Janet Morris, mother of Heroes in Hell, the damned saga, interviewed by Jennifer Loiske…

Originally posted at:  https://jenniferloiske.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/mother-of-heroes-in-hell-is-on-my-blog-today-meet-janet-morris/

‘Mother’ of Heroes in Hell is on my blog today! Meet Janet Morris!

Janet bio pic cropped 12 05 13 Janet B&W Portrait 2Best selling author Janet Morris began writing in 1976 and has since published more than 30 novels, many co-authored with her husband Chris Morris or others. She has contributed short fiction to the shared universe fantasy series Thieves World, in which she created the Sacred Band of Stepsons, a mythical unit of ancient fighters modeled on the Sacred Band of Thebes. She created, orchestrated, and edited the Bangsian fantasy series Heroes in Hell, writing stories for the series as well as co-writing the related novel, The Little Helliad, with Chris Morris. Most of her fiction work has been in the fantasy and science fiction genres, although she has also written historical and other novels. Morris has written, contributed to, or edited several book-length works of non-fiction, as well as papers and articles on nonlethal weapons, developmental military technology and other defense and national security topics.

Want to know more about Janet? Here you go:

Heroes in Hell series Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heroes_in_Hell
Janet’s wikipedia bio: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janet_Morris
website: theperseidpress.com

Heroika 1 Perfect promo 6&9Janet, you’ve had your fingers in many literature jars, as one might say, and it seems you’re exactly where you were meant to be. Do you believe in destiny?

I believe in destiny and also in predestination. So do the heroes and villains in my fiction, such as our newest book, “Doctors in Hell.” Too many things have happened to me in my life that came to me unbidden, on the one hand, and seemed unavoidable, on the other. In the Silistra Quartet I wrote about the metaphysics of an “amenable universe” where what you expect conditions and shapes what actually occurs. A scientist named John Wheeler had a similar approach to modern physics, and he called that view of the universe the “anthropic principle.” To explain this most simply is to say that you get what you expect. Mind shapes reality. So expect the best, not the worst. When I have feared the worst, it has come to me; when I have envisioned great things, they have become reality.

In the Heroes in Hell series we explore the way the damned recreate the behaviors that brought them to hell in the first place. Heraclitus of Ephesus said, “Character is destiny.” I consider this a universal truth. In our Heroes in Hell series, and especially in Doctors in Hell, the protagonists (including mortal damned and fallen angels, heroes and lords of all the underworlds that humanity’s minds have created) shape their predicaments and their solutions as is natural for the character of each. For example, in the story “The Cure,” Satan sends John Milton to destroy the relationship between William Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe. How? You’ll need to read “The Cure” and the following story, “Writer’s Block,” to find out.

Do you do a lot of researching before starting to write or do you go with the flow and check the details (if doing so) later?

I do both: I find my characters, their destiny, so to speak. I decide how the book will end and how it must begin. Then I research detail as required, most deeply for books such as Doctors in Hell and the Heroes in Hell series, or the new Heroika series that begins with Dragon Eaters: if I’m using historical characters or historical events, or even historical models to create parallel fictional events, I read about the times, the personalities, and if there is any literature about events or people, I read that. I most love to find words spoken by a person with whom I’m trying to connect in order to create or recreate that character– or primary stories written by them or about them from their own time. Examples? In Doctors in Hell I’m using Will Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, Diomedes, John Milton; even Lord Byron’s dog, Boatswain, has a part to play. With those and my purely historical works, such as I, the Sun I try to quote the characters’ own words: nothing rings as truly as truth.

Once the story is ongoing I research more as I go, since the story opens up for me and I have more questions that need answers. After I’m done, I check everything – but once I’ve written the last word of a piece, it’s as if a door slams shut, and I know less about them than I did when I was writing. The metaphysical connection of the writer to a time and place is something that keeps me writing: I write a door and walk through it, hopefully taking the reader with me into another time and place and into other minds.

doctors-in-hellThat is beautifully said! And I like the image it brings into my mind…something very ‘Alice in Wonderland’ kind of thing…you’ll never know what happens on the other side of the door… Have you ever had a writer’s block and if yes, how did you make it go away?

