Genevieve (G.A.) Morgan is a writer and editor living in Portland. Maine. She was born in Manhattan and attended the Spence School, a private school on the Upper East Side, where she was her senior class’s valedictorian. She graduated with a BA in English from Bowdoin College, Magna Cum Laude, and won the acting chair award for her class. After moving to California to pursue a career as an actor, she found more steady work as a copy editor at SF Magazine. She moved on and away from acting to become the managing editor at Chronicle Books in San Francisco, where among other things, she helped to launch their award-winning Giftworks division. After five years learning the trade, she left to co-found a book-packaging company that produced a variety of work, including Saints: A Visual Almanac of the Virtuous, Pure, Praiseworthy and Good and its (more dastardly) follow-up: The Devil. She has written books for Smith & Hawken, Williams-Sonoma, Starbuck’s, The Nature Company, Harper Collins, Borders Books, and Hay House publishers, and was the wellness editor for Maine magazine. Her work on health topics has appeared in The Bangor Daily News, as well as Body and Soul and Insight magazines. She co-created, produced and was the weekly co-host of The Dr. Lisa Radio Hour, a Maine Media Company production, during its inaugural year. As a volunteer, she worked for many years with kids and teens as the president of the board of The Telling Room. In addition to Undecided: Navigating Life and Learning after High School (Zest Publications/April 2014), she is the author of a YA fantasy-adventure trilogy called The Five Stones. The first volume, The Fog of Forgetting (Islandport Press), will be released in July 2014.
Morgan has lived in New York City, San Francisco, Marin County (Mill Valley); Brunswick, Freeport, Maine, and Portland, Maine. She has family in Berkeley, California; NYC, NY; Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Boston, Mass; Maine, Connecticut, and England. She studied in England her junior year at the Institute of European Studies.
She is a member of the Author’s Guild, the Maine Writer’s and Publisher’s Association (MWPA), and the advisory board for The Telling Room. She chairs the advisory board of the Thompson Family Foundation. She was the recipient of a Hewn Oaks Artistic Residency Fellowship in 2013. She is the senior editor for adult trade and gift divisions at Islandport Press in Yarmouth, Maine. When she is not writing or reading, she does a lot of yoga, walks her dog in the countryside, and practices bass guitar with her neighbor (someday they will have a band). Though she has not officially acted in years, she enjoys reading out loud to her children in different character’s voices (a joy they shout down) and pretending to speak obscure foreign languages to her dog. She lives with her husband and two teenagers in Portland, Maine.
ARTICLE BY G.A. MORGAN:
BOOKS AS GIFTS:
Today G. A. Morgan stops by LitPick to share her thoughts on books as gifts.
What makes books a great gift for Christmas, Hanukkah, birthdays, or any time?
Books are a gift that keep on giving. You read them, and depending on whether or not they have an impact on you, the story lingers and shapes your thinking—and perhaps even your direction—long after the last page is turned. If you don’t like the story, the book can be passed on to a cousin or a sister or a school, where it will wind its way into the imagination of who knows how many? Reading stories is one way that a human can become supernatural, if only for a little while. Stories will also take you places you’ve never been, and never may go except in your imagination.
What was your favorite book as a child?
When I was a little girl, I was an avid reader of fairy tales, and scared myself almost every night with some gory tale. I also loved the Little House books (who didn’t?) and they taught me a great deal about plot: have a good meal, a holiday, or a disaster in a chapter). Then I discovered The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Harriet the Spy both of which featured female heroines living in New York City, where I grew up. Those two books were my favorites for years. By the time I got into junior high school, I was back into fantasy and fairy tales, with Dune and A Wrinkle in Time.
Tell us about your books and why they would make great gifts.
The first two books in The Five Stones trilogy are a great adventure-fantasy tale for both boys and girls, ages 9-14 who enjoy rich world-building, fast-paced action, and a lot of characters. I’ve tried to tell a classic story in a modern way, just like the fairy tales and fantasies I enjoyed when I was that age, but more relevant to today. I’m hard at work finishing up the trilogy. The last book, THE KINFOLK, will be out next fall, so no one has to wait all that long for the finale. Also, these books are really pretty! They make a good gift wrapped up together.
The other book I want to mention is a non-fiction book called UNDECIDED: Navigating Life and Learning after High School, published by Zest books. This is a great guide for all you high school kids out there (or your parents) and your teachers and guidance counselors. In my experience, and in my house, and according to research, being undecided is pretty much tantamount to being human. Not many of us are 100% sure of any decision we make—70% is a good bet—but this book tries to untangle the “what should I do” decision-making process. I’m not trying to tell my readers how to live. Instead, I’m trying to give them insight into how to make the next step, then introduce them to some of the many, many options available to teens right now, including college and a tremendous variety of other experiences both locally and globally.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on books as gifts and for sharing your books with us. We appreciate all your participation in LitPick during 2015! Happy Holidays to you and your family! We’re looking forward to the release of The Kinfolk in 2016.
