An Alternative Author Interview:
TCL’s Countdown Questions.
This week I’m featuring author, editor, speaker, writing coach, ghost-writer, (and my friend)
I came to know Roz Morris when she contacted me with a request to read and review one of her books. Now, normally, when someone pitches me a novel in a genre I don’t usually read, I back off immediately. But there was something about that email that caught my attention, so I agreed, albeit reluctantly. Then, by chance (maybe because she recognized my reluctance), she told me she was also coming out with a memoir/travel book, Not Quite Lost. Well, that was it! I quickly begged off the novel and with my usual chutzpah, asked for the non-fiction book instead. And what a pleasure it was! (It even prompted me to ask her to do a guest post for me, and the book got an honorable mention as my favorite non-fiction book of that year.) Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting up with her twice on our (frequent) visits to London. That’s why I had to ask her to answer my questions, and she lovingly replied…
- If you could visit five (5) places you’ve never been, where would you go and why?
This is prose, not reality, so I’ll make full use of my poetic licence.
My first choice is the underwater ballroom in my novel Lifeform Three. Years ago, I read about a ballroom on the bed of a lake, the last remaining piece of a stately home in Surrey, UK. I have an over-romantic mind and have always loved stately homes, especially ones that have been demolished (this one burned down). I imagine the air retains their shape, a morphic resonance of attics, passageways and the dramas that were played there. But I digress. This underwater room is still in existence. It’s made of glass, grimed by algae and reached by a tunnel. Isn’t that amazing? It isn’t open to the public, though if you look on line you’ll find pictures from urban explorers.
My two next choices are also hidden.
Number two is the cubby hole where the transatlantic internet cables enter the UK. The pixels you’re seeing right now are probably streaming through there. I want to stand in that room and know I’m next to the aorta of our modern lives.
Choice three is the disused Tube Station at Down Street, London, between Green Park and Hyde Park on the Piccadilly Line. Or any disused Tube station. You can sometimes see them from the trains, though not much is visible. But as you stare into the darkness you can imagine old tiling, torn posters tattering in the wind. They are time capsules of the day they were closed. Get me there.
Choice four is outer space. This is not hidden, unlike my other choices, but I’d probably need special magic to visit it as I’m short sighted, and poor astronaut material.
For my fifth choice, may I have time travel? (TCL: of course!) Take me to 1909. That’s the year my childhood home was built. A couple of years ago I discovered it was knocked down, so I wrote an obituary for it in my travel memoir Not Quite Lost. If time travel is possible, I’d like to see it in its original Arts & Crafts glory, with its stained glass, leaded light windows overlooking the rolling lawns, carriages in the coach house and horses in the stables. (Roz took most of these pictures, which also appear on an article she did at this website.)
- Name four (4) foods or dishes that you enjoy so much that they’ve practically become part of your personality.
I like a lot of food so this is a difficult answer.
My first choice is taramasalata. I first encountered it when I moved to London to start college. In Cheshire where I grew up, it was regarded as improper and uncivilised – if you even saw it at all. I’d never even heard of dips and suddenly, in London, here was this Greek stuff, invitingly gloopy, intriguingly savoury. And pink. It marked the start of an exciting, exotic, cosmopolitan kind of life. It’s still my go-to comfort food, or one of them.
My second choice is millionaire’s shortbread. Shortbread, caramel and chocolate. Essentially, it’s a posh version of Twix, which I like well enough anyway, but I’m on a mission to find the ultimate millionaire’s shortbread.
My third choice needs a preamble. I love adventurous ingredients and I have an enormous collection of recipe books. When people come to dinner, I ask ‘is there anything you hate to eat or will kill you? Tell me everything, even if you think it’s unlikely I’ll cook it’. Here’s a dish to represent this – belly pork braised in coffee, star anise, liquorice, quince and mushrooms, from Peter Gordon’s Fusion. You have been warned.
My fourth choice is aged steak, cooked rare. Sometimes a slab of bloody meat exactly hits the spot.
- There is the past, the present, and the future – if you could choose, which of these three (3) would you prefer to live in, and why?
The present. The older I get, the more comfortable I am in my skin, and the more I cherish the people, creatures and places that are dear to me. I wouldn’t want to be without them or the history that has made me appreciate them. I hope I will always want to live in the present (but I wouldn’t mind a spot of time travel as mentioned above).
- Best and worst – you choose which – name two (2) of either your best moments of your life, worst moments of your life, or one of each.
Worst – having to ask the vet to put my horse down. He was very old and arthritic, and I didn’t doubt it was the right decision. But I thought when the time came that the vet would say, as with any other treatment: ‘I think we should do this’ and I could say ‘I agree’. But it seemed she couldn’t make this a ‘yes or no’ question. I had to formulate a sentence to make the request. I felt bad about it in a complex way. I knew it was right, yet I was asking her to do something terrible. But you cannot kill a horse yourself. I then had to ask for the assistance of the stable yard who’d helped me look after him, and thus there were several people I involved in this terrible thing.
The best? When Dave asked me to marry him (and I realised I should take him seriously). I told you I’m a romantic. More than 26 years on we’re still very amused by each other.
- Name one (1) book you’ve read in the past year (or so) that you wish you had written, and why.
Only one! Such cruelty. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. A group of people held hostage in an embassy in an unnamed country gradually form a kind of uneasy Eden with their captors, triggered by their reactions to the singing of a world-class soprano. It’s haunting and human, beautifully written. The pace may look slow but something is unfolding all the time. I first read it years ago, but reread it recently so I think it fits your criterion. (TCL: “or so” can be interpreted in any way you wish!)
Thanks Roz! I hope we can meet up again next time we’re in London. It is always fun! By the way, my husband read Bel Canto, but I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. Perhaps I should!
Roz Morris is an award-nominated novelist (“My Memories of a Future Life” and “Lifeform Three”), and has branched into travel memoir with “Not Quite Lost – Travels Without A Sense of Direction”. She is also a professional book doctor to award-winning writers (Roald Dahl Funny Prize 2012), teaches writing masterclasses for The Guardian and has sold 4 million books as a ghost-writer. Find her at her website and on her blog, contact her on Facebook , find her newsletter and tweet her as @Roz_Morris.