Ha! I wrote a story called Writer’s Block for Doctors in Hell. You’ll need to read the story to learn the prescription given by one of my characters to another to banish writer’s block.

I will! And hopefully my readers will, too! Thanks for being here today, Janet, and thanks for sharing some of your writing secrets with us!

Cheers,

Jen x

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Outpassage by Janet Morris and Chris Morris reviewed on Black Gate

A Mining Colony, a Blind Date, and a Ghostly Alien Hand: A Review of Outpassage by Janet Morris & Chris Morris

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

Outpassage-smallOutpassage
By Janet Morris & Chris Morris
Perseid Press (430 pages, February 10, 2014, $24.95 trade paperback/$6.99 digital)
Cover by Vincent Di Fate

You only live once.

That is not only the theme of this excellent science fiction novel — it is also at the very heart of the novel’s story premise. Once again, I continue with my reviews of my favorite novels by Janet Morris and Chris Morris. But how I ever missed Outpassage when it was first published in 1988 I cannot say, because this is exactly the type of science fiction story I grew up reading in the pages of Amazing Stories and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. So this is the first time I’ve had the pleasure to read this great science fiction adventure.

Outpassage is action-packed, character-driven, and thought-provoking. The science is grounded in reality, but isn’t integral to the plot, and the tech never gets in the way of story and character: there is no garbage science or techno babble to muddle the plot. While this story has the feel of an old-fashioned, traditional science fiction novel from back in the day, it has a hip and modern sensibility to it. The characters are vivid and memorable, and the lean prose style is perfectly suited to the story. The dialogue is perfectly matched to each character — crisp and sharp, and very smart, with a fine balance of humor and gravitas.

Outpassage moves along like a starship going warp factor seven, with twists and surprises nearly every step of the way. And that wrap-around cover — wow! Fully captures the tone of the novel, and is a loving homage to classic SF covers. Once again, “fantasy’s power couple,” as one reviewer recently dubbed them, delivers a fine and rousing tale filled with mystery, espionage, religion, politics, and corporate shenanigans.

It begins on an outer space mining colony called X-31A, where a special forces Ranger Dennis “Det” Cox and his team are called in to “eradicate” a problem and clean up a mess. But the mission turns into a disaster, and Cox isn’t quite sure whether or not he saw signs of an alien presence on the piece of intergalactic real estate. Once he’s back home on earth and debriefed, Cox meets up with a woman named Paige Barnett, whom he was matched with on an internet dating site called Dream Date. Paige, however, is the Girl Friday to the top dog of a corporation called IST, who has their hands in terraforming, mining, and a few illegal activities, as well.

Well, as blind dates often go, this one goes horribly wrong: both Cox and Paige are shanghaied and are then separated. She is thrown into a labor group on another mining colony called X-66B, where she falls in with a group of rebel workers. Cox, however, has been nabbed for a paramilitary mission to find real evidence of an alien presence, and to target the rebel base of union-organizing workers — on the very same X-66B.

Outpassage cover-small

During one sortie, Cox once again catches a glimpse of a ghostly alien hand, just as he did on X-31A. His team also discovers a rock sample that may or may not be a genuine alien artifact. A character named Locke, who may or may not be on Cox’s side, and may or may not have an agenda all his own says at one point, about “black ops” agents and their mission:

I’m just saying that those black operators who briefed us up there and gave us every little thing we asked for… they want any alien life or evidence of alien life eradicated. You think bringing this piece of stone over here fits that description?

And then that rock sample is somehow mysteriously pulverized, quite by accident, or so Cox is later told.

