After being announced the winner of the Read Me, Love Me, Share Me‘s Find the Unexpected photo competition, as chosen by Morgan Matson herself, I was given the opportunity to interview this phenomenal bestselling author!
I’ve loved all of Morgan’s novels and I was beyond thrilled that I would be able to learn all of her darkest secrets in this rare opportunity. So without further ado, I bring to you…
An Interview with Morgan Matson
“It’s all going to be okay. You know, eventually.”
Hi Morgan, it’s lovely to e-meet you! Thank you so much for taking the time to have a little chat with me. I’m a massive fan of all your novels and I can’t wait to hear about what you’re currently conjuring up.
Today I’d love to ask you a few questions about being an author, your writing process and a few bookish confessions. I’m really looking forward to seeing what some of your answers are!
Let’s start with an easy one…
Could you please give us a synopsis of your latest novel, The Unexpected Everything, purely in emojis?
I love that! I’m sure even those who haven’t read The Unexpected Everything yet would be able to guess what it’s about! And those puppy emojis are adorable.
On being an author:
I feel like there’s definitely a lot of connotations attached to the word ‘author’ and ‘writer’. As a teenager who loves to write, I find it difficult to say to people that I’m a writer or that I want to be an author. To me, these two words mean very different things and sometimes I find that people expect writers to act a certain way or reduce them to specific stereotypes. Before publishing your first novel, did you ever find it difficult to articulate to people that you’re a writer / author? What were the common responses you heard after that? Do the words ‘author’ and ‘writer’ mean different things to you?
That’s such a great question! I don’t think the two words mean anything different to me now, but before I’d published my first book, I didn’t tell people that I was an author. I was working in publishing at the time, so I’d usually just say I was an editor (which I was). If the conversation went on, though, I’d usually say that I was trying to be a writer, but it definitely was a process to begin to own that word.
I do remember the first time I had to put it on my customs form when traveling after I was published – I put “novelist” on the line for profession and just remember that being a really nice moment.
I can’t imagine how proud you must have been to declare in writing that you’re a novelist. But with that, I suppose there would have also been some moments of self-doubt. How do you deal with those moments, and when do they most often occur? Is it more likely to happen during the writing stage, or the editing stage, or when talking with publishers? Or do they happen late at night when you’re trying to fall asleep but are plagued by gnawing thoughts?
I feel like I will have the most questions when I’m halfway through the first draft. There’s always that slog in the middle where I start questioning everything, including if the book will ever get finished. This usually doesn’t last too long, though, which is good – otherwise I’d abandon every novel in the middle!
And there’s usually a moment when I’m waiting for the first few reader responses to come in where I’m just hoping the fans will like it. Those are the two tensest moments for me!
Yes, thank goodness you overcome those brief moments, because otherwise we’d never be able to read and fall in love with your books! Speaking of first drafts, why do you like writing in the genre that you do? Do you like the label ‘contemporary’, and what does that word mean to you? Do you think that you’ll ever write for different genres? What’s one genre you’re sure you’ll never write in?
I love writing contemporary! It’s what I’ve always gravitated toward, for whatever reason. I like the word! I think it sums up the genre and the books I write nicely. For me, a contemporary novel basically means anything that doesn’t have a sci-fi or fantastical element, so it’s a huge tent to be under. In The Unexpected Everything, I got to dabble a very little bit in fantasy (there are quotes from a fantasy novel that pop up in the text) and I had a LOT of fun playing around with that. I have no plans to write outside of contemporary at the moment, but I’m always open to anything! If the right idea came along, I certainly wouldn’t say no!
That’s definitely true! I feel like a lot of books can fall under the heading of ‘contemporary’, whereas sci-fi or fantasy must have certain elements to be classified in that way. And yes! It was really interesting to see you dabble with a bit of fantasy in The Unexpected Everything!
On the writing process:
What kind of environment do you find it easiest to write in, and when during the day do you like to write?
I used to write at night, but I’m doing that less and less recently. Maybe it’s knowing that my dog is going to be up in the morning wanting a walk! 🙂 The best for me is usually starting around 11 and working – with breaks for lunch and dog walking – until around 6. And then sometimes I’ll work again, if I’m on deadline, from around 8 or 9 until 12. Then I head to bed or watch TV!
