Author interview with Lou Morgan

Author interview with Lou Morgan

At the end of 2012 I got introduced to Blood and Feathers the debut of Lou Morgan. From the moment that I started reading I just knew that Blood and Feathers would be an amazing book and Lou Morgan didn't proof me wrong. Blood and Feathers was a powerful debut with lost of cool idea's that came to full fruition. Earlier this year the sequel to Blood and Feathers, Rebellion was published and with finally getting around to reading it, I am again very excited and a bit sad as well, because I now again have to wait till book three! If you want to read a powerful Urban Fantasy from a star on the rise chockfull of cool stuff, make sure you ask these books. Soon!

Author bio:
Lou Morgan lives in the south of England with her family. She studied medieval literature at UCL but much prefers making things up. Her first short story was published in 2008 by the British Fantasy Society, and since then her stories have appeared in anthologies from Solaris Books, Jurassic Press and PS Publishing. Her debut novel, Blood and Feathers, was published by Solaris in August 2012, and the sequel Blood and Feathers: Rebellion followed in July 2013.


Hi Lou, welcome to The Book Plank and for talking your time to answer these few questions.

BP: First off, could you give us a short introduction as to who Lou Morgan is? What are you likes/dislikes and hobbies
LM: I'm a bit of a muddle, really - which will surprise no-one. The quick and dirty version is that I studied at UCL and have a Master's degree in Medieval literature and history; love cathedrals, pizza and Christopher Nolan movies (not necessarily in that order) and live in Bath in the south-west of England with my son and my husband, who happens to be a part-time racing driver. And I'm a longbow archer. Like I said: muddle.

BP: Blood and Feathers was your debut into the fantasy fiction world last year. What gave you the idea behind this series?
LM: I've always been interested in the depiction of angels: not from a New Age point of view, but from a medieval one. I had an idea, which I thought was a short story, involving a couple of angels but which never went anywhere: it had characters, but nothing else. I'd also had an idea for another short story involving a young woman in therapy… and somewhere along the way, the two ideas sort of bumped into each other in my head and I realised they weren't two separate stories at all - just one much bigger one!

BP: Urban Fantasy with angelic themes is popular. For me your book and now series really sets itself apart with the way that it is written, characters and the action-packed story itself. Where do you think your series sets itself apart with?
LM: When I started writing the first book, a lot of the angel stories that I'd read were very much focused on romance, and that's never been something that really interested me either as a writer or a reader - which isn't to say it's a bad thing, it's just not my particular brand of poison. I wanted to tell a story that was tied to the idea of angels I'd come across in medieval art and literature: one which had them as (often brutal) soldiers in a war, first and foremost, as they're presented by the kind of texts I'd read during my studies - but in our time and not in the 13th Century. Whether that sets it apart, I don't know: I guess it was just a case of me trying to write the story I wanted to read!

BP: If you would have to sell the Blood and Feathers series with a single sentence how would it go?
LM: Going for my full allowance of hubris? Milton by way of Whedon & Tarantino, maybe? On a slightly more realistic level, it's the story of the biggest war of all, and what happens when people get caught in the crossfire.

BP: Your debut was well received among critics, did you feel any added pressure when you were writing the sequel?
LM: I'm not sure there's a writer out there who hasn't felt pressure when they're working on their second book. The first time round, it's very much just for you. If you're in the ridiculously fortunate position to have someone publish it and let you write another one, you're much more aware of the potential for letting people down: your editor, your agent if you have one - all the people involved in the making of a book who have put their faith in you - and also, anyone who might have read the first book and connected with it. You want to respect their relationship with the world or characters, while staying true to the story you're telling.

BP: Sometimes writing a sequel can be a much more daunting task than the first book, did you have everything planned in advance for Rebellion or did you just look at where the story went? Were you also able to use any experience from you debut?
LM: I'd realised that the story was bigger than one book when I was about halfway through "Blood and Feathers". There were lots of things I hadn’t been able to explore, that just wouldn't work in that book: the relationships between the angels, in part; their history and the bigger story of the war between them and the Fallen. There was the idea that the first book took place at a tipping point, for good or ill, and I wanted to see where it went after that, where characters like Alice (who had had the roof fairly comprehensively blown off her world) went and how they changed. So I suppose it was a bit of both: while the story followed its natural progression, the characters grew from the way they'd developed through the original book.

BP: Did you encounter any specific problems when you were writing Rebellion?
LM: A piece of advice: if you're going to kill people in a book, write them down as you do it. Especially if their names are even remotely similar. You'll save yourself that glorious head-banging moment 20,000 words into the next book when you have to throw out an entire scene (which you happen to be absurdly proud of) because you've given it to a ghost. Not that I'm bitter or anything.

Other than that, the same kind of issues followed me into "Rebellion" that I'd found with "Blood and Feathers": however cool angels are, they're still intrinsically connected to ideas of faith and that's something you need to be mindful of. They give you the chance to talk about big questions like free will and good and evil, but still: it's something that's immensely personal.

