Today I welcome author Maris Morton to my blog. Her book, The Sea Bird’s Egg, will come out later this year as well Small Crimes and Bad Behaviour, a collection of short stories.
The world where I set my mystery stories is essentially a domestic one, with credible characters going about their lives in (mostly) rural settings in Australia’s largest state, Western Australia.
I’ve come to fiction writing later in life than most aspiring novelists do, after working in jobs ranging from being the director of a public art gallery and Keeper of the Paintings (splendidly old-fashioned title, isn’t it!) at a State gallery, art restorer and exhibiting artist; clerical work in the public service; cooking for shearers and laboring as a shed hand on farms; teaching high school English, and English as a second language to Christmas and Cocos Islanders who had been resettled in the town where I lived; cooking in an old peoples’ home; and some journalism, broadcasting and PR work. I’ve also dabbled in the alternative lifestyle, with a small acreage where I raised fruit, vegetables, poultry, a few sheep, pigs and goats, and two horses — not all at once, I hasten to add! As well as all that, I’ve been married and raised three children, some of the time as a single parent. Now I live on the other side of the continent from my old home town in glorious sub-tropical rainforest, where I still grow fruit and vegies and have chickens, and listen to the songs of the myriad wild birds that inhabit the treetops around me.
This wealth of experience has given me plenty to write about, and now that I’ve started I can’t see myself giving it up.
As a lifelong devotee of crime and mystery fiction it was inevitable that this was the genre that I would choose for my first attempts at fiction writing. I started out aiming to write a conventional, and probably predictable, crime story, but of course the whole thing got out of hand and developed into something else as I became involved with my characters. I set out to entertain my readers, not to impress them with my literary skills.
After the usual disheartening string of rejections from publishers, I was amazed and delighted when the MS of my novel A Darker Music won the inaugural CAL/Scribe Fiction Prize and was published by Scribe in 2011. The crime in this one is a subtle matter of cruelty and indifference rather than a murder. A more conventional crime/romance is The Herb Gardener, published in 2014 by Odyssey Books. Both tales are set on farms in WA and give different pictures of farming life there.
What interests me most is the way people who are outwardly perfectly ordinary, law-abiding citizens can, when goaded by circumstances, do very bad things. I’m not interested in writing about serial killers, international or corporate crime: other people are already tackling all that, some of them brilliantly. I’m more concerned with what happens behind closed doors, in peoples’ homes. After all, that’s where all of us spend a good deal of our time; much of it important time. I believe that it’s vitally important that my readers feel they can connect with my characters, and the places where these characters live and play out their dramas are realistically-enough drawn that readers can imagine themselves there. So far, the feedback I’ve been getting indicates that I’m managing this pretty well.
In 2015, look out for The Sea Bird’s Egg (which also includes a murder, and exploits my interest in the art world) and a collection of my short stories, titled Small Crimes and Bad Behaviour, to be published mid-year by Port Yonder Press, Iowa. At present I’m working on a story based on my experience of working in an old peoples’ home in a country town; its title is Meadowcroft.
About the Author
Maris Morton came to writing late, with her prize-winning debut novel, A Darker Music, published after she had accumulated experience in jobs ranging from cooking for shearers, teaching, the public service, arts administration, finally retiring as the director of a public art gallery in 1999.
Two decades of living in country Western Australia has provided the background for much of her writing. At present, she lives among the rainforests of northern New South Wales, working on a new novel to the accompaniment of a symphony of birdsong.