Stygian Writings – interview with Tina Morgan (29 January 2007)

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Introduction

Much to my delight, it happened again – this interview came about because a person I previously interviewed, in this case Lee Masterson, suggested I interview Tina. I contacted her and she obliged. Personally, it has been an interesting interview as Tina’s been forthright about what constitutes a ‘difficult writer’. Without further ado, I have great pleasure in introducing Tina Morgan …


Aneeta: Tina, thank you for agreeing to this interview

Tina: Thank you for asking me.

Aneeta: Let’s start with some personal information about your. Can you please tell me where you grew up, a little about your childhood and family and where you are now?

Tina: I grew up in rural Ohio on a small farm with just about every type of animal imaginable. For several years my parents didn’t have a television and my love of reading blossomed. My parents were avid readers and they enjoyed a variety of genres so there were always a lot of books in our house. I read everything, from YA novels like Nancy Drew and the Black Stallion, to adult authors of all genres like Louis L’Amour, Victoria Holt and Earl Stanley Gardner. However, my favorites were the early science fiction writers: Andre Norton, Anne McCaffrey, James Blish, Frederick Pohl and many others.

I currently live in a rural community about 40 miles from where I grew up. Cornfields, pastures and creeks surround my house and I love it. I have three children. My oldest child is mentally handicapped with autistic traits and she has taught me so much about myself and what’s truly important in life. The other two are equally special and have enriched my life considerably.

Aneeta: I know about the history of Fiction Factor from the interview I conducted with Lee. I understand that you’re the Managing Editor of Fiction Factor. What does this job entail?

Tina: Lee has been wonderful to work with and she has given me a lot of flexibility. I contribute articles and help Lee with the submissions we receive. Website maintenance takes a great deal of time but I love working on the site, so I don’t mind. Promoting the site online and in person is another aspect of the job. Lee typically handles the newsletter but if we’re lucky enough to be online at the same time, I help with any last minute edits she might need. Unfortunately we’re rarely online at the same time as we’re on opposite sides of the globe.

Aneeta: Are you also involved in other websites and if so, which ones?

Tina: My personal website is Stygian Writings and you can find a complete listing of the books I’ve contributed to on the bibliography page: http://www.stygianwritings.com/bibliography.html.

The Fractured Publisher is a humorous fiction e-zine I manage with the help of Sheri L. McGathy. We feature short stories and flash fictions pieces that help promote the work of the authors involved. We just released our seventh issue: http://www.fracturedpublisher.com

Aneeta: I understand that you’re an editor of a publishing house. Which publishing house is this? Also, I’m sure you have your pool of stories about submission queues and slush piles. Do tell us some stories here, please.

Tina: I’m one of many editors for Dragon Moon Press (http://www.dragonmoonpress.com). Gwen Glades is the owner and senior editor and she handles the submission queues and slush piles. She’s often inundated with far more submissions that she can possibly read so she uses outside editors (like myself) to help edit the novels she’s accepted. I’m currently working on Val Griswold-Ford’s second novel, Dark Moon Seasons that is due out this spring (provided I get to work and meet my deadlines!)

Along with Sheri L. McGathy, I helped compile and edit the anthology, The Stygian Soulfor Double Dragon E-books last summer. This was a lot of fun as I was working with a great group of writers. The stories are all dark fantasy, some about redemption, others about revenge or survival.

Aneeta: As an author, I am always intrigued when editors make comments something along the lines of, “There are authors out there who are difficult”. Each time I make a submission, I’m trying so very hard to please the editors! I would like to know, what, in the eyes of an editor, makes the author comes across as being ‘difficult’.

Tina: What makes an author difficult? Hmm…there are lots of ways but the one I find most annoying is the writer who refuses to make the changes that would make the story or article shine. No matter what your level of experience or skill, every writer can use a little editing. After all, we’re all human and everyone makes mistakes and sometimes an editor can see problems we might not even realize are there. As an editor, I know that I sometimes make suggestions that an author is correct in rejecting, but this is where good communication and a desire from both author and editor to produce the best story possible is crucial.

Also, there are the authors who consistently miss their deadlines, though I’ve been fortunate with the authors I’ve worked with to date. One of the other major issues I see in Fiction Factor’s slush pile are authors who have no clue what the e-zine is about. They submit works that are totally inappropriate. We reject a lot of submissions that might have worked, if they had been spelling or grammar checked. Yes, it is the editor’s job to catch those sorts of mistakes before they go to print, but most editors don’t have time to struggle through a submission with numerous typos, spelling or grammar errors.

Aneeta: I know that you too are a writer in your own right and I get the impression that you interests lie in writing fantasy stories. Am I right? If so, please tell me a little about your writing history and how you became interested in this genre.

Tina: The seemly endless limits of science fiction and fantasy have fascinated me from the first fairy tale my mother read to me. I loved them all but I didn’t go for the standards like Cinderella or Snow White. Arabian Nights was my favorite and Andre Norton’s Dragon Magic reinforced my belief that fantasy could be set any place in the world and in any time frame. Anne McCaffrey’s Decision at Doona and The Ship Who Sang proved that a person didn’t have to be physically beautiful or even human to be worthy and loved.

My mother has the first story I ever told on a tape that she’s saved since I was four years old. (It was about an unfortunate princess.) For many years after that, I told and retold my stories in my own head but didn’t have the courage to share them until I met a good friend who shared my passion for fantasy. Ciara Grey offered the first critique I ever received and she has since become my writing partner. Without her help keeping all the details straight in our science fantasy series would be impossible. We’ve finished our first novel, Soulspelland the second, Betrayal is about half finished. Books three and four have been plotted and I’m looking forward to writing them.

Short stories have always been tough for me as I have a problem limiting my plots and characters but I’m improving and my short story, “No Time for Dragons!” will be appearing in A Firestorm of Dragons in 2008 from Dragon Moon Press.

Aneeta: As you know, this website is catered for storytellers. What advice would you give them?

Tina: Fiction is about telling a story and we should never lose sight of that. Read your work out loud. It should flow; it should have a rhythm and style that makes the listener want to hear more. Good stories (regardless of genre) have a beginning, middle and end. They have characters that capture our imagination and make us care what happens to them. They don’t have to be characters we like, we can hate them, so long as we want to keep reading to find out if they change or get theirs in the end.

Aneeta: Tina, this is all I have to ask. Is there anything you’d like to add?

Tina: It never occurred to me to write non-fiction until Lee encouraged me to give it a try. Thanks to her belief in my abilities I now have non-fiction articles over writing on many different websites. I’ve contributed to 4 writing books. The latest, The Complete Guide to Writing Science Fiction will be out with Dragon Moon Press this year and I’m really excited as we have some big names contributing to the book: Orson Scott Card and Piers Anthony.

The last bit of advice I’d like to leave your readers with is study the publishing industry. There are a lot of sharks in the publishing waters that will take the neophyte writer’s money and leave them with broken dreams. Learn what an agent is, what they’re supposed to do and why you shouldn’t pay them any money up front. Besides Fiction Factor’s Writer’s Alerts section, there is also Victoria Strauss’s Writer Beware and Preditors and Editors http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/ to help you achieve your dreams instead of becoming a victim.

Aneeta: Tina, thank you.

Tina: Thank you, Aneeta for giving me the opportunity to talk about my favorite passion, writing.


This piece may NOT be freely reprinted. Please contact editor @ howtotellagreatstory.com for reprint rights.

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