Interview with NP author Chris Morley
Today I have the honour of introducing a young writer, who so far has won his spurs as a music journalist. Chris Morley is one of the regular contributors to Mintsouth, a music site concentrating on music events on England’s south coast, but you’d better watch out for this young man! Chris has many more strings to his bow and is determined to let his talent fan out to writing filmscripts and books. Whatever Chris produces, it will all have one tune at its core: his great love and knowledge of music. Chris breathes music with every fibre of his body and soul.
Where do you live (town, country)? Were you born and bred there?
I live in Stubbington, which is a village in Fareham on the south coast of England. I wasn’t born there, though I have spent a significant portion of my life here and regard it as ‘home’ for now, though if all goes to plan not for a lot longer, it’s nice here but there isn’t a lot to do if you’re under a certain age. It’s a bit like the Village of the Damned, minus any scares or excitement, really!
What kind of food do you like? Are you a good cook? How important is food to you?
Food? Obviously my relationship to it is quite close, as we need to eat to live! I’m hopeless as a cook, for which I blame the cerebral palsy and a genuine fear of doing something wrong, I think I’d be paralysed by fear if asked to appear on Masterchef or Come Dine With Me, you know? Sometimes I wish I could cook as it would be another set of skills to show off…………don’t think Jamie Oliver should be having any sleepless nights yet, mind. Don’t think you can get much variety out of staples like beans on toast, can you? Although if someone can tell me otherwise, I’m listening.
Do you do any sports? How often? What does exercise mean to you? Any other hobbies?
Sports wise, I used to play for Southampton’s disabled football team before going off to university, also played some wheelchair basketball while in school. Nowadays I’ll happily watch almost any football that happens to be on, whether on television or if I get chance to go to a game, which isn’t as often as I’d like nowadays. I wouldn’t like to give the impression that I’m a complete couch potato though, I try to fit in a daily walk and will quite happily wander off into the village centre on errands with the Ipod for company as I believe it does me good, in both the physical and mental senses.
Do you like travelling? Where do you go then?
Yes, I’d say I enjoy travelling, though I have no means of transport beyond a bus ride or asking family and friends for lifts to places. If there’s one thing I’d like to accomplish beyond increasing my creative repertoire it’s to see more of the world, I went through a phase a while back of just going through all the Bill Bryson travel writing I could find, which has given me the desire to experience these things for myself if at all possible as he does such a wonderful job of describing it all. I’ve often dreamed of taking a magical mystery tour of my own, I must admit- I’ve been to Hungary (not that I remember a lot of it as I was only small and it wasn’t really a holiday, but I owe everything to the people at the Peto Institute in Budapest), France, Spain, Scotland, and America (in that order) as well as various different places in England’s green and sometimes not so pleasant land.
Do you have another job apart from writing? For how many hours? How do you feel about the ‘other’ job?
I do have another job- I’m a member of staff at my local arts centre, doing bar work (serving, not drinking, I might add, though sometimes I wish I could!) and customer service, which I enjoy as at heart I think I’m a fairly sociable person and have always been told I have a good sense of humour. Plus it feeds my passion for the creative arts, I’ve met some great people through it and gives me some much-valued funds and a sense of purpose.
How do your family/friends react to you being a writer? Have their opinions changed since you became a published author? Which remark from your surroundings has stuck most with you?
My family seem very supportive of me as a writer, they encouraged my passion for music of all sorts- which in turn encouraged me to apply to write about music for the student newspaper during my first year of university, and everyone was happy for me when I got my first articles published, I’d like to think they felt even a small swell of pride with every subsequent piece, as my writing for MintSouth (www.mintsouth.com) has really picked up lately, as well as encouraging me to branch out into other things.
Would you call yourself a social human being? Do you have time for going out and spending time away from the writing desk?
If anything I’d say that I have more time for writing lately owing to a lack of social commitments, though not by choice! I’ve always enjoyed meeting new people and experiencing new things, it’s what keeps me sane as I go through life. If all the world’s a stage, as Shakespeare once said, then I’m very much a bit-part player as it stands at the moment.
Which character trait do you like best about yourself and why? Which trait would you rather do without?
