Sunday, June 10, 2012

Interview with Morgan St. James @LVWritingExamin

The Digital Ink Spot interviewed Morgan St. James, a former interior designer, Morgan spent many years designing interiors for model homes, celebrities, restaurants and offices.

Her writing career was launched when Designer’s West Magazine approached Morgan and her partner during the time they owned an interior design studio in California and asked them to write an article. Morgan discovered she loved writing. The article was so well-received, she wrote many more published “how to” articles for designers. From there, she expanded her topics to diverse subjects.

Splitting time between homes in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, she is a member of Henderson Writers Group, Las Vegas Writers Group, Public Safety Writers Group, Sisters in Crime/LA, Greater Los Angeles Writers Society.

The Digital Ink Spot: You write stories under your name and with your sister as a co-writer. How do you two divide the work?

I write the Silver Sisters Mysteries series with my sister, Phyllice Bradner. I also write novels, short stories, columns and articles on my own as well as with other co-authors. When I work with my sister, we write long distance utilizing email and the telephone. She lives in Oregon and I split time between L.A. and Las Vegas. We generally meet in person at her home or mine when we plot a book and spend a week or so filled with figuring out who does what to whom combined with a good sister visit. By the end of the week, we have plot notes and a strong sister relationship. What we develop is sort of like an outline, but not exactly the same, but we know the story, twist we’d like to add and where it is going. Then, since I’m a quick writer, I create the draft chapters and send them to her as they are ready. She is a trained editor and massages each and every word, then sends it back to me. If it’s a “wrap,” it goes into the first draft. Otherwise we go through a round of early edits.

When the first draft is finished, we meet for another week or so, print copies of the manuscript and read it out loud to each other and do another edit. We then read it through one more time and it is generally ready for the publisher at that point.

The Digital Ink Spot: Did your mother write Can We Come In and Laugh, Too? herself or did you help her?

I encouraged my mother to write it when she was 80 years old over her protests that she was not a writer. In the beginning, I wanted to be sure we had a record of all of the wonderful stories we’d heard from the time we were kids. My oldest son transferred her handwritten pages to his Mac back in 1990, but I kept the handwritten copy. He also gave me a printout. Then to my dismay, somewhere along the line I lost both and when his Mac went to the computer heaven in the sky, the digitized copy was lost as well. I searched everywhere I could think of but the file was nowhere to be found.

Mom passed away in 2006 as she approached her 97th birthday. In 2010 the file miraculously appeared, tucked away in a place I’d searched years before. It was as though she was sending a signal that she was ready to share her stories. Part I was written by Rosetta and I edited it. At least 90% of that part was written by her. Then I curated the stories for Part II from my sister, my kids and cousins and edited Part II. The result was a book that has delighted all who downloaded it or purchased the paperback. It is her gift of laughter to readers.

The Digital Ink Spot: I've read that you use family and friends as inspiration for your characters. Do they read your stories and try and guess who you have incorporated in a story?

Some do, although many of the characters are composites. My mother’s family was quite zany, as evidenced in Can We Come In And Laugh, Too? so we had a treasure trove to draw from. Then, in a few cases, like some of the stories in my short story collection The MAFIA FUNERAL and Other Short Stories, the real character is used and named. In others, like Devil’s Dance and The Devil’s Due, a pair of romantic suspense books I wrote as Arliss Adams, the character of Jen is based upon someone whose real story I knew many years ago. What happened to her gave me the idea for the first book. The second book is pure fiction. The character of Vince DeLuca was based upon a man I was very close to who passed away at an early age. The Silver Sisters mother Flossie is a composite of our own mother Rosetta and her sister Edna with a little of the Sophia irreverence from the Golden Girls thrown in. Their great uncle Sterling is inspired by our Uncle Sol. And, of course, Goldie is based upon Phyllice who did live in Juneau, Alaska for many years, owned an antique shop at one point like Goldie, and has a “salt of the earth” loving, giving personality. Godiva is my alter ego, although I’m not as selfish as Godiva, but I admit to being manipulative. I don’t have an estate in Beverly Hills but did live two houses from the Beverly Hills city limit at one time, and don’t write an advice column but people always come to me for advice.

The Digital Ink Spot: How do you gather all those tip and tricks you share on your blog and newsletter?

I’m a natural researcher and networker. I also belong to many writers groups in both L.A. and Las Vegas, plus attending lots of conferences and workshops. I hear the things people agonize about, absorb information like a sponge and put a lot of that into my articles. I also say that I’ve learned many things in the “School of Hard Knocks.” Generally when you learn by your own mistakes and those mistakes have consequences, you don’t make the same ones again. However, there are always new ones lurking in the shadows. In addition to solid advice, I try to share what I’ve learned by also including personal anecdotes and examples in both my Writers’ Tricks of the Trade book and columns in the hope of helping other writers. As a last source, when I read another writer’s article that hits home, I’ll do additional research and then write something with the further information I’ve discovered and include my own spin.

The Digital Ink Spot: What can readers expect from you in the future?

Wow. That’s a good question. There is so much always in the works. The funny crime caper I co-authored with Meredith Holland, Who’s Got the Money?, will be released by Oak Tree Press in mid July. It is a clever plot to scam the federal government out of millions. When three employees, former female executives who took jobs with the prison system selling furniture manufactured in federal prisons, discover the nefarious plot, the trio literally goes undercover like bumbling Charlie’s Angels. Lots of twists and turns and many laughs while the plot unfolds. Then in September, my creative nonfiction book, “Confessions of a Cougar,” will be released by Marina Publishing Group. The title and cover are pretty much self explanatory, so I’ll let them stir imaginations. The fourth Silver Sisters book, “Diamonds in the Dumpster,” is currently in work and we’re hoping for a late 2013 release. As if that wasn’t enough, I’m also co-authoring a book with true crime author Dennis Griffin. The story is one that is shocking, amazing and inspiring. The person behind the story endured many of the things my character in Devil’s Dance did, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Her story intrigues me beyond imagination and will be intense. In addition, I’ll continue to write articles, give workshops, talks and participate in panels. Now all I have to do is figure out how to fill the two or three minutes that might be idle each day!

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