Please welcome Chris Morton, a published author of English Slacker, University Stories and Phase-Daze-Phase-Daze-Phase, he has short stories published on-line and in Fear – A Modern Anthology of Horror and Terror. He also teaches English as a foreign language. Check his blog, and don’t forget to look for his books on Amazon.
Hi, Chris – can you tell us, who Chris Morton is?
Wow, what a question to begin with. Ummm, well, I guess Chris Morton is me, sitting here in Taiwan, thirty-seven years of age with plenty of memories and lots more to come … sounds like a philosophical conundrum – wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, go to the mirror to stare at the face looking back to wonder who the real Chris Morton actually is. Sort of thing you do when you’re young. When you define yourself by the clothes you wear, the music you listen to, the posters on your wall and the books you read. Then later it’s your job, your career, and later still your achievements in life. Would it make any difference if I said I was married with two kids? What if I said I was homeless, living on the streets? Or if I’d once been in jail, or been in a band, or quit my job as a CEO to live on the beach and write stories, smoke cigars, play chess and live off vodka. Would that make me sound more exciting? Ha! Let’s just say some of these hints are based on truth.
You’re tightly connected to language, both as a writer and as a teacher – how does one of these roles benefit the other?
It’s nice to have a job where your imagination is constantly at work, coming up with new ideas for lessons, class activities, etc. That helps a lot.
Also, well, we don’t learn grammar in England – we speak the way we do without knowing why, without understanding the rules. It’s like we have the tool for describing the world around us but we don’t know how to use it properly. So when you do study your own language in depth there is a sense of seeing everything more clearly. You’re more in control of your words. So my role as a language teacher has definitely helped my writing skills in this respect. But there are disadvantages too. Living and working in an environment where you are constantly having to simplify your language … it can have a detrimental effect on the vocabulary. My first novel, English Slacker, is full of word repetition and oversimplifications, and you could even argue that it’s written in “Special English,” (although this also has a lot to do with the characters I choose as protagonists.)
I’m against unnecessarily descriptive language though; authors using big words just to show off. What’s the point? And I think I got it right with my Phase-Daze-Phase-Daze-Phase novel. It’s easy to read, but still poetic. The words are simple, but beautiful in the way they’re put together.
Do you use stories, when you are teaching English?
I wrote a play for one class. A rather childish, risque version of The Three Little Pigs involving toilets, cow pat, and an evil choir. My spelling tests (I dictate sentences) often become these mini stories that I make up on the spot as each sentence links with the previous one. Now and then my students and I write stories together.
What does your work day look like?
It’s long, fat, sometimes smelly, often twisted, but very colourful.
What inspires your writing? Other writers’ work, other forms of art, life itself?
When I read a good book or listen to a great piece of music, I’m inspired to get creative. Art inspires me much more than real life. Certain writers inspire me, but it’s not the stories as such. It’s that when I read something beautiful, when I’m moved by something, I feel this need to create something beautiful myself.
Do you have any special routine and/or ritual you use, when you are writing?
I always dress up in women’s clothes. High heels, tights, wig, makeup; all of it. Nah, not really! Nothing so interesting. But I guess I do have a kind of routine in that I set myself easy goals such as having to finish a novel in a year or a short story in a month. I also have a rule of four to five-hundred words a day when working on a novel – but often break this without worrying too much! It’s important to be relaxed when you write (at least for me it is) and forcing yourself to meet a difficult target doesn’t help. I used to drink, snack, listen to music to help me concentrate, but actually over time I’ve discovered that this doesn’t help at all. Now I write stone cold sober with no music, although sometimes the TV is on in the background.
Which authors do you admire the most?
Margaret Atwood, Suzannah Dunn, David Mitchell, Haruki Murakami, and Alex Garland are my favourite living authors. I don’t know any of them personally but admire them for their work.
How do you see a writer – a person on a mission (to educate people, to change the world, …) or someone who tells the stories to entertain?
Could be either. Depends on the writer. Ha, there you go, a lovely short boring answer! But what can I say? Both are equally commendable.
How important is the Social Media for your work, for your work’s promotion and to network with your fellow writers and readers?
Interviews like this are alright. I often read author interviews with genuine interest. Reviews are good too, sending my novel to enthusiastic readers. But most of this social media self promotion stuff is so fake. “Hey, be my friend, I’ve written a book! Read my book! BUY MY BOOK!”
Fellow writers … wouldn’t it be nice to have a sense of community and sharing of experiences without ramming our books down each other’s throats?
But what can you do? You go on Twitter and write, hey, I’ve written a book. Morning world, I’m … I’m making a cup of tea, and by the way, I’ve written a book. The only time the Twitter thing worked for me was when Jonny Gibbings was promoting his comedy novel Malice in Blunderland. He told bad taste jokes on Twitter. They were funny to read and directly relevant to the book he’d written.
What are you working on at the moment?
My TEFL Flashcard Games for Young Learners book will be coming out in paperback soon. I’m putting a few finishing touches to that, but taking a break from fiction for now. I’ve released three books this year, so my readers have plenty to get their teeth into. I will get back to it eventually, but don’t want to write just for the sake of it. I’d like all my novels to be different in style, so taking a break also helps with this.
Have you ever written (or thought about writing) for film, TV or theater?
No, not yet. But never say never.
When you meet someone who wants to become a writer, what advice do you give them?
I tell them they should quickly get the idea out of their head that they’re going to make any money. A lot of people think, “All I’ve gotta do is finish this book and then I’m gonna be rich!” I tell them to forget about that because it’s not going to happen. Then I watch them wander off with their tail between their legs, cursing my pessimism.
Thank you, Chris!