Monday 3 June 2019

Author Interview: Ann Morgan author of Crossing Over

I have an awesome author interview for you today. I was lucky enough to get to post my questions to Ann Morgan, author of Crossing over. Crossing Over is available now, exclsively from Audible, here's what it's all about...

Edie is struggling. She's increasingly confused, but she can't let the women in the village find that out - they'd only talk. But she's forgetting so much - forgetting to wear matching clothes, forgetting to bake one of her walnut cakes for the WI sale...and forgetting to lock the door...until one day she wakes to find Jonah in her house and herself in her past.
Jonah is struggling. The journey to England was illegal and dangerous, and he's the only one who survived - and he still hasn't made it to London. Everything will be fine if he can just get to London. But can he leave Edie to look after herself? And can he hide from the authorities? And from his past?
About the audiobook
Ann Morgan has written an affecting and absorbing tale of an elderly woman losing herself to dementia and an illegal immigrant suffering from PTSD who has found England is not the utopia he was promised. The relationship between the two is touching yet mutually suspicious and uneasy; both are scared, moreover, of the outside world - Edie is worried she'll be put in a home, and Jonah is worried he will be deported. Neither can cope on their own - but can they rely on each other when they can't trust anyone else? 

Thanks to Ann for answering my burning questions...

First question-bit of a cliche-how did you get into writing?
I think it’s more that writing got into me. I’ve always wanted to do it. I tried to write my first novel when I was seven. It owed a lot to The Chronicles of Narnia! Since then, the desire to tell stories has never left me, although it took me many years to find a way to put them in a form that people might want to read.

Do you write full time & if so, have you always done this?
Yes. But writing involves many things other than typing words. It can be a very varied career, involving travel, events, odd research trips, hours and hours of reading, teaching and a whole host of other things beside. I suppose I formally became a full-time writer after my first novel Beside Myself was published (although I do still occasionally do some freelance editing and copywriting work from home). However, my life has been set up to support and enable my writing for many years, so it’s always been my main focus.

Do you have a particular writing style or genre that you prefer?
I love reading translated fiction from around the world. This has been transformative for me as a writer and made me much more adventurous. There are some amazing books written in languages other than English that do all kinds of mind-bending things that you never see in anglophone novels.

How do you develop your characters as you write, are any of them based on real people?
I try to set up an interesting enough premise and environment to tempt proper characters to show up. It doesn’t always work. I never base characters on real people, at least not consciously.

What was the inspiration behind Crossing Over?
For a long time, I’d wanted to write about the little ships manned by civilians that were sent to rescue soldiers from the beaches in Dunkirk early in the second world war. I knew this would probably involve an elderly character who had been involved in the evacuation effort. Then, when reports started to surface in the last few years of refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean and more recently the Channel in small boats, the parallels and contrasts between the two types of crossings seemed powerful. While the historic episode is often discussed with pride and awe, the contemporary situation evokes pity but also fear and suspicion – particularly among those keen to draw a distinction between refugees and economic migrants. 

In addition, I’m fascinated by representing altered mental states in narrative and how mental illness affects storytelling (something I explored with bipolar disorder in my first novel, Beside Myself). Many therapies are built on the theory that telling a story can help a person move past a traumatic event – so what are the implications for people who are unable to articulate what has happened to them coherently? It struck me that bringing together two characters whose storytelling is compromised – one through linguistic limitations and PTSD and the other through dementia – might provide an interesting way to explore this. 

What is your writing process-do you plan it out first? Write a bit at a time?
I have a sense of where I want to end up, but usually little idea of the route I’ll take to get there. I find plans tend to suck the life out of things for me.

How much of you is reflected in your writing?
There’s a little bit of me in all my main characters. But very different bits!

What kind of research did you have to do before/during writing Crossing Over?
A huge amount of reading into Black British history, the Second World War, the migrant crisis and maize farming in Malawi! I also talked to some extremely helpful Malawian friends and friends of friends who helped me build on the knowledge I had gained about the country during a visit in 2008.

How much attention do you pay to the reviews that you get?
Not very much. I think reviews – good and bad – often say more about the person writing the comment than they do about the book.

Are friends and family supportive of your writing? 
Yes. It makes a huge difference.

How do you feel leading up to your publication day?
Publication days are strange things – often very little happens and books are frequently available beforehand. The first one is exciting but these days I don’t really give it too much thought.

Which other authors inspire you or are there any you particularly enjoy reading?
I think Reni Eddo-Lodge is fantastic. I’ve recently really enjoyed Leila Slimani’s Lullaby. And if you’re looking for a really unusual, inspiring read, I’d recommend Mozambican author Paulina Chiziane’s The First Wife.

Finally...what are you working on right now?

Another novel. But sssh. Don’t tell anyone…

Ann Morgan’s writing has appeared in the Guardian, the Independent, the Financial Times and the New Internationalist. Her first book Reading the World: Confessions of a Literary Explorer (Harvill Secker / WW Norton) was published following the success of her Olympics-inspired project to read a book from every country throughout 2012. Her bestselling debut novel Beside Myself was released to great acclaim in 2016. Crossing Over marks the first time Ann Morgan has written for audio.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US 

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