(Photo credit Seth Ryan)
Lisa Morton is a screenwriter, author of non-fiction books, and award-winning prose writer whose work was described by the American Library Association’s Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror as “consistently dark, unsettling, and frightening”. She is the author of four novels and nearly 130 short stories, a six-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award®, and a world-class Halloween expert who has been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple Magazine, and The History Channel (for The Real Story of Halloween). She co-edited (with Ellen Datlow) the anthology Haunted Nights, which received a starred review in Publishers Weekly; forthcoming is Ghost Stories: Classic Tales of Horror and Suspense (co-edited with Leslie Klinger). Lisa lives in the San Fernando Valley and online at www.lisamorton.com.
- When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
LM: I started writing almost as soon as I started reading (my first published piece was a poem about my pet turtle that I wrote in kindergarten), but I didn’t seriously think about pursuing writing as a career until I saw The Exorcist at age 15. That one movie did it for me.
2. How long does it take to write your book(s)?
LM: For either fiction or non-fiction, about a year.
3. What is your work schedule like when writing a book?
LM: I don’t have set daily goals because so much of my work (especially, of course, in regards to non-fiction) involves research. I tend to work best late at night, after the rest of the day’s work is behind me.
4. Where do you get your ideas or information for your book?
LM: Ideas come from anywhere and everywhere! As for information…I have many resources for my research. One advantage I have is that my day job is bookseller for a used bookstore that has a constant turnover of great stock. When I was working on Ghosts: A Haunted History, for example, the store acquired a significant library of nineteenth-century Spiritualism and ghost books, which made both research and acquiring illustrations much easier!
5. When did you write your first book?
LM: I started with short stories (still my preferred form) in high school. They weren’t, however, horror, but were humorous slice-of-high-school-life things.
6. What do you do when you’re not writing?
LM: In addition to the afore-mentioned day job, I also acquired care of my elderly mother some years ago and I’m the President of the Horror Writers Association, so those three jobs keep me very busy. In my few spare moments I like to play with my cats, garden, and occasionally sleep.
7. What does your family think of your writing?
LM: My partner Ricky is a big fan, but my mom always wished I’d write “like James Patterson.” My dad wasn’t much of a reader, although shortly before he died he surprised me by reading one of my novels (Netherworld) and loving it.
8. What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your books?
LM: With the non-fiction, I’ve learned so many surprising things I barely know where to begin! That’s one of the reasons I love non-fiction: it’s like a treasure hunt, first to dig out those obscure facts, then to weave them into entirely new histories or theories.
9. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
LM: I never know how to answer that first question because I’m not sure how to define a “book” – does a novella count? A book I’ve edited? A short story in an anthology? Collaborations? Let’s just say I’ve published four novels, seven non-fiction books, a bunch of novellas, and almost 150 short stories.
10. Any tips/suggestions on getting started?
LM: Just do it. Be prepared for a long haul; if you go into writing thinking it’s going to be easy or that you’ll be instantly successful, you’re likely in for some big disappointment. If you persevere and always work on improving, you can succeed.
11. What do you think makes a good story?
LM: Most successful writers have found that magic combination of substance and style; you need to be able to tell a compelling story in a distinctive voice.
12. As a child, What did you want to do when you grew up?
LM: An archaeologist…until I heard of archaeologists dying of valley fever. As an adult, I did participate in one dig, and although I was pretty good at the detail work I realized I’d made the right choice by pursuing writing.