Author Interview With J.D. Morrison J.D. Morrison has been with City Lights Press since 2017 and his first book, The Way It Really Is, will be out October 11th. After 25 years in his career, Morrison decided to follow his passion and begin writing. He acknowledges the late start to his professional writing career, chalking it up to life experiences that demanded to be endured for proper telling of his stories. Morrison is married to his muse and editor, Jena. Together they have five children and two grandchildren.

City Lights Press: How did you go from a career in engineering to writing?

J.D. Morrison: I met my muse. I’ve had ideas kicking around in my head for years. Jena encouraged me to write them down.

CLP: How did your wife, Jena, become your editor? Is it ever difficult to separate your marriage and working relationship?

JDM: Jena is a former publisher and a current freelance book editor. She is my ideal reader, helping me with content and pace. I’m lucky to have found her. After 14 years of flying solo, I truthfully never thought I would marry again. She’s strong, independent and driven. Perfect for me. We met, got engaged and married in the same year. As a writer, my head is constantly spinning with narrative, dialog and plot twists. She reigns me in and helps me slow down and focus. Jena is the one, most often, to push aside the entanglement of our author-editor relationship when I become obsessed. She says many times, “Right now I don’t want to be your editor. I just want to be your wife.”

CLP: I know you have been through a lot of tragedy in your life and use those experiences in your writing; do you think those tragedies were necessary in order to become the writer you are today?

JDM: Absolutely. We all have a journey. Mine’s been laced with a fair share of loss, depression and suffering. This does not make me unique. Something I’ve always done though, from the time I was a little kid, was absorb the experiences and grow through them. They become part of me. I believe we are each the sum product of our experiences.      

CLP: How do you write? Do you start from page one and continue, do you jump around a lot, does it start with an outline?

JDM: I’ve written five books. Each started with a concept, but the writing experience with each of them has been different. One thing I find myself consistently doing is following threads of character development. I have to get to know my characters before I can articulate how they act and what they say. I find character discovery to be a great joy. Sometimes, I don’t even know a character’s name, until they tell me. They each have a back story and occasionally a hidden talent, which may or may not manifest in the story. It just helps me get to know them better. My story telling is at its best when I’m simply channeling the voices already in my head. It’s surreal, and maybe a little weird.  

CLP: What do you enjoy doing besides writing? How do you spend your free time?

JDM: I play guitar and I sing, just well enough for late nights at the beach. I walk, hike, run and take spinning classes. Jena is a triathlete, so I’m trying to be an active and healthy partner. I read fiction, non-fiction and the newspaper (whether the latter is fiction or not is suspect). I like games and puzzles. We used to have an ongoing jigsaw puzzle in the living room until we got two kittens. They try to help and they run off with the pieces. Jena and I both like wineries and live music.    

CLP: What would you tell your 15-year-old self? What is sacred now that wasn’t then? What is insignificant today that always used to be a priority? What should be released and what should be held?

JDM: My inclination is to respond with something profound, but honestly, if I could go back and tell my 15-year-old self something, I would probably rattle off a short list of stocks to buy at their IPO. My time is more sacred now and I no longer have hair. It used to concern me when my bowl hair cut was too short cover my big ears. Needless to say, middle age has realigned my priorities. What should be released? Guilt. Guilt should be released. Let it go or crush it with a stone. Mercy should be held. Mercy for others and especially mercy for ourselves.

CLP: Do any of your five children read your books? If so, what is their reaction?

JDM: My oldest daughter, my sister and my sister-in-law are beta readers. They’ve been able to watch the quality of my writing craft improve with practice. Their reaction has been overwhelmingly supportive, which I appreciate.   

CLP: Your oldest daughter inspired The Way It Really Is, did you run the idea past her before you began writing the novel?

JDM: My daughter and I ruminated over the story arc of The Way It Really Is for years. She introduced me to the music of Lisa Loeb, which spoke to feelings otherwise difficult to express. So yes, Susan has been involved from the earliest drafts. In her own words, “I’m proud of my dad. The Way It Really Is couldn’t have been an easy book to write. I believe he’s captured the essence of the struggle.”    

CLP: What do you hope readers take away from The Way It Really Is?

JDM: I envision two kinds of readers: those who are struggling and those who know someone who is struggling. What I hope they take away from the story is validation and the knowledge that they are not alone. 

CLP: What can we expect next from you?

JDM: I’ve written a novel, Spirit Animal, based loosely upon the impact my oldest brother’s murder at age 17 had on my family. It’s just a story, pure fiction, but the emotions are there because I lived them. It’s edited and ready for representation. Beyond that, next we’re going to delve into the suspense-horror genre. I’m currently working on a book titled Gary (my own little spin on Stephen King’s Carrie).