Author Interview with Janet Morris and Chris Morris 12/06/10 on writersparty.com


Christopher Crosby Morris (born 1946) is an American author of fiction and non-fiction, as well as a lyricist, musical composer, and singer-songwriter. He is married to author Janet Morris.[1] He is a defense policy and strategy analyst and a principal in M2 Technologies, Inc. He writes primarily as Chris Morris, a shortened form of his name, but occasionally uses pseudonyms.

Janet Ellen Morris (born May 25, 1946) is an American author of fiction and nonfiction, best known for her fantasy and science fiction and her authorship of a nonlethal weapons concept for the U.S. military.

Janet’s Amazon Page   
Chris’s Amazon Page
   
Janet’s Wikipedia Page

Chris’s Wikipedia Page

Hello! What are your names?

We are Janet Morris (also known as Janet E. Morris) and Chris Morris (also known as Christopher Crosby Morris).  Jointly we have written a multitude of books, musical compositions, papers, and short pieces and fiction, as well as works under pseudonyms including but not limited to Casey Prescott and Daniel Stryker.  Janet Morris and Chris Morris have been writing and editing fiction, nonfiction, op/eds, policy pieces, since 1976 and music (words and lyrics) since 1966.

What do you write and why?

We always focus on the human condition and its evolution.  When we write fiction it is mythic in nature, allegorical, and lyrical.  When we write nonfiction it is often cautionary, ground-breaking, and/or controversial since for many years we served as research directors and senior fellows at Washington think tanks, specializing in long-term strategic planning for international security.

In fiction we write what we call mythic novels and stories, which often don’t fit into the deconstructed genres of market-driven fiction today because of the breadth and depth of our work.  Our fiction has been variously marketed as “science fantasy,” “military science fiction,” “erotic fantasy,” “high-tech thrillers,” “thrillers,” “suspense novels” “epic fantasy,” “science-fiction,” “fantasy,” “historical,” “historical fantasy,” “heroic fantasy,” “sword and sorcery,” “heroic fiction,” “novels,” and “short stories.”

Do you read the same genre that you write? Why or why not?

When we are writing fiction we read nonfiction, often in areas of ancient history and archaeology, international security, defense policy, military history, cosmology, philosophical problems of space and time, genetics of behavior, or emerging threats and technology.  When we are writing nonfiction we read fiction or early writings from the Ancient Near East, Ancient Greece, and classical BCE sources.  We also will read different translations of note and critics of substance, and like particular translators such as Dryden and Richmond Lattimore and Harold Bloom.  We reread Spenser and Marlowe and Shakespeare and Milton and such poets as Byron as well.

When we write either fiction or nonfiction, we run the risk of stylistic deformation or “print-through” from whatever we’re reading:  echoes of other styles and perceptive devices that can creep into otherwise cohesive work; so we are careful about what we read for pleasure when we are writing.  We also continually research any area in which we are writing while we’re writing, so we read material that explores aspects of concepts involved in the book or paper or story we’re writing.

What is the title you are promoting right now?

We are most excited about our newest mythic novel,The Sacred Band  (and the accompanying releases of “Author’s Cut” editions of classic works in our “Sacred Band of Stepsons” series).  In addition to the new, expanded and enhanced release of classic “Sacred Band Tales,” we have also resurrected our “Heroes in Hell” series with the first 21st century title in this series of shared-world anthologies, Lawyers in Hell,”  soon to be followed by “Rogues in Hell.”  Both series were bestsellers in the 20th century and we are thrilled to introduce them to a new readership.

What is it about?