EXTRA CREDIT INTERVIEW WITH G.A. MORGAN:
Earning “Extra Credit” today, G.A. Morgan, author of The Five Stones trilogy, spends some time with LitPick! The first two books in The Five Stones trilogy are The Fog of Forgetting and Chantarelle. In addition to being an author, Ms. Morgan is also an editor, and spends her time in Maine.
Do you have a solid outline before writing, or do you usually get ideas as you go along?
I usually start with an outline, and then once I begin writing and the characters come alive I often have to toss the outline or rewrite it. I think having an outline is helpful in setting up goals to accomplish (ie: deadlines) and so I recommend them, but I don't worry too much when the story goes in other directions. It's a lot like life: you lay out the best plans and then as things happen, you adjust.
Has someone you knew ever appeared as a character in a book (consciously or subconsciously)?
Yes, many people have, but more often I use aspects of certain people I know and jumble them all together to make a new character. I don't think that people are all that different when you come down to it. We are all motivated by similar passions and experience loss and pain equally. As a writer, I am perpetually examining what makes people tick, which I then contemplate and refashion in my own way. As a fiction writer, the goal is to create a character so real unto themselves that the person whom you (perhaps) modeled the character after doesn't even recognize him- or herself. I hang out with a lot of writers, so now I'm wondering if I need to re-read their books to see if there is a character in there that reminds me of myself.
What do you do when you get writer's block?
Fret, lay awake at night trying to figure out what should come next, read, and then, finally, I commit to a daily practice of picking out a random word from one of the books on my shelves and writing four pages about it. The latest one was "valley."
If you could live in a book's world, which would you choose?
Well, since I created the island of Ayda, it is my favorite world, and I would gladly live there, but I'll expand the question to say a world not from my own imagination. In this case, I am torn between living at Pemberly (From Pride and Prejudice). The Big Cabin in the Woods, from Little House on the Prairie, and Narnia.
What is your favorite book-to-movie adaptation?
The Fellowship of the Ring from the LOTR series. I am a huge Tolkien fan, and I think that movie portrays the characters and their relationship to one another in a very true (to the book) way.
If you could have lunch with one other author (dead or alive!), who would it be?
Hmmm. Today? Neil Gaiman. Yesterday, it was Virginia Woolf. Who knows who it will be tomorrow?
Wild Card question:
You’ve also written the nonfiction book Undecided, a guide to the options available in life after high school. What did you want to do when you were a seventeen-year-old senior?
I wanted to be an actress, and barring that, a musician. I wrote a lot of really bad song lyrics in those days.
It has been a pleasure to spend time with you again, Ms. Morgan! Thank you for visiting with LitPick!
INTERVIEW WITH G.A. MORGAN ABOUT NEW BOOK:
This week, the second book in The Five Stones Trilogy by G.A. Morgan, is being released in bookstores near you. It’s called Chantarelle. It transports readers back into the fantasy world of Ayda, from The Fog of Forgetting.
What was it like to write this book?
Writing Chantarelle was harder than I expected, because so many people loved the first book that I worried about letting them down in the second. Also, things in Ayda have grown far worse when Chase, Evelyn, and Knox finally make it back. Dankar is winning, the Melorian forest is burning, its people are starving, and no one trusts anyone anymore. Each of the characters must dig deep to find something new in themselves that will help them survive. Luckily, their daylights have grown stronger and there are a couple of helpers that show up to assist them. The action in this book is intense. However, as the writer, it was hard to have everyone suffering so much. But that is how change happens.
Where does the name come from?
The name of the book is the name of a new character, who has a very unusual appearance and history. He is important to the story as a connection between worlds. He is also one of my personal favorites, since I have had the very real suspicion that he exists and that I have seen him here, in our world. I also like the fact that his name sounds vaguely French-Haitian, since Haiti is also important in the trilogy as the place where Evelyn and Frankie were born.
You said above that change happens during difficult times. Why?
If you read the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts and their journey to find the Golden Fleece, you’ll find a story about Medea’s Cauldron. In one scene, Medea fools the great king Pelias and his daughters into believing she can make him young again through the gruesome use of her magic cauldron. I won’t spoil the story for you (it’s a good one), but it gave rise to a proverb that has guided my hand through the writing of this trilogy: “The world can only grow new again through bitter pains.” I think this is true. People and ideas grow by experiencing times of great discomfort, and that is why it is important not to give up when things get hard. It’s also why the middle book of a trilogy is always the darkest—and why the middle of a transition feels the most difficult.
Is there any other reason Haiti is important to the story?
