We recently caught up with screenwriter turned novelist Jim Morris to discuss his debut novel, What Lies Within, available now on Amazon US and Amazon UK.
1. What has it been like making the jump from television writer to novelist? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of working as part of a greater creative team versus writing your own story?
The jump from TV to novelist has certainly been a ride! There are great advantages to writing for TV – the teamwork, camaraderie, the act of writing something and then seeing it spoken from an actor’s lips and in a matter of weeks seeing your ideas come to life as a finished product. It can be very fulfilling, and of course, the money is nice, too. Finally, even low-rated TV shows have an amazing reach, whereas, even a best-selling book usually only reaches several hundred thousand people. Of course, there are drawbacks to TV writing, as well: teamwork can easily turn into a den of vipers; writers are often re-written, sometime arbitrarily, and there isn’t as much creative freedom, mainly because in TV characters don’t change from week-to-week, especially in procedurals. The focus, instead, is the case, and not the arc of characters. Writing novels is much more solitary, and sometimes lonely, but there is so much creative freedom – almost too much – in that every detail, every scent has to be conveyed compared to the true cliché of a picture that speaks a thousand words. Of course, writing novels doesn’t pay nearly as well, (and sometimes not at all), and there is often no one waiting for what you’re writing, so it’s up to your strange mix of ego and incredible humility to keep typing away on a story people won’t read for months or years from now. In a perfect world, I’d love to slide back and forth between the two mediums.
2. How great of an impact has digital distribution had on your ability to get stories in front of readers as a starting novelist?
I’m learning more about distribution all the time, and it’s been a high learning curve. I wasn’t someone who ever used social media, but it’s a necessity in terms of discoverability. I’d read – and I don’t know if this is true – but there are a million books published every year. Probably more! It’s crucial to get exposure so that your book isn’t just a data point on some computer server. Thankfully, there are places like Goodreads, which has this amazing network of fans of books that is worldwide. It’s been an eye-opener, because I used to believe not many people liked to read – they’d rather watch TV or play video games. But Goodreads has proven me wrong, and it’s been wonderful to see. The art of reading is strong, and I’m very grateful.
3. Imagine it’s 5 years from now in summer 2020. You’re on vacation, celebrating the release of your latest novel with your biggest creative influence, alive or dead. Who is it, and on what major aspect of your novel are they congratulating you?
I’ve been asked before who is my biggest creative influence, and I’ll answer it two ways. First, every writer is a product of every other writer they’ve ever read, or every film and TV show, of every experience, and there are many influences – too many to name – from the style of prose to dialogue to how a writer can fill out a scene with just the right amount of detail. There are so many writers I aspire to be like! But easily, my biggest influence came from Ray Bradbury who lit a fire under me when I discovered him in junior high. He’s the king, as far as I’m concerned. He made words and worlds seem like magic. And I think, Ray being from the Midwest (as I am), allowed me to feel like maybe I could do this, too. My second influence, and this may be a cheat, is Rod Serling. I gobbled up every episode of “The Twilight Zone,” (and I still watch the marathons they run on SyFy.) Those shows hold up – even decades later – and I learned about pacing, twists and expectations, theme and characters. If either Ray Bradbury or Rod Serling were congratulating me on anything, it’s that I kept people entertained; I gave them a good reading experience.
4. How does it feel being selected for publication on Kindle Scout, and when can we expect more?
I’ll admit I cried tears of joy when I found out I was selected on Kindle Scout. The rejection a writer gets is nearly 100%, with acceptance being the occasional anomaly. I’ve often thought of writing as either a blessing or a curse, depending on my mood. It’s something I can’t shake. Who in their right mind would spend months or years on a project, offer it up to people and publishers, only to get the door slammed in their face? It’s a maddening “career.” I can’t even call it a career; it’s like an addiction. So, when I placed my book in the Kindle Scout program and saw people vote – many of them strangers wanting to read more – well, it was emotional. As for more writing projects, I’m always working on something, an idea, an outline, revising this or that, trying to make it just right (which is a seemingly impossible task!) As far as a sequel to What Lies Within, I have some ideas, but I haven’t committed to it yet. I never want to write something just to write it; a project has to nudge me a bit; it’s gotta have a pull over me. I need the sequel to shout out: write me! Write me! So far, it’s only whispering. I am, however, working on a sci-fi alternate history novel that’s a bit of a love story, and I’m really excited about it. I may even place it in the Kindle Scout program and see how it does. We’ll see!
Read our review of What Lies Within
By James Morris
About the Interviewer