Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Gal's 62 Days of Horror Day 16: AMONG THE STACKS: Christine Morgan


I knew Christine Morgan was pretty damn cool from the day we connected on Facebook, but after receiving the above picture when I asked for an author photo, I am 100% positive we have a friendship in front of us.  From a friend earlier, who found out that today's post involved her: "Christine Morgan is awesome.  I wish she was better known."  Well, I'm going to do what I can to fix that. :)


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hi, Christine.  Welcome to The Gal.  I am so glad you decided to join us here for The Gal's 62 Days of Horror.  Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Christine Morgan:
Well, I'll hit the big 5-0 in March, and within the last couple years have done what I guess is my take on a midlife crisis... divorced again, kid all grown up and independent, did a big upheaval with moving to a new state and starting over.  But it's been good for me, I think; I'm among my bizarro and weird writing community in Portland, and they don't just put up with my eccentric craft and cooking experiments, they appreciate and actively encourage.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

Christine Morgan:
Except during the absolute hottest weather, I can't stand to sleep without socks.
I once fell in a duck pond at Knotts Berry Farm.
I've never seen several classic films, including Casablanca and It's a Wonderful Life.
The first celebrity autograph I ever got was from a TV weatherman.
My brother, sister, and I took our mom to get her first tattoo for Christmas.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

Christine Morgan:
Either Go, Dog, Go! or the The Dr. Seuss Dictionary.  Another favorite as a kid, a copy of which I only just reacquired thanks to the internet, was The Ice-Cream Cone Coot & Other Rare Birds.  Looking back, I think that one was my intro to loving bizarro fiction.  Those birds, wow.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

Christine Morgan:
I usually have two or three books going at any particular time: an ebook on my laptop reader app, a pdf review or beta copy, a print book on the nightstand, and sometimes an emergency backup book at work or in the car.  My current reads-in-progress are the Silent Screams AnthologyThe Halloween Orgy Massacre by Jeff O'Brien, and Nathan Carson's Starr Creek.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn't expect you to have liked?

Christine Morgan:
Most people, looking at me, wouldn't expect me to be majorly into the hardcore extreme horror, the really nasty stuff.  I'm a bundle of squicks and phobias in real life, but some of my absolute favorite authors include Richard LaymonEdward LeeWrath James White, and Monica J. O'Rourke.  But I also enjoy more classic literature, and have been trying to catch up on the ones I missed by not majoring in English.  Non-fiction.  Poetry.  I'll try most anything, and sometimes there's no telling even for me what I might end up enjoying.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

Christine Morgan:
I was always the kid in our neighborhood circle who came up with the let's-pretend ideas for playtime, made up elaborate storylines for my toys, and stuff like that, so I guess the storytelling always came kind of naturally.  In school, during journal time, my classmates would be writing about what they ddi over the weekend, and I'd be writing about talking animals having adventures.  In high school, I was introduced to roleplaying games, and that too just fed naturally into it all.  I'd had the anticipated usual life-plan of majoring in English, becoming a teacher, and writing on the side, but in the last half of my senior year, I took a humanology and psychology class, which changed the plan somewhat.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

Christine Morgan:
Well, that psychology degree, it allowed me to get a job working residential psych, on the overnight shift, so I do most of my actual writing at work when things are quiet.  It's a great way to pass the time, and even if I may not be making the writerly big bucks, my hourly rate's decent... plus, you know, health insurance.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Christine Morgan:
Given the whole write-at-work thing, I can't afford to become too ritualized about specifics like designated writing time or place or number of words.  I have to be flexible and willing to seize opportunities as they arrive.  But, in a broader sense, I am much more a pantser than a plotter, I hardly ever outline.  I'll spend a while before beginning just letting everything simmer and stew in my brain, usually in terms of the characters and situation, then throw 'em all together and see what happens.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Christine Morgan:
I'm dismal at the business end, at promotion and all that.  I love doing conventions, readings, panels, and so on... but advertising and publicity and pushing the books, not so much fun.  Related to that, of course, I'm one who just hates it when it's time to do a synopsis or come up with back cover copy for my own books.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's the most satisfying thing you've written so far?

