I wasn’t familiar with Lorin Morgan-Richards until he sent me an email asking if I’d be interested in reviewing one of his books. I always like hearing from authors, so he sent me his latest, The Dreaded Summons and Other Misplaced Bills, and agreed with me that an interview would be a more interesting article than a book review. I enjoyed reading his rather unusual tales, particularly the title story (in which an introvert befriends a lost manatee, to the benefit of both parties), and, as promised, had many questions, which he was kind enough to answer via a series of emails. Here’s what he had to say.
The NewsWhistle Q&A with Lorin Morgan-Richards
Date: November 16, 2017
Occupation: author and illustrator
Hometown: Beebetown, Ohio
Current town: Los Angeles, California
Besides writing and illustrating children’s literature, you have been involved in founding a Welsh festival, in theater and dance production, publishing journals, creating a documentary film series…what, if anything, ties all of your disparate work together? Is there a common thread there?
Interesting question. There is the art of storytelling in each. Also the ability to gain experience by doing. But likewise, it came from having a need and the tools to perform it at a specific time for a particular interest. A common thread may be in what society considers the norm. I believe it can take just one person to shift the thoughts of the majority.
Do you have future plans in the world of festivals, film, theater production, etc., again, or is your focus now solely on fiction?
I’ve met great people through working with the various communities, and there are a lot of positives with promoting cultures. However, I’ve heard I can be a little challenging to work with as I can get tunnel vision, and if someone is not on schedule or unable to do their share, I feel a need to take on their tasks to fulfill the project. This approach is both dangerous to my finances and takes up a lot of time away from my passions, and tends to leave me stressed out. On top of this, when my daughter was born I felt I could only stretch myself so far. Writing and illustrating are manageable for me as I work in and around her schedule. I create when my daughter has activities like horseback riding, and I spend time working on these projects during my breaks at the Getty and routinely before bed. That said, I do envision having my stories played out on stage, and I have plans for a small festival in 2018 promoting my books called “The Goodbye Family’s Weird West Bonanza.”
Who is your ideal reader, or your ideal audience?
Depends on the story, but I believe many of them fall into the Young Adult category for their themes and sometimes dark satirical elements. But I think any age can get something out of them. Regarding my book The Dreaded Summons and Other Misplaced Bills, a five-year-old might have their parents read “Tina Teatree and her Picky Habits” and laugh at the funny wordplay and bizarre nature of Tina, her cat, and her parents’ distraction with technology. While a reader that is slightly older may see the humor in the context of life and may begin to empathize with the characters more. Adults hopefully have fun with the story but also may see the message behind it and possibly its more profound meaning of compulsive behavior and its consequences.
You seem to have been influenced by Edward Gorey, Roald Dahl, and Lewis Carroll, to name a few. What other authors or artists do you take inspiration from?
I had to ask those closest to me about this question, and the answer was unanimously L. Frank Baum. I find this to be an honest sentiment. I am hopeful I can live long enough to produce a quality series as he did with the Oz books. In 2010, I took a manuscript of my first novel Me’ma and the Great Mountain and kneeled before the site of his former Ozcot home in Hollywood (1749 North Cherokee Avenue). It is now an apartment complex with little recognition, outside of a possible garden inside that could have plants he originally grew and a playground across the street. I kneeled and paid my respects. It was also important to me as the protagonist is an Indigenous character and Baum’s early newspaper posts were slanted against Native Americans. It was a way for me to say at the time, I am writing this one also for you, for your mistakes against humanity, which I believe he would have acknowledged as his family did years later. One of my favorite places to stay is Hotel del Coronado, one of the last Victorian seaside resorts in the US, where Baum wrote several of his books including Emerald City of Oz , and from which the book’s cover of the Emerald City has a likeness to the hotel. I often stay in its smaller turret room looking out of one of its windows where I write and illustrate. This turret room is the highest guest room in the hotel and should not be confused with the larger turret that is said to be used for storage. I always feel inspired here, and you can see I pay homage to the hotel on the cover of my poetry book Dark Letter Days. If you ever should go, you must peek inside the dining hall where above you will see old crown chandeliers that Baum designed.
That said, I’ve learned is that no one is perfect, and inspiration must ultimately come from the filters in oneself.
I have been there, it’s an absolutely lovely hotel. I didn’t know about the chandeliers, though! You seem to have, as a theme in some of your stories, a bit of a distrust of technology, or at least a healthy fear and skepticism towards it. Is my impression accurate?
