It is with great pleasure that Coffee Time Romance welcomes Tess Morrison to have a chat with us about her first novel, Moonlight Bay. Hi Tess. Congratulations on publishing your debut novel, Moonlight Bay with The Wild Rose Press. Please tell us about the experience you had from manuscript to publication?
First off, thanks to Coffee Time Romance for having me. This is my first interview and I’m very excited.
Hmm, manuscript to publication – it’s like having a baby, after it’s all over and you gaze into that heavenly little face, in this case my book cover, the clarity of what it took to get to that point slips away into a not-so-unpleasant haze. Okay, so I wasn’t one of those glowing pregnant women. And I’m not very patient, so the last year of edits and galleys and such was torture, although with each step I knew I was nearer to my goal.
You can now consider yourself an author. How does it feel?
Different than I expected, I must admit. For one, it didn’t seem real until I held the book in my hands. Then it struck me – the little old ladies at church are going to read my sex scenes! MY MOTHER WILL READ IT!! Guess it was a bit late to worry about that. Anyway, I could write a book about what it has been like to become a published author in a small town – and it’s been a hoot. I’ve gotten lots of attention – some very touching and sweet and some that’s just hilarious. So to answer the question – it’s all good.
Writing novels can take up a considerable amount of hours, giving you less time to spend with family and friends. How long did it take you to write the novel and did you miss your family and friends when you’re tucked away writing?
I’m a bit of loner anyway, but I do try to have balance. I’ve been lucky enough to find my true passion in life, but my family is my treasure so I try not to miss out on too much. If I have to get up earlier in the morning and miss sitting in front of the television at night, I can handle that. Now that I’m published, I am trying to be a bit more prolific. ‘Moonlight Bay’ took me well over a year and it’s not because I’m that slow – I just had some stops and starts while I worked on other projects at the same time. I’m trying not to do that anymore.
The story takes place in Wisconsin, a location you are familiar with. Are any of the events based on experiences and people typical of Wisconsin?
Oh, all of them. I had some discussions with my editor regarding terminology that she thought may be misleading to people unfamiliar with our area. It cracked me up to see that things I take for granted such as muskys (a fish) and Princess Pine (a mossy ground cover) among others were a complete unknown to my editors. In the end, I was very happy they allowed those things to stay in. There is definitely a flavor to life in northern Wisconsin and I want my readers to savor it along with me.
Speaking of that flavor, the novel I’m working on now has it in spades. I’m anxious to see what an editor thinks of this one.
I love the title, Moonlight Bay, it’s quite romantic. What were the deciding factors in arriving at the title?
Actually, I had gone through several different titles and nothing seemed right. I was ready to submit it and simply slapped that one on as it was the name of the camp for kids the story revolves around. When my boys were younger, they attended Moon Beach Summer Camp and I always thought that had a romantic sound to it. Once the book was accepted, I fully expected them to change it and when they didn’t I initiated a discussion regarding the title. Roseann Armstrong, my editor at The Wild Rose Press, fought for it and I’m so glad she did. Once I saw the cover, I knew it was the right one.
What book have you most recently read?
I just read a wonderful book titled ‘Garden Spells’ by Sarah Addison Allen that kept me enthralled from beginning to end.
Do you have a favorite author?
I would have to say LaVyrle Spencer, followed by Nora Roberts, although what I read is a lot like the music I listen to – very eclectic and just depends on my mood at the time. I’ve always loved a good love story, but I like to laugh, am fascinated by history and once in a while I need a great mystery.
What made you decide to write a novel in the romance genre?
It’s simply where my head has always been. Ever since I was very young I had these scenarios going in my head that always had a romantic bent to them. Also, I’m fascinated by the dynamics of different personalities and what makes people tick. I think that’s why I enjoyed reality shows for a time. They became too addicting so I’ve cut them out.
What are your favorite pastimes?
Reading, gardening, trying new recipes, traveling. Reading has always been a given for me – it’s how I keep my sanity. I’m slowly surrounding my house with flower beds so that I don’t have to listen to my husband complain that he has so much lawn to mow! I love to eat, therefore, I’ve had to learn to enjoy cooking. And travel – there are so many places I want to see – Mexico, Italy, England, Alaska and once more to Hawaii.
How do you craft your novel?
This is an interesting question. Every book has been different so far. Most of the time I’m a ‘fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants’ kind of girl, but I’m working on one now that has a more intricate plot so I did an outline to stay on track with the story. I’m finding that writing this book, which so far doesn’t have a title, is flowing very nicely thanks to the outline. With ‘Moonlight Bay’ I had the idea for Lucy, not much of any story to go with her, and then Ian. The story sort of mushroomed around these characters and it all simply fell into place and felt ‘right’. Usually, it’s the flash of a scene that starts the wheels turning and I go from there.
Did you attend a creative writing class?
I attend the Fall Harvest workshop every fall put on by Midwest Fiction Writers in Minneapolis. Membership in MFW and Romance Writers of America provides countless learning materials and I’d be lost without them. I also read a lot of books on craft. I don’t live by any large metropolitan area and my options are limited. I have yet to take advantage of online workshops because I’m so pressed for time, but there’s lots of avenues out there to learn.
Do you feel comfortable having your work critiqued?
Only when I’m done reading the critique, can sit back and go ‘phew, that wasn’t so bad’. Seriously, I don’t mind it. I love to see my writing through another’s eyes, whether good or bad, whether I agree with the criticism or not. I always learn from it. That being said, I’m not a member of any critique group.
What information would you like to provide to your readers?
That this has been a journey over many years for me. My first inkling that I could write my own stories came from an interview I saw with Janet Daily. I was a young mother with next to nothing to my name, a whole lot of life before me with no real direction, when I saw Janet on a morning talk show. She spoke about finding your passion and following your dream. I desperately needed to hear those words at that time. I held onto them and it changed my thinking. It wasn’t until years later that I finally started writing in earnest, but I always remembered those words of encouragement. I think we all have some talent that intrinsically makes us feel ‘I can do that’. The trick is to dive in and pursue it regardless of the road blocks you face. I hope that I can inspire someone to take that first step, write that first paragraph. No matter the quality, it’s a step and each step can lead to something fulfilling.
How can readers get in contact with you?
Through my website at tessmorrison.com. I would absolutely love to hear from you all!
Tess Morrison, thank you so much for the interview. I hope you will enjoy great success in your writing career.
Thanks again to Coffee Time Romance for giving me the opportunity to reach out to my readers.