Hi and welcome to my stop on G J Morgan’s His American Classic blog tour!
With thanks to G J Morgan and to Kelly @ Love Books Group Tours
1: Myself and my book
Hello! My name is Gareth John Morgan, though everyone calls me Morgan. I was born in 1981 on an estate that had more children than parents. I have blue eyes and great hair. When I was two I fell down the stairs and split my lip open. I have tried being Vegan twice but failed (though I’m kinda half Vegan now). I am a qualified Chef. I also did a 2-year course in Fashion Design. I have a wife, two children and five tattoos. I am thirty-seven but can still turn heads. I love going gym but also love Nutella. I love great films and shit TV. When I was five I was circumcised. My hair is blond and I dye it blonder. I work in Finance but have never really understood how or why. I’ve never been in a fight, never had my heart broken, only had one sexual partner. I don’t actually enjoy writing, but I can’t stop doing it.
“It’s the story of Lilly. A famous young actress struggling with life in LA, decides to run away across the Atlantic to a quiet seaside town in Devon.
And then there’s Tom. A Hollywood tour guide and a young father, struggling at both. He wishes he could escape too but can’t. That is till he reluctantly becomes Paparazzi. His first job being to find Lilly.
What comes next is a summer neither Lilly or Tom will forget.
Part one is “His American Classic”. Part two is “Her American Classic.”
Its themes are the intimate relationship between celebrity and Paparazzi, old glamour meets new, and tragedy and vulnerability and the weight of expectation and love and loss and hearts breaking and hearts being fixed. I’ve essentially written a book to make girls cry and laugh and weep and sigh. Also, not intentionally but its themes are quite the hot topic right now with the Weinstein, Me too and Times up movement. As it’s all about a male dominated profession and abuse of power.
Think “Dirty Dancing” meets “The Notebook”. A bit “John Green” a bit “E Lockhart”.
The inspiration behind the current novels was in-fact Michael Jackson and a consummation actually. It’s probably best I start at the beginning (brace yourself as it isn’t short).
Me and my wife got married on 20th June 2009 and about half way through the honeymoon we found ourselves in a basic but beautiful little island on Fiji, where the bungalows overlooked the Pacific and the residents looked after the food and entertainment. One night after a standard supper of card games and sunsets we both found ourselves the next morning with dodgy tummies which we initially blamed on tinned lamb tongues and bad wine. However, whilst my discomfort lasted an hour on the toilet, my wife’s stomach ache lasted a lot longer. Later my wife returned from the bathroom and held out a pregnancy stick and a nervous smile on her face. I was going to be a father.
If I’m being honest despite being overjoyed, it kind of tarnished the rest of the honeymoon. My wife’s stomach aches and nausea did not subside and in fact worsened very quickly (we later found out she suffers from Hyperemesis Gravidarum- basically means being sick for the whole pregnancy). Being so remote and far away felt a vulnerable situation, we had no internet, no doctors and two flights across the world still to go. In truth home was the only thing on our minds and not being there felt a risk to both my wife and unborn child.
In LA, a few days before the end of our trip, despite my wife feeling awful we decided to make the best of a bad situation and went on a Hollywood celebrity tour. The tour guide was brilliant, showed us the sights you’d expect, but showed us much more, jokes and little facts that felt just for us.
But there were two things we did that day that stuck with me, the first was just a throw a comment from our guide, something about how if you hang about in the right parks or restaurants and if you do your homework you can actually meet a celebrity quite easy, get a photo, get an autograph, get to touch them even. And the second was Michael Jacksons house.
Michael Jackson died on June 25th, so when our guide took us to his mansion, it was already filled with flowers and memorials and fans paying their respects, not to mention news trucks and the media. It was chaos and it was sad and as we took photos I felt both happy to capture it (being a big fan), but angry at myself for being part of the intrusion.
Later that evening, my wife went to bed early and I wrote the prologue to “His American Classic” on hotel paper (which I still have somewhere). There was no research, not even an idea as such. Just things fizzing in my head, celebrity, fame, invasion of privacy, fatherhood, my pregnant wife. Thought it was a story worth telling, though it was a story that stayed in a pile of other stories for several years. Till a house move and a kick up the arse later I finally dug it out and gave it a go.
