Please welcome B. Morris Allen to The Qwillery. “Blackthorn” will be published in GENIUS LOCI: Tales of the Spirit of Place from Ragnarok Publications.
This is the twentieth in a series of interviews with many of the authors and the artists involved in GENIUS LOCI. I hope you enjoy meeting them here at The Qwillery as much as I am!
I am a backer of GENIUS LOCI which is edited by Jaym Gates. You may check out the Kickstarter here. GENIUS LOCI has been funded and reached the Deluxe format printed edition stretch goal! There are additional stretch goals!
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Morris: It took me a ridiculously long time to realize that inspiration never strikes just when you have an hour free and a pen in hand. You virtually never get desire, time, and opportunity all at once. In order to make any progress at all, I have to treat writing as a job, not an option. The first hour is always tough, but after that, I usually get into the groove, and then I can write fluidly for hours (if I have them).
TQ: Do you think that your world travel affects how you write in any way? Does it give you a different perspective than you might not have had?
Morris: I grew up in a lot of places, and liked it so much that I searched for a job that would let me travel just as often. I'm sure it's changed me as a person; it's edifying to see your own country from outside it, and equally edifying to see another country from within, especially when you work with people who are trying hard to change it for the better. I hope it's true that the experience leads me to make fewer assumptions about what's best, and to listen more to others. It's equally true, though, that everyone believes their part of the world is special and different and hard to understand, when in fact some problems are universal (but difficult to solve). So, that's the touchy-feely answer. As a practical matter, as a writer, I have a set of different environments to draw on. For example, I'm currently writing a science fiction novel that starts in Rwanda. I lived there for a couple of years, and I have a pretty good sense of what the country looks like. It helps me to have a very concrete picture of the environment, even if very little makes it into the actual story
TQ: Which question about your writing do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Morris: "I noticed that in your stories, no one ever seems to eat meat; is that deliberate?" Why, yes it is, and thank you for asking. I'm a long-time vegan myself, and when I'm imagining worlds, I prefer to imagine ones where I could eat whatever's on offer. I'm not using my fiction to proselytize, and food is seldom central to the plot - it just happens that when characters eat, they eat vegan.
TQ: Describe “Blackthorn”, which will be published in Genius Loci, in 140 characters or less.
Morris: Spring and winter incarnate walk the land, both beautiful, both unique. Their inherent differences come to a head over a humble thornbush.
TQ: Tell us something about “Blackthorn” that will not give away the story.
Morris: The folk tale I based it on is the one told in my wife's home village, so the story is based there as well.
TQ: What was your inspiration for “Blackthorn”? Have you ever encountered a Genius loci?
Morris: lived in Moldova for a little over a year. One of the traditions they have there (and in Romania and Bulgaria) is the martisor - a little red and white decoration people give each other at the beginning of March, and wear throughout the month. My (Moldovan) wife and I have maintained the tradition across several countries. "Blackthorn" is a modified version of the story they tell in my wife's village about the origin of the custom.
TQ: Give us one of your favorite non-spoilery lines from “Blackthorn”.
Morris: "[Winter] spent hours designing snowflakes one by one – each a miniature work of art, perfect but ephemeral." Who makes all those unique snowflakes, anyway, and why?
TQ: In which genre or genres does “Blackthorn” fit? In your opinion, are genre classifications still useful?
Morris: Literature sprawls where it will, but there's just too much of it to get a handle on. You have to organize it somehow, and categories are useful for that. "Blackthorn" is definitely in the SFF|Fantasy|Folk tale category.
TQ: What's next?
Morris: Some of what I've written is pretty dark, to the extent that some of my family have begun to feel I host an inner sociopath. Happily, there's a comedian in there keeping him company, and I just finished Stamp of Approval, a comic fantasy novella (about an epic quest involving a lot of paperwork) that I hope will come out soon. With that done, it's back to grim and forbidding science fiction in my Four Seasons Quintet series.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Morris: Thanks for the invitation. It's always fun to talk about writing.
About B. Morris Allen
I grew up in a house full of books that traveled the world. Nowadays, they’re e-books, and lighter to carry, but they’re still multiplying. I've been a biochemist, an activist, and a lawyer, and now work as a foreign aid consultant. When I'm not roaming foreign countries fighting corruption, I'm on the Oregon coast, chatting with seals. In the occasional free moment, I work on my own speculative stories of love and disaster.