Interview with J.R. Morton, author of “Uninvited”

A common misconception entwined with authors is that they are socially inept, how true is that?

I don’t think it’s true. To write a compelling novel, an author needs to be socially savvy and must possess the ability to read nonverbal cues in terms of emotions, passions, disappointments, and interactions between people.

How important is research to you when writing a book?

Research is the most valuable tool an author has to tell a story with the accuracy and precision readers deserve.

When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?

I always knew I wanted to write a book someday. When I got my first computer in high school, I began typing out what I hoped would be a Pulitzer Prize winner. I never got past page 5. Then I took a creative writing class during my senior year of high school and my teacher unlocked the doors to my imagination and it hasn’t stopped since! She told me, “One day you’re going to write a book.” I’ll never forget those words or her encouragement and support. Guess what, I not only wrote one book – I wrote three!

What inspires you to write?

I gain my inspiration from my family. Whenever I’m feeling down or I am about to give up, I remind myself that regardless if I have one reader or a thousand, my family will always be there to support me.

Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?

I have a rough draft of a plot in mind for each of my books. However, I will admit that I allow my characters to “come to life” and write the story for me. A lot of times as I’m typing dialogue, a sudden thought strikes my mind and gets the wheels turning on a whole new idea that I hadn’t thought of. That’s the fun of writing. You may have one idea when you start and come out with something totally different and even better than what you imagined.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

As I mature, my writing style has matured along with me. I’d like to believe that the more I learn and experience, the more horsepower I put into my writing.

Do you proofread and edit your work on your own or pay someone to do it for you?

It is impossible for me to edit my own work. I am fortunate to have parents that edit each manuscript for me; I am extremely proud of our family collaboration.

Have you ever left any of your books stew for months on end or even a year?

UNINVITED stewed since it’s original conception in 2005 and it wasn’t published until 2014. I gave the book a complete makeover from title, narrative perspectives, and plot revision. Because it is my first book, I wanted to wait until the story was 100%.

Any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?

Don’t give up! Write, write, write. It doesn’t matter how many people read it. What matters at the end of the day is that YOU are happy with your accomplishment.

Do you remember the first ever book/novel you read?

Yes, I was twelve years old when I picked up my first novel. It was Danielle Steele’s STAR. I remember thinking, “I want to write a romance novel.” I probably owe Ms. Steele a huge thank you for setting me down this path.

Did you ever think you would be unable to finish your first novel?

I always knew I’d finish UNINVITED because the story had to be told. This novel is very special to me on a personal level.

Tell us about your writing style, how is it different from other writers?

A lot of writers tell a story either in first person or in third person. Both work extremely well. I have chosen to write each of my novels in alternating first person narratives to give myself a chance to go deeper into each character.

Do your novels carry a message?

Yes, each of my novels carries a different message, and I’m always intrigued by what my readers discover within the pages.

How much of yourself do you put into your books?

I’m one of those authors who lies herself bare. I put a lot of myself into certain characters. I am vulnerable to my readers, which is terrifying and also exhilarating.

Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?

UNINVITED has two major plot points that actually happened to me in real life. It was cathartic for me to write this novel because it gave me a sense of acceptance and closure.

How realistic are your books?

I strive to make each of my books as realistic as possible. I write medical/family drama. As with anything fictional, there are times I ask my readers to expand their imaginations. The medical data and historical data in my books are accurate. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to research, so I try to verify vital pieces of information before I put it on paper.

Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?

I am currently in the beginning stages of writing the fourth book in the UNINVITED Series. Each book in the series picks up where the other one left off and follows the complicated relationships of one family.

Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family?

I am very fortunate to have an entire family that supports my writing. I don’t have “one” person. As Meredith Grey says, “I have an entire village!”

From all that we have been hearing and seeing in the movies, most writers are alcoholics. Your views on that?

To each their own! No, seriously, I don’t believe in labeling any specific group of people. I’ve also heard surgeons are the biggest drinkers, too. I personally don’t drink. But if I do, watch out! You might have a completely different fourth book in my series.

They say books die every time they are turned into a movie; what do you think?

In most cases, I believe books are better. In books, a reader needs to use their imagination to visualize setting and appearance. Movies supply these answers to the viewer and I feel the viewer does not interact as significantly with the movie as with the book.

Do you believe it is more challenging to write about beliefs that conflict with the ones you hold yourself?

Definitely! It is difficult for me to go against the grain of what I believe, but in storytelling it is crucial to tell both sides objectively.

Is writing a book series more challenging?

I believe so. Not only do I have to come up with a brand new plot, I also have to remain true to each character and keep the momentum going. I hope that each of my books brings a different perspective into each narrator. One thing I am proud of is that I have received positive feedback about how each narrator sounds unique and has his/her own voice. That to me is the best compliment.

What is the secret to becoming a bestselling author?

I don’t know, but I’ll let you know if I ever become one! Any suggestions?

What is your motivation for writing more?

I have stories inside of me that need to be told, and after writing three books I don’t want to leave my readers with a cliffhanger.

Do you think you still have a story to tell to the readers?

There is so much to expand on in the UNINVITED Series. My characters are constantly evolving and so are their stories.

Which writer’s work do you believe most resembles your work?

Jodi Picoult has also written in alternating character narratives, and she writes about controversial topics. Her writing style has inspired me, but unlike Jodi, I have created a series and explore my character’s strengths, weaknesses and vulnerabilities further.

Have you ever written a character based on the real you in some part?

Samantha Dent and Victoria Leyden…to some extent.

Is today’s generation more aware of the literary art or less?

Unfortunately today’s generation is attached to one form of electronic device or another. This has pros and cons. E-Readers are a great way form of reading, but young children in particular are seduced by games like Minecraft that don’t require much mental stimulation. It is up to parents to instill the love of reading at an early age.

How long do you take to write a book?

There is no set timeframe to write a book. When I sit down at my computer, I don’t tell myself that I have to complete a certain amount of chapters before I’m done. I have a life outside of writing, and I have other responsibilities. Writing is my passion but a good story doesn’t happen over night. Some chapters flow quickly while others take their time. Generally, I am able to complete a manuscript in a little under a year. How many times do I revise it? That’s for another day.

How big of a part does music play in creating your “zone”?

I create a playlist for each of my books. It helps to set the mood and gets my creative juices flowing. Music is the language of memory, and memory is the best source of material.

How active are you on social media? And how do you think it affects the way you write?

I love to interact with my readers. They give me the motivation to continue writing, and they also offer invaluable suggestions for the next book(s). I want to have an open communication with anyone who picks up one of my books. Whether it’s positive or negative feedback, it helps me to push myself to do better the next time.

Is there a particular kind of attire you like to write in?

I prefer anything loose fitting and comfortable. No shoes required, but a German shepherd needs to be present.

Do any of your family members make occasional cameos in your books?

A couple of family members have made a cameo in my books. Families are full of interesting “characters”.

Have you ever changed the ending of a series based off the reaction of your fans?

I haven’t written the series ending yet, but I won’t change the ending just to make my fans happy. I have to do what’s best for my characters and give myself a sense of finality.

What makes each of your books stand out on it’s own?

Each book has it’s own voice, it’s own message and it’s own tone. While it’s still a series, each book has a distinctly different plot and mood. There are also different narrators in each book.

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