Christine Morgan:
I adore themed anthology calls, so, for me, when I'm invited to something with a more obscure, quirky, outer, or difficult theme, it's intensely satisfying if I'm able to write something the editor then says nails exactly what he or she was aiming for.  A lot of the books from Brian M. Sammons have been like that; he's one of my faves for coming up with intriguing themes that get me thinking in ways or of things I otherwise might not have on my own.  Sometimes it's mash-ups that really should never work together, but somehow do; I have done some wacky fanfic crossovers that turn out better than they've any right to.  "Iron Chef Pokemon Battle."  "Masque of the Rue Paule."  "Harry Potter and the Eagle of Truthiness."  When I can pull off an oh-so-wrong, I'm tickled.  Which is why one of my prized possessions is a special award I won at the KillerCon Gross-Out contest one year, from a nasty-sick little thing called "With Apologies to P.G. Wodehouse."  Best day ever!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?  Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Christine Morgan:
I cut my horror teeth, so to speak, on paperbacks from the 1970s and 1980s, a lot of nature-run-amok, a lot of Stephen KingV.C. AndrewsJohn Saul.  Those were my earliest conscious influences.  I read The Shining when I was ten.  I still remember scaring myself half to death over The Amityville Horror.  But, more recent ones would have to include Lee and Laymon and the other hardcore types, as well as the huge debt of gratitude I owe to Bernard Cornwell for helping wake my inner Viking.  And Robert McCammon, who is woefully underrated, amazingly good, and whose historical stuff knocks my socks off every bit as well as his full-on horror.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

Christine Morgan:
Interesting characters, interesting situations, and - this is a major one for me - interesting voice/style/language.  Enthusiasm, passion, intensity, and sincerity on the part of the author.  I love reading something where the author's excitement and sheer joy comes through like a physical sensation.  That drive, that spirit, that wild creative spark, is what can't be taught.  Skills can be taught, techniques can be taught, but to really freakin' blaze on something, there has to be that innate element of the soul.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What does it take for you to love a character?  How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Christine Morgan:
I need to be able to understand them, to see where they're coming from and why, their motivations, their reasons, what shapes them to be the way they are.  Empathy and sympathy; even if I don't agree with their actions or morals, I need to be able to get inside their heads and relate to why they do what they do.  I love complex characters, full personalities and people.  Even the most throwaway bit player extra has his or her own whole world of story going on.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Christine Morgan:
All of them and none, in their ways... a big part of why I like roleplaying games and writing is for escapism anyway, for experiencing things through someone else's perspective, so I don't find much fun or challenge in making characters too much like myself.  The whole Mary Sue or wish-fulfillment thing doesn't work for me either; strikes me as more kind of depressing and sad.  But I will definitely tap into different aspects or facets of my own psyche as needed.  In Murder Girls, for instance, there are the strongest, if exaggerated, elements of me in the characters of Rachel (smart sociopath), Gwen (dreamer fangirl) and Darlene (angry fat chick).

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you turned off by a bad cover?  To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Christine Morgan:
I certainly have been put off by bad covers.  No matter the quality of the writing, the best story in the world won't do any good if nobody will pick up the book in the first place.  It's funny; I tend not to blame the author as much when it's a big publisher and he or she might not have had any input, let alone control... but the smaller press and particularly indie pubs, then you have to know the author made a conscious choice to go with a particular cover.  And sure, maybe it's to do with money; decent art and design are not cheap... understandable decision in the short run... just, one that will cost later.  For mine, I've mostly been lucky enough to know several talented artists and people who know what they're doing, and work with good publishers.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating your books?

