A blog about the amazing things teenagers do, about writing for teens, books for teens, and occasional forays into my world and the world of publishing.

Friday, July 20, 2012

TAKEN BY STORM--Interview with Author Angela Morrison

To continue the celebration of TAKEN BY STORM's 10-year anniversary I got the chance to ask Angela Morrison some questions about the TAKEN BY STORM series and what it's like to revisit a book and characters ten years after the concept was first conceived. 
This week you're celebrating the writing prompt that spawned TAKEN BY STORM and consequently, your writing career. Can you tell us about that writing prompt? 

It was the first free write I'd ever been challenged to. I was sitting in a circle with all my brand new MFA classmates at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and the graduate assistant leading the session gave us the prompt, "Remember a sound." I started writing, and Michael's voice flowed out on the page. That was July 20, 2002. Ten years ago today! You can see the actual free write on my blog.

I'm always curious about what happens to the characters that live in your head for so long as you create a story, ten years later, do you still hear Michael and Leesie's voices? Do you ever think about writing a new chapter in their story? 

When I finished CAYMAN SUMMER (Taken by Storm Book #3), I managed to coax a long epilogue from Michael and Leesie, but that was it. Their voices no longer haunt me. I miss them. I coaxed them out of hiding this week for online Q&A sessions. Michael was pretty grumpy about it. Leesie was, let's say, distracted. Readers have asked me to write more about them--another book or even a scene, but I can't.

The format of the book is unique because it's told in poetry, chats and dive logs. What was the hardest way to write the story?

The hardest part was discovering that format. TAKEN BY STORM started life as he said/she said dual first-person narrators. Michael's experience was so much more intense than Leesie's that his voice dominated. When I let Leesie narrate through her poems, she began to match his intensity level. I love writing free verse poetry and the compression you get with narrative poems, but they were the hardest the write.

You grew up in Tekoa, the town where this story is set, are any of the scenes in the book based on real-life experiences?

It was great to set the story in a place I knew so well. The places are as realistic as I could paint them. All the people are fiction. But I did saddle Leesie with an awful groping incident on the school bus that happened to me. The cool thing about using your worst high school days in a novel is you can send your heroine a hero--like Michael. I just scurried off the bus in defeat. I gave Leesie a champion. 

Michael and Leesie's story came from a writing prompt, where else do you find writing ideas?

Everywhere and in everything. Michael actually was inspired by an accident my husband and I heard about when we were scuba diving off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico. A hurricane in Belize. I asked myself, "What if a guy on that boat survived but his parents didn't? What would he do? Where would he go? Who would love him?" The answers became TAKEN BY STORM. 

What have you changed or added for the new release of this book?

We changed the cover! YAY! I love this new one. We also reformatted the text so it would be a readable ebook. The original ebook Penguin produced didn't use scalable fonts for the dive log headings or the chats. It was unreadable unless you read it on a big computer screen. We fixed that. I also added an extra bonus scene, "Airport Good-bye," that comes between the end of STORM and the beginning of UNBROKEN CONNECTION. 

You have been one of my greatest mentors and your advice to me through the years has been invaluable. In that vein, what advice do you have for other writers just starting out? For writers who have been at this for awhile.

Keep reading. Keep writing. Find opportunities to learn from professional writers, agents and editors. Sign up for SCBWI conferences and online writing classes. Find a good critique group. It never gets easier. Even when you've broken through and got a contract and books on the shelf, it's still the hardest but the best thing you'll ever do. If you think publishing a book is going to make you millions, find another scheme. Writing is for the driven, crazy people who absolutely must do it to stay happy and sane. Don't sell yourself short, though. If you are driven to write, you are a writer. Own it. Stand tall. Work hard. Be professional.

Thank you Angela!

To learn more about TAKEN BY STORM and check out the rest of the celebration, go to Angela's Cayman Summer blog.


  1. Thanks so much, Jen. It was lovely to be here!

  2. Great to see the insights of another author, good interview!