following year. I also have one or two other ideas for adult books simmering away in the back of my mind -- but it may take some time. After the storm of writing I've been doing lately, I may follow my own advice and just be for awhile.