Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Author Interview: Margarita Morris: Oranges for Christmas: The Sleeping Angel

Margarita Morris is the author of the Young Adult novel Oranges for Christmas, set in Berlin in 1961 at the time of the building of the Berlin Wall. She was born in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, and then studied Modern Languages at Jesus College, Oxford. She worked in computing for eleven years and then spent a number of years working with her husband on their internet business. When she isn’t writing she enjoys singing in an Oxford chamber choir and attacking the weeds in the garden. She lives in Oxfordshire with her husband and two sons. Her second novel, The Sleeping Angel, is due out on 14 July 2014.

Your real name and pen name?

Margarita Morris is both my real name and author name. “Margarita” is unusual enough to be memorable and “Morris” alliterates with it, so I wouldn’t want to change it!

Please share some of the best memories of your childhood

We lived in Harrogate in the north of England but my grandparents lived in Redruth in Cornwall. We used to drive the 400 odd miles from Harrogate to Cornwall in an old Volkswagen Beetle that let in water when it rained. But the trusty old Beetle always got us there and back in one piece.

About your education

I went to an enormous comprehensive school with over 2,000 pupils. The best thing about the school was the music department. I played the violin in the school orchestra and we tackled some seriously challenging music such as Carmina Burana by Carl Orff. That was an amazing experience to have at a young age. When I was in the Sixth Form the teachers encouraged me to apply to Oxford University and my French teacher in particular put in a lot of extra effort to help prepare me for the entrance exam.

What career did you plan during your education days

My first ambition was to be a ballerina. I did ballet quite seriously from the age of four to thirteen, but by then I realised that I didn’t have what it takes. I would have loved to have been a professional violinist but, again, reality soon set in. I considered teaching, but eventually ended up working in computing which taught me a lot of skills, including project management which is essential for a self-published author.

What languages you can speak and write?

English is my mother tongue. I studied French and German at university. The course was mainly French and German literature, so not a lot of speaking went on. During my university course I spent a year living and working in Germany so my spoken German has always been more fluent than my spoken French. But recently, helping my sons with their French homework has done wonders to re-invigorate my French vocabulary.

If you had to live a day of your life as one of the living or dead personality, who would it be and why?

This is a hard one, but I’ll say Mozart in order to understand his musical genius.

What is the purpose of your writing?

I like to write Young Adult novels that blend history with elements of thriller or mystery. The inspiration for Oranges for Christmas came from a visit to Berlin in 1987. At that time there were two Germanies - the Federal Republic of West Germany and the Communist state of East Germany. I stayed with a friend in West Berlin, and the Berlin Wall, separating West Berlin from East Berlin, made a huge impression on me. One day we travelled by underground to East Berlin. The train went through deserted ghost stations that were guarded by armed soldiers in case any East Berliners tried to escape. This was the Cold War for real. Oranges for Christmas is about a family separated by the Berlin Wall and their efforts to escape from East Berlin and the clutches of the secret police.
at the Berlin Wall

The Sleeping Angel, due out on 14 July 2014, was inspired by a visit to Highgate Cemetery. It’s a mystery story interweaving plots from 1870, 1970 and the present day.

What are your future plans?

I’ve got lots of ideas for future books. I’ve always wanted to write something set in Scarborough because I love the way the different time periods (Medieval, Victorian, present day) all intermingle in that one town. I’m also very drawn to the Rhine valley in Germany where I spent my year abroad. There are great legends associated with that area which would make a good starting point for a story. I always start a book with a time and a place and then let the plot develop from there.

How much real life goes into a fiction writing?

I don’t put my own life into fiction, unless my characters share some of my personality traits, which I suppose is highly likely. Oranges for Christmas is set in a real place at a particular time in history, so I had to do quite a bit of research to, hopefully, get my facts straight. Similarly, The Sleeping Angel contains a lot period detail and some historical facts, but the story itself is entirely fictional.

Is high level of imagination important to have for an Author?

It must be to a certain extent, but I think a novel is way too complex to envisage the whole thing in your head before you start - I certainly can’t do that. I do a limited amount of planning to get myself started and then try to discover the story as I go. Sometimes a really key idea won’t occur to me until I’ve been working on the novel for a few months.

Your dream destination on Earth?

The Languedoc region of France.

Your zodiac/ sunsign?

Gemini.

Your favorite color and why?

I used to gravitate to all things red. Now I prefer purple. Don’t ask me why.

Your favorite book and why?

Bleak House by Charles Dickens. It’s a rich, complex story, written in evocative prose. It’s funny, satirical, tender and compassionate and contains a murder mystery, tragic deaths and a love story. It’s got everything.

Your favorite movie and why?

The English Patient. I love the blend of history, romance and tragedy. I like the way the story unfolds by moving backwards and forwards in time. I also love the music and the cinematography. This film inspired us to visit Egypt on holiday.

Your favorite food?

A perfectly boiled egg - firm white and runny yolk.

Some quickies:
Sun or Moon - Sun
Laughter or Smile - Smile
Coffee or Tea - Tea - either Peppermint or Jasmine.
Mountain or Sea - Sea
Long Drive or Short Drive - Long
Silence or Conversation - Silence
Water or Fire - Water. I love swimming.
Air or Earth - Earth. Not keen on flying.
Tulip or Rose - Rose. I adore the scent of old English roses.
Red or Blue - Red.
Left or Right - Right.

Links:
Twitter handle: @MargaritaMorris
Amazon link:

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