June 9, 2009
by J.W. Coffey
Novelist Patricia Morrison revolutionized the "rock journalist"
career as one of the first in the industry. She has written for every
top rock magazine and has reviewed all of the greats, including late
husband, Jim Morrison, of The Doors fame. Mrs. Morrison later turned
to novels and fiction and the rest is history. Author of a science
fiction fantasy series (The Copper Crown, The Throne of Scone), she
also published an open, frank look at her relationship with her
husband in Strange Days: My Life With and Without Jim Morrison.
Mrs. Morrison has now turned to murder in some familiar haunts of
hers, and she's come to talk to me about her new book and her
approach to writing.
~Tell us a little about yourself--where are you from, married, children, etc?
PM: Native New Yorker: born in Brooklyn, lived all my adult life in
Manhattan, never had the least desire to live anywhere else. Married
in 1970; my husband, the rock musician Jim Morrison, died thirteen
months later. But I consider myself still married, since that was the
vow we took, and I keep my promises. I mate for life. MY life.
~Are you a reader as well? What genres do you like to read? Do you
write in the same genres?
PM: I think all writers are readers first, last and always; it's how
we figure out what we ourselves want to write about.
I read and write in the fantasy/science fiction/mystery genres,
almost exclusively. Also historical novels. I think modern
"literature" is great rubbish. But classics are fine, up to Thomas Hardy or so.
~What first sparked that urge to write? When did you know this is
what you wanted to do as a career?
PM: I've always known. I learned to read before the age of two,
according to my parents, and started to write as soon as I could hold
a pencil. I've never wanted to do anything else. It's what I do AND who I am.
~How do you organize yourself? How do you approach the process of writing?
PM: Ha! It sounds very woo-woo, but the books tell ME, I don't tell
THEM. It's all instinct. I plan out a treatment and chapter
divisions, but that's pretty much it. The rest comes as it comes, and
I'm grateful it does so.
~Do your characters come first or does the story?
PM: Simultaneously. Though if I had to be pinned down, I'd guess the
story comes first by a tiny bit, then it populates itself so fast it
~Who do you write for as you create that story--to please an
audience? To please yourself? A little of both?
PM: I write to please the story. That's what rules. It tells me. I'm
just the typist. Hopefully, both my audience and myself will be
pleased with it. But that's not up to me to determine.
~How do you deal with rough patches, aka the dreaded writer's block?
PM: It doesn't happen (she said, touching wood religiously). I can
always trick myself into writing if it's a slow day, say, by
backgrounding: research, playing around with names, stuff like that.
Priming the pump. Also editing the previous day's work helps; I edit
and revise, and the momentum just carries me into new stuff without
my even noticing.
~What kind of stories fascinate you? What do you like to write the most?
PM: I just write what I write and what I'd enjoy reading. I couldn't
write books to order, really.
~Tell us about your latest novel?
PM: The new books are The Rock & Roll Murders: The Rennie Stride
Mysteries. Ungrateful Dead: Murder at the Fillmore was the first; the
new one is California Screamin': Murder at Monterey Pop. It's a
series of murder mysteries that take place at various rock locations
in the Sixties: the Fillmores West and East, Woodstock, Abbey Road, etc.
I'm having a blast writing them: as a rock insider back in those
days, one of the Founding Mothers of Rock Criticism, I can, and do,
use all sorts of stuff.
The third in the series, Love Him Madly: Murder at the Whisky, will
be out in December. Then we'll see: either the fourth in the series,
or a new Keltiad book (my previous series), or a Viking historical.
It depends on which one pushes hardest.
~Who is your favorite character in this book?
PM: Surprisingly, none of my protagonists are really my favorite
characters; they carry too much stuff, and have to do too much, for
that. And they're not me, either...
My favorites are usually the secondaries or co-protagonists: in this
series, English guitar god Turk Wayland; in the Keltiad, Gwydion,
O'Reilly, Theo Haruko, Elathan.
~What's your favorite scene/chapter in this book?
PM: Oh, I think the last night of the Monterey festival: I got to
really write about MUSIC...Hendrix, the Who, my fictional band
Lionheart. I had a really good time with that.
~What's some good advice for those starting out? What would you tell
other aspiring writers?
PM: Just sit down and freakin' WRITE. Something. Anything. It doesn't
have to be perfect the first time; it seldom is. That's why we
revise. But there has to BE something THERE to revise. So just write
it down and fix it later.
And take Latin in high school or college: best writing tool there is.
California Screaming: Murder at Monterey Pop is currently available
through Lulu.com, Amazon.com, as well as all major booksellers. You
can learn more about Patricia Morrison at her MySpace page.