Meanwhile, Paige gets herself more deeply involved with the revolutionaries, and takes part in a ritual that so totally blows her mind, she starts to question everything she knows about IST, the CEO she is secretly in love with, and IST’s mission statement: about life, death, and her own place in the universe. Integral to all this is a black co-worker, a powerful presence of a man named Freedom Ayoub — “the man who had been dead.” He becomes Paige’s self-appointed protector and guru, and it’s mostly from him that she learns about Redemption, Resurrection, and the Holy Way. This philosophy, this cult is at the heart of what happened on the X-31A mining colony, and the ghostly alien hand Cox first sees there and then again on X-66B. This new religion is also the very heart of the workers’ revolution: what it is, what it means to Cox, Paige, Freedom, Mankind, and the very nature of existence is also the foundation upon which this wonderful science fiction novel is built. To say more on this new religion and the ultimate truth it contains would be to give away too many spoilers.

Outpassage, Oct 1988 edition, Pageant Books

When Cox receives a transcript from one of his men — a message calling for help from a woman claiming to be Paige Barnett, he sets out to search for her. The fact that they were shanghaied together while on their dream date, the fact that she is the right-hand of the CEO of IST, and now her presence on X-66B convinces Cox that he isn’t crazy, that the presence of alien life is very real, but whether or not this presence is tied in with the labor movement and the growing religion of Redemption, Resurrection and the Holy Way remains to be seen. Cox needs Paige for validation, and goes to great lengths to find her. A female pilot named Frickey follows orders that get most of Cox’s Alpha and Beta teams killed — including Schultz, who was more than a teammate to her — and then sets out to make amends. She rejoins Cox and together they go search for Paige, while working to uncover the truth behind what is going on.

The last act of this intriguing story finds Cox left with the decision to obey a direct order to destroy X-66B, killing all those left behind, or to fake the destruction of X-66B, which would consign those same people to a long, slow and agonizing death. Will he find and rescue Paige? How and where does Freedom Ayoub play into all this? Can X-66B and all those left behind be saved? And what will Cox’s final decision be?

You’ll have to read Outpassage and find out for yourself. Many questions are answered, and then even more questions arise that need answers. This is thought-provoking science fiction, with the action and feel of a space opera, and with elements of mystery and espionage to keep us turning the page. And the characters ring true, jumping right off the page….

Paige Barnett is a thoroughly modern woman — a brilliant, tough, no-nonsense bureaucrat who rules in her corporate world, but find herself way out of her element when she’s shanghaied and taken to X-66B. Could this possibly have been a set-up to get her out of the way because she knows too much and has spoken out against IST’s corporate policy on what first happened on X-31A? What she sees, what she learns, and what happens to her brings her to a place of enlightenment she at first fears, and then accepts. What about Freedom Ayoub, the quiet, powerful and yet almost childlike “man who had been dead”? What’s his story? Why is he so integral to Paige, and why is she determined to see that he lives and is returned to Earth to tell all that he knows and all that he is? And then there’s Frickey, ace-pilot and rock-steady warrior who undergoes her own transformation during the course of this novel. Will she overcome her guilt and grief and help to bring home Cox, Paige and Ayoub?

But this is truly Dennis “Det” Cox’s story. A non-com and experienced warrior cut from the cloth of the Homeric ideal of a hero. He’s plain, blunt-spoken, and takes no bull from anyone; a real ground-pounder, a soldier who hates politics, but does his job and does it well. He’s the guy you want on your side, the guy on whose side you want to be. He faces decisions and moral dilemmas, as well as the heat of combat and the intrigues of corporate policy. But what revelations he is forced to see and accept are the hardest things he’s ever done. Enlightenment is there for him to grasp, but it disturbs him with its reality-changing truth, and he is left to face more decisions in a finale I did not see coming, but is perfect, nonetheless. For Cox, that moment arrives when he witnesses, when he touches and learns the truth behind the words… You Only Live Once.

Why this outstanding novel was overlooked for Nebula and Hugo awards is beyond me. When you combine a great story with flesh and blood characters, with plenty of action, and then toss into the mix the machinations of a powerful business conglomerate, paramilitary activity, corporate intrigue and espionage, politics, religion, and an undefined, possible alien presence…you have a novel that succeeds on many levels.

