Q&A: Michael Morris
Michael Morris has seen his fiction lauded by the likes of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the St. Louis dispatch, the Southern book critics circle Awards and acclaimed novelist Pat Conroy. Michael’s latest novel is Man in the Blue Moon (Tyndale House).
Q: You’ve said that your gift of storytelling was inherited from your grandparents, who would tell stories around the dinner table. What are the challenges of writing prose when you were raised in a more oral tradition?
As a child, I would listen to my grandparents talking about the news that never seemed to make the newspaper and picture it all like a movie. My grandfather was the best storyteller I’ve known—he would add just the right voice inflection and could mimic man and creature alike. Oral history is a way of capturing a time, place and dialect; so I don’t think it is much different with writing prose, especially when I’m writing dialogue.
Q: Some of the odd and wonderful events recounted by your grandfather have worked their way into your fiction. As an author, where do you draw the line between what happened and refashioning it to fit your own narrative?
Well, my grandfather was such a good storyteller that you might have to get him to tell a story two or three times to weed out fact from fiction.
Whenever discrepancies were brought up, he’d say, “Well, I’m just trying to dress it up a little bit.” I see writing fiction much the same way. A writer can take a little bit of truth and dress it up into fiction.
With Man in the Blue Moon, a man on the run for murder really was shipped in a crate to my grandfather’s family. I took that piece of truth and wove it into a story about a woman in the same time period who is struggling to keep her farm from foreclosure when a mysterious man who arrives in an unconventional way convinces her that he is there to help. The question then, of course, becomes: Is this man really who he claims to be?
Q: Your fiction has been placed in such esteemed company—how much pressure does that create for you to stay focused on writing?
The one thing I’ve learned about writing is that it is an art form. My wife is a painter. Someone might come into a gallery and love one of her paintings, while the next person who walks in admires a completely different one. I am honored and humbled to be compared to those writers; but at the end of the day, I have to write books that I would like to purchase and read. I believe that as writers, we have to write for ourselves first and to be brutally honest with our work.
Q: What one thing do you most hope readers will get out of reading your fiction?
I want to write novels that entertain and hopefully leave an impression. The greatest compliment I can ever receive from a reader is when she says the story and characters stayed with her long after the last page was finished. When I hear those words, I know I have done my job.