20 September 2006

Author Answers with Bob Morris

For you Wisconsin-based readers, this week's featured author might put you in a warmer frame of mind; Bob Morris is the author of the Caribbean mystery series. He's the author of Bahamarama, Jamaica Me Dead and the forthcoming Bermuda Schwartz, which hits shelves in Feb. 2007.

For more about him, check out his website, or his blog.

WN: What’s your writing process like from when you first had an idea to getting the novel published?
MORRIS: I got the idea for my first novel, Bahamarama (and the ensuing Caribbean series) while walking down a beach on Harbour Island in the Bahamas. I went back to my cottage and wrote what became the first chapter. The next day, I flew home and quit my job as editor of Caribbean Travel & Life magazine. My wife, bless her heart, said: “Uh, do you realize we have two kids in college?” But it was one of those now-or-never things. Four months later, Bahamarama was finished. It took me another nine months, and 27 rejections, before I landed an agent, who within a week had three offers for the book, including a three-book deal from St. Martin’s Press. That’s the one I took.

Beyond that, I just go to places like Jamaica (Jamaica Me Dead) or Bermuda (Bermuda Schwartz) or Trinidad (Trinidaddy-O, the book I’m currently working on), soak up everything I possibly can and then figure out new and unusual ways to kill people.

WN: How did you come up with your main character, Zachary Chasteen?
MORRIS: He just started speaking to me while I was walking down that beach on Harbour Island. Maybe I needed to be on medication or something, eh? But I liked his voice and knew he was the guy.

WN: You’ve also worked as a journalist and a food critic and a travel writer, how have these careers influence you as a novelist?
MORRIS: I can’t imagine not having a background as a newspaper reporter, columnist and, later, a magazine editor and travel writer. It has taught me all the important stuff: Persistence, research and the importance of writing something every day.

WN: You write funny, mystery books set on islands not that far from Florida… do you worry about being compared to writers like Carl Hiaasen and is the comparison a bad thing?
MORRIS: Carl’s a friend and is the guy at the top of the heap. I would glorify in any comparison, but our stuff is totally different. There are so many really good mystery writers working Florida – Randy White, James Hall, Jon King, James Born, the list goes on and on and on – that it’s one reason why I decided to set my books in the Caribbean. The turf was getting kinda crowded.

WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?
MORRIS: I can never answer this question. I mean, I have read gazillions of books and I always draw a blank when asked this. But like so many of my generation and, I would hope, many generations that follow, I was completely drawn to the voice of Holden Caufield in “Catcher in the Rye.” Sardonic, wry, wise and damaged – it worked on all levels for me.

WN: If you got stuck on a desert island with one of your characters, who would you want to be stranded with and why?
MORRIS: Well, that would definitely be Barbara Pickering, Zack’s lady love. My wife firmly believes that I created Barbara in her form, even though Barbara is brunette, British and a magazine publisher and my wife is none of those things. They are, however, both incredibly beautiful and sexy and constantly alluring so, please, go ahead and strand me.

WN: What piece of advice helped you out the most as a writer?
MORRIS: My mom, after I had flunked out of college and spent two years traveling around the world with no apparent focus to my life, said: “I love you, son, but please do something.”
That was all the fire I needed…

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