Self-analysis, eh? Well, I’d say my wit and friendly nature are my best qualities, although everything in that respect is a bit of a double-edged sword and has its negative, self confidence is probably what I would choose to work on if I had the chance, I’ve possibly given up on too many things purely because I maybe didn’t think I could carry it off for whatever reason. I had no idea I’d be on the psychiatrists couch this early in life, I must say, I always thought that would come when the fame got too much later on and I end up considering doing a Howard Hughes, vanishing completely and getting even more eccentric than at present. Or maybe it’s just me.
Can you describe the place where you write + the view?
The place where I write? Hmm…well, mostly I write in my room at home, I get a view of the road outside, so nothing too exciting I suppose! Occasionally a car or person will come past but that’s about it, it’s probably the English equivalent of those towns in old Westerns where you see nothing but the odd tumbleweed rolling past! Although actually a lot of my writing comes from thoughts and ideas that I have, words, phrases, sounds etc, a lot of what I hear goes into what I write, as a journalist as well as in my entries to the ‘ Paragraphs of Power’ competition, under the watchful eye of Suzanna Burke, so for me it’s not so much about the view, although I do appreciate a good sunny day in which to write, nobody likes the cold and wet do they?
Is there something you always need to have near you when you work (beverage, cigarette, mascot, music, quote, etc)?
Obviously as a music journalist, I need to be able to hear something playing, no matter what, and that’s spilled over into my attempts at other forms of writing. I’ve tried working in silence before and just can’t manage it, so I’ll quite often have the television or radio as background noise if I can’t think what else to listen to, in choosing music I take it on a day by day basis, a lot depends on how I feel though I’m happy to listen to almost anything- I’ve just recently discovered the Electric Light Orchestra, and that, coupled with a new found desire to explore classical music in light of its influence on them (plus seeing the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra play a night of John Williams film scores live), has freshened up my tastes of late, it was getting stale listening to the same kind of thing each time and I find I have to hop between styles to keep things interesting on that front- I did go through a phase of listening to Classic FM a few months back, perhaps I should try again……plus on a more practical level I always find a nice cup of tea helps, ‘ make tea not war’ is a good philosophy in my book!
What genre(s) do you write in? How did that develop?
In my past experience of writing outside journalism I’ve found that comedy comes most naturally to me, hopefully that’s coming across in my answers to your questions (he adds, nervously) and given both my work as a journalist and status as an amateur guitar player (I should stress that I’m nowhere near fit to be classed as a rock god yet!), as well as a spell scriptwriting and acting in a soap opera for local radio I think I would be happy working in an audio medium, having made a documentary for student radio as part of my course on the local alternative music scene I would be comfortable either in front of or behind the microphone, as I took the approach that I was making a record, in a way, mixing music and speech together. Then in my scriptwriting I was able to use the sounds of the voices of the actors to mould lines in my head, so I suppose in a way even then I didn’t step out of the producer’s chair in my head, not that I would dare pit myself against the likes of Sir George Martin or Phil Spector in that respect, or any of the many authors, film-makers and musicians I admire as a writer myself. Actually, now I come to think of it something with music involved outside of journalism might be a good path to take, plus in my time as a student I took practical roles behind the camera in various films, so making the step up to directing appeals……………
When was your first article released and how did that make you feel?
My first article would have been at some time in around 2006, with the establishment of my university’s student newspaper. I wrote a review of a tribute to Joy Division after dragging my housemate with me, was amazed I remembered enough afterwards to write a workable article, and even more surprised to be told I’d made the cut, and since then I’ve reviewed everything from local bands to symphony orchestras, really. And I have to say it felt absolutely brilliant, having talked with family about it all I came to realise that music had been my escape from the reality of life with a disability, and that writing about it, and writing in itself, was an extension of that, I’ve always related in a way to Kurt Cobain’s anecdote that ‘ Nirvana means freedom from pain, suffering and the external world’ in the spiritual sense, and how he felt it matched his definition of his music. To this day, every time I listen to music or get really into a writing project I feel exactly that, for however long I listen or go into my own mental space nothing else matters, I can switch off and listen to myself think or someone else soundtracking things. I suppose that’s what they mean by the ‘rhythm of life’ really, veering from the equivalent of nice happy-clappy three minutes or under pop song type of thing to one of those really long, boring, drawn out operas where everybody’s sad or angry and screeching and I can’t understand, sometimes in the space of a single day!