Once again, bravo Janet and Chris Morris!

Outpassage was written by Janet Morris and Chris Morris, and originally published in paperback by Pageant Books in 1988. The Authors Cut Edition was published by Perseid Press in February 2014. It is 386 pages, priced at $24.95 in trade paperback.. Cover art, design and frontispiece by Vincent Di Fate.

This review by Joe Bonadonna was originally published on Black Gate; click to view original:  http://www.blackgate.com/2014/09/16/a-mining-colony-a-blind-date-and-a-ghostly-alien-hand-a-review-of-outpassage-by-janet-morris-chris-morris/

OUTPASSAGE Interview with Janet Morris and Chris Morris

OUTPASSAGE by Janet Morris and Chris Morris

OUTPASSAGE by Janet Morris and Chris Morris: novel; science fiction; military science fiction; visionary/metaphysical science fiction

Chris Janet and Ray

Literary Biography: Janet Morris and Chris Morris, authors of OUTPASSAGE, published in trade paper and on Kindle by The Perseid Press. An Amazon Exclusive.

Authors Janet Morris and Chris Morris are the creators of numerous novels, short stories, and works of nonfiction, as well as the creators and editors of the Heroes in Hell series, whose stories include two Nebula Award finalists and a winner of the Hugo Award. Janet is the only science fiction writer invited to participate in the Rolex fiction program, Chris is an accomplished recording artist, singer-songwriter and narrator. Chris is the narrator for the forthcoming audio-book narration of The Sacred Band. The Morris’ fiction works are primarily novels which fit neatly in no single genre, including such books as I, the Sun, the rigorous biographical novel of Suppiluliumas I, King of Hatti, The Sacred Band, an Homeric novel of myth and heroism, and futuristic novels combining the heroic ethos, future technology, and metaphysics such as OUTPASSAGE. In addition to their fiction,nonfiction, AND MUSIC, Janet and Chris Morris are well known for their horses. The Morris’ have bred and shown Grand National Champion and World Champion Morgan Horses, and this deep familiarity with horses informs their nine volume heroic fantasy series, the Sacred Band of Stepsons. The Morrises’ joint fiction novels include The Sacred Band, The Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl, OUTPASSAGE, The 40-Minute War, City at the Edge of Time, Tempus Unbound, Storm Seed, MEDUSA, the Threshold Trilogy, The Little Helliad.

330 Word Synopsis of OUTPASSAGE

There aren’t any aliens… are there?

Sergeant “Det” Cox has just spent three years under psych observation on Earth; now that he’s out-system, he isn’t about to tell anyone he’s seeing aliens again.

War and mystery beyond the stars…

Ms. Paige Barnett has lost everything, even her name, because she knows too much about the rebellion spreading through the Earth-Space mining colonies.

Corporal Allie Frickey is the real thing: a female hero who’s made the grade in the 203rd Army Ranger Battalion, but her training hasn’t prepared her for aliens.

Redemption, resurrection, the holy way.

Freedom Ayoub, a dissenter of conscience from Chad, has a chance among the rebellious space colonies to trigger a new age, but without the help of Cox, Barnett, and Frickey, he has only a prayer of succeeding.

Secrets Too Sensitive to Be Revealed:

Against our heroes are arrayed the corporate might of InterSpace Tasking, America’s most muscular out-system government contractor and its minions: the unpredictable Lieutenant Locke, a US Ranger by his shoulder tab; Professor Elaine Singer, top scientist in the deep-space colonies, and powerful CEO, Raymond Godfrey.

You only die once… or do you?

When rebels take up arms on two classified mining colonies and the work bosses fight back, casualties start disappearing in the grip of white hands emerging from solid rock. Reports of alien life and inexplicable phenomena on two mining planets draw US Space Command interest. Amid rebel skirmishes, horror, betrayal, and death, Cox’s twenty-four rangers must find allies to face rebels who may already be dead.

