Friday, 14 May 2010
Guest: Nicola Morgan
Today Nicola Morgan, author of the fabulous novel Wasted, has agreed to stop by and answer some questions as part of the 'Talk About Wasted' Blog Tour.
Wasted is all about luck and chance and how one small event can have vast ramifications. What was it that first drew you to this theme?
A small event, actually! One day, I'd travelled from Edinburgh to London to do my very first speaking event. After the event, I was feeling weird, very hyper, my thoughts darting everywhere, but also in a world of my own. I made a sudden, unexplainable decision to go on a different tube journey from the obvious one. On that journey, in Charing Cross station, I bumped into a friend from Edinburgh - hundreds of miles from home. It was a coincidence but not significant at all - our lives didn't change. Except that, actually, mine did, because it made me think: how many times do people nearly but not quite have chance encounters? What if you were God and you could map all the particles and people and watch them all buzzing about and sometimes meeting but usually missing each other? Then I began to read about quantum physics and Wasted began to grow. I started to write it all those years ago, but "stuff happened" and other books got in the way. But Wasted is the book I've been wanting to write for about 15 years. I didn't know if it would work so I decided I would begin to write it without a contract, until I was sure. When I was sure, I sent what I'd done to my agent and editor and vowed that if they didn't like it, I had to write it anyway, for me. They loved it, in a very exciting way.
What does Schrodinger’s cat mean to you?
In some ways it's where fiction and science merge, because in fiction we ask people to believe made-up things. We ask them to bury themselves in a "what if?" scenario. And the Schrodinger's Cat paradox asks scientists to do the same. It poses an "impossible" state - that two opposites are simultaneously true, that the cat is both dead and alive and neither dead nor alive and that nothing is real until it is observed. At least fiction makes sense! Also, it makes me very glad that I'm not a scientist....
I was fascinated by the way Jess was moved by the colours of the music. Could you say a bit more about this blending of the senses.
My first published novel, Mondays are Red, was about a boy with synaesthesia - where the senses overlap, so Luke experiences colour when he hears sound, for example. This is a fairly rare experience, but not as rare as people think. I don't have it but I have discovered that nearly everyone can access these experiences, using our collective imagination. For example, if I ask a group of people (as I often do in school-talks!) whether they think that a cello sound would be pale yellow/lime, or bright orange/red, or dark purple / brown, over 95% will say the last option. When writers know this, they can use it to enrich their writing. However, I don't do it deliberately - these are just the ways I naturally describe things. We all do it to an extent: we talk about someone having a smooth or warm voice, for example - but smooth is about texture and warm is about temperature: what's that got to do with sounds??? But we think like this naturally. My editor used to try to stop me doing this - she said I should keep that for Mondays are Red, but I said, "No, this is me, it's my way of describing things, and people understand." And they do! People tell me all the time that they relate to it even if they don't have synaesthesia. My editor didn't even bother to stop me when I used it for Jess and how she experiences music! (By the way, I'm not a musician or a singer so this was entirely imaginary, but I could easily imagine feeling like this if I was a singer.)
As an aspiring writer myself I would be interested to know how much you feel luck plays a part in achieving our aims or whether we can make our own luck.
As Jack says in Wasted, "Luck is just what we call it." I think we very largely make our own luck. Terrible things happen to people through no fault of their own, and sometimes good things happen to those who don't deserve it, but I believe that there are lots of ways of maximising our chances in all aspects of life. With trying to be published, there are right things to do and wrong things. The more right things you do, the more likely you are to be "lucky". For example, a lucky meeting is not likely to happen if you don't take steps to meet people! But the biggest luck is actually something you can't control: whether you have talent. Everything else is in our power: the hard work, listening to the right people, learning from mistakes, not giving up, not being bitter - all these things we can do for ourselves. Then luck will follow.
How much did luck have to do with your own journey to publication?
It didn't feel very lucky! 21 years feels very unlucky indeed, to be frank. I was doing all the wrong things, so I'm not sure how luck could have helped me. After all, you get published in the end because you write the right book and send it to the right person at the right time. Apparently, I was writing beautiful words but not in the right book! But, I think the luckiest thing was "choosing" my agent. I'd almost signed up with another one, but then she became ill and decided not to take anyone else. So I went through the list in the Writers' and Artists' yearbook and picked the name Elizabeth Roy because I like the name Elizabeth and she said she specialised in children's books. She didn't have an email address listed so I wrote a letter. I also found another one (not called Elizabeth!) and approached her too, by email. That one should have replied first, but actually Elizabeth did - she phoned me immediately. Just after I'd finished speaking to her, the other one emailed and said she was interested too. Of course, I've no idea what the second one would have been like but I couldn't be more pleased than I am with Elizabeth. That was luck.
Do you ever play Jack’s game yourself?
No! I couldn't give up control to a coin - I am actually a control freak. Seriously. Ask anyone who knows me!
Thank you Nicola for answering my questions. I wish you every success with Wasted.
You can find out more about Wasted at : http://www.talkaboutwasted.blogspot.com/ And visit Nicola's wonderful blog Help I need a Publisher which offers superb advice for the aspiring writer. http://helpineedapublisher.blogspot.com/