I suppose you could say ideas just come up based on circumstance and situation. I don’t really go looking for them and don’t freak out when they don’t.
3. Characters based on real people.
Not so much characters as such. More phrases or mannerisms or traits. For example, in my novel Tom’s mother is a combination of lots of mothers I’ve met. I pick and choose based on what works best.
Though it does mean every friend or family member thinks they are someone in my book, which most likely they are.
4. Picking names.
I choose names too quickly and probably should think them through more than I do. I tend to avoid similar sounding names, so most characters all have a different starting letter. I also stole an idea from the late and great Roald Dahl who once said that a surname can make a character. If you look at any hero and villain in his books they tend to follow a theme. For example, if you think of the baddies in any Roald Dahl novel (Miss Trunchball, Slugworth, Aunt Spiker, Mr Wormwood) they allow you to dislike them even before you’ve met them.
By giving the right surname it immediately does all the hard work for you. Hence why in my novel I have characters like Lilly Goodridge and Max Salter. I’m sure you can figure out whose good and whose bad.
5. Writing Process.
My first failed novel I did things very different. Plotted out every character, every chapter, middle and end. I assumed that was what successful authors did. But I found I spent more time plotting than writing and felt when I actually had to write it I was bored of it already and felt like writing by numbers. Now I write with a rough idea how to start it, maybe a middle If I’m lucky, no clue of the end. I would not recommend it to anyone, but it means you get to enjoy the character and story like a reader would, get excited when you get it right or cry when you decide you need to rewrite the whole of Chapter 49 and parts of Chapter 6-17 and maybe even the whole beginning.
The time I write has changed over the years, not too early as I’m sleepy and not too late as I’m tired. Or meal times as I’m hungry. I’m kinda ruled by working full time and school runs, so tends to be at the end of the day when I’m just as tired as the rest of the house.
I told myself I’d write an hour a day, no matter how bad or good the writing was. Hence why writing novels has taken me so long, I could blame everyone else, but it probably had more to do with the fact I kept changing the ending and planning front covers to a novel I hadn’t yet finished.
My Dining Room is where I actually write, more by default than by preference. My whole life I’d dreamed of my own nook or hideaway, full of clippings and inspirational quotes pinned to notice boards, a thinking sofa, a dog sat under my bureau keeping my feet warm, even a winter lodge, or villa overlooking a lake or ocean, but it had never quite happened. The table is second hand and the chair make’s my arse sore, doesn’t have a radiator or double glazing, not even a dog. Maybe the novels would be very different if I’d written them where I wished I could. Maybe that is the trick, write in a cold room with nothing but discomfort and pain. Means you have little choice but to dream up somewhere with a more pleasurable view.
6. Top 5 authors
Too hard. Be like picking a favourite child (which weirdly is easy as I only have two and like one slightly more than the other).
My tastes range from clever to crass and like food I go to them to for different reasons. Some I admire based on how ambitious and unique they are (White Teeth by Zadie Smith). Some I like the way they sound, but not so much their story (If nobody speaks of remarkable things by Jon McGregor). Some I like because they take me somewhere different (The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt) and some I’ve read more than twice as I wasn’t intelligent enough to grasp it first time around (The Time Travellers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger). Some because how they impact my senses (Perfume by Patrick Suskind). Some are nostalgic purely based on when and where I first read them (Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden). Some I read as they make me look cool on trains (Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski). Some I just like their front covers.
Though I would have to say it’s probably “Bridges of Madison County” by Robert James Waller which may sound an odd choice. I am fascinated by novellas and what an author can do to in just 30,000 words. I like them because they have no choice but to leave out filler. Every word and every chapter have to have a purpose.
It’s funny. The older I get the less I feel the need for an author to spend a page describing someone’s bad morning when just an F word will do. Although I say all this when “His American Classic” was so big I decided to split it into two, hence why there is a “Hers”. Don’t worry my next novel will be short, or maybe it won’t be knowing me.
7. What author would I like to meet and what would I ask him?
Hunter S Thompson. And I’d ask him everything.
