Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Interview with Morgan C. Talbot, author of First to Find

Today we're pleased to feature our KindleBoards interview with Morgan C. Talbot, author of the newly-released novel First to Find!

We enjoyed our advance review copy of this mystery/thriller! We're pleased to be part of the First to Find blog tour, which kicks off today.

Check the blog tour page for upcoming interviews and reviews of the book - as well as a contest to win Amazon gift certificates and First to Find items!

We've made it easy for you to enter the contest - see the entry form below, at the end of our interview.

Now, on to our conversation with Morgan!

Morgan, congratulations on your new novel. In a few words, how would you describe your book to someone who hasn't heard about it?

First to Find features a pair of small-town sleuths who take on a little murder and theft while juggling real life, relationships, and finding geocaches.

The novel is deeply centered around the activity of geocaching, with its associated strategies, gear, and lingo. Is geocaching a passion of yours, or was this the result of research for the book?

Geocaching is definitely a passion of mine. I’ve been caching for nine years. The activity is versatile enough to let most anyone geocache at their own pace. Whether you’re into finding quick urban caches mere steps from parking spots, hiking for hours along scenic vistas to claim your find, or grinding your brain gears over challenging puzzles just to discover the correct coordinates, geocaching can accommodate your style. And geocachers are a clever bunch. You can’t go wrong hanging with a group of people that devises all manner of puzzles and tricky containers.

What inspired the Willamette Valley location for the book? We love that part of Oregon!

So do I! My family moved to the Willamette Valley when I was three, and it was my home until I went to college. I love the smell it has, that deep, rich, damp greenness that overwhelms you with life. Every place I go gets compared to the Valley, and everything falls short in some way—except possibly Yellowstone, the superhero of valleys.

Margarita's memories of Jake's death, and her emotional conversation with Graham's widow, Ruby, seem to come together to cement her resolve to find Graham's killer. Can you comment on that aspect of the story?

Every hero(ine) needs proper motivation. I enjoy stories where the protagonist is reluctant to get involved, but is later convinced that it’s necessary. Ruby’s loss, her anger and bewilderment and pain, are all too familiar to Margarita, and being the empathetic character that she is, Margarita steps up. She knows exactly what it’s like to live without a clear resolution, without closure, and seeing Ruby going through the same kind of loss as she has experienced drives Margarita to save Ruby from a similar fate.

The pacing of the story is impressive: the intriguing build-up and character development, the exciting climax, and some delightful closing resolutions. Can you comment on how as an author you approached the arc and pace of the story?

I wanted a relatively fast pace for this story, so I kept packing in the surprises and discoveries and chance encounters until my main characters seemed to be bouncing from one shock to another, only to pull ahead at the last moment and land on their feet, as heroes are wont to do. (When Margarita and Bindi read the final script and saw the amount of chaos they’d have to endure, they were both a little cross with me, but I promised them a sequel, and we’re all good now.)

Originally, I intended only one murder, but I soon realized that wasn’t enough for either me or my villain, so more death was required. I spaced the villain’s handiwork throughout the plot, then worked the lighter story elements around them. In the end, I had a milk chocolate waterfall: never too slow, never too dark. And oh so yummy. (It’s possible I’m answering this question on an empty stomach.)

Being careful to avoid spoilers, the use of jujitsu in the story is interesting. Is that a personal passion of yours, or is it based on your writing research?

I began studying jujitsu in college, where I helped teach the lower ranks’ classes and earned the rank of shodan (first degree black belt). One of my biggest passions and concerns was teaching young women how to defend themselves (college campuses tend to focus the mind on such topics). Society teaches women that we’re only attractive and desirable if we are submissive and agreeable and don’t make waves. But “Well, if you think that’s best” just won’t do when someone’s dragging you into a dark alley. It’s okay to release your inner berserker on someone when you have no other options of escape or avoidance.