What are your writing habits? (every day, number of words, etc.?)
Well, I always try to devote a few hours a day to writing at least, I have to or I forget whatever the idea was! Much as I try to fight the urge to run off and just write sometimes, for a variety of reasons, however flimsy (something I want to watch is on, errands need to be run, etc), I never quite manage to, and the inner busybody takes hold! I don’t set myself any particular targets, just that ‘what happens, happens’ and go with it. I find it helps if I’m actually in a mood to write, if not I just can’t force myself, I’m sometimes too nice to myself and others! But perhaps I should re-master the art of dictation- having used a Dictaphone during my studies it might help, and if not I can at least obsess a little over small details, if I weren’t a writer I’ve sometimes thought I would have been some kind of recording producer or engineer owing to my apparent ear for that kind of thing. And if that doesn’t work I’ll just get some kind of secretary to come in and nudge me when deadlines are approaching!
Who’s been your biggest inspiration and why? Since when?
Ah, the ‘inspirations’ question! I thought we might come to that! Within the music world, I have to plump for the Beatles as according to anecdote it was the first music I properly engaged with, and I’ve often wondered what it would like to be a fly on the wall in a Lennon-McCartney writing session, they could do things in sound and verse which many have tried to better and none have, so far, to my mind, which must sound strange coming from a comparative youngster like myself at 24! In terms of literature I was awestruck when I first read Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ and the ‘Lord of the Rings’ books which followed, they’re the most recent books I remember having a ‘wow’ reaction to for a long time, though I’ll read, watch, or listen to literally anything that takes my interest, however small the impact it later has on me. I think having watched a lot of cinema and television over my lifetime as well, that has to have had some bearing on my writing both past and present in a lot of ways particularly in terms of how to make language more visual in a sense- I’m starting to really get into Steven Moffatt as a writer for television, as an example of a recent emerging influence of mine, he’s done wonders for ‘Doctor Who’ since he took over as head writer last year, and his adaptation of ‘Sherlock’ was genuinely fantastic to watch, which takes some doing given that we now live in an age of many channels with not a lot worth watching. Also, if he’s reading this, if you’re looking for a future Twelfth or Thirteenth Doctor you could do worse……………………
What does Night Publishing mean to you?
At the moment, Night Publishing, to me, represents a community of like-minded souls, those of their writers roster whom I’ve met have all been wonderfully welcoming to me, even if I have somewhat gatecrashed their little party, and I must thank Catherine Chisnall, Samantha Towle, Suzanna Burke, Diane Nelson and Paige Pendleton in particular, as they’re the ones I know best, and also you for interviewing me and allowing me to either enthrall or bore the pants off people! I’ve no idea yet whether all this could lead to anything but, hey, I’ll enjoy the ride I suppose. Although hopefully it’s a case of getting by with a little help from my friends, to borrow from the Beatles. I’m not going to do one of those terrible speeches like at the Oscars, where they thank everyone under the sun, but I would place on record my thanks to my family, friends, teachers, and all that jazz (to use a figure of speech). Actually, as I’ve placed thanks on record, that would be a nice way to literally record it, wouldn’t it? Someone get me Miles Davis, and quick.
Where do you see yourself in 5-years’ time?
Five years’ time? Well, if only I had a Tardis to hand, unfortunately mine is currently out of service, besides, sometimes I have no idea what I’m doing on a day to day basis! But let’s hope that by then I’m some kind of success as a writer and/or actor, or anything else I might put my mind to in the meantime, for now I shall settle for finally fixing that damn Tardis and going five years into my own future to give you a better answer, how’s that? Chameleon circuits are rather tricky, I can tell you. Oh, and I’d like Tom Baker or Stephen Fry, or both, to read the audio-books of my works if it gets that far, as they have brilliant voices, I challenge anyone to argue otherwise!
Final fun question. If you had to choose: are you a Houdini or an Edison? This is for the official NP tally.
Houdini or an Edison? Hmm, not quite sure what that means. Will ‘international man of mystery’ do?
THANK YOU SO MUCH, Chris!!
Want to get in touch with Chris or read his work, just click on http://www.mintsouth.com/