Christine Morgan:
Get at least a couple other sets of eyes in it before you submit it anywhere... it's so easy to skip right over one's personal habitual bloopers, not to mention continuity or omissions errors... our minds just automatically fill in the blanks or know what it's supposed to say.  Beta-readers and editors are vital!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Christine Morgan:
In my as-yet-unpublished pioneer blizzard book, White Death, there's a scene where a young mother is struggling through the deep snow, carrying her little boy, being stalked by hungry beasts... she realizes that if she drops him and leaves him to them, she might escape... otherwise, they're both sure to die... but how could she live with that?  I dreaded writing that scene.  My chest constricts even now, thinking about it.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Christine Morgan:
Since everyone's got a different perspective and life experience, we each always bring that to the party... I also like to think my background with its eclectic range of interests in history, mythology, psychology, sociology, natural sciences, anthropology, and languages lets me approach world-building and various cultures with a fair degree of knowledge and skill.  Also, hey, I write a lot of Viking horror, not many others do that, but Vikings are awesome and people do seem to enjoy reading about them.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Christine Morgan:
Titles, whether for book or story, are hugely important to me.  I appreciate many kinds, whether they're the total shlock horror or SyFy channel kind of thing, or the magnificent cavalcade of crazy titles you see in bizarro, or something intriguing or evocative.  With something like my soon-to-be-released Deadite Press book, Spermjackers from Hell, you see a title like that and you have to know it isn't going to be anything normal, that I was aiming for a certain humor and shock value.  While, with The Raven's Table, my upcoming collection of Viking stories, the title is a kenning, wordplay used in Norse sagas... a raven's table would be a battlefield, because that's where the black birds eat their fill.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Christine Morgan:
I used to believe I couldn't write short stories.  My soap opera/roleplaying game background had me geared toward the ongoing campaign or storyline structure.  Every adventure needed to have possibilities, offshoots, built-in story hooks, room for sequels.  Every story wanted to be a novel, every novel part of a trilogy or series.  With spinoffs, and tie-ins.  I had to purposefully train myself toward more stand-alone pieces, toward word limits and closure.  I still am not very good at it.  Those spinoffs and tie-ins still happen, those hooks.  I have recurring or crossover characters who keep cropping up, those little connections.  My 'short' stories still tend to run long; I find the 7k-12k range pretty comfy.  I guess my next test should be trying for more flash fic and pieces under 3k words, though the prospect makes me feel like I need to do the deep breaths in a paper bag.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Christine Morgan:
My ideal target audience would be weirdos who approach language and storytelling like I do, with a love and appreciation and sense of play.  I like to say language is my Play-Doh, a complete sensory experience, the colors, the texture and feel, the scent (though it sure doesn't taste as good as it smells!), the possibilities.  You can make anything, limited only by your own imagination, creativity, and skill.  You can have fun with it, as much with the process as the end result.  Maybe even more fun with the process.  I want readers primarily to be entertained, and to have some sort of emotional reaction.  Laugh, cry, rage, be grossed out, be turned on... be anything but bored.  And, especially with the historical stuff, hey, if they also learn something along the way, I consider that an extra win.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Christine Morgan:
The same pioneer blizzard book I mentioned above, I'd originally intended to set in two times, the 1880s and modern ay, hopping back and forth between eras.  But, the further along I got, the more the historical aspect took over, so I revised some chapters and repurposed some characters, but stripped out all the others.  I may be able to work them into a different book or do a sequel some day.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is in your "trunk"?  (Everyone has a book or project, which doesn't necessarily have to be book related, that they have put aside for a 'rainy day' or for when they have extra time.  Do you have one?)

Christine Morgan:
I have way too many set-asides, including some books in a psychic detective paranormal thriller series.  I'd written dull drafts of two, then did mots of a major edit on the first, but never finished tidying it up, so that's got both of them languishing in limbo.  Keep meaning and needing to go back to them, want to, I really like them.  It's just, other projects come along.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Christine Morgan:
Next up will be Sperjackers from Hell, my Deadlite Press debut; some guys try to summon a succubus, expecting naked devil chick with little bat wings, but that is not at all what they get!  My first collection of Viking-themed horror and dark fantasy stories, The Raven's Table, will be out in 2017 from Word Horde... I do love my Vikings!  Writing-wise, I have a list of anthology invites to get cracking on, as well as a novella of Medusa smut to follow up my minotaur smut, and various other notions vying for my muse's attention.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?  (You know, STaLKeR links.)

Christine Morgan:
With my schedule, most of my social life is online:


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Thanks so much for stopping by, Christine.  I hope you can visit us again.  I look forward to checking out some of your stories.  I mean, Vikings?  How can you go wrong with that?
            Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you'd like to say that we didn't get to cover in this interview?

Christine Morgan:
I'm also a regular contributor to The Horror Fiction Review and love receiving review copies... and I edit, including the ongoing Fossil Lake Anthologies; currently putting together the fourth book (SHARKASAURUS!) and pondering possible themes for next year.


About the author:
Christine Morgan grew up in the high desert and moved to a cool rainy coast as soon as she could.  Though anything but the outdoorsy type, she loves trees and water... preferably viewed through a cozy window or from the deck of a cruise ship.  Alaska, Norway, Scotland and Germany/Austria are her vacation destinations of choice.  Seeing the Northern Lights in person is on her bucket list.  She's currently four cats toward her eventual fate as a crazy cat lady; yes, she does talk to them, but don't worry, she draws the line at knitting them little sweaters.

About some of the books:
Five college housemates - brainy Rachel, sporty Jessie, angry Darlene, quiet Gwen, and mysterious Annamaria.
            One ordinary evening at home, engaged in their various pursuits - studying, showering, watching a program about serial killers.
            Eight little words... "I bet we could get away with it."
            It was just an offhand remark.  The next thing you know... there they are a body at their feet, and the pressure's on to prove those eight little words.
            After all, why wouldn't they get away with it?  Who'd suspect a bunch of coeds?  They don't fit the usual profile, or go for the usual kind of victims.  They're as smart, as strong, as cruel, and as capable as any serial killers out there.
            It's time for a little payback and a little revenge.  It's time for the local guys to learn about living in fear.
            It's time for the Murder Girls.


Steffa thought that by moving across the country and changing her name, she could start a new life free of the stifling old-money and high-society obligations of Hartford Cove.
            She should have known better.  Her ex-mother-in-law doesn't give up that easily.
            When Virginia Vandemere wants something, there's no distance too far, no lengths too extreme, and no hurt too deep.



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