8. Big reader as a child.
Not particularly. But my Mum had a pretty big book shelf (mostly horror and American classics) and I would always pick a book out and flick through it, especially the ones I shouldn’t be flicking through, in hope I might find a swear word or a sex scene.
No matter how much my wife nags at me I will never get rid of my book case at home. Having books on show encourages children to investigate. And even if they don’t understand or can’t read all the words it still gets them intrigued. Hence why I’ve never read a book on a kindle or tablet and probably never will.
9. When did I start to write.
Being creative had always been my thing and at school the only subjects I excelled in where those that didn’t have a right or wrong answer. That was why English and Art and Cooking grades were at the right side of the alphabet and the Maths and Science at the further end. Weird how my full-time job in finance is one filled with right and wrong answers, but there are a lot of creative people out there forced to do the same.
The first time I attempted writing when I was in my late teens, just after my parents divorced (my way of dealing with it I suppose), but it was too big in scope, a family saga, epic in size and scale, a ten-year project, though I eventually realized it was bigger than my capabilities. I’d hit a low, wasted a decade, failed.
Though failing needed to happen. I was trying to be all my favourite authors all in one God awful book. I realized very quickly that I was not as good as my favourite authors and couldn’t write like them and probably never would. And though initially devastated that soon turned to relief. Meant I could start writing like me, or at least try and figure out what me might sound like.
I decided to go back to basics, wrote tiny stories, threw my thesaurus away, stopped plotting future plot twists and instead simply focused on one character with one problem in one room. Cut out all the clever and just wrote words on a page.
Then in 2009 I went on my honeymoon. Two things happened (one a gift and one tragic) and an idea for a novel was born. I was ready. A failed novel in one hand and a fistful of new confidence in the other. What could possibly go wrong?
10. Ending to a book?
I wouldn’t change someone’s ending, even if I may not have agreed with it at first. The best endings should split a room and divide opinion. I know full well, that how I have ended my novel people will either love or hate, which I am fine with, as long as the reader feels something.
11. A Book I wish I had written.
See Question 6.
12. My autobiography title
Morgan by Morgan
13. Coffee Date.
Pi (From Life of Pi). Boat trip. Ha!
14. What am I writing next?
Weirdly after five years of writing a romance novel I wrote a TV series. A kinda gritty manly TV series with swear words and boobs, like my brain and body needed a change of pace and a different volume. Like I’d overdosed on chick flicks and needed some Jason Statham.
I enjoy writing something the opposite of what came before. I’ve never been quite sure how some authors only write horror, or some only YA. I imagine if they get bored or run out of ideas, or whether or not it’s fear that publishers won’t like it, or their fan base will desert them. Do you think authors should stay in one genre? Is Stephen King better writing Shawshank Redemption than Salem’s Lot? What if E. L James wrote a children’s book about a red room?
I do have something I have just started, a novella, just an idea at the minute.
If I’m being honest publishing my first novel has taken its toll emotionally, physically and financially. I feel like a mother whose been pregnant for five years and after given birth, my husband is asking if I fancy having sex again.
Celebrate? I wish.
I have realised very quickly that writing was the easy bit. It has been manic the last six months and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down, in fact it is getting faster.
The tiny celebrations tend to come from hearing people’s reviews, the photos they send me, the thought that my book is on people’s book shelves. A lady from India is reading it, one in Marbella, one in Sheffield. That is enough for reward for me, little successes.
16. Keep in touch.
18. Anything else
Read my book. Trust me you will love it.
Told from dual perspectives that span two books, this moving and emotionally-driven love story will leave readers breathless and reeling in equal measure.
It begins. Lilly Goodridge always wanted to be an actress, but fame is an unwanted side effect she’s desperate to escape – along with the City of Angels and her enigmatic boyfriend. So she takes a tiny film role across the pond in a quiet seaside town where nobody can find her. Except for Tom. Down on his luck, Tom might not be the greatest tour guide of Hollywood Hills, but he loves living in America, even if America doesn’t quite love him back. With no choice, he takes on a job he never wanted: in search of an actress he doesn’t know, but knows he has to catch.
Happy Reading 🙂
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