Karen Morral has been creative for much of her life: writing, drawing, painting, taking photographs and developing a professional career in Architecture. She revels in exploring place, and multi-sensory experiences, particularly using smell in her writing, and tactile subjects in her photography. Morral’s writing is varied, predominantly fantasy with characters thrust into high drama scenarios.
Why storytelling? What made you yearn to tell a good story, and how long was this story within you before it came out?
Why story telling? Good question. To give the ‘scary’/ weirdo answer, it was as much to get the words, images and characters out of my head as to tell a story to readers. The words would circle, distracting me, until I found a pen.
I’ve also been fascinated by place, setting, context and frequently filled notebooks with observations or descriptions of where I have been, what I have seen—or sometimes what could have happened there (wherever there may be). So the idea of taking these snippets of place forward took hold, and the stories followed. I don’t think I’ve ever had a ‘yearning’ to tell stories, just a need or more basically a function.
Worlds Apart is my first publication, a collection of short stories that I mainly wrote over a two year period several years ago (with the exception of the final story written expressly for the anthology). They were each written for competitions in a fairly short period of time—perhaps an hour or two for the story, and another couple of weeks for the editing—but I have been toying with the idea of creating an anthology for several years before I finally took the plunge this summer benefitting from redundancy time and money.
What character from your book fills you with hope?
I think Sophie from my final story, written specifically for this anthology. She goes through an extreme experience (being shot at and plunging head first into a quarry), and discovers that supposedly mystical beasts are in fact a reality.
Yet, despite this, she genuinely cares about the beasts and will defend them from her colleagues’ unfair judgments which are purely based on fear. She argues for tolerance and understanding, something that I think is perhaps lacking a little at the moment.
What character from your work frightens you, makes you feel dirty to write?
I’m not sure I’ve created one of these characters yet, perhaps this is a challenge that I need to step up to. There is one character in a bit of an epic story who is a nasty, jealous, vain piece of work, but he doesn’t feature much—mainly being more of a focus for speculation and memories—but I know that he needs more development when I return to this story.
Your main character walks into a bar. What happens?
Which one?! (Character not bar.) If Rosara walked into a bar, she would be very tense as she fought a natural claustrophobia. She would only enter with a purpose and would linger in the shadows, watching the occupants and waiting for the opportunity to complete her task. If the bar staff noticed her and asked for her order, she would speak slowly, voice gruff through lack of use and probably order a vodka.
When you are writing, tell me about the emotions that are running through you and what it takes to work alongside them.
Tough question, and one I’m not entirely sure I can answer. I can get swept up with the writing, and can share some of the experiences that my characters experience. One rather epic piece that I have set aside for the time being, I yawned when describing the characters exhaustion and I was in floods of tears at the end when one main character has to kill off the other main character.
I find myself getting tense, breathing shallowly as I write tension quite often, but at the moment I’m typing up a story I’ve already written so this is a much less involved process—I’m generally a step or two back from the drama. Not that this is always enough mind as things can change!
How do you police your production? Do you have a word quota, or a page goal, maybe you work for a set amount of time? Do you place demands on yourself when you’re working? How do you meet those demands?
I don’t tend to police myself, I just let the words come and pause to take note when they do. As a result, I can sometimes lose hours or even days, and sometimes when I am not all that productive. Writing is a hobby that I enjoy and dip into, and if I can share the words and perhaps earn a little something from them so much the better, but at the moment I don’t have a driving need to force myself.
Catching the words when they come can, of course, be mildly distracting, particularly when I’m at work or driving, so sometimes I have to hold onto them as best I can. This can mean they evolve and improve, sometimes means that I frustratingly lose them. It is at this point that I have to police myself—I endeavor to get the down as quickly as possible before returning to the task in hand.
A publishing house gets ahold of you and wants you to take over writing an established character. For instance, DC Comics calls you and tells you they want you to take over writing Batman. What is the dream? What established character would you love to write?
I have ideas and schemes for an X-Men character. Perhaps not an established one, but certainly of that story line, working with Professor X or Wolverine.
I do tend to imagine ‘what happens if’ scenarios to existing stories generally inserting extra characters to challenge the balance of the established story line.
Everyone has at least one specific challenge that holds him or her back. What is that challenge in your work and how do you overcome it?
My challenge is probably me. The amount of ideas bouncing round my head, or written down that I want to continue can be distracting. I think I have five active works in progress and many other ideas that I wish to pursue.
