The Compulsive Reader: Interview with Angela Morrison!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Interview with Angela Morrison!

Angela Morrison is the author of Taken by Storm, and the soon to be released Sing Me to Sleep! She was kind enough to stop by and answer a few questions I had about her books and writing. But first, here is my review of her beautiful new book!

Sing Me to Sleep

Beth has always been the ugly one, cursed with the worst genetics when it comes to her appearance. But, she can sing beautifully, and it is her Bliss Youth Choir and her best friend Scott that help her make it through the cruelties of high school. When her choir is chosen to travel to Switzerland to compete in the Choral Olympics, Beth gets a complete high-tech makeover, courtesy of Meadow, a fellow, rich member of her choir. Finally feeling pretty for the first time, Beth attracts the attention of Derek while abroad, and they are ecstatic to discover that they don't live too far away from each other back home. But their romance at home is much more complicated--Scott confesses his love for Beth, but Beth loves Derek, despite the fact that he is hiding something big from her...he's dying.

Sing Me to Sleep, Angela Morrison's second novel, is simply told with an immense amount of depth. Beth's story is one that really grabs a hold of you and doesn't let go. Morrison writes mainly in prose, a slight change from her first novel, Taken by Storm, but song lyrics are sprinkled liberally throughout. Her descriptions are beautiful and accurate, making you feel as if you are right with Beth in Switzerland, on stage, or at the hospital. The romance in Sing Me to Sleep was perfect as well: it captured all of the passionate, pure feelings of first love and was steamy yet chaste. Through her relationship with Derek (and to a certain extent, with Scott too), Beth really did make peace with who she is and can be, and she learned that you don't have to be perfect to love or to be loved.

The emotions run strong in this book. Both bright and sorrowful, Sing Me to Sleep will have you sighing in content and crying. Grief is a kep part of the book, and as Beth learns, in love too. She must learn to let go, and to have hope. Morrison certainly makes you smile as Beth undergoes her transformation and then cry for her and Derek and their relationship. This sweet novel is touching, poignant, and hopeful, and for fans of her previous book, Morrison certainly does not disappoint. I'm breathless with anticipation to see what she comes up with next.

Cover Comments: I think this cover is beautiful--perfect for the book! The colors are soft, and the snow and the brushing hands just so lovely. It's such an accurate indication for what the story will be like.

ARC received from publisher.

TCR: In Sing Me to Sleep, Beth belongs to a choir in Ann Arbor, and their are a lot of mentions of other choirs throughout the book. Does your knowledge of such choirs stem from personal experience?

AM: My daughter sang with the Junior Amabile Singers (see www.amabile.com) in London, Ontario, Canada. My knowledge of the competitive youth choir world comes from watching her and volunteering with the choir. It was a fantastic experience. I took notes all the time because I thought it would some day make a great setting for a novel. Voila! That day is here.

TCR: There are so many different places described in Sing Me to Sleep; have you been to them all?

AM: I have. We lived in London, Ontario for years. Then we moved to Switzerland. We got to enjoy that gorgeous country for four years then we moved to Singapore. I wrote SING ME TO SLEEP from our high-rise apartment in the tropics. I tend to go back to places I'm homesick for in my writing. My debut novel, TAKEN BY STORM, is set in my hometown and high school.

I've visited all the Michigan sites mentioned, but I don't know them that well. I researched them via the internet to fill in the holes of my memory. I found great video on YouTube, used Google Earth, and even real-estate sites to choose Beth's house in "Port," Michigan.

TCR: What was the hardest part about writing Sing Me to Sleep? The easiest?

Hardest? The lyrics. My first attempts were a disaster. I listened to tons of songs, started dissecting them. I made myself maps of the structure (rhythm and rhyme) and filled in the blanks--like you would a sonnet.

Easiest? Beth's voice. It was just there--pure and strong, talking in my head. Michael's voice, from TAKEN BY STORM, came to me like, too. But poor, Leesie, STORM's heroine. I couldn't get her voice right until I let her tell her side of the story in poetry.