Saviors or zombies?

Together Cox and Barnett stumble upon the mystery at the revolution’s heart and learn why the rebels are willing to die for it. With Frickey and Ayoub, and the help of the shadowy Special Science Task Force, they embark on a journey home that will change humanity’s future.

Is their discovery humanity’s worst threat or greatest gift? The authorities are willing to destroy whole planets to keep the revolution’s secret from reaching Earth… What’s to stop them from destroying a handful of people?

Editorial Reviews:

“The Morrises’ blend of fast-paced narrative and meticulous research into near-space technology makes a novel you can’t put down.” –– C.J. Cherryh

OUTPASSAGE might just be the perfect science fiction novel. –– Jack Williamson

“Action sequences that would make any writer proud. OUTPASSAGE is a wonderful book.” –– David Drake

Outpassage Final Cover Spread no Seal 1 17 2014

333 word “Best Shot” excerpt fromOUTPASSAGE

THE SKY WAS thin and the color of dirty motor oil, except where it exploded above their heads. Concussion was delayed in the thin air but the smell of roasting rangers got to you right away, even through your air filters.

It hadn’t been anything, not anything, that Cox had seen out of the corner of his eye. It sure as hell hadn’t been a white, delicate hand pulling Reynolds toward a wall of solid rock –– coming out of a wall of solid rock.

It hadn’t. Cox’s lungs were burning despite the augmented oxygen-rich mix his recon pack was feeding him as he sprinted; he was sweating like a pig –– worse than his cooling system could handle. Overhead, he heard a subtle change in volume that wouldn’t be subtle for long: the pursuit aircraft, laying down rivers of flame as it did a one-eighty, had sighted him. It was coming back.

With the bogey on his tail and nobody to answer to, Cox hit his jet-assist: a one-time-only, emergency move, but there was no way he could outrun that aircraft on foot.

The wrench at his shoulders was immediate, the grab in his crotch comforting. Then he was airborne, skimming the ground toward the extraction point where Locke’s bird was already a dark speck lowering out of the filthy clouds.

He could still see the charred half of Reynolds’ face, the eye like a lamb’s eye that had popped up in his soup once during a Saudi tour. He saw it so clearly that when the enemy screamed overhead, ignoring him and going after Locke in the pickup craft, it didn’t phase him any.

Not even when Locke’s VTOL exploded in a gout of dirty orange flame, because he could still see Reynolds inching along the rock like he was alive, that white hand clamped on him.

And then he couldn’t see anything, not for a long time, because something shorted his helmet’s system and the ground hit him, hard, in the face.

INTERVIEW WITH JANET MORRIS AND CHRIS MORRIS

What forms of marketing has appealed to you in the promoting of your book and why?

Once a book such as OUTPASSAGE is due to be published or is published, we let people know when and where the book will be available, using the internet and Face Book and Twitter. We circulate review copies. We make a few carefully chosen public appearances. For example, we’ll be speaking at the Library of Congress in June of 2014: this talk on fantasy, science fiction, and the future of literature is open to the public. We do interviews. Beyond that, we trust that people who read and like the books will tell others. We make our work perennially available as e-books, since our books don’t lose appeal as time goes by. As well as writing new works, we are republishing “Author’s Cut” editions, revised, expanded, and definitive, of our works from the 20th century with Perseid Press.

What makes your book OUTPASSAGE stand out from all the others of the same genre?

OUTPASSAGE fits neatly in no genre: it is a novel about the human condition set in a plausible future: it is a blend of suspense, betrayal, romance, crisis, mystery, comedy, tragedy. OUTPASSAGE is one part rollicking space adventure, one part military science fiction, and one part visionary and metaphysical exploration of an all-too-possible dystopian future. Its female heroes are women empowered; its male characters are heroic, driven, and committed. People who love classic science fiction and people who love visionary fiction will all find something to enjoy in OUTPASSAGE, where the characters embark on a futuristic odyssey, and life’s deepest questions are explored as humanity reaches a final crossroads light-years from home.

