Inside the Literary Mind of Shayla Morgansen
February 15, 2017
Writing is a joy but it’s solitary and quiet. Publishing a book is noisy, busy, social, hard work.
Shayla Morgansen divides her time between her lives as a writer, school teacher and university student, essentially anywhere her enthusiasm for language can be put to good use. She has a background in dramatic arts and New Age, both of which influence her writing choices.
At this point she is writing predominately fantasy, but has a strong lean towards sci-fi as well. Shayla resides in Brisbane, Australia with her very patient fiancé and a bookshelf packed full of books she never seems to find enough time to read.
Today I am interviewing Shayla Morgansen, and as one reviewer said of her work: The author really has a gift with words – I felt like I was watching every scene in the book unfold in person.
Question: Tell me about your newest book and what was the inspiration behind your writing it?
Shayla: The latest book in The Elm Stone Saga is Unbidden, and I am so excited for it to finally be out there in the world for readers! Originally I started writing this series because I had nothing left in my genre to read – now I’m inspired to write it because the characters have come alive for me, and now for many others who have read the first two books. We all want to know what happens so I’m motivated to keep writing and find out!
Question: Why and when did you decide to become a writer?
Shayla: I never really decided. I always wrote – right back to my earliest school days – and it was at about age ten that my teacher commented, “I think you’ll be an author one day.” That confidence in my talent sparked the determination to see my books in print.
Question: What book has been the greatest influence on you and your writing and why?
Shayla: There have been so many, and for so many different reasons. Harry Potter was the love of my life growing up, and when it drew to a close I found myself lost. It was a hard gap to fill. I guess I started writing this book, not to replace it or to do my own rendition, but because Harry Potter left a gap in the fantasy market, and I felt I had nothing to read. I was too old for the paranormal romance that flooded the young adult market after that, but I wasn’t interested in the slower, epic, classic style of adult fantasy fiction that will always endure. I wanted something to read that was fast-paced, with young characters, but I wanted wit and complex subplots. So, I wrote what I wanted to read.
Question: Where do you find ideas for your books?
Shayla: All sorts of places. Other media, often. I will watch a movie, for instance Pride and Prejudice, and enjoy a particular scene, for instance the argument in the rain, and think, I want to write something that conveys that sort of intense emotion and conflict. I want to write two characters who are drawn to each other but rub each other the wrong way at times, giving us these explosive scenes. Then I create the world those characters will inhabit. I build this from what I know, extrapolating generously. I worked in a New Age store and took aura photos with Kirlian photography – I wrote a magical world where my characters could see auras with their naked eyes.
Question: Where do you find ideas for your characters?
Shayla: I think the characters find me, to be honest. I try not to base them off people I really know. I don’t even like to use the names of people I know in real life, because I feel like names are really personal. I went looking for names in a baby names book for this series to find unique monikers.
So, I name them, and I might have a vague idea of what I want them to be like, but generally, with enough page time, these characters come alive and take on a persona far from my control. Aristea, my lead heroine, is not who I thought she was going to be when I envisioned a shy, scruffy, childlike girl for my first book. By the time I went to print she was a witty, observant young lady with a distinct attitude behind her tidy appearance, and the further along I get with the series, the more opinionated she’s becoming! But I like that because she’s taking control of her destiny and her identity, and growing into a bad-ass.
Question: How would you describe your writing style?
Shayla: Smooth, visual and introspective? I don’t know – I like to experiment, but this series has definitely developed a consistent flavour. I structured it so I could get maximum enjoyment from writing it, and in the end it was also the best way to tell the story.
The majority of the book is told in first person by Aristea, and we get a lot of her inner monologue, but she’s young and ignorant to the reasons behind a lot of what goes on in her world. Every third chapter draws back into the third person perspective of one of the older characters, experienced sorcerers with unique backgrounds and motives, and this gives us a worldlier view on what’s happening in the narrative. I like that we get to know a very wide and diverse cast over the series.
Question: What do you consider the most difficult part of writing a book?
Shayla: All the parts of writing a book that are not writing a book! Networking, design planning, marketing, cold-calling, budgets, contracts, scheduling, approving, editing… Turns out, writing a book is only very small percentage of the job if you want to be able to say “I’m an author.” Writing is a joy but it’s solitary and quiet. Publishing a book is noisy, busy, social, hard work. It is very, very different, but when you work this hard on something you love, every little reward is treasure.
Another difficulty that is perhaps a bit unique to me is that I am in Australia, where the publishing industry is small and secular. The geographical isolation also means it can be difficult for me to get my work noticed on an international scale. The internet and social media helps to break down those barriers – it’s a tool you can’t ignore as an author these days.
Question: What are your current projects?
Shayla: Planning out Book 4 is at the top of my priority list, along with some smaller pieces of writing for some magazines and online platforms. I’ve just started a blog, Six impossible things before breakfast, at shaylamorgansen.blogspot.com.au, and I’m part of a publishing collective with my university, where I assist in publishing crowdfunded indie books. I also have a big pile of unread books to get through, and reviews to write for each of them. Feedback is the best thing you can give to an author, so I make a point of reviewing every book I read.