George Morris De’Ath (“No, it’s not pronounced death”, he informs me.) talks about his newest book, what’s to come and what it’s like to be finally breaking into the publishing world amidst all the madness of 2020.
First of all, congratulations on your recently announced three-part book deal. In light of this, how does it feel knowing your first book will be released in 2021?
Honestly, it’s weird. I keep getting asked this question everywhere I go and don’t quite know how else to answer it. I mean, of course it’s great but having gone through five years of endless rejection and failure – which is the part of success that no one ever sees – it’s definitely strange. And now to have not one but three books green lit, it’s very surreal. I have to keep pinching myself to make sure I’m not dreaming, and then I realise this is real and yes I am living through 2020, and now have copious deadlines.
2020 is certainly not panning out the way we all expected but accepting a three-part book deal, no less, must be a welcome burst of excitement in these overwhelmingly negative times. You mentioned you have now been introduced to the world of deadlines. Do you think you are good at handling deadlines?
Yes, I am. Too good even. (He laughs.) I like to set myself very early deadlines in case anything happens, you know, anything out of my control. I’m a very anxious person, so whenever I hear a ticking clock and know that work needs to get done, I just can’t help myself but want to crack on. I like to get on top of things ahead of time; it’s good and bad. I can burn out easily.
Oh really? Do you find that this is a common occurrence for you?
Oh yes, very easily! I did the other day; happens a lot!
That must be frustrating. How would you describe your writing process? Can you share some insight into how you formulate these stories and characters?
Well, it involves a lot of day dreaming to be honest, and not listening to things when I really should be. A doctor could be giving me vital health information and I would find myself just blocking out their words and thinking of something wild to include in my books instead, very random thoughts and details that eventually all tie together and make a story. Every idea starts out as a snowflake and eventually snowballs into something bigger and bigger over time until it becomes one of the alps. Having an obsessive mind in terms of my creating helps in that regard.I sift through the good and badideas stuck in my head and then begin to plan out and formulate meticulous details for the whole story and each chapter.
It’s interesting that you are thinking about these things in that much detail at such an early stage in the creative process. How detailed are we really talking?
Like very! I’m talking woven fabrics on a character’s clothes specific!
In that case you must spend a very long time in the planning stage unable to begin getting the stories out of your head and onto paper. Why do you think you have developed this approach?
Oh yes! Haha…as a writer I’m one of the named “architects” rather than a “gardener.” I can’t just let the story take me as I’m writing, I have to plan in advance before I even start the first chapter. As an actor it is kind of in my DNA to script the chapters out first to make sure the dialogue flows and makes sense as a whole and doesn’t drag. So I do that first then add in all the other saucy little dialogue tags and details after.
It sounds like the stories in your mind begin their life almost as movie scripts before you then transform them into what we later come to read.
Yeah, I’m weird.
Well this approach is clearly working for you, traditional or not!
I suppose so yes.I must be doing at least one thing right. (He jokes.)
The fact that you have received a three-part book deal is testament to that. Can you share any details about the first of the three books coming out next year?
I can say very little, other than the first is called ‘The Art of Darkness’, it’s coming out next year and it’s a twisted crime thriller. (Makes ominous noises.) Sounds creepy doesn’t it. Also, I believe I can say that the three are all connected by the world they inhabit but are not direct sequels. I’m editing the second one currently and it’s a big one. I’m kinda going crazy having to reread it day in, day out but it’s all part of the job!
Can you tease anything else about ‘The Art of Darkness’, or perhaps the other two books you have lined up?
They’re all thrillers but they’re all very different genres of thrillers…if that even makes sense.
You mentioned that you have been approaching publishers for five years now. Have you always had an interest in writing or was it something that you developed as you got older?
As a child I did write, but only rarely, only when I needed to in class and even way back then I was writing disturbing stories. I recall writing some really wild stories that my teachers read to the class because they were so out there. They must have thought I was one nugget short of a happy meal. But then later at college I started writing and taking it more seriously when I began to study literature. In fact, I used the prologue for “The Art of Darkness” for my course work, however it got cut from the final manuscript which is sad. And then beyond college to be honest I began to fall into a spiral state of limbo almost. I didn’t quite know what I was doing or where I was going next. I was flouting around life I suppose; I wasn’t happy. In truth, I hated my life. It was one of those moments where you either have a breakdown or a breakthrough and I had to ask myself some really important questions about who I was going to be. Anyway, I just continued on with that prologue which developed into an actual novel and that helped me escape from my mentality at the time. It truly was an escape. That’s what writing is for me, just an elaborate escape. I know that sounds pretentious but it’s true. My stories have helped me out of a lot of dark times in my life and I just hope they do the same for a lot of readers.