OUTPASSAGE takes the reader on an exciting adventure. Unlike too many books today, it is character driven, lyrical, gritty, literary, and observant of the human condition. For OUTPASSAGE we commissioned original cover art from Vincent Di Fate, classic science fiction artist and winner of the Science Fiction Writers of America Grand Master Award. The OUTPASSAGE story is epic: it is the story of humanity’s greatest adventure.

What was the best advice you were given leading you to getting published?

Get the manuscript typed up professionally in double space with one-inch margins.

Where can we find more information about you and your books?

You can read more about us and our books on our Wikipedia pages:

Janet has one:

http://www.amazon.com/Janet-Morris/e/B001HPJJB8/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janet_Morris

Chris has one:

http://www.amazon.com/Chris-Morris/e/B008L41JNO/fblink/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_nu_fWY1sb0FYGE9J http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Morris_(author)

You can find all our books on our Amazon Central Author Pages. There, Janet has a page:http://www.amazon.com/Janet-Morris/e/B001HPJJB8/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1 and Chris has a page:http://www.amazon.com/Chris-Morris/e/B008L41JNO/fblink/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_nu_fWY1sb0FYGE9J

On each of our Amazon Author Pages, you can click on any book cover to get to the book’s Amazon page. There you can instantly read or download a free sample of that book.

Or you can read about our books at our publisher’s website: http://www.theperseidpress.com

OP Final Front CoverIf you could share a romantic evening with any character from literature, who would it be and what would you do?

Janet says: I’d love to spend a night withOUTPASSAGE’s hero, Det Cox. If I can’t get to the future to do that, I’d love to spend the evening with Odysseus, himself a great storyteller.

Chris says: Since I like older women, I’d spend my evening with Paige Barnett ofOUTPASSAGE, who has crossed a new threshold in human experience, and find out what her life is like.

What comes first for you: plot or character?

Character drives all in story; plot is a tool for showing character at work in the world. Heraclitus says “Character is destiny.” To write a story, find a character with a destiny and follow where that character leads.

For us in the composition process, character and story come together as a unit: Someone is somewhere, doing something; has been somewhere else; is going somewhere else, seeking or fleeing or struggling to prevail against something. We can taste, touch, hear the place and character, and they’re moving. If we have a ‘live’ story, it seems to ‘move’ in our composite mind’s eye. We write a door, walk through it, and we’re there. By then we’re ready to be dragged from pillar to post by our characters. Toss a good character a bone and he’ll return you a fleshed-out drama: A good character steps up to storytelling without urging; sometimes several will vie for the viewpoint in a section, and then – only then – does plot become a driver: depending on the viewpoint character, a different temperament, ethos, and impact comes into play. Before we start composing, we know the story we’re going to tell, and who will populate it: the who, what, where, when, why of the tale to be told. This train of thought brings us to OUTPASSAGE and Det Cox, discussed below, who plunges us into a firefight in the very first scene of his book to show us who he is, and what he does.

Do you have a favorite character (from your book)? Why?

Det Cox owns the lion’s share of the story in OUTPASSAGE, but he’s not the novel’s sole proprietor. His interplay with Paige Barnett is sizzling. Cox is a Spaceborne US Army Ranger, while Paige Barnett is a high-powered female executive from a vast interspatial corporation: when they meet through an online dating serivce, worlds collide. Both Cox and Barnett are great fun to write, with unique sensibilities and very different views of the future they both inhabit. Cox is everything a woman like Paige Barnett dreams about: skilled, intelligent, dangerous, handsome, fit, loyal and heroic. But dreaming is different from reality, and Paige’s association with Cox shanghais her to a new frontier beyond the stars, and into peril and opportunity beyond her wildest dreams.