TCR: In Taken by Storm, you wrote entirely in poems and a journal format, and then Sing Me to Sleep was simple prose with song lyrics sprinkled in. Do you prefer one format over the other?

Beth's voice was so strong that I let her tell the whole story in a strict, never to be violated, first-person narrative. That way the reader gets inside of the story and never has to let go. With a single, intimate first-person narrator, the reader experiences all the pain, embarrassment, love, frustration, and devastation along with Beth. It is the ideal way to write a coming of age novel.

TAKEN BY STORM started out as a dual first-person narrative. Much more challenging to pull off. Kind of a complex choice for my first novel. It took me many different drafts, experiments with changes to those viewpoints, loads of rejections, and finally one blessed EUREKA! moment to get to the collage format that really made the story work. I enjoy the intricacies of the collage, and I like that the reader must be complicit in the story-telling experience. Younger readers really connect with it. Older readers don't quite get it.

It was a nice challenge to go back to the same format this fall when I wrote the sequel for TAKEN BY STORM--UNBROKEN CONNECTION.

TCR: Is there anything that you can tell us about your next book? (Or what format you'll be writing it in!)

Oh, I just answered that, but to clarify . . . My next novel is UNBROKEN CONNECTION. Michael and Leesie are thousands of miles apart and they don't like it. They won't leave each other alone and wouldn't leave me alone. I'm waiting to hear if Penguin will sign it or not. Ah, the perils of being a writer.

I'm also revising two unsold manuscripts. MY ONLY LOVE--a historical coming of age romance that moves from Scotland to Nova Scotia to Pennsylvania's anthracite coal mining country. And, MY ASSASSIN, a time-slip adventure novel that I've decided to turn upside down. I'm adding a Bronte-esque Victorian heroine to the mix. So it's going to be something like Jane Eyre meets the Terminator--but my assassin is no robot.

TCR: I like the sound of that! I hope to read them in the future! What is one place that you would like to visit?

AM: I've never really toured the Scottish Highlands. We've been to the Low Lands. My ancestors emigrated from Kilmarnock so that was so cool. I even dragged my whole family down a coal mine outside of Glasgow. This summer my husband and I are going to the Highlands--just the two of us (and my gel ink pen and camera).

Thanks so much, Angela!

And now I'm offering you a chance to win Sing Me to Sleep! One lucky winner will win a signed copy of Sing Me to Sleep...all you have to do to enter is comment below and tell me where you would go if you could visit any place in the world!

Also, Angela will be stopping by all day today in the comments, so if you have a question for her, bonus entries for asking her one today!

Another way to earn extra entries is by posting the book trailer on your blog, Facebook, Myspace, or Twitter pages! Post the link in the comments with your entry!

Good luck! The contest will end March 5th, 2010!


Sara said...

Oh, where would I go, where would I go? There are so many places I want to visit! Right now I would probably answer Australia/New Zealand though!


j said...

I would go to Italy to meet my relatives I have never meet over there. I have always wanted to go to Italy! :)

Roxy said...

I would go to Guyana which is where my father is from. I've never been and I would like to see it.

aqtbenz said...

If I could go anywhere in the world, it would definitely be Paris. I've always loved all things French, Parisian, etc.
I tweeted!: http://twitter.com/abbey_lee/status/9058945335

Fingers crossed! Thanks for the great interview and giveaway!

CarlyB said...

I would go to Venezuela, it looks like a beautiful country and luckily I'm visiting there in the summer so yay!x

Margay Leah Justice said...

If i could visit anywhere, I would love to tour the places that my ancestors hailed from - England,Ireland, Scotland and France, to start.

Question: What is your writing process like? Do you plot everything out before you start to write or do you sit down and just let it fly?

Tweeted the trailer: http://twitter.com/Margay/status/9062762598


Jessica Love said...