I do worry where we are headed in society, as living in a city I am reminded of the pollution and traffic we have caused and how in the future will soon see much of the same in the sky. Some would say it’s already bad. But where would a person go for peace if they cannot tune out and look up at the clouds without seeing thousands of flying vehicles? The generations ahead will probably rely on some mind-numbing virtual goggles. Are we heading towards our sci-fi nightmare physically and mentally forgoing our human emotions for wires and circuits? I hope not. In my book, The Goodbye Family Unveiled, I created a cartoon where a couple looks on at a friendly robot and a technologically busy
child and states: “Old robots are becoming more human and young humans are becoming more like robots.”
What has been the critical reception to your fiction? Is it finding an audience? Do teachers and parents recommend it? How about kids?
It is growing by leaps and bounds. I am discovering new ways of promoting my work, getting my books into libraries and stores across the US and offering my stories in several mediums including e-books and audiobooks. It’s huge progress since I started in 2009, when I used to sew and bind all my books by hand. These are real collectible now. In the early days, I produced almost 2,000 books this way, with each taking roughly an hour. Now I focus my time on content and produce daily comics (some of which are featured on steamkat.com) and have been compared by readers to people like Shel Silverstein and Hans Christian Anderson, which is a big honor.
Do you have a new book in mind, or in the works now? And if money were no object at all, what would you be working on?
I am working on a second illustrated novel called The Goodbye Family due out in late summer. This is a sequel to Me’ma and the Great Mountain but is many more times a Weird Western macabre comedy featuring a family of undertakers and their journey underground and the creatures they meet. Otis and Pyridine Goodbye run a funeral home in the town of Nicklesworth and are introduced in chapter two along with their daughter:
Mr. Otis Goodbye took special care of driving the town’s hearse. His job was routinely inspecting his clients for stress, and procuring them from their original habitat to their final destination. His daughter, Orphie, liked to ride on the roof of the carriage, near her father, while his wife, Pyridine stayed in the back keeping the casket and tools stable.
The Goodbye Family lived in a community called Slug. It was named for Abraham Slug who emigrated from a place called Hole with his family on the merchant ship Sea Slug. Mr. Slug was contracted to build the nearby town of Nicklesworth by the ruthless tycoon Baron Von Nickle and only given a few leaves to which he did not *lichen*. Mr. Slug is also responsible for the Slime Trail that leads into town.
I am also working on a short film about the Goodbye Family using a technique of animating cardboard cutouts. An example of this can be found on my Instagram feed as Orphie Goodbye, walking and chatting about her town. This idea I credit to my friend and audiobook narrator Jason Shepherd, who introduced me to Ivor the Engine, an old Welsh children’s show.
Now the question of money. Money has never been a stopping point for me creatively. I will always find a way to do something, with or without it. But apparently the more money a person has, the more potential a project can grow in a quicker amount of time. You can hire people, put friends to work and so forth. But without it, you just have to work harder and smarter to catch up with those that do.
Besides your own, what’s a book everyone should read?
I enjoy the imagery of westerns. I am a member of Western Writers of America and the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators. I still am wondering what they think of me and my Weird Western ways, but I believe there are many tales yet to be told within the western genre from new perspectives. We have to shake things up and look at new approaches. I fall into the category of Weird West, but I think it may be more of a “Down West” as I’d like to call it, for its sense of macabre western humor. As far as whom to read in fiction, I’m not certain I can help, as I spend most of my time reading works of history and reference materials to hone my craft. Anyone care to read a Sears, Roebuck and Company catalog from 1888?
Is there a movie you’d recommend?
I suggest skipping the movie and read its book, or better yet, write the book that becomes the movie.
If you could go back in time and do one thing over, what would it be?
I believe everything I have done was to gain an experience, whether it was good or bad, I learned something from it. In my latest book The Dreaded Summons and Other Misplaced Bills, character J.J. Whitweather wishes she could redo her day when a small kernel of popcorn lodges into her throat, causing an awkward cough and throwing her whole regimented life into complete chaos.
What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve been given?
Charles Baudelaire once wrote, “Strangeness is a necessary ingredient in beauty.” It’s important to be true to yourself no matter how different it may be in society’s eyes.
What’s something most people don’t know about you?
Many years ago I visited a medium in Cassadaga, Florida who said in a past life I was a horse thief who was hung for his crime. I don’t know how true this is, but oddly, I have had neck issues ever since I was a child. My character Hollis Sorrow from Me’ma and the Great Mountain carries a noose around his neck and has a terrible time keeping his head upright. Hollis was developed from my personality.
What’s your strangest phobia or superstition?
That’s difficult to say, what I perceive as normal may be strange to others. I’ve had several paranormal encounters.
Last, but not least, is there anything you’d like to pitch, promote, or discuss?
Yes! I can be found at the following: Official Home of Lorin Morgan-Richards.
Also be sure to check out my daily comics.
ABOUT LAURA LaVELLE
Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.
Laura can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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