Monday, October 21, 2013

Interview: Morgan C. Talbot, author of "Nine Feet Under"

Today we're pleased to feature our KBoards interview with Morgan C. Talbot, author of the newly-released novel Nine Feet Under.

The novel is the third in the delightful Caching Out series. In these cozy mysteries, Margarita uses her puzzle-solving abilities to sort through mysterious crimes, along with her quirky Australian pal, Bindi.

In Nine Feet Under, the two embark on a one-day geocaching blitz, only to be interrupted by the sight of an apparent attack. Their sleuthing leads them through a series of fascinating clues, and the re-emergence of one of Bindi's old beaus. To that mix, add his intriguing brother, and a crusty local sheriff, and soon you're transfixed in a web of pursuit, passion and peril. It all leads to a thrilling - and satisfying - conclusion that will have you flipping back through the pages for all the clues you've missed.

With tens of thousands of copies downloaded, the Caching Out series is becoming utterly unmissable for lovers of cozy mysteries. Nine Feet Under is a worthy addition to the series, and to your (digital or paper) bookshelf.

The blog tour for Nine Feet Under is wrapping up soon! Enter for prizes with the form at the bottom of this post.

Now, on to our conversation with Morgan!

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

Nine Feet Under mixes love, betrayal, independence, lost treasure, and the downside of freedom in a melting pot of murder, mayhem, and the pursuit of geocaching.

We love how you've worked the activity of geocaching into each book in this series. It puts your characters into a variety of interesting settings, where they're on their own in the midst of their sleuthwork. What was your inspiration for using geocaching in these stories?

I’ve been a geocacher for many years. Searching for hidden objects concealed in ordinary locations is exciting and rewarding. I feel kind of like a spy or a treasure hunter, or like Nic Cage’s character from the National Treasure movies. “Hidden in plain sight” is at the very heart of geocaching. In mystery fiction, many things can be hidden in plain sight—things like evil deeds and dangerous characters. Geocaching lends itself very easily to such clandestine genre elements. And with the flexibility of location, lent by a global satellite network, both geocaches and events that involve geocachers can happen at any place on the planet. As a curious, adventurous person, I can’t help but feel like any geocaching mystery book practically writes itself.

The novel - and the entire series - is being praised by reviewers for the appealing characters of Margarita and Bindi. Have you encountered any surprises from your characters as they've evolved through the novels in the series?

I didn’t intend for Bindi to kiss so many guys when I first created her. That was something she insisted on, and once she made her argument for it, I couldn’t help but agree. Bindi’s a bit broken, but on some level, she’s still a hopeless romantic. It’s her escape from reality, in a way, and it can often lead her down roads she really shouldn’t take. She’d get into a lot more trouble if it weren’t for Margarita.

In Nine Feet Under we get to meet some intriguing new characters, including the Chandler brothers and Sheriff Lopez. What inspired those new additions?

Lopez was a reversal from the law enforcement officers in my previous books. Those men had been easy to read, off-balance, with their emotions splashed all over their sleeves. I wanted to give Bindi a challenge that her Nose couldn’t help her with: a man she can’t read. The Chandler brothers came in two parts. First, I knew I wanted to bring Garrick back for this book, so I spent some time figuring out what kind of person he’d be, and what that would mean for Bindi. Then I realized I needed someone to both balance and off-balance him: Shannon. Together, the two brothers are a delightfully frustrating wrench in Bindi’s and Margarita’s plans.

Readers are enjoying the meticulous plotline in Nine Feet Under. How do you go about crafting your mystery plots?

I create my setting, then I start with the crime and work backward. Sleuths are always playing catch-up, so the beginning of the book is ripe for studding with foreshadowing and clues the readers will only recognize in retrospect. Early clues are one of my favorite parts of writing mysteries. But by the end of the book, I need to have a fairly strict chronology for actions and reveals. My books often cover just a few days, and Nine Feet Under takes place during just one very long day. I had to make sure that my timing was logical and reasonable when planning out my characters’ actions.

Do you find there are special challenges in writing a book that is part of a series?