Which three authors have inspired you most, and why?

a) Homer, because he created the modern story tensions and values we all use today.

b) Shakespeare, who taught us self-examination and showed us how to use words as keys to unlock the human soul.

c) Suppiluliumas of Hatti, whose own annals inspired us to write I, the Sun.

Character development. Tell us all about your experiences with this side of writing.

All our fiction is character driven. The development of character, for us, is the most important single element: plots are few, perhaps seven, as Shakespeare said, perhaps three, as Heinlein said – character is all. Character forms the bedrock of choice and choice is story; story is choice. Our experience with writing begins with the process of summoning character, whether through discussion or meditation or both. When writers speak of their ‘Muse’ being lost or found or giving or withholding, they mean that they are, or are not, in contact with the wellspring in our minds that creates or contacts characters. Are characters created by the writer, or found? No way to know for certain. But it is impossible to get even a single individual completely represented in fiction; in a book with many characters, the writers must imply, infer, invent and subvert to bring characters forth and make that materialization in the mind seem effortless, as if the character is there, whole cloth.

Protagonists…. What is your view on them?

Protagonists are crucial to stories. Protagonists have sometimes been men, sometimes women, sometimes demigods, gods and goddesses, sometimes animals. In any given moment of a scene, different characters may serve the function of protagonist. A protagonist or several will be as important as an antagonist or several to a story. In OUTPASSAGE, the viewpoint switches from the male protagonist Cox to the female protagonist, Barnett.

Have you ever been involved in a collaborative work? What is your opinion on working with other people and how do you go about meshing two different writing styles into a single book?

OUTPASSAGE is a collaborative work, in that it is written and edited and rewritten by two people who are accustomed to working closely to create a story. This is a different process than some collaborations, wherein people take turns writing sections independently and hope the result will be cohesive. In the Janet Morris and Chris Morris collaborations, we discuss plot and character before we write, while we’re writing, and after we have written, both as they apply to daily output and to the story as a whole. This allows the work to have both a male and female element at work in the telling of story and development of character, which helps make both place and people in our stories more realistic. For fantasy or science fiction or historical or any novel that requires the materializing of place and culture as well as character, this meta-viewpoint with its ability to sketch believable female and male characters is critical to the suspension of the reader’s disbelief.

As a reader, how much do consistent spelling/grammar/punctuation mistakes bother you? And as a writer, how much care do you take to get it right?

We read punctuation; we hear stops; we know grammar; we apply the rules of written English; we break every rule as the story demands. We read manuscripts aloud and on screen multiple times to make sure the text “sounds” the way we wish. Punctuation is nuance. People who don’t “hear” punctuation and apply it with understanding are leaving a tool unused. We hunt for typos all the time, and errors of syntax that are unintentional. However, no one ever gets every error, which is why we use a copy-editor and proof-reader.

How long does it take you to write a book?

Different books take different lengths of time. Usually a book of ours can take a year or two before it’s finished and polished. A rough draft may take six to nine months or more, depending on length.

Do you invent words and language for your books?

We have always invented words, compounded words, and used words differently, when and as necessary for the book to achieve its goals. These choices belong to the world and character. The Silistra Quartet (High Couch of Silistra, the Golden Sword, Wind from the Abyss, the Carnelian Throne) had a glossary of world-specific words for animals and food and customs and societies. For that series of books, to keep the earthly referents to a minimum, this was necessary. Silistra is a very challenging series, wrestling with issues of the genetic basis of behavior – of interdependence of intelligence, sexuality, and power – and needed to be set in a universe in which Earth and humanity were unknown. Later, the use of acronyms in fiction became commonplace, so we have acronyms in some books, often (but not always) defined in place, and sometimes coined terms of our own devising.

The use of colloquialism – Your thoughts when writing.

It’s important not to date your book unless you want it to be read later as an historical. Too much slang pins the story to a period, which is fine if it’s a period piece, but if you are writing a floating timeframe, or floating present, or floating future, colloquialisms may become discordant to the reader’s ear in a few years. When we revised OUTPASSAGE, thirty years later, we were pleasantly surprised at how few words and concepts needed to be updated.

