WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A WRITER? Both my parents inspired me as they were professional writers. My dad wrote an Organic Chemistry textbook that was the standard for decades. My mother, Joan Wehlen Morrison, was an oral historian who wrote two books.
DO YOU HAVE ANY QUIRKY OR FUN WRITING HABITS?
Well, when I write at home, my little corgi Gwen barks to be let in and out all the time. It gives me lots of exercise!
HOW DID YOU GET THE IDEA FOR YOUR AWARD-WINNING BOOK?
After the death of my mother—Joan Wehlen Morrison—I found her diaries and poetry from when she was a teenager in the late 1930s and early 1940s. I edited these documents to create Home Front Girl. It started out as a family project, but I soon knew it was important historically and sought out a publisher. Her writing is beautiful and lyrical, leavened by moments of self-irony and humor.
In 1939, when Joan is 16, she has a conversation with her classmate, Fraser, about heaven and hell and what they want to have done with their bodies after they die.
He: “I saw a cremation once!”
Me: “Oh—what was it like?” (I wanted to ask how it smelled, but he thinks I’m crude as it is.)
He: “Oh, it was behind a glass wall and it shriveled up and . . .”
I: “Oh—Oh!” (thinking rotting in the cool sweet earth is more natural)
He: “And then . . . etc., etc.”
And so we reached the locker room and I staggered to Modern Dance.
I love this passage because it is just what a 16 would think about and say: death, bodies, and worrying what Fraser will think. And, of course, that final punch line about staggering to Modern Dance class. I also adore performing this section at book readings. My husband, Jim, personifies Fraser and his earnest demeanor so thoroughly that the audience is in stitches (we are, too!). If my husband can’t come to a reading with me, I always enlist the help of someone in the audience and we have a fun time.
WHAT MESSAGE DO YOU HOPE READERS WILL GLEAN FROM YOUR AWARD-WINNING BOOK?
We should show compassion, even to our so-called enemies.
IF YOU WERE STARTING YOUR JOURNEY AS AN AUTHOR TODAY, WOULD YOU DO ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY?
Sometimes I think one’s writing journey goes the way it must at the time we experience it. Try not to regret what you didn’t do and celebrate what you do accomplish or make progress on.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST TIP FOR ASPIRING AUTHORS?
Never give up. My novel, Grendel’s Mother: The Saga of the Wyrd-Wife, won the Words on Wings Book Award for young adult fiction in 2016. It took me seventeen years to complete!
CAN YOU OFFER ANY ADVICE FOR WRITERS ON HOW BEST TO PROMOTE THEIR BOOK?
In addition to maintaining a lively blog and social media presence, do contact your local bookstore, library, and/or school. Personal contacts are often the best way to get your work out there.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST LITERARY ACCOMPLISHMENT?
I love having written a novel (see above), but working on my mother’s diaries is the greatest joy my writing has given me!
WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST LITERARY ASPIRATIONS?
To pay for college tuition with the proceeds. No, seriously, to affect the hearts and minds of my readers.
WHAT OTHER BOOKS HAVE YOU PUBLISHED?
Grendel's Mother: The Saga of the Wyrd Wife Winchester, England: Top Hat Books, 2015.
· Winner: Words on Wings Book Award for young adult fiction, a Literary Classics Top Honors Award 2016. Literary Classics Seal of Approval
· Finalist in Adult Fiction: 2016 Wishing Shelf Book Award
· Finalist: 2014-2015 Sarton Literary Award for Historical Fiction
· Finalist: Foreward Reviews' 2015 Indiefab Book of the Year Award: Historical (Adult Fiction)
A Medieval Woman’s Companion: Women’s Lives in the European Middle Ages Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2016.
· Winner: Gold Medal in College Nonfiction from Literary Classics
· Winner: 2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award: Bronze Medal in Women’s Studies; Honorable Mention in 2 categories: Adult Nonfiction and Young Adult Nonfiction.
The Literature of Waste: Material Ecopoetics and Ethical Matter NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.
Excrement in the Late Middle Ages: Sacred Filth and Chaucer's Fecopoetics The New Middle Ages Series. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.
Women Pilgrims in Late Medieval England: Private Piety as Public Performance London: Routledge, 2000.
DO YOU HAVE ANY NEW BOOKS IN THE WORKS?
Yes! Joan’s poetry is coming as a chapbook with the title Another Troy by Finishing Line Press in 2020. Also, having taught in the former East Germany in the 1980s, I am currently working on a book about my Stasi (secret police) file which has some unusual (and false) assertions.
LITERARY CLASSICS Book Awards & Reviews International Book Awards • Top Honors Youth Book Awards • Seal of Approval http://www.clcawards.org