Not really. I love the fact that I’ve already spent so much time with my main characters. They come easily to mind, and planning character-driven moments in the book is much easier now than it was with the first book. My side characters and my settings always change from book to book, but I embrace that worldbuilding with eagerness. I move the setting for every book because I want to play around with new things and people. In my mind, that keeps each book fresh and exciting to write.

What was the first book you had published? Has your approach as an author changed since that time?

My first published book was an epic fantasy novel in 2010, under a different pen name. It was picked up by a startup small press, but things went pear-shaped the first month my book was published. We parted ways with alacrity, and I stepped into self-publishing. For the next two years, I kind of felt trapped as an indie—wanting to find another publishing home but unwilling to trust someone who knew less about English than I did, and unable to find someone who knew more. Via a convoluted series of events that began with a KBoards thread and took several months to reach fruition, I found Red Adept Publishing. I inhale everything my editors tell me. Writing skills are like crack to me, and these guys are my fix. Nothing is more important to me than learning how better to tell my stories. For that, I happily embrace my editing team and their collective experience.

The covers for the Caching Out series are wonderful. Can you describe how those covers came to be?

Magic.

Seriously, I don’t know how they do it over at Streetlight Graphics, so I assume it has something to do with magic. I love the puzzle-piece theme on my book covers, and the jewel tones are just eye-poppingly delicious. They’re cute and fun, but there’s always a hint of danger in there somewhere. Just like my books.

We know from this series, and your other writings, that you produce an astounding amount of writing output. What's your secret to being so prolific? Does it get easier over time?

I experience something called hyperfocus, which is a fancy way of saying obsession. I get lost for hours, days, even weeks at a time in the minutiae of planning a book, with everything from character quirks to local flora. When it’s finally time to write the rough draft, I have way more material than I’ll ever use, and it’s often hovering right behind my eyeballs. If it’s not, I’m usually so juiced on creativity that I’ll spin a whole new subplot right there at the keyboard and run with it. I like to write in a very condensed time frame, usually several thousand words a day, six days a week, until the rough draft has spun out of me. At which point I loathe it with the rank hatred of a thousand spurned lovers. But it’s always much better than I remember when I come back to edit it in a couple of months. Over the past couple of years, I’ve overlapped my projects like this throughout the year: plan, write, rest (and plan another), edit, repeat.

Unfortunately, I suffered an unexpected and emotionally traumatic medical condition over the summer that affected my mental focus and creativity. I’m working on my first new novel since that happened, and I’m going more slowly with the planning phase than usual. So far, everything seems to be in working order, but my confidence was shaken, and I think I’ll slow my writing pace for the next book or three, just to be on the safe side. It’s brought a new level of frustration, but I hope it will be a temporary one.

We hope so, too! What do you do for fun when you're not writing?

I read a variety of genres—one of my favorite is nonfiction, which never fails to give me some conceptual nugget to play with in a future fiction book. I’ve also started watching free movies and series on Amazon Prime: mostly Agatha Christie’s Marple and Poirot, and classic Hitchcock suspense movies. I love to see if I can figure out whodunit before they tell me.

We can't wait to see more of Margarita and Bindi. Are you planning more books for the series?

I have one more mostly complete novel drafted. I was writing it when I suffered my condition over the summer. As a result, I’m not sure if its concepts are solid. When I feel more confident in my creativity, I’ll revisit the manuscript and revise as needed. I definitely plan to work it over at some point and submit it to Red Adept for consideration. I just need to make sure I’m confident in myself and in my product first.

We look forward to that! Thank you talking with us today. And please keep on delighting us with your stories!

Thank you. I’ll certainly do my best.

Nine Feet Under is available now to download to your Kindle! And be sure to check out the Nine Feet Under blog tour celebrating the book's release - for interviews and reviews. And, there are just a few hours left to enter to win SWAG from the book's publisher, Red Adept Publishing.
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1 comment:

  1. Great interview! I am so jealous of Morgan's hyper writing focus. Wish I could say I had the same.

    ReplyDelete