Lilly Goodridge never wanted to be an actress, and fame is an unwanted side effect she’s desperate to escape. 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 has no choice but to take on a job he never wanted: in search of an actress he doesn’t know, but knows he has to catch.
Tom watches from afar, seeing Lily laugh, seeing her cry – an unravelling actress, ripe for the taking. All he needs is one photo. So why can’t he do it? Lily’s also at a cross-roads. It’s clear now that no matter how far she runs, she can’t ever escape fame, the paparazzi, even a persuasive Director. Surely it’s just a matter of time before she does something she’ll forever regret. Give them their big headline. Their front page news. Unless someone can convince the actress there’s more to life than running away.
His American Classic – Part One Amazon – UK / US
Her American Classic – Part Two Amazon – UK / US
1: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you in to writing?
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 Math’s 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 was when I was in my late teens, 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 favorite authors all in one God awful book. I realized very quickly that I was not as good as my favorite 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?
2: Do you have a favorite time and place where you write?
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.
My Dining Room is where I write, more by default than by preference. The table is second hand and the chair makes 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.
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.
3: Where do your ideas come from?
The inspiration behind the current novels was in-fact Michael Jackson and a consummation. 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.
4: Do you have a plan in your head of where the story is going before you start writing or do you let it carry you along as you go?
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.
5: What genre are your books and what drew you to that genre?
The two novels I have just released are in the romance genre which is something I never thought I’d write. In a strange way the genre chose me you could say, had an idea and went with it. Though whether romance chooses me again we shall have to see. God knows what I’ll write next, kids book, a thriller. You’re guess is as good as mine.
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 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 kid’s book about a red room?
6: What dream cast would you like to see playing the characters in your latest book?
This is easy as I have both the full cast list and soundtrack mapped out for the film adaptation, even the Director (I’m not even joking).
However, as much as I want to I don’t want to tell you them. This isn’t me being cruel, but I decided with the characters in my novels not to over describe them physically, so really the characters you read could be blonde or bald or brunette. How you decide to view them is down to you. One of my friends who read the first draft asked me if one of the characters was black. I asked her why and she said that was how she envisaged them in her head. I neither confirmed or denied, which led to me being given two fingers and a dead arm.
What do you guys think? Do you like to be told a character’s physicality or do you like it being your choice?
7: Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?
I own more than I read and what’s worse I ask for more books.
I have also just worked out that I have not actually read a book the whole way through for about five years. I find when I’m writing that I have enough characters and twists in my head without adding extra. What I do tend to do though is read with a purpose in mind, dip into books for inspiration, flip to a middle or end, get into the head space of what I might need to write and how to do it, look how authors start and finish chapters, the length of them. Basically, steal and pillage.
8: What book/s are you reading at present?
See Question above. Ha!
I did start “The Vanishing” by Gerard Woodward on my week off in Spain at the end of May. A great author and a great book, got half way, not either of their faults. Spent most of my time digging sand castles or blowing up armbands. Whenever my children see me open a book, they assume I am lonely or bored, when I couldn’t be more the opposite.
9: What is your favorite book and why?
Too hard. Be like picking a favorite 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 Traveler’s 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 has 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.
10: What advice would you give for someone thinking about becoming a writer?
Don’t do it. Ha!
My wife asked me once why I write. I said it is like having to go to work, but you don’t get paid, and you don’t have to actually even go at all, and you mostly don’t enjoy it when you do go. But you still show up every day and moan when you are denied overtime. It is so much easier not to write. And that’s the difference between talking about writing and actually writing.
Be prepared to give up though. I did for a year and a half. You are allowed to give up, as long as you start again. Be prepared to have to describe your book (regardless if it is 10,000 words or 100,000) in only five words. So like Stephenie Meyers might describe Twilight as “Girl falls in love with vampire” or JK Rowling might describe Harry Potter as “Boy goes to wizard school” you too will learn to explain your five years of hard work as a five second sales pitch. Though you could argue if you can’t explain your novel in five words, then maybe your story is lacking a real story. Be prepared to over think what you are doing. Writing a book takes hours and years and allows you time to question everything. Just make your book something, be it funny or scary or imaginative or simple or original. Just don’t make it forgettable, readers don’t seem keen on wasted time as they don’t have much of it spare.
My advice is actually to not be prepared. Go in naive and oblivious and fearless. Forget about genre or word count or target market or agents. Just write a story that makes people want to read the next page.
11: What are the best Social Media Sites for people to find out about you and your work?
About the Author:
Northampton-based author G J Morgan has been a Chef, a fashion graduate and now works in finance. His unpublished novella “Miss B Tee” has recently been adapted into a short film. His and Her American Classic are his debut novels.