Hi Roger, can you tell us a little about your collection of short stories, The Bridge that Bunuel Built?
They’re stories that have been written over quite a span of time, so they are quite diverse in style and subject matter, though I have grouped them into little clusters, to try and make some sense out of the disparity. So some are thematically linked, or have a genre link, or are just put together in a rather arbitrary way. Obviously, they’re all written by me, so despite the differences in the individual stories, I think perhaps there is a certain approach that unites them. They do tend to be on the dark side of things, which corresponds with the default setting on my imagination. If I’m honest with you, they are all experiments. Me trying stuff out. Obviously some work better than others – though I’ve no idea which! There’s at least one story in there that my wife hates. It will be interesting to see if people can guess which one. In general, I think I have been heavily influenced by the Twilight Zone. Someone once compared one of my stories to Rod Serling. I was very happy with that.
You are better known for your Porfiry Petrovich books, crime novels set in the same universe as Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Your first book published was Taking Comfort, a modern day thriller of obsession. The Bridge that Bunuel Built is a collection that tackles more diverse genres. How would you categorise yourself as a writer?
I like to think that I’m first and foremost a storyteller. Which is not to say that I don’t take care over the writing – but I think that the writing should be at the service of the story. I think story is the central plank – or the spine – that has to be there whatever genre you’re working in. Story comes first, genre – I’m not wedded to any particular genre. I’m inspired by film directors, Stanley Kubrick is the great example, who deliberately try not to repeat themselves in terms of the genres of their films.
What qualities do you think makes the best short fiction?
Funny you should ask that, as at the moment I’m judging a creative writing competition which has a short story category in it. The ones that have worked best for me are those that have a very fixed focus, that are rich in concrete detail, and seem to dramatise some pivotal moment in a character’s life. If you’re asking for a recommendation, Vanessa Gebbie’s Word From A Glass Bubble is a great collection. I also like really odd stories as well. My own stories tend to fall into the “odd” category.
The Bridge that Bunuel Built is your first foray into self-publishing. Can you tell us how this came about?
Well, I had these stories and I thought it would be interesting to put them out there. I have no expectation about making money out of them. I knew that they would never find a mainstream publisher. In the first place because publishers just don’t really publish short story collections that much – it’s a hard sell. Also, these stories are not really like the crime fiction that I’ve been writing, which is what publishers tend to expect from me. I don’t think they would know what to make of them. Self-publishing allows writers to have these little side projects and see if they can find a readership for them. If not, there’s no great loss of investment.
You’ve blogged extensively on the way publishing is going and the route of the self-publishing author. What do you think the future holds for self-publishing regarding aspiring writers and traditional-print authors who are thinking of going it alone for one-off projects or more longer term ambitions?
Actually, my blogging on this subject has largely been to ask people who know far more about the subject than me – people like you, Matt, and Ian Hocking – to share their knowledge, to give me some idea what to expect as I ventured into the unknown. The blog pieces have mostly been interviews. As for the future, I don’t know. It’s ridiculously easy to self-publish now, which in some ways is a good thing, because it has brought about a democratisation of the publishing process. There’s something exciting about the whole “Build and people will come” mentality. I’ve worked with a composer and theatre producers and directors in putting an opera together. Projects like that are driven by the self-belief and determination of the people involved. In that field, there isn’t really anything like the process of submitting to a publisher, if your work gets accepted you’ve made it, if it gets rejected, you haven’t. There it’s all about setting up meetings, inspiring other people with your vision and trying to find ways of making things happen. Things can take years to come off. And it’s other people plugging away behind the scenes all the time. Of course, a self-publishing author may well be on his or her own, which is a lot harder. When you have a team of people who believe in what you’re trying to do, it helps. Which is why Thirst eDitions is such a great idea!
What can we expect from “Roger Morris” over the next couple of years?
I don’t know, is the simple answer. The opera I told you about, which is called When the Flame Dies, is being performed in October as part of the Canterbury Festival – that comes under the Roger Morris brand, if you like. I should name check the composer, who is Ed Hughes. I’m also working with a director on developing a play, though it’s early days for that. When I’ve finished the Silas Quinn novel I’m currently working on (as R.N. Morris) I may take a deep breath and think very carefully about where I go in the future. As writers, we may not have choices in terms of who is prepared to publish our work, or put it on, but we do have choices about what we write. And that’s the thing, right now, that I’m thinking over – what my next choice will be.