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Nottingham Castle

Wilf Morgan interview

3 October 09 words: Jamie Rhodes
"I got married in 2002. Thankfully there were no gunfights, but meeting my prospective father-in-law was a nerve-racking experience"
Wilf Morgan - writing from home
Wilf Morgan - writing from home

Wilf Morgan is the founder of Nottingham publishing label Eighty8Tales and self-published author of The Cotton Keeper, Lost Angels and The Assassin’s Wedding. He’s a Nottingham lad who has turned his hand to the craft he loves and is quickly cementing his name as one of the top new writing talents on Nottingham’s literature scene. Having reviewed his thoroughly enjoyable latest novel The Assassin’s Wedding, I jumped at the chance to meet the man behind the words. Thus it unfolded that in the cosy surroundings of The Dragon, over a casual pint, I chatted with Wilf about the trials and tribulations of taking the self-publishing road to literary renown. 

One of the things that struck me was the well-developed backdrop of the day-to-day running of an assassin agency. How do you know so much about the inner workings of the assassin’s trade? Did you do a lot of research or is it purely a construct of your imagination?
Yeah you got me, it’s a complete fabrication I’m afraid, but I did try very hard to make it feel real. I didn’t get bogged down in too much detail though, for example, how they would use a secure line to talk to The Agency on their mobile phones. I just wanted to get away from the typical assassin genre really, you know, all the exploding buildings, outrageous gunfights, cheesy one-liners etc. Instead, I thought exploring the everyday life of an assassin would make for a far more interesting main character. Actually I was surprised to find when I had finished the book, how few out and out “action” sequences there are.

Are you married, and does The Assassin’s Wedding reflect your own experiences of marital proceedings?
I got married in 2002, so that’s seven years now. Thankfully there were no gunfights, but meeting my prospective father-in-law was a very nerve racking experience, but I enjoy a good relationship with him, unlike my main character Mike! In terms of the wedding day itself, the church where they get married in the book is based on Bilsthorpe, where I tied the knot. So I could visualise the inside really easily.

Flashbacks to Mike’s childhood are written in script format, which I think highlights the fact that this story would make a great film, what made you decide to use this technique?
Well, I was just trying to experiment with different ways of writing really. Film changes the way that you would normally read a sequence of events; I wondered how this would work in writing? Mike’s in a bit of denial about his past, so he doesn’t see it as himself; he just sees it as a fictional thing that didn’t really happen. For me, using script format for flashbacks exemplified this distance. I also quite like writing in that style because I enjoy writing dialogue then going back and adding in the appropriate bits of description, I sometimes even do that when I am writing prose. Quite a few people have said my writing is very filmic, and I am a big film fan, perhaps in some ways more of a film fan than a book fan, even though I do love reading.

Have you ever dabbled in film?
I used to do short films with my brother and a friend but it never really got off the ground, so I’ve got a bunch of really weird looking stuff on videotape! We were always trying to build up to a make feature length but never got round to it. I would definitely like to get involved with film again in the future, whether scriptwriting or something else.

What sorts of books have influenced your writing? Do you draw inspiration from any other authors?
Although I do have a few literary influences, I would say it’s mostly films that give me inspiration. Having so little free time, I do tend to get through a lot more films than books. I do take a lot of literary inspiration from Iain M. Banks though, not necessarily his style or anything, just in the way that he likes to give you a story with a whole load of stuff going on and refuses to explain hardly any of it, then things start to unfold towards the end.  I like the way the reader is challenged to put together the jigsaw, I think it makes them connect more with the story.

Wilf Morgan - The Assasin's Wedding - A novel
Wilf Morgan - The Assasin's Wedding - A novel

So you’ve set up your own independent label, Eighty8Tales. Could you tell us a little about that? When did you set up and why did you decide to go the self-publishing route?
I tried to get my first novel, Lost Angels, published via traditional routes in 1999; sending it to agents and publishers. But I never got very far with it. Since then I have re-written it twice, last time being in 2006. Initially I just wanted to give it out to family and friends so got it made up to give as presents. Luckily people really liked it so I started selling it, only small scale, through friends and relatives. It went down really well, so I set up the website for people to access it through there and sold a few more copies. I enjoyed the whole publishing process so much – the typesetting, cover design and everything else that I decided to self-publish my following books. There’s a lot of fun in creating something exactly how you want.

