Today we welcome author Jan Morrill.
Book ‘Em: Tell us about you and your life outside of writing.
Jan Morrill: I am a wife, mom, grandma, sister, daughter, friend and writer. I love being all of those things, but the first six are my priority, which tells you a bit about why it’s taken me so long to finish the sequel to The Red Kimono. I also recently returned to work full-time at a commercial real estate company after my dreams of supporting myself as a writer metamorphized into the practicality of a regular paycheck. What I serendipitously discovered after I returned to an 8-5 job is that when my income didn’t depend on my writing, the joy of writing returned. So, though the quantity of time to write is less, the quality is so much better.
Book ‘Em: Which books have you written? What are they about and why did you choose to write them? Do your books have a message? Are they fiction or nonfiction?
Jan Morrill: I wrote The Red Kimono, as historical fiction that takes place during the World War II Japanese American internment. The story is based on the “seeds” of my mother’s childhood. I say “seeds,” because my original intention was to write a biography of my mother’s life, but it became too difficult for me to write stories she may not have wanted the world to know. So, I took major events that I thought shaped her life and fictionalized them—the internment, the murder of her father, and the prejudice, betrayal and forgiveness surrounding those events. I’ve also written a book of haiku called Life: Haiku by Haiku and a writing workbook called Creative Characterization.
Book ‘Em: Do you have a work in progress?
Jan Morrill: Yes, I’ve just finished a book titled Mo’s Shadow, about what a young girl learns from her friendship with an alcoholic. It’s currently written in third person and from the point of view of a 10-year old girl, however, I’ve decided to re-write it in first person, as an adult woman’s recollection of childhood stories.
Book ‘Em: What was the most difficult section/piece you ever wrote? What made it difficult?
Jan Morrill: Mo’s Shadow. This book is based on stories a dear friend, an alcoholic, used to tell me about his friendship with a little girl who lived across the street from him. I was so touched by his stories I began to write Mo’s Shadow, secretly hoping as I wrote that perhaps the friendship with “Mo” might somehow heal him from his disease. But my friend committed suicide in 2015. For a long time, I couldn’t bring myself to return to the work-in-progress. But as some of the pain of loss and regret subsided, I began to write the rest of the story, though I was torn about how to end it. Of course, I can’t say anything else about the ending, in case you read it one day.
Book ‘Em: What sort of research do you do for your work?
Jan Morrill: For The Red Kimono, I did a lot of my research on the internet, finding several websites dedicated to the internment. One of the most useful websites was www.densho.org, which contained dozens of interviews by former internees. This was very helpful to me in providing first person insights. Though my mother shared a few stories of internment, even decades later, they upset her too much to talk about it, and it hurt me to see her hurt. I also read other books in the internment and visited a couple of internment sites as well as the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.
Book ‘Em: Which books and authors do you read for pleasure? Is there an author that inspires you?
Jan Morrill: I enjoy reading a variety of genres. Whether or not I like a book has less to do with the genre than how the characters are written. I enjoy books that are character-driven. Two of my favorites are The Kite Runner and Memoirs of a Geisha. Many years ago, I was inspired by Jodi Picoult. I liked the way her books were written in chapters that told the story in different points of view. That’s how I wrote The Red Kimono—in the points of view of Sachi, an eight-year old Japanese American girl, Nobu, her seventeen-year old brother, and Terrence, his African American high school friend. In doing so, I hope the reader will experience the story from different perspectives.
Book ‘Em: Was there a person who encouraged you to write?
Jan Morrill: I don’t think I ever needed encouragement to write. I’ve loved writing since my earliest recollection, because even before I began to write stories or books, writing was a way for me to express what I couldn’t express verbally. Where I have received encouragement, and from a variety of authors, is to persevere. The ability to persevere—to keep going—is as important as the ability or desire to write.
Book ‘Em: What would you say are your strengths as an author?
Jan Morrill: It’s hard for me to say what my strength as an author is, but what I most try to focus on is writing in a way that the reader sees through story through the character’s eyes. Whether the character is likable or not, I would like my readers to understand how the character sees the world, and why he is the way he is.
Book ‘Em: How often do you write, and do you write using a strict routine?
Jan Morrill: I try to write something every day. It may not be my work-in-progress, but it may be a blog entry or perhaps a haiku. I do have a strict routine. I wake at 5:00 every morning with the goal of writing for an hour before I have to get ready for work. Whether or not I’m successful at that goal—as opposed to answering emails, preparing for a workshop, etc.—THAT is another question.
Book ‘Em: Five years from now, where do you see yourself as a writer?
Jan Morrill: Five years from now, I see myself retired with an income AND time to write.
Book ‘Em: If you could offer one piece of advice to a novice writer, what would it be?
Jan Morrill: As I mentioned earlier, my advice would be to persevere. NEVER give up. You have to really love to write to be a writer. Don’t do it for the money.
Book ‘Em: What would you consider the best compliment a reader could give your book?
Jan Morrill: I loved your character—because I love my characters, too.
Book ‘Em: Provide an excerpt of your writing that you would like to share with our members.
Jan Morrill: The following excerpt is from my work-in-progress, Mo’s Shadow:
That drizzly, gray afternoon, thirty-nine days ago, she sat in the kitchen of the only home she’d ever known, somehow knowing her life was about to change forever. Yet, even looking back, she wondered how she knew. Was it the jittery softness in Mama’s voice? No, Mama had given her bad news before, but Mo hadn’t sensed her life was about to change. Was it that Mama wanted to talk to Mo alone—separate from Shiloh? As if she might need Mo on her side and knew Shiloh wouldn’t be able to handle the news she was about to share? Or was it the tension in the room—tension she couldn’t see, but could feel—so heavy she could hardly breathe, as if an invisible elephant had decided to take a seat on her chest.
Website: www.janmorrill.com Books available on Amazon:
Life: Haiku by Haiku: https://www.amazon.com/Life-Haiku-Jan-Morrill/dp/0615957471/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8
Book Trailer for The Red Kimono: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Etyg8feWCiw