An Interview with Lisa Morton

Published July 15, 2015 by MommaCat

Photo by Ellen Datlow

Photo by Ellen Datlow

  • If you could live in any world, real or imaginary, where would it be and why?

I love where I live now. I think twenty-first century Los Angeles is an exciting, dark, passionate, extraordinary place. I’m a native Angeleno, and the Los Angeles of my books – where monsters roam movie studio lots and artists’ lofts are haunted and hundred-fifty-year-old curses still influence the city – is really the way I see this place. I really can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be.

  • Have you ever written yourself into a corner and asked the character what to do?

I think we’ve all written ourselves into a corner at some point or other, but the answer to that for me has always been to look at what I’ve already done and see where I went wrong.

  • Would you talk about your upcoming books and their production schedule?

In July I’ll be one of five authors in Dark Screams 4, coming out in e-book from Random House (and thank you for the kind words on my story, “The New War”). In September, I have a new non-fiction book coming out from Reaktion Books and University of Chicago Press – Ghosts: A Haunted History explores the ghost throughout history, around the globe, and in both the real world and the arts. Then later this year I’ll have the first volume in a new dark fantasy trilogy coming from JournalStone.

  • How important are character names and how do you come up with them?

Oh, they’re very important! A great name can tell you about a character right off the bat, it can be a nod to something that influenced you, or it can set your character off in some special way. In my first novel, The Castle of Los Angeles, for example, my protagonist’s name – Beth Ortiz – suggests her mix of ethnicities. In Netherworld, my heroine’s family name – Furnaval – comes from the Charles Williams novel All Hallows Eve. And in Zombie Apocalypse!: Washington Deceased, I wanted to flip gender expectations around and give my female protagonist one of those names you’d typically find applied to a male action hero, so she’s named Steele.

Since you’re both a writer and an editor, how hard is it to take off the editor’s cap and just write?

That’s no problem, but the REVERSE, on the other hand…holy cow, that’s hard sometimes. You read a story and the author is soooo close to nailing something crucial, and you think, Oh, I know just how to fix this…but you have to let the author discover that solution on their own.

  • Who are the authors that have influenced your writing the most?

As a kid, I read mostly science fiction, but I liked the authors who kind of crossed genre borders – Bradbury and Sturgeon and Ellison especially. Later on, the work of Dennis Etchison was the first I read that captured modern urban life for me. My friend Roberta Lannes was influential through both her work, which took emotion and psychology as far as sex and violence, and through her standing as one of the first highly-regarded women writing horror. And there are many more I probably should be naming, but I’ll leave it as these.

  • If you were able to trade bodies with one person for one day who would it be and why?

Probably my favorite musical artist Kate Bush. I can’t sing a note, and I’d love to know what it’d be like to open my mouth and have those glorious sounds emerge.

  • What are the next three books you’re planning to read?

The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker, House of Sighs by Aaron Dries, and Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club graphic novel.

  • What five people living or dead would you invite to a dinner party?

Kate Bush, Philip K. Dick (who I’m sure would have been smitten by Kate), Georges Melies (who I really think invented modern cinema), Jim Morrison, and maybe Mary Shelley, just to find out exactly what did happen at the Villa Diodati.

  • If you could claim one book as your own – think fame not fortune – what would it be?

Phil Dick’s Ubik. I really wish I’d written that book.

  • How do you want the world to remember you?

As the writer who did for L.A. in the horror genre what writers like Raymond Chandler and James Ellroy did for it in the mystery genre.

I’ve recently taken over as the President of the Horror Writers Association, and although it cuts into my writing time, I feel really privileged to be able to work with our extraordinary crew of volunteers and members to promote the genre and keep it moving forward with changes in publishing and reader trends. Plus I really do love being around other writers; you hear people talking about how nice horror writers are, and it’s really true.

You’ll get no argument from me, Lisa, I agree! Horror writers are the best people that I’ve ever met. Thank you so much for a terrific interview. If readers would like to connect with Lisa Morton she’s on Twitter, Facebook and on the Web

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