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Interview: James Morris, Author of What Lies Within

Tuesday, June 16, 2015
I'm delighted to feature author James Morris here on the blog today to talk about his experiences as a writer and a little about his latest novel What Lies Within.

What Lies Within
James Morris

Genre: YA Thriller
Kindle: 226 Pages
Publication: Junes 2, 2015
by Kindle Press

"You’re going to die."

A single text message and Shelley Marano’s world is upended. A normal high school senior, Shelley discovers she is adopted. She goes on a journey to uncover her past, only to find she was part of a horrific experiment to test the theory of nature versus nurture. In a culture of violence committed by young people, she may be one of these killers. With the lives of her and her friends in the balance, one thing is certain: she will never be the same.

Author Interview

Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into writing.
I grew up outside of Chicago in a small farm town, and I always loved reading and movies. After college, I moved to Los Angeles and tried my hand in the entertainment industry, where I worked as a TV writer as well as on a few feature assignments. It’s not the easiest career, and sometimes not the most stable, but I enjoyed it. I’ve since segued into novels, and I love the idea of writing something that stands on its own (unlike teleplays, which need actors, crew, etc.)

How has writing for television influenced your writing style?
I definitely have pacing in mind when I write. TV episodes move quickly, lest someone get bored and change the channel. Every scene has to play a role in moving the story forward, and your project is only as good as the worst scene, so I try to find the areas that need a little more TLC. On the other hand, TV doesn’t always allow time to delve into scenes, to allow more breathing room, and that’s something I continue to work on in novels. I sometimes have to remind myself I don’t need to rush so much. Then again, at least with this project, it’s a thriller, so I wanted it to move fast.

What inspired the writing of What Lies Within? Did you do any research for your novel?
My inspiration, really, has always been about identity, and who we say we are versus who we really are, or who we are versus who we really want to be. There’s great dramatic tension between those opposites! I did research genetics, even interviewing a doctor of genetics at UCLA, Dr. Wayne Grody, who was kind to offer his time. At the end of the day, though, it’s fiction, and I took liberty with the science.

Around what themes did you write What Lies Within?
Akin to the inspiration, it was about identity. I think it’s a potent theme for most adolescents (and even adults, really). I’m always curious: can we escape the forces that shape(d) us?

What do you want readers to take away from your novel?
First and foremost, just to have a good time. This is a ride of a novel, something you can read in big gulps, and enjoy. I’m not a fan of preaching or messaging; entertainment must come first. Afterwards, if it gets readers thinking, that’s great, too. But I want the reader to have fun.

If you could hang out with one of your characters for a day, who would it be and what would you do?
I think I’m most like Winston, so I’m not sure I’d want to hang out with myself all day! I actually think the villain would be interesting. You wonder how some people function throughout the day when they do such bad things.

Who were your favorite authors growing up and have any influenced your writing?
Ray Bradbury, for sure. He really was my first literary love. My other influence, and it’s a bit of a cheat, is Rod Serling. I am a “Twilight Zone” addict, and those stories still hold up! How crazy is that? They are written so well. I think I learned as much from “Twilight Zone” about dialogue, pacing, theme and structure than any other book or teacher. As far as influencing my own writing, it’s odd, because I would definitely love to write with some of the elements of say, John Greene, or Jess Walter (who wrote Beautiful Ruins), but you find you write like you write, for better or worse.

What are your thoughts about current YA trends in the book market? What would you like to see more of?
My only bummer is the labels publishing houses place on books in order to market them better. “Young adult” didn’t really exist when I read as a teen. Good stories were just good stories! I guess my second thing is publishing is probably much like Hollywood, in that, once a trend hits that’s successful, then it’s replicated. Publishing is a business like any other, geared toward profit, which I understand, but when a trend hits, then in the act of replicating the trend, other books don’t make it market because they don’t fit the theme of the moment, which is a loss for readers.

What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a (yes, I’ll say it after the previous question and labels) New Adult alternate history novel with a love story. No matter the project I’m working on, I always think the current one I’m working on is the best I’ve ever done, and I feel the same about this one. I’m excited about What Lies Within, but I’m really excited for the book coming soon!

About the Author

James Morris is a former television writer who has worked on include Smallville, The Dead Zone, and Are You Afraid of the Dark?. He now works in digital media with companies such as with copywriting, blogging, and editing. His goal is to use his love of storytelling to help corporations tell their own stories while continuing to write his own. When he isn't writing, you can find him scoping out the latest sushi spot, watching 'House Hunters Renovation', or trying new recipes in the kitchen. He lives with his wife and dog in Los Angeles.

Connect with James Morris
Website | GoodreadsFacebook | Twitter

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