Saturday, May 6, 2017

Joan Hessayon Contenders 2017: Morton S. Gray

Today we welcome another of our contenders for the Joan Hessayon award.

Welcome to the RNS blog, Morton, and many congratulations on being one of the contenders for this year’s award.

How long have you been writing - Is this your first published piece?
In my early teens, I would hide away in the little attic room behind the chimney at home, writing
poems and stories. I had a box of pictures and items that inspired my writing. I still have this fascinating time capsule that also contains the pages of my first novel. It was typed on an electronic typewriter on A5 pages and I gave it to a school friend to read aged fourteen.
Then … life happened. I didn’t write much apart from academic assignments, work reports and training materials for years.
In 2006, I won a short story competition that I’d entered on a whim. I was looking for a new direction, feeling a little lost at the time, so I enrolled on a creative writing course to see if I could write. The academic course I studied introduced me to plays, flash fiction, short stories, poems and memoirs. I quickly realized that I wanted to write novels. I began to attend a weekly writing group run by RNA member, Sue Johnson and she suggested I join the NWS. The yearly critiques have helped to mould my writing. I would move heaven and earth to make sure I submitted a manuscript each year.
I’ve shortlisted in a few first chapter competitions, but ‘The Girl on the Beach’ is my first published novel.

How many years were you a member of the NWS and did you submit a manuscript each year?
I joined the NWS in 2012 and submitted a manuscript for each year that I was a member. I used my time on the scheme to experiment with writing contemporary romance, time-slip and historical novels.

What came first, agent or publisher?

How did you find your publisher?
I submitted my 2015 NWS, then entitled ‘Who is Harry Dixon?’ to Choc Lit Publishing’s Search for a Star competition and won. Very exciting, because they were the publisher I’d always dreamed of being published by.

Do you have a contract for one book or more?
The contract is for one book with a clause to look at my next work of romantic fiction.

When was your book published?
My book, renamed ‘The Girl on the Beach’, was published on 24 January 2017. A date that will forever be etched on my memory.

Tell us something about your book
The novel ‘The Girl on the Beach’ is based around the question – Who is Harry Dixon? It is a contemporary romantic suspense novel set in a fictional seaside town.
When Ellie Golden, an artist, meets Harry, her son’s new headmaster, she thinks she recognizes him. However, the man she remembers wasn’t called Harry Dixon and Ellie believed him to be dead.
Harry doesn’t recognize Ellie. His presence in the seaside town of Borteen, where she moved with her son to escape her past is unsettling, but maybe Harry isn’t the person Ellie should be worried about, because there’s a far more dangerous figure from her past lurking just outside of the new life she has built for herself and her son, biding his time, just waiting to strike…

What are you currently working on?
My publisher, Choc Lit, have asked me to base more books in my fictional seaside town of Borteen. I am currently working on three novels in this location, but there is the potential for many more. I can now walk down the streets of the town in my head, as it and my characters based there have become so real to me. It truly is a fictional town, born of visits to many different seaside locations over the years.

What piece of advice would you give current members of the NWS?
Make sure you use your yearly critique by planning to submit a manuscript each year. Use your time on NWS to experiment with different styles of writing, to discover your own voice.
Keep going, keep writing and get your work out to competitions, publishers and agents. Writing is a constant learning process and success is about persistence. You need an imaginative spark, yes, but you also need to be willing to check your work over time and again to make it the best it can be. What is the point of a manuscript in a drawer?
Also, take advantage of the RNA conference and the local chapter meetings. Writing can be a solitary business, but there is a whole support network out there waiting for you.

Twitter: @MortonSGray

Thank you, Morton. Congratulations again on graduating the New Writers’ Scheme and I hope you enjoy the Summer Party.


angela britnell said...

Lovely post and I'm looking forward to reading it soon - too many books so little time :)

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