Interview with Michael Neal Morris

What is your writing process?
A lot of the answer to this question depends on what I am writing, and when. I write some poetry in a notebook, but most often I compose on my phone and computer. I have recently been working with the Hanx Writer app, due to limitations on Tumblr, and because it allows me to experiment with space and color. I believe strongly in revision, so I go through it a couple of times, even if I am just posting on my blog. Poems I try to publish elsewhere, or include in my books get many more passes at revision.
Prose always gets revised, usually several times. Some stories and longer works get plotted and thought through carefully before I start writing. Sometimes, I work from a prompt or do a kind of focused free-writing when writing flash fiction. These pieces often get a few days between revisions because I want to make sure I have polished each piece until it shines.
What are you working on next?
I always have multiple projects going at once. I am writing the first draft of a "flash fiction novel," where each character's thoughts are expressed 100 words at a time throughout a church service. I am also working (painfully slowly) on a collection of poems and a collection of flash fiction.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Playing with my grandchildren, talking to my wife, being frustrated by my favorite soccer team, Chelsea. Also, I have started drawing and making up tunes on my ipad. I have about 25 or more games going on Words With Friends.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I am sure there is one I composed earlier, as I can't remember not writing stories, but I remember showing two stories, at different times, to my grandfather. One was about a guy with a pet monkey that saves him, and the other was about a football player who commits suicide after blowing the big game. (Have no idea why I was so dark.) I am sure I'd groan if I saw them now, but I'm kind of sorry I do not have copies of these.
How do you approach cover design?
With fear and trepidation. I know it is best practices to pay a real professional to create covers. But at this point in my career, it just is not feasible. I have only been able to do that with my Composition textbook, and that is because the publisher has really wonderfully smart and talent people that I do not have to pay for. I look forward to having the money to do this for all my self-published books.
That said, I still don't do this completely alone. I follow the Smashwords guidelines as carefully as I can. I have lately used Canva for some templates, and gotten a great deal of wondrous feedback from family, including daughters who have worked doing things like this before and have keen artistic eyes. The cover photos, most of the time, I have done myself.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
My iPad. Probably 75-80% of the books I read are on this or my phone.
Describe your desk
I have two desks, one at home, and one in my office at Eastfield College where I teach. My work desk is curved, which is nice because I can put notebooks and books on the part not with the computer, which also faces outside. My home desk usually has a short stack of books and papers to my left. Behind this is a turntable connected to the computer. To my right, one would see my notebook and/or a camcorder I keep plugged in (I record sermons for my church, and also try to get pictures and videos of my grandchildren.). There are speakers on either side of the monitor, which play music when Alexa is acting stubborn. Slightly behind the monitor is a box I set up for my two cats to sleep in while I'm working. This has backfired on me because they often seem more at home knocking over my books and standing in front of the monitor. They once added 460 blank pages to a manuscript I was working on.
Who are your favorite authors?
Flannery O'Connor, C.S. Lewis, the various writers of the books of the Bible, Mary Karr, Anne Lamott, and so many poets (Donne, Cummings, Frost, Rilke, and a ton I'm leaving out).
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
First, I follow a lot of poets and short story writers and most of them are indie writers. Even if they publish a paper book, I try to get the ebook version as well. I also read reviews and listen to my friends' recommendations. They usually know what I like to read.
I also read many ebooks I check out of the library. With all that, I get even more recommendations.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Okay, this is likely to change as soon as I answer, but here goes, in no particular order:
The Bible: It is a better and more dynamic book each time (I know it is actually several books. My favorites are Psalms and The Gospel of John.).
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis: I have never read a book with more insight into spiritual life and psychology.
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky: Each time I read this, I am amazed at the depth of storytelling.
I know there are more, but I'll have to add them later.
What do you read for pleasure?
Whatever I want. I vowed when I finished graduate school, that I would minimize what I had to read for work (which is impossible since I grade papers for hours a day), and when I saw something I wanted to read, I would read it no matter what. I read poetry and short stories and novels and a few books on spiritual topics.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Several things motivated me to become an indie author. First, while I have published several pieces in magazines, journals, web zines, and anthologies, I have found that the market for poetry and short stories is not as open as it should be. I won't rant about the difficulty, particularly for publishing a first collection, but suffice it to day there are a lot of obstacles.
I also want control of my work. Smashwords, more than anyone, helps writers to keep as much control as possible.
Also, I love eBooks, and I love the idea of putting my product into more readers' hands.
Published 2018-05-23.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Haiku, Etc
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 2,950. Language: English. Published: July 12, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Poetry » American poetry
A modern approach to haiku and its related forms, without losing sight of a variety of traditions, Haiku, Etc. contains three sections: "before me the black road curves" (haiku, senryu, and tanka), "crossings: three renga," and "outline of distant trees" (pictureless eyeku).
Words With Dark Coffee
You set the price! Words: 290. Language: English. Published: July 10, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Poetry » Themes & motifs
A twist on the tradition of the ekphrasis, where a writer responds to another work of art, this collection of micropoems have been written about photographs he has taken.
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 30,700. Language: English. Published: May 23, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Psychological thriller
Lester Baum is leaving prison, and wants to live a quiet, unobtrusive life. But after registering as a sex offender, peace is the one thing that is not going to happen.
Recital Notes, Volume 2: The Digital Sessions
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 2,610. Language: English. Published: May 20, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Poetry » Contemporary Poetry
This is the second collection in a series of poems inspired by and first drafted during recitals I have attended.
Music for Arguments
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 43,600. Language: English. Published: May 4, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary, Fiction » Themes & motifs » Family sagas
Twenty short stories. These tales are about families in turmoil, men who wrestle with the expectations of others and what is expected of them, and hard to find grace.
Is It I, Rabbi?
Price: Free! Words: 20,010. Language: English. Published: January 22, 2018. Categories: Nonfiction » Religion & Spirituality » Meditations
This is short book of meditations on scriptural passages and reflections on Christian life.
In Domestic News
Price: $2.99 $1.50 USD. (50% off until May 11, 2020!) Words: 11,990. Language: English. Published: March 2, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Poetry » Contemporary Poetry
This volume contains poems published between 2009-2012 (some written much earlier in the author's career). Themes included are domestic life, suffering, and redemption.
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 2,560. Language: English. Published: August 11, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
121 micro-poems. Here are verses which started on twitter, and were pared-down where possible in hopes of saying more with less.
Recital Notes, Volume 1: The Paper Sessions
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 2,240. Language: English. Published: July 7, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Poetry » Contemporary Poetry
This book contains untitled poems composed during recitals I attended between 2005 and 2012. Some are about the music I listened to. Some are about what came to mind as I listened to that music. For many readers, the thread connecting these pieces to music will be invisible. What I hope you find is a taste of the wonder I have experienced.