That’s a sweet sentiment. A lot of people are certainly looking for a welcome escape right now.
Meh. (He waves off.) But I finished writing ‘The Art of Darkness’, read it and realised in that moment that I was going to be a writer.
I’m glad to hear that writing was able to provide a much-needed outlet for you in past difficult times. It’s interesting that many authors are able to use their talent to channel their emotions in a productive way, thereby having a positive influence on not just themselves but an entire audience.
Yeah, it’s intriguing isn’t it. I do believe we are all just making our way through the inferno, now more than ever as poetic as that sounds. It’s very interesting to see how people manage themselves and even flourish through certain mediums, not even just the arts but sports and other things. When people find that one thing, I think they often feel more whole and tend to flourish onward from it.
Whilst we wait eagerly for the release of ‘The Art of Darkness’ next year I also understand you are self-publishing ‘A Tale of ?6’ in the meantime. Can you tell us about it? What should we expect?
Ha! Well, what shouldn’t you expect? “A Tale of ?6” is a fun campy horror novella that I have self-published. It’s about two strangers who meet on a stormy night and wind up stuck together in a cabin in the woods sharing six scary stories with each other, until it is revealed that one of them is not who they appear to be and basically sh*t happens, to be blunt.
It sounds like a fun read but also like it could keep me up at night!
Oh, it gets gnarly, it gets freaky, it gets weird and bombastic, it gets gory, it gets campy and over the top and most of all it gets tasty.
That is an interesting choice of adjective. Does that allude to something that happens in the book or is it just a fun way of saying we’re going to be hooked?
A little from column A, a little from column B, who knows. I guess you’ll have to read and find out.
I suppose we will. Is there anything in particular that inspired your novella and the six stories contained within?
Yes, I suppose. I mean, mostly I was bored over lockdown and just wanted to write a short and snappy collection of spooky stories. But I suppose I was influenced by ‘The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror’ episodes, you know, those self-contained anthology style episodes that explored fun parodies and didn’t over stay their welcome, as well as ‘The Twilight Zone’ and ‘American Horror Story’. However, I really wanted to keep this short and sweet but yet have each story be different and leave a lasting impression. ‘A Tale of ?6’ I feel knows what it is and doesn’t try to be anything other than that. That being fun, camp, spooky, gory and sometimes comedic horror. I’m just really hoping that people like it for what it is, especially this Halloween when it appears the trick or treating may be put on hold.
Seeing as we may not get the opportunity this year, I have to ask: trick or treat?
Oh Trick, every time, every time. It’s got to be, what do you take me for madam! (He laughs.)
What’s easier, writing short stories or novels?
Short stories, without question. However,they’re harder to get published and in all honesty, I find writing novels far more enjoyable because you get to fully develop your characters and spend time with them and by the end you’re sad to see them go. Short stories are like snacks, easy to grab from the cupboard and lack much fuss, whereas novels are like preparing three course meals. Harder work but I personally find them more rewarding, but I do enjoy writing both.
Do you have any advice for writers out there, looking to get their big break?
Erm, I mean, I could easily sit here and say yes, do this and this, but the truth is there are no rules or tricks to an industry like this. I don’t really know of any advice myself; I mean I barely know anything. In truth I’m just an idiot. I know nothing. Even now, nothing is secure for me once these books come out, they could flop and I may never get a deal again but…we’re all just winging it aren’t we, so I suppose that’s comforting. But I guess I would say to PAY for a professional editor, and be picky with one, because they are the ones who won’t just check and tweak your work but tell you: this is working, this is not working, maybe try this. So I think to have that sort of rapport with someone can be hard to find, and having it be someone you can truly trust with your work is hard to find. I love my editor, she’s fabulous. Also, be pickywith your literary agent! I got my first one last year and they didn’t really get my work at all, in truth. It definitely showed, as for a full year I didn’t get any offers through because they didn’t know how to market me as a brand or my work. My current agent is amazing, and does fully get my work! So yeah, know your worth, be picky and of course just keep going. It’s cliche I know, but hell it’s taken me five years! For some it’s less, for some it’s more but we all get our fifteen minutes of fame; I suppose I’m on my last two minutes! (He laughs.) But yeah, just keep going, trust in trial and error, be willing to adapt your work and do what feels right in the moment, I guess!
Finally, do you foresee a sequel for ‘A Tale of ?6’ at some point in the future? I have heard that it has quite the open ending!
There may be a sequel, but I don’t know. It all depends on if people wind up liking this one and if they want a sequel. The age-old supply and demand will have to determine that. I’d like to do one for sure, I’d even like to do six of them and make it a little mini-series but we shall have to wait and see…