Once upon a time, I hoped to open my own dojo. That didn’t come to fruition, so instead, I gave it to Margarita, and she teaches the classes I feel are most important. I gave her a range of personalities among her students, as well, because every woman is different, even among those who sign up for martial arts classes. Some are still terrified they’ll be seen as grotesque, while others embrace their permission to attack with a little too much enthusiasm. A little knowledge is indeed a dangerous thing, but with time and experience, we all mellow and learn to accept who we are and what we’re capable of.

How long did it take you to write the novel? Can you give us some insights into your approach?

I’m a competitive person by nature, even when I’m writing. I participate in NaNoWriMo, which takes place in November, and now they have Camp NaNo during the summer. I plan my plots out ahead of time, using the Snowflake method, and then I write like crazy during a NaNo month, challenging myself to stay in the top three word count totals of all my writing buddies who are also cranking out their novels. Works like a charm!

The trouble is, I wrote First to Find in May of 2010, before Camp NaNo was created, so I had no one to race. It took me a whole twenty-five days to write what was, at the time, a 50,000-word rough draft. I’ve written more than twice that in less time, so this was by far the slowest novel I’ve ever written using this method. That experience has convinced me to plan my entire year around the NaNo events. It’s like that story of the man who’s trying to fill his jar with big rocks, gravel, and sand: if you don’t put the big things in first, they’ll never fit.

What advice would you give other writers or would-be writers?

I give advice like I transmit Ebola, and I don’t have Ebola. Whew! But I can mention what has worked for me (as long as you keep in mind, guys, that literally every author on the planet will have a different progress bar to fill).
•    When I was just starting out, I studied critiques of my works, and I gave critiques to other amateur authors. I learned how to spot what didn’t feel right, and how to describe it, while not offending the writer—authors need social skills too.
•    I write a lot. I have several projects in several stages of production at any given moment (and more trying to weasel their way onto the short list all the time). I’m constantly thinking up a new detail for this or that plot line, and I have pads of paper and notebooks everywhere. I’m never without pen and paper, because I never want to lose that next little awesome idea. The files on my computer keep them all in the right places for me when it’s time to start prepping or editing.
•    I try to incorporate any new tips or corrections from my last edited book into my next rough draft. The more I can internalize about how to make my writing style the best it can be, the less time I’ll spend in edits, and the sooner I can get the next infernal story out of my skull and onto the page. Yes, too many stories can be, as Adrian Monk says, “A blessing…and a curse.”

What are some of your reading interests? What book are you reading right now?

My Big Four are fantasy, sci fi, mystery, and historical fiction. I’ll read most anything, but these are the four genres I really enjoy. Give me a book that combines any two of them, and I will forget to eat anything at all until I’ve read it straight through.

I’m actually between books right now. I just finished Terry Pratchett’s Dodger. It was so good, I think I lost a couple of pounds that day.

Okay, let's get a bit more personal. Tell us five random things about you!

•    I have time-space synesthesia. I always have perfect timing. That makes me a Time Lord, haha.
•    I collect small exotic containers.
•    My eyes changed color from brown to green when I was fifteen. I like to think that I wished them that way. Now if only my hair would give in and go red.
•    My bucket list is crowded with geological features scattered around the globe.
•    At one point in my life, I had the entire script from The Princess Bride memorized. Now, it’s only mostly memorized. (Kudos to you if you read my paraphrase in Miracle Max’s voice.)

So, when can we expect your next book!? Is a sequel in the works?

There is: Death Will Attend. It’s coming out in February 2013. In it, Margarita and Bindi will face another series of mishaps, murders, and mayhem. Valentine’s Day will never be the same again!

Morgan, thanks for talking with us. We're pleased to feature your book on KindleBoards!

Thanks so much! You know, no one has claimed the cacher name “Kindleboarder” yet on geocaching.com. There’s still time! ;)

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Morgan's book is available now on Amazon!


  1. Thank you so much for this terrific, engaging interview! I appreciate the time and attention given to me and my book.

    1. We enjoyed it, Morgan... and really loved your book!

  2. I learned a lot more about geocaching.