I’m not convinced at the moment that I do over come this challenge. I try to write the ideas and stories into story specific notebooks, which can sometimes limit me if I don’t have access to that notebook at the time I get the urge to pursue it. I’m also easily distracted by other things—fussing my house rabbits, watching a film, reading, playing my flute, dancing (note that cleaning isn’t one of them!)—but as I’m not pressed to write, I can flit without troubling myself overly… although I have a personal writing project for my brother which is over due and I’m kicking myself over that and still not focusing as I should!
I juggle my writing such that when I have completed one draft I move onto a different story, before returning back to start a second edit…if I get that that re-edit stage and I’m not distracted. In part I think knowing that I need time away, time to change my perspective but that I will return helps.
How did you find the time to write this book with your busy life? What ideas do you have on how others can make time in their lives?
Most of the short stories for Worlds Apart were written in snatched moments about several years ago, and compiled over a couple of days whilst I was out of work, so fitting writing in wasn’t particularly challenging.
Short stories are perhaps easier to do this with and may be a good way for others to start the ‘writing in my spare time’ process. I tend to waffle and make short stories into near epics (I recently edited up a 7,000 word short story into a 50,000 word novella) so, this isn’t a certainty.
Otherwise, I would suggest that a notebook and pen are always on hand for the budding writer. (A phone/ laptop with note taking facilities would also work, but I think the idea flows better somehow when you aren’t having to concentrate on finding a specific key on the touch screen keyboard.) Jot down words or names that interest you. Describe where you are if you are in a particularly interesting—or perhaps really not interesting—place. Describe someone you have seen that morning, or an interesting smell that you want to remember. There is plenty out there to inspire, it is just a case of being ready and open to it.
Beyond that, I wouldn’t worry about it. Write when you can write, when you want to write (if it is safe to do so!). Write for yourself. Don’t let others tell you what and when to write. If you are comfortable and happy with the process/ timing, then you will write better. It won’t always be easy, but you will be happier doing it.
Without giving any spoilers, what is your favorite thing about this book?
The variety. Whilst each of these stories is a fantasy, each approaches this from a different angle. Most are fairly dark, but the settings are not always. I’ve enjoyed writing about misty city streets and sunny tropical islands. I have included creatures that perhaps don’t get much attention in the mainstream fantasy world at the moment and I’ve created characters I want to know more about!
If we wanted a good story—book, show or movie—one that you didn’t write, where would you send us?
Ooooo, so many out there!
I’m a huge fan of the Supernatural US TV drama which is a fantasy gothic adventure story focusing on two brothers (Ok so they may also be a reason I’m hooked but there is a lot more than just drool hunting going on in this show). Sadly I’m way out of date, and need to work may way back up through the series, but I can watch this again and again.
For fantasy writing, I enjoy Dave Duncan (now out of print but a great weaver of tales), Kelly Armstrong, Rachel Vincent who write more contemporary gritty novels, and David Eddings and Robin Hobb (for the longer adventure.)
But Stephen Booth and Val McDermid keep me hooked for gritty crime dramas—Stephen particularly as he writes about Derbyshire which I know well.
Let’s talk about tools. Do you have a word processor that you would tell us to use? Is there a certain computer that has become your favorite? What do you look for in a keyboard? What would you absolutely have to have if you were to sit down and write your next book?
The most basic tools I have are pen and paper, and always have one with me. As mentioned I like to have story specific notebooks as I write out my first draft by hand, normally. I tend to have a character/ setting/ notes book alongside that I can reference if I need to remember a particular detail, or work out a timeline. This is often as edited as the story as writing can sometimes make me question my intention.
Technically, I work on Microsoft Word, and I’ve recently become aware of One Note, which is a great electronic note taking piece of software, but sadly one I can’t use on my MAC at the moment due to the age of my MAC and my technical incompetence/ reluctance.
If we read your work and crave more, can we find more that you have written? Will we ever see another book by you? If we fall in love with your work, how can we find you and everything you have done?
There are a couple of pieces that I am currently working on that I think are quite exciting and would like to take into publication, so yes. There is definitely more to come—hopefully one may come out in 2017, but this is not a guarantee!
There are samples and short stories of my work on my Redbubble Account which is where I first started ‘publishing’ my work and realising that people liked reading them. It is also the site which prompted me, through friendly group competitions to write some of the stories included in this anthology. Find me here: www.redbubble.com/people/kmorral
You will also find more about me and my other creative streaks through my website: kmorralfictionphotography.online and can find the latest information about my publications as well as seasonal selections and teasers for forthcoming works through my fiction page.