The Sacred Band,” (Janet Morris and Chris Morris, Paradise Publishing, 2010; Kerlak Publishing, 2011) is an epic historical fantasy.  This is our favorite of all the novels we’ve done and can be enjoyed without having read the earlier books in the series.  In 338 BCE, during the Battle of Chaeronea that should result in the massacre of all the historical Sacred Band of Thebes, the legendary Tempus and his Stepson cavalry rescue forty-six Theban Sacred Banders, paired lovers and friends, to fight on other days.  The thwarted Fates give chase, following our heroes and heroines to the fantasy city of Sanctuary® (from the million-copy bestselling “Thieves’ World”(R) shared universe).  These forty-six Thebans join with the immortalized Tempus and his Sacred Band of Stepsons, consummate ancient cavalry fighters, to make new lives in a faraway land and fight the battle of their dreams where gods walk the earth, ghosts take the field, and the angry Fates demand their due.  Heroism, honor and loyalty and the Sacred Band Ethos itself are sorely tested as the Band and their lovers fight for survival.  This book is about love and war and love in war, about commitment, about the coming of age of a new generation of heroes and the battle of good against evil in a gritty, lyrical context unlike any other.

What makes this book different from others in your genre?

This book is deeper, more ambitious, and more a novel than a genre book.  There’s nothing formulaic about it.  “The Sacred Band” is called on its cover “a novel.”  It is all of that.  Because of its breadth, it bears as much relationship to the “fantasy” of Homer and Shakespeare, of Marlowe and Milton and Spenser, as it does to modern, narrowly-constructed works in any genre.  Most of all, this book is about the Sacred Band Ethos and mankind’s relationship to its cosmos.  Gods help their favorites and the Balance of the cosmos itself shapes the action.  Some have likened Tempus and his Sacred Band, and this book in particular, to the heroic, lyrical, brutal fiction of Robert E. Howard – and in some ways that comparison is justifiable.  In other ways, The Sacred Band bears more resemblance to Umberto Ecco’s “The Name of the Rose” and other modern fantasies grounded in historical events.  However, The Sacred Band is more tempestuous, more metaphysical, and a story of unique proportions:  “an adventure like no other.”  BecauseThe Sacred Band begins with the rescue of forty-six famed warriors from an historical battlefield where the bones of two hundred fifty-four of their companions are buried in a mass grave, The Sacred Band gives one answer to what happened to the forty-six skeletons missing today from the grave at Chaeronea.  Such an historical mystery exists nowhere else and makes this book even more unique as it blends truth and myth and legend and fantasy into something new.

What’s the story behind the story?

When we first started writing about Tempus, our immortal cavalry commander, we introduced the Sacred Band concept to modern fantasy readers because we wanted to write about the doomed Sacred Band of Thebes but couldn’t find a story for them:  their destruction was too horrific for us to write a straight historical culminating predictably with their annihilation.  So we constructed our own Sacred Band, primarily cavalry, not primarily infantry, and primarily pansexual, although the homosexuality of ancient times (where sexuality was a behavior, not an identity) is correctly portrayed in all our Sacred Band tales – and very different from the politicized homosexuality today.  Plato first wrote about the “Sacred Band” concept, suggesting that elite fighting forces be formed of homosexual lovers in age-weighted pairs, to inspire other warriors and provide a corps that wouldn’t desert the field during battle.  From Plato’s concept came the expanded “Sacred Band Ethos” of our fiction, which now has an entry of its own on “Ranker.com” that has accrued over nine thousand hits so far:  http://www.ranker.com/list/famous-quotes-about-sacred-band-ethos/reference

Since the greatest Sacred Band in history, the Sacred Band of Thebes, was massacred by Alexander and Philip of Macedon at Chaeronea, bringing Sacred Banders into fantasy was one way of saving their ideals, if not their persons.  For years we wrote one “Sacred Band of Stepsons” story per year, and then wrote more about them in three novels (“Beyond Sanctuary,”  “Beyond the Veil,” and “Beyond Wizardwall”).  Then we wrote three more novels of Tempus and his Sacred Band (“City at the Edge of Time,” “Tempus Unbound,” and “Storm Seed”).  Soon after, we ceased writing fiction for about 20 years to work on the nonlethal weapons concept.  When we came back to fiction in 2009, we realized that we COULD write about the Sacred Band of Thebes in a fantasy context:  tell a tale of survival of the forty-six… and more.  So “The Sacred Band,” daunting to conceive but joyous to write, was born.  And we have followed it with the Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl , a novella in our newest anthology of the same name, which picks up the Sacred Band of Stepsons stories after the battle for the land of dreams is lost and won, and takes the Band into unknown realms for new adventures.  The two Sacred Band Tales anthologies, first Tempus with his right-side companion Niko” , followed by “the Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl,” weave together all the classic 20th century Sacred Band Tales, surrounding them with new material available nowhere else.

