Interview with Len Morse

What's the story behind The Black Orb?
The Black Orb was, and still is, a labor of love. Many years ago, I used to read the well-known Choose-Your-Own-Adventure (TM) series, and similarly written books. I truly enjoyed them, but over time I saw that most (if not all) interactive fiction stories were written for children, and I thought it would be an amazing journey to write one for grown-ups: something longer, with the feel of a novel, but still with plenty of interactive options.

I had always been interested in the Renaissance era and role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, so the setting was an easy decision. Developing the plot was the hard part!
The Black Orb is huge! How long did it take you write?
It's easy to let an interactive novel run amok. You start with one plot line, which splits into two, then four, then eight, then...

I used a number of different Excel grids to keep track of my protagonist's inventory, memories, companions, finances, etc., depending on which plot line I was developing. Although they all begin the same, I wanted most plots to be long enough to be exciting and have relatively satisfying endings. If you read it, please let me know what you think.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Honestly, it was probably more laziness than motivation.

I had worked on the Black Orb for a long time, but got burned out, so I put it aside for many years. At that time, the traditional publishing industry was still going strong. Then in 2011 I visited the Maryland Renaissance Festival, re-discovered my inspiration, and dove back into the book. While I was finishing the text and began editing, I researched publishing options. That's when I discovered the fast-growing number of indie authors. I later found Smashwords and decided that was the way to go.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
For fiction writing, it love getting into my characters' heads and refining their personalities, but also making sure they interact realistically. That's a tough thing to do, and I'm far from being an expert at it, but I thoroughly enjoy creating characters' passions, dreams, and quirks. They came from my own experience and those of current and past friends.
Who are your favorite authors?
Off the top of my head...

Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Dragonlance Series
J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter Series
Stephen King, Four Past Midnight (and others)
Stephen R. Donaldson, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Strangely enough, I do. It was an attempt at Science Fiction, about an astronaut who unwittingly discovers a new planet via a secret portal near our sun. Crazy. I must have been about ten years old.
What is your writing process?
Most often, I must wait for my muse to show up. Thankfully, she's quite social.

If she doesn't appear while I'm brainstorming, I will usually pull from my life experiences. I jot down ideas, concepts, and memories. Now and then a specific descriptive passage will come to me, but those are few and far between.

I will later attempt to mold that hunk of clay into something wise, amusing, adventurous...or at least slightly interesting.
How do you approach cover design?
A book's cover art is usually the first thing potential readers see, so I go with the professionals. I don't have enough artistic talent or training, but I like to think I know good art when I see it.

For The Black Orb, I discovered cover artist Johnny Atomic, at He is a pleasure to work with, and is open to making changes until you are satisfied. Extremely fair pricing, too.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I have a full-time federal job that pay my bills. Beyond that, I've played trumpet and percussion for various community and professional groups for about 25 years. I seriously can not envision my life without music.
Published 2014-06-26.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Black Orb
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 242,310. Language: English. Published: June 30, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » General, Fiction » Adventure » General
This illustrated interactive story follows Jonathan, accompanied by faithful amulet Mac, through a classic pick-your-own-path fantasy/adventure that allows the reader to play through multiple routes to reach a variety of different endings. During your quest, you must remember that one decision can affect the rest of your life. Choose wisely!