I don’t really write very much in coffeeshops – I find them distracting. I rent a writing office with several other writers, and I also write in my office at home, especially when a deadline is looming.
Dog-walking always takes priority, right? 🙂 And I love the idea of having a writing office, especially one that other writers work in too! Onto the next question: Do you think the people you know influence the characters you write about? Have you ever consciously chosen to create a character based on someone you know? Or have you ever been writing and then realise that a character has become really similar to someone you know, without realising it?
It’s a little bit of both! Sloane, in Since You’ve Been Gone, was very much inspired by my friend Amalia (only the good qualities; none of the bad ones!). Usually I don’t consciously base characters on people I know; it’s generally only after the fact that I’ll realize that I gave a quirk or a quality to a character without realizing it at the time.
I’m sure Amalia would have been flattered! How long does it generally take to write the first draft of a novel? Do you prefer the writing process or the editing process?
It really depends on the book! I wrote the first draft of Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour in six weeks. My most recent book’s first draft has taken seven months. So there are a lot of factors at play! I would say my average for a first draft is around four or five months. And I really enjoy both – I love the freedom of a first draft, where you can just throw everything in and not really worry about what’s working. And then I love taking a step back from that first messy draft and figuring out how to make it stronger and sharper and better. But the grass is always greener – when I’m drafting, I’m wishing the book was just done and could be making the book better. And then when I’m revising, I miss the freedom of drafting!
What frustrates you most about the publishing industry?
I wish things moved faster sometimes! There’s a long gap between finishing the revising of the book and the book going into bookstores – sometimes I wish it happened sooner! Sometimes when I go out to talk about a book, it feels very far away – since I finished writing it months earlier and am usually in the midst of writing something else!
I definitely agree, sometimes the publishing industry moves quite slowly, which we’re all frustrated about when we’re waiting for the next book in a series to be released (especially after a cliffhanger)! Have you ever been hesitant to read a novel written by one of your friends because you’re afraid you might not enjoy it?
Ha! No – but maybe now I will be! 🙂
The thing that happens sometimes is that I will fall in love with a friend’s book and then when I hang out with them, half of me will be wanting to interrupt our hang and just fangirl at them about their book!
I can imagine that! Sounds like something I’d definitely do! But on the other end of the spectrum, if you hated a novel and were confronted by the author wanting to know what you thought, are you the type of person to lie to them and say you enjoyed it, give them a compliment sandwich (positive comment, vaguely negative comment, positive comment), or tell the the harsh, but honest, truth?
Gah! I feel like it would be devastating if a fellow author told me, to my face, that they hated my book. So I really feel like I wouldn’t be able to say that to someone else!
If there was one piece of advice you could give to your teenage self, what would it be?
I would say to just have a little more fun! It’s all going to be okay. You know, eventually.
P.S: When will you be coming to Australia?!
Looming. Believe me, I’m desperate to go to Australia!! If I’m invited, I’ll come. Maybe an Australian book tour? 🙂
That would be amazing! Hey, Simon & Schuster, you can organise that for us, right?
Morgan Matson was born in New York City and grew up there and in Greenwich, Connecticut. She attended Occidental College in Los Angeles, but halfway through a theater degree, she started working in the children’s department of Vroman’s Bookstore and fell in love with YA literature.
Following college graduation (and the proud bearer of an incredibly useful theater/English degree) she received her M.F.A. in Writing for Children from The New school and worked as an editor for YA novels. She received a second M.F.A. (for reasons that made sense at the time) in Screenwriting from the University of Southern California.
Her novels have been translated into dozens of languages, and published all over the world.
Morgan’s first novel, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, was inspired by her love of road trips, snacks, and the quest for the perfect playlist. It was named an ALA Top Ten Best Book, a Publisher’s Weekly Flying Start book, and was shortlisted for the Waterstone’s Book Prize.
Her second novel, Second Chance Summer, was inspired by her experiences spending summers in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. It was the winner of the California Book Award (YA category) and was named to the ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults List, selected for the Oklahoma Sequoya List, and selected as a School Library Journal Best Book.
Her third novel, Since You’ve Been Gone, was published in 2014, and was a Publisher’s Weekly and international bestseller. It was named to the YALSA Teens Top Ten list, and the Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award List.
Morgan’s fourth novel, The Unexpected Everything, was published on May 3rd, 2016.
She currently lives in Los Angeles with her dog, Murphy.