Do you find yourself jotting notes, phrases, characters names etc at times?

When we’re in a car, we get many ideas, and write them down on anything: Starbucks bags, envelope flaps, receipts.

GENRES!

What is your favorite to read? What is your favorite to write in? What is the weirdest you have ever seen?

We don’t write in any one genre, although much of my work is classed with science fiction or fantasy by booksellers. We enjoy myth and fantasy and ancient historical novels (not bodice rippers); we love classic science fiction (which once was called ‘hard’ or ‘military’ sf) , which extrapolates a full-blown worldview as well as imaginary worlds while not misusing physics as we understand them; we like time travel books such as The 40-Minute War and stories with relativity effects as inescapable factors in the construct, such as we created in OUTPASSAGE. We equally enjoy modernist novels, magical realism, futuristic novels with international settings, plausible projections of future conditions. We write novels which may be set in the past or future, but always contain the full palette of human responses: pain, pleasure, mystery, drama, comedy, tragedy, triumph, betrayal, discovery. The proliferation of genres, created primarily as selling tools, is lowering the level of what is acceptable as fiction. Genres are meant to allow more bestseller lists and award categories to exist: this is not a qualitative choice; rather it’s a marketing choice. Only a novel is a novel: a novel must be about the human condition, and contain the gamut of life’s constituent elements. Even if you are writing a book in a world built so as never to have been influenced by life on Earth, its characters must be ones with whom we can identify and your story must carry these common elements forward or be, ultimately, inadequate. To write, you must read; and reading modern genre fiction is for the most part like feasting on chocolate, which provides quick thrills and calories, but no lasting nourishment.

I don’t know how it is for other writers, but in the creation of characters I actually hear their accents if they have one when I write dialogue. How is it with you?

We hear characters whenever we write. Often we are writing in the ancient world or a mythical antiquity or quasi-mythical antiquity, so we don’t transliterate accents, beyond perhaps choosing a certain spelling of an ancient word or name. Sometimes, with modern fiction such as OUTPASSAGE, we do use slang, profanity, regionalisms, but subtly. In OUTPASSAGE, we use different constructions, such as “I don’t know” versus “Dunno” to indicate whether Cox is stressed, or in combat, or relaxed, or speaking formally. Cox is a smart person, a subject matter expert in his field, but not literary or elegant in speech: he’s a US Army ranger, simple on the surface, but both strategic and tactical, and he moderates his own diction when he’s talking to his troops, becomes more folksy; when he speaks with superior officers, he’s more than capable of holding his own but his diction changes. We occasionally write with transliterated accents in a short story or to quickly sketch a character, but usually only if the way the character is speaking is as important as what he’s saying, because too much written dialect can become labored and distracting.

What are the first 5 things you need to know when first beginning to write?

Who. What. Where. When. Why. The reader deserves a writer who starts the story with a good understanding of that story: what has happened, what must happen, how the character feels about what’s happening, who the viewpoint character (or omniscient observer temperament) is, in depth. If you can’t answer those questions about your story and the point of view from which the story is told, you’re not ready to write. When a writer drops into a story with no idea what’s going to happen, it shows in the fuzziness of both exposition and event.

Is writing habitual? Have you found that it has the ability to encroach upon your normal life?

Writing is our normal life. Janet sold her first novel in her mid-twenties and made her living as a novelist until we could sell collaborations; then we made our living writing nonfiction, and now are making our living writing fiction once again. To write effectively, you MUST let the novel come first, before all other elements of your life: a book for which the writer has not sacrificed his ‘normal’ life is not a novel, it’s a memoir.

Personal Links

Janet’s Wikipedia bio:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janet_Morris

Chris’ Wikipedia bio:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Morris_(author)

theperseidpress.com

http://www.theperseidpress.com/

Purchase Links

Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/Outpassage-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B00IDC1E84/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1392145928&sr=1-1&keywords=Outpassage

Other marvellous reads –

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