BP: What has been the hardest part to write in the series so far?
LM: There've been a few tricky ones, for different reasons. A couple of deaths have been hard because I was very attached to the character(s) involved. The single trickiest section was the riot which takes place in the first half of "Rebellion": it was very much influenced by the London riots a few years back, but I had no idea how it actually feels to be right in the middle of one. Fortunately, I had a huge amount of help and advice from a member of the riot police: enough to convince me that whatever horror I could conjure up, it wouldn't even come close to some of the things they'd seen.

BP: Besides the hardest part, which part have you enjoyed writing the most?
LM: I always enjoy writing Mallory and Vin's conversations. They feel very real, very alive. I think, as well, that a lot of the scenes in Mont Saint-Michel were fun to write: it's one of my favourite places in the world and (even if I did have to include the odd deliberate mistake to make things fit…) trying to capture the feel of it - especially when you stand halfway up and look out over the sand for miles and miles around - was the best kind of challenge. There was one image in particular which I'd had in my head since I'd started planning the book: it was the back of Alice's shoes as she ran up a flight of stairs. Writing that, knowing where and how it fitted, was a nice feeling.

BP: Lets get down to the angels, most of them are the virtuous types but there are some exceptions. Mallory for example, I love his character, especially with the guns and of course his attitude! How did your idea of heaven came to be, with the different choirs etc? Did you have to do a lot of research? 
LM: I did do a lot of research when I started: I looked into as many different representations of angels as I could, including the ideas of choirs. I then promptly threw most of it out of the window. I knew I wanted them to be recognizable as an army, so there had to be a hierarchy, and I wanted them all to have different strengths and weaknesses. I mucked around with tradition a lot there, it has to be said. The sigils, though, are what you could call "real": they're the symbols allegedly connected to each of the Archangels who head up the respective choirs - like a unit badge or flag.

BP: Next to Mallory there are a lot of characters both with primary and secondary roles. I have to give you praise that your characters are just spot on in how they act. Each character has its own attitude and sometimes they clash. How did you went about and designed your characters? Did you use any people as a reference to some?
LM: I tend to loosely model characters' appearance on people, even though I don't always describe them very much. It's more so that I don't forget someone's got brown hair or green eyes than anything else! I've always liked the idea that everyone can fill in their own version of Mallory or Vin or Alice in their heads and none of them are really right or wrong. I know what my version of them looks like - but it might not be yours, and that's fine. A couple of them, I'm less precious about: it's no secret that Zadkiel, who pops up in "Rebellion" bears an uncanny resemblance to Jeremy Renner, while Adriel shares a lot of features with an undertaker I've met. In terms of the way they all behave, though, that's all them. They're all their own people - and that's the way it should be; the way you hope it will be when you're writing them.

BP: Maybe a hard question: which character is your favourite and why?
LM: Always a hard one. I have a few. I'm especially fond of Mallory and Vin - probably why I have so much fun writing them. I also have a huge amount of affection for Michael: he's not always the most sympathetic guy, I don't think, but he has his reasons. Zadkiel, another of the Archangels, also means a lot to me… I could probably keep on going!

BP: Two books have been published so far in the Blood and Feathers series, have you already mapped out how many additional volumes the series will run?
LM: That there would only ever be three books at most is a mortal lock. I decided right at the beginning that a third would be the last. I have the notes for the full run, so I know exactly how it would end. It's just a case of being able to do the final one!

BP: Do you have any other writing projects that you wish to pursue in the near future?
LM: There's a few projects I'm working on at the moment: a YA book that's been a lot of fun to write and is a real brakes-off kind of thing. I always love to work on short stories because they're what I started out doing and there's just something about them, so there's a couple of those on the workbench at the moment too. After that, I've got a very different kind of project lined up that I'm going to start research on in a little while: I have no idea how it'll turn out, but it's been on my mind for a while and I'm just going to do it for the hell of it and see where it goes!

BP: Everyone enjoys reading and writing fantasy in their own way, what do you like most about the fantasy genre?
LM: Fantasy, in its broadest sense and meaning "the fantastic" (including horror, SF and all the slipstream in between) is a mirror. It's a way of looking at the familiar in an unfamiliar way; you hold it up and it shows you the world reflected in a new way. At its best, it tells us something about the world around us, about the way we live our lives and the people we surround ourselves with: it tells us something about ourselves… and because it has its own magic, it can do it without moralizing or lecturing, and while giving us a story we can fall in love with.

BP: And just lastly, if you would have to give your top 5 favorite books, which would they be?
LM: Just 5? That's even harder than picking a favourite character! In no particular order, I guess I'd say "Only Forward" by Michael Marshall Smith; "Our Mutual Friend" by Charles Dickens; "Life: A User's Manual" by Georges Perec; "The Dark is Rising" by Susan Cooper, and "The Time Traveler's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger. Of course, like all lists of books, it's entirely subject to one's mood at the time of asking, so could be very different tomorrow. Somehow, I suspect most of them would always make the final five!

BP: Thank you for your time Lou and good luck with your future writing!

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