Most Thursdays in 2019 we will be interviewing one of the members of Christian Writers Downunder – to find out a little bit more about them and their writing/editing goals.
Today's interview: Ben Morton AKA Morton Benning
Question 1: Tells us three things about who you are and where you come from.
I grew up in Whyalla SA, which is essentially a hot and dry city masquerading as a country town, where my friends and I camped out as teenagers to be the first three customers of the newly opening Hungry Jacks.
I first left home when I was nineteen to live over 300km from a free dinner at mum’s because I wanted to study ministry, preaching and theology and become a youth pastor, but I had to work as a t-shirt artist to pay back my fee debts.
I met my wife while studying and then teaching drama and creative writing at Tabor Adelaide and we spent a year teaching English in Japan together before settling back in Adelaide and having two girls (one more baby on the way as I write this).
Question 2: Tell us about your writing (or editing/illustrating etc). What do you write and why?
I mostly write and teach speculative fiction because I find the fantastical environments to be a more interesting place to tell stories and explore ideas. I enjoy writing poetry from time to time as well, and I like to write a good mix of adventure and humour. I also use my writing, editing, typesetting, illustration and design skills to run a small business that makes use of modern publishing methods to turn unpublished writers into published authors. I call what I do assisted publication because it has many of the benefits of self publishing and also of what used to be called vanity publishing, but avoids most of the drawbacks of both. I am excited to give writers the opportunity to see their hard work become available to their audience without having to impose the barrier of a great deal of financial expense (which, let’s face it, writers mostly don’t have a lot of money).
Question 3: Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it?
I wrote a Y/A speculative fiction novel entitled Playing God and an anthology of fantasy poems and stories called The Tale of Alathimble Spaide and Other Such Nonsense, both with Stone Table Books, which have gained a little traction in local geek culture. Most of my published works are collected in nearly every edition of the Tabor Adelaide anthologies entitled Tales from the Upper Room or the two anthologies published by my writer’s group Literati, If They Could Talk and Something in the Blood. Those have mostly gone out to people connected in some way to family and friends of Tabor, Adelaide. I have published Morton’s Anglish Fictionary (with my own label, Immortalise) which has a small local following in and around Adelaide. I really intend for my books to be read by people who love the sorts of things I love, fantasy, sci fi, language play, adventure and a good laugh.
Question 4: Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most?
I haven’t got a solidly laid out process. I mostly start with an idea I want to explore and create characters, conflict and an environment to fit it. I only ever plan fairly loosely, but I usually have a pretty good idea where I think a story needs to end, even if I am not sure about all the steps to get there. I like watching my characters figure out how to achieve their goals. I find that I enjoy creating characters a little too much and often want to add too many of them and give them too much attention. I also like them too much to let them struggle at times. I discovered in the process of my novel that the advice I had been given about skipping a bit and telling a chapter a bit further on in the story was really good advice that I should have paid attention to earlier. Skipping ahead to a part of the story that is beyond where you’re stuck and then backfilling later is a good way to get past a blockage.
Question 5: What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why?
I haven’t read a lot of writing craft books, and it’s hard to pick just one of the ones I have, so I’m going to cheat a bit and choose two I haven’t read. A favourite youtuber of mine has recently published a book based on the writing tips from his channel “Hello Future Me.” On Writing and Worldbuilding by Timothy Hickson is high on my agenda to read next. His tips are always well thought through and have solid and well analysed examples from quality media. I love watching his videos and always benefit from re-watching them. I also recently did typesetting for Rosanne Hawke’s Riding the Wind, which I haven't read properly yet, but I have a very good idea of the content from working on it. Rosanne has so much practical experience and such a lovely and humble way of sharing the things she has learned. She was a great teacher in person, and I value her advice a great deal.
Question 6: If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer, editor or illustrator – who would they be?
There are so many folks in CWD who are friends and have been at some time a student or a mentor to be, and it’s hard to pick one person, but I know that Wendy Noble has a third book in her wonderful Beast Speaker trilogy coming out soon. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the first two, and I hear Dragon Home is going to be a good ending for the set.
Question 7: What are your writing goals for 2018? How will you achieve them?
I am currently working on a series of spec-fic dungeonpunk-esque novellas in which a group of solo characters each go on a similar mission in the same place at the same time but with little or no actual contact with each other. I want to create the stories so each solo mission stands alone, but their plot events interact so that they each enhance the others. I am in the process of applying to Flinders to undertake a cross-discipline PhD in creative writing and theology, partly because I am fascinated by the ideas I’m exploring, but also so that I can incorporate the creation of these books into my study and unapologetically spend whole days working on them.
Question 8: How does your faith impact and shape your writing?
There are two answers to that. The first is essentially monkey-see, monkey-do. God has created me to be creative. He is a world-builder, and so am I. I am fascinated by the complexity and simplicity and interconnectedness of everything God has created, and I try in my much oversimplified way to explore what he does by doing it too. The other is that I have been created to be a communicator. I discovered fairly early in my spiritual journey that Jesus has placed in me a deep passion for that moment of realisation and understanding. I love to see it in myself, but I love even more to be the one who helps someone else to reach it. I can tell someone some truth I have learned, and it becomes knowledge they retain or forget, but if I can, through my creative work, help someone to discover a deep truth for themselves then they own it. It grows in them and forms part of who they are. That makes my heart sing.