Do you publish any other authors’ work at the moment?
Not as yet, though I would like to do that eventually, for the time being I am interested in using the website to find different ways to get people more involved in reading and writing. I have written online short stories which are available free from the website, and I would like to expand that further by putting up other people’s short stories. I am also looking to try different ways of telling stories, like writing blogs to be read as continuous – perhaps episodic – tales, for people to follow or short audio-books for your MP3 player, whatever comes to mind, really.

Wilf Morgan - The Cotton Keeper
Wilf Morgan - Lost Angels
Wilf Morgan - The Cotton Keeper
Lost Angels

What are the pros and cons of being self-published?
There has been a rise in self-publishing over the last couple of years, but it is a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand it leads to a lot of sub-quality books being published, and so being self-published inevitably gets you tarred with the reputation that self-published means bad books. On the other hand it’s a place where some great authors that perhaps haven’t found traditional publishers are coming through and getting noticed, in some cases picked up by traditional publishers and given a wider audience.

Where about in Nottingham are you from?
I grew up in Bestwood, but also lived in Bramcote, Highson Green and Carlton. The history of the city is very interesting to me; in fact, at one point I wanted to write a series of short stories based in Nottingham set over the last couple of centuries, so I started researching local history in the library. I found a whole treasure trove of material, in particular an interesting little story as to why Market Street is called Market Street.

Do tell…
Well, it leads up to the theatre or down to the market. A few hundred years ago it used to be called Sheep Lane but had the nickname of “blood lane” because it was really steep, carts would roll down and people would get splattered against the big wall at the bottom. The road was due to be relayed to be less steep and re-named; the upper class who went to the theatre wanted to call it Theatre Street, and the lower class wanted to call it Market Street. Obviously the upper class won, but apparently the night before the unveiling some of the market folk sneaked in, unscrewed the Theatre Street signs, and replaced them with Market Street ones. It was unveiled as Market Street and hasn’t been changed since. I don’t know how true that is, but it’s a great story!

When did you start writing? Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Since I was very young. I mean, I can remember using my dad’s electronic typewriter to make up little Star Wars stories about me and my mates (yes, I am a geek!). Another thing that I always used to do was write and draw, so naturally I went through a phase of writing comics (which I still love reading). This gives me a great advantage in self-publishing as I can design covers to make the books look as professional as possible and save on design costs.

What previous jobs have you had?
My occupation in the “practical world”, if you like, was a computer programmer. I worked at Game for a while, and then went into I.T. and computer programming. But I left my last job two Christmas’ ago to look after my three kids, I fancied a change and it seemed a sensible option considering everything I earned was going on nursery fees anyway!

I see on the eighty8tales website that you have a novella prequel to The Assassin’s Wedding in the pipeline, could you tell us a little about That Time in the Honduras?
It is written as a prequel and primarily deals with Mike trying to decide what to do about this girl he loves – which is a new thing for him – seeing as the life of an assassin isn’t really compatible with marriage and settling down. If you have read The Assassin’s Wedding it’s a nice return to Mike’s world. If you haven’t read The Assassins Wedding it leads straight into the novel and so is a good opener. It is available online and can be downloaded for free from the Eighty8Tales website.

Where do you want to take Eighty8tales press in the future?
I would like to develop Eighty8Tales into a bit of a label for local writers whose careers are still in their infancy. Not a huge list of people, but just a few so that Eighty8Tales can build up a bit of a reputation. To begin with, if anyone has any short stories they would like to share, send them to me and I would be happy to stick them up on the website.

All of Wilf’s books, including his most recent The Assassin’s Wedding are available to buy from his Eighty 8Tales publishing website. 

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