Great interview! And perfect timing! This book was my W.O.W. this week (http://www.foreveryalit.com/2010/02/waiting-on-wednesday-sing-me-to-sleep.html), but I was seriously worried that Derek's "big secret" was going to be that he was an undead creature, and I really can't handle another "hot guy is a sparkly monster" book. SO glad to know it's not! This book sounds excellent.

Anyway, I really want to go everywhere in the world, but right now Bali is super high on my list. It looks so gorgeous there.

tetewa said...

I've always wanted to go to Hawaii for some fun in the sun!

Angela Morrison said...

Great places y'all. Let's see if I can help with any travel advice.

First, Sara, Australia is beautiful. We went their to scuba dive, but fell in love with the rain forest. You can take a cable car ride from outside of Cairns up into the forests and there is a wonderful aboriginal cultural center. We brought home digeridoos and one of my sons can really wail on that thing.

And Jami, Italy is fantastic. Go for sure. Italian men are supposedly all kind of useless--but they are so beautiful. And everywhere you go there is one masterpiece or another just sitting there out in the open. Florence is a must. Rome, too. I enjoyed Rome more than Paris.

And Roxy, I think it's beautiful that you want to see your father's homeland. That's why I love Scotland.

Angela Morrison said...

More travel tips? Okay.

Aqtbenz, when you get to Paris, go to the Musee D'Orsay before the Lourvre. The Lourvre is gigantic and wears you out. D'Orsay is beautiful and full of impressionists. My favorite museum in Paris.

And Carly, Have fun in Venzuela! Sounds like a great trip.

Jessica--I'll have to check out your wow. Derek a sparkly undead monster? That is hilarious. Bali has beautiful resorts but it is part Indonesia and very populated. Lots of poverty. Visiting there helps the poor who have good jobs in the resorts, but you need to be prepared for that. There is beautiful batik fabric and wood carvings to buy.

And tetewa-- when you get to Hawaii, be sure to go to the Polynesian Cultural Center. It's the best!

angela Morrison said...

Hi Margay, We come from the same places--maybe we're cousins! I love to search for my roots when I travel.

Thanks for the question. I've always been plot-challenged, so I loathe having to plot things out beforehand. Now that I'm writing full time and have to come up with a plot summary to sell manuscripts, I think things out more. I studied Voegler's THE WRITER'S JOURNEY and love plotting coming of age journeys.

As I write the characters ALWAYS surprise me--even when it is something that I've thought and thought about. I try to follow the characters as much as possible. I'll usually have a central scene in mind that I'm working towards or the ending, but I follow the characters to it. And sometimes they go to a completely different place. Research impacts my plotting a lot, too. I get new ideas or find out I'm totally wrong about something.

I try to keep it all as fluid as possible so it can grow and change through the initial creative process and as a revise, revise, revise.

I'll be back, okay? Hope to see lots more questions and comments.

The Compulsive Reader said...

Great comments, everyone! And many thanks to Angela for the helpful tips! I'm taking Ancient Greek right now and would love to make it to Greece someday, and I'm with you, Sara, I want to go to Australia as well! I've wanted to go since my parents went about ten years ago and thought it was wonderful!

Angela Morrison said...

Ooo, I want to go to Greece, too. Especially the islands. One of my very favorite escapist reads is Mary Stewart's old fashioned, romantic suspense novel, THE MOONSPINNERS. It's set in Crete. So if you don't make it to Crete, Tirzah, find a dusty old copy in your favorite used bookstore and escape.

The Compulsive Reader said...

Angela: I have read THE MOONSPINNERS, and I loved it! It's been such a long time since I've read it though, I will have to pick myself up a copy and re-read it!

Angela Morrison said...

You get to go to Greece--and no jet lag!

Sab H. said...

One of my biggest dreams is to go to the Seychells archipielago Nation specially to La Digue Island!!

Want to see a pic?

But also to go to Australia (to the Jellioce Road!:P) and to Egypt.