What are your goals as authors?

As authors, we explore the human condition, the nature of being, and provide examples of ethos in action and story.  We also write the book we want to read, so our multilayered approach to fiction, with its questions of humanity’s place in the cosmos, is always fresh to us  Our goal is constantly to experience and explore concepts important to our species through the imposition of an artistic temperament and the mechanism of story, which is how the human brain organizes information.  But most of all we hope to inspire the reader, show the glory of life, and help us come to terms with mortality.  We are currently of the opinion that the universe has no boundary conditions, and therefore neither does the human mind, beyond those that we impose on ourselves.  We try to free the reader’s mind by taking it to a world in which what is important can be considered and experienced without concerns of contemporary fads or politics:  find what is eternal about us, and set the reader’s mind free thereby.

Are you working on anything new? Give us a preview of what’s to come!

Next on deck is a story for “Rogues in Hell,” (due out July, 2010 from Perseid) in which we bring this volume of twenty-two stories by different writers to a climax.  After that, comes a new Sacred Band of Stepsons novel, which will deal with what happens AFTER a god or goddess immortalizes a mortal:  many myths deal with the salvation of favorites by gods or goddesses, but none say what happens next:  this adventure underpins the next Sacred Band novel.

Who is your favorite author and what is your favorite book?

One book?  One author?  Impossible to answer.  In fiction?  Homer’s Iliad.  Shakespeare’s Hamlet or MacBeth – a tossup.  Marlowe’s Faustus.  Milton’s Paradise Lost.  In nonfiction:  all of Marcus Aurelius, all of Sun Tzu, all of Herakleitos’ Cosmic Fragments; what remains of Sappho; Harold Bloom’s Book of J.

Where can readers find you and your work?

“The Sacred Band,” as well as the follow-on “the Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl” and “Lawyers in Hell” can be found on Amazon and Barnes and Noble; some editions are available everywhere by order and on iTunes and from various other e-book and physical book vendors, including Kerlak Publishing.  The “Author’s Cut” (revised and expanded) editions of “Beyond Sanctuary,” “Tempus with his right-side companion Niko,” are available on Barnes and Noble and Amazon and through affiliate vendors worldwide.  Wake of the Riddler  and Mage Blood  are available as Kindle e-books only.

We have many additional titles that have not yet been reissued but can be found used, all the way back to High Couch of Silistra .  Most of our 20th century books are available as used books through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and numerous other outlets.

What’s your view on the self-publishing/traditional publishing thing? Ideally, which one would you prefer and why?

Publishing is changing; e-publishing combined with publishing on demand is the future for us all.  We created Perseid Publishing because we wanted to try small publishing, not quite self-publishing, but close when you ARE the publisher and you CAN make the decisions.  We had been with many of the big publishers over a long career and were nearly always disappointed in covers and print size and production values, even though our first series, Silistra, had four million in print before the fourth volume was published and we had award-winning stories and bestselling series among our credits.  We also wanted control of our e-book rights.  When we spoke to our New York agent about retaining e-book rights while selling print rights to a major New York house, at that time it was not possible.  So we didn’t offer “The Sacred Band” to any of our former New York publishers, and we are pleased with the results.  About a year after e-publication of “The Sacred Band,”  Kerlak Publishing came to us, offering to do a hard cover edition – and this is very high quality, with sewn bindings, real linen boards, and archival paper.   So for us, instead of hardcover first, e-book and paperback later, the model has up-ended:  e-book first, then trade paper, then hardcover if we wish to provide one.