Yes! One of the things I love about writing a trilogy is that there are levels upon levels of story to work with. In Chantarelle, there is an underlying theme that deals with slavery and the opening up of the slave-trade routes by the early Portuguese explorers. Many Aydans are descendants of passengers from slave ships that ran astray in the fog of forgetting. Haiti happens to be the only Caribbean country to have staged a successful slave rebellion, which led to the establishment of an independent republic in 1804, after thirteen years of war. It is also the site of the wreck of the Santa Maria, Columbus’s third ship in his first journey across the Atlantic. All of these facts make Haiti a very special place in my story, as well as the sad truth that it is an island now besieged by problems. If there is any place in the world that needs the return of the Fifth Stone, it is Haiti.
Are there a lot of new characters in the second book?
Not a lot, but some. I’m excited for readers to travel into Exor in this book and get to know some of its people for the first time. It turns out that the Exorian desert is a much richer place than people might think. Readers will also see into Metria and begin to explore her largest city.
Can readers look forward to the third book soon?
The plan is for the final book in the trilogy, called The Kinfolk, to come out fall 2016. I’m in the midst of writing it, but I want it to be as good or better than anything I’ve ever written, so I am taking my time. I plan to deliver on all the promises I have made my fans, and answer all their lingering questions, as well as solve the abiding mystery of the Fifth Stone. It is very exciting to write! I’m delighted to be finishing this part of the story.
G. A. Morgan is the author of The Five Stones Trilogy, which is two books in, and the nonfiction book Undecided: Navigating Life and Learning After High School. She began writing stories when, on cold, foggy day, she told her shivering children a tale about brave kids stuck in a mysterious fog. Check out her website: http://ga-morgan.com
INTERVIEW WITH G.A. MORGAN:
Author G.A. Morgan joins LitPick for Six Minutes with an Author! G.A. is the author of The Fog of Forgetting, the first book in The Five Stones series and the nonfiction book Undecided Navigating Life and Learning After High School. Book 2 in The Five Stones series is due out in July 2015.
How did you get started writing?
I wrote in a journal for a long time, starting at about age 10, but the first real story I ever wrote that I thought was any good was for my 6th grade Latin class—and it wasn’t a story, actually. I wrote weekly scripts for a soap opera called “As Pompeii Turns.” and got my characters all the way to the eve of Mt. Vesuvius’s eruption before the year ended. My main character’s name was Portina, and she was very much in love with a gladiator named Gorgon. I thought those names sounded Italian... I think that experience started the wheels turning.
Who influenced you?
I’ve been influenced by many writers, like P.L Travers (of Mary Poppins fame), C.S. Lewis (The Narnia Chronicles), and, of course, JRR Tolkien. The book that really got me into adventure-fantasy, however, was Frank Herbert’s Dune, which coincidentally, I read the same year I wrote the soap opera mentioned above. I am still influenced by writers who write fantasy today, like David Mitchell and Ursula LeGuin. I like the freedom that fantasy gives you to address big, metaphysical topics in an exciting story that has lots of characters.
Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?
My all-time favorite book is a book called The Evidence of Things Unseen by Marianne Wiggins. One of my favorite characters is Calvin (as in Calvin and Hobbes) and the other might be Harriet from Harriet the Spy. I like how tough and vulnerable they both are at the same time. I don’t have a favorite subject or setting, but I do find the two often go together, and I like it best when they suddenly slip me into a portal and transport me somewhere else entirely.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?
I think that anytime you have the drive to do something creative, be it write, sing, act, paint, etc. you just have to practice it a lot before you become confident enough to send it out into the world. It takes a lot of guts to show people things you’ve made. And the more people you show, the more guts you need. So practice really helps. You also have to be okay at being terrible at it at first—as in mind-blowingly, neck-cringingly bad—and to keep liking it enough anyway to go back and do it again. A flower doesn’t ever know it’s going to be a flower when it’s still a seed—but at the same time, I don’t believe people are “natural” at anything. I think people make choices in how to spend their time, and if you do the same thing enough times you get better at it, and more comfortable doing it. I promise you this: if you practice writing—if you do it a lot (and reading a lot helps, too)—your little writer-seed is going to burst into a handsome, gigantic flower someday soon.
Where is your favorite place to write?
I have an office in the attic of my house that has a huge bulletin board where I pin-up pictures and quotes and the things readers have given me. I like writing there the best because it is warm, and there is always something interesting to look at if I get sick of writing (which I do). It also has a nice carpet to lie down on and take a nap.
What else would you like to tell us?
I’m excited to tell you that I JUST finished the final touches on the second book of The Five Stones trilogy...and it is so fun. I can’t wait for readers to find out what happens next for Chase, Knox, Teddy, Evelyn, and Frankie. At times, I hardly knew myself! So, for those of you who are waiting, just think summer! And for those of you who haven’t read The Fog of Forgetting, winter is a great time to curl up with a good book, and then you will be able to go right into Book 2. One thing about writing a trilogy: you get a lot of practice.