I'd love to get some book recommendations from Angela. Some favorites?

angela Morrison said...

Hi Sab--You've got great taste in travel. I'd love to go to the Seychelles, too. I have been to Egypt. So worth the heat and hastle. The pyramids are so iconic--it's surreal to see them. And the scuba diving blew us away. I dove this Word War 2 shipwreck that was full of trucks filled with motorcycles.

Book picks? I love Katherine Paterson's historicals--OF NIGHTINGALE'S THAT WEEP is my favorite. And everyone must, must read Markus Zusak's THE BOOK THEIF. Martine Leavitt's KETURAH AND LORD DEATH is exquisitely beautiful. Ursula Le Guin's EARTHSEA TRILOGY is still my favorite fantasy. Some of my Vermont College classmates have written beautiful YA novels--SHATTERED, Kathi Baron, SHIFTY, Lynn Hazen, and RUBBER HOUSES by Ellen Yoemans. And if you haven't read THE UNDERNEATH, Kathi Appelt, you are missing out.

Karen said...

I would have to go back to Paris where my daughter sang in her choir at Notre Dame. This will be a must read book for me win it or not! What wonderful memories this brings back!

Angela Morrison said...

Hi Karen! Sounds like you are a fellow choir-mom. Aren't daughters wonderful? What would we do without them? My daughter is heading to Africa again. Hmm, I wonder if I can squeeze a book out of that.

Sarah said...

Great contest! I'm looking forward to this book.

I can't wait to visit many places, but one place I'm really excited about is Italy, especially Florence, Venice, and Rome. Hope I get to go one day.

Taylor said...

If I could go anywhere i would go to Connecticut yo visit family who live there.


Becky said...

I'd go to Israel in a heartbeat!!! It's the only place that ever calls my name, and I don't know why ... But Israel. Hand's down. :o)

Jessy said...

I think I would want to go to Africa. Just to see all the cool animals.

Jessy said...

Whoops! Posted trailer on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Emma015/statuses/9201021634

Nancye said...

Hawaii! I would love to sit on the beach with a delicious drink with an umbrella in it, totally relaxing in the warm air.......can I go now please? :)

nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

Unknown said...

I would visit either Morocco or Switzerland.


Teresa said...

I would go to England
mstlee2000 @ hotmail.com

Kelly said...

If I could go anywhere, I would spend months in England exploring the rich literary history and who knows...maybe I can catch the eye of Prince Harry lol...

Trailer post: http://kghbookhunter.blogspot.com/2010/02/sing-me-to-sleep-by-angela-morrison.html

Thanks for the giveaway!


Lynn E. Hazen said...

I'd go to the Greek island of Rhodes!

Great interview Angela & Compulsive Reader. I can't wait to read Sing Me to Sleep. And thanks for the mention of Shifty!

Anonymous said...

Hmm, I actually have a few places that I will do my best to actually visit. Each place, though, has very different reasons...
I've taken German at my school for a few years now, and I love the language and the culture, so I WANT (and Will) go there..Berlin would be (WILL be)my number one stop, for sure.
I also want to go to Spain, ITaly, and France, to see all those historical spots, and the churches, and all that beautiful history of ar...sigh.
And I want to go to Ireland, because I hear it rains a lot there, and I love the rain--one of my fave. quotes: "If I were rain, that which joins sky and earth, then could I join two herts, as well?"
And Australia, because I've read books where characters live or there, and they describe it as an amazing place.

So, those are my top ones...Angela, I have an addiction to quotes.. do you have a favorite quote??

callalily95 said...

I would definitely go to Greece. I have always been fascinated by Greek mythology and architecture. I have been planning to go the summer before college. I can't wait!

Angela said...

Hey all! I'm back. Big news today: "Beth's Song" is now available on iTunes!!

Here's the link:

Anonymous said...

So good post
and I hope to visit my Blog Ancient Greece for Kids and see Map of Ancient Greece
thanks again Admin