There are good and bad aspects of “self-publishing.”  Some such books could only be published by the creator, meet few of the criteria that a publisher would apply to selection – and yet even these may find a constituency among people of like mind.  Many have poor production values:  front matter and book formatting are too often nonstandard in self-published books, which is not good.  But there have always been books for every level of readership:  At Perseid we say we publish “for the experienced reader.”  The books we publish have a certain gravitas, crisp description, a literate style.  We are known for including new authors, emerging authors, even undiscovered authors, in our anthologies, but inclusion is invitational and very few can be chosen:  each must meet our standard.

With so many unprofessional books being published, some think we are entering a new Darker Age.  We  don’t think so.  Self-publishing was once the ONLY publishing available.  Commercial publishing has sliced and diced and deconstructed the novel into so many constituent parts, in order to claim a “bestselling” book in some tiny genre, that trash is once again triumphant (as Henry James said at the end of the 19th century).  Yet literature survived James’ time.  Is our situation so different today?

Our books may challenge readers with small vocabularies unless those readers aspire to become better readers:  reading is a skill to be constantly improved.  The better the reader, the better that reader will like the books we write and publish.  There are many books – some published by New York’s “taste-making” publishers, that blatantly offer “trash triumphant.”  Good for them.  It has always been so.  In the Olympic poetry competition at which Hesiod and Homer contested, Hesiod won for “Works and Days,”beating Homer’s “Iliad.”  How many know of “Works and Days” today?  In its time, it was more politically correct.

Whether or not we are entering a New Darker Age, publishing today is characterized by a lack of any objective standard of “good” or “bad,” as is so much entertainment and commerce.  Fine.  The good books will find their way; the semi-literate will find books to their taste, and everyone can be a part of the growth of literature in the new century.  You can get your neighbor’s book about their travail at the hands of a local hospital for free on Amazon, but you can also get Shakespeare or Dante or Sun Tzu.  Your mind is in your keeping; what you do with it is your choice.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

Sorry, don’t have a single one, but have several:

“Nature has a surer plan than mortals can devise.” – Tempus in “The Sacred Band.”

“Love sees all; hate is blind.” – Harmony in “The Sacred Band.”

“Good-night, sweet prince;/ And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.” – Horatio in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

“The boundary conditions of the universe are that the universe has no boundary conditions.” – Anonymous.

“Come, Muse, sing to me not of things that are, or shall be, or were of old; but think of another song.” —  Hesiod

There are two hundred quotes Janet Morris quotes on Ranker: http://www.ranker.com/app/search.htm?query=famous+janet+Morris+quotes

There are one hundred and nine Chris Morris quotes on Ranker: http://www.ranker.com/list/a-list-of-famous-chris-morris-quotes/reference

What is the most important advice you have for aspiring authors?

Write the story you want to read.  Write the story that impels you to write it.  Don’t write until you are ready, until you have characters that demand their story be told.  Know why you are writing what you are writing but tell a story:  As Lewis Carroll said, “go from the beginning to the end, then stop.”

Become increasingly literate.  Bead writers better than you are.  The urge to write a story confers neither the ability to write a story nor the right to be read:  bring your reader with you into a special world, where you want to be, and hopefully where the reader will want to be.  Take no other advice; show your work to one person only, whom you trust; do not waste time with groups of writers no more experienced than you.  Writing is a solitary sport.

Is there anything else you’d like to say before we finish up?

I think we have said quite enough.

Awesome, thanks for allowing me to interview you!

Our pleasure – jem and ccm

Please don’t forget to pay Chris and Janet a visit at the following websites:

Janet’s Amazon Page   Chris’s Amazon Page   Janet’s Wikipedia Page   Chris’s Wikipedia Page

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