A Conversation with: Morgan St. James

November 2, 2011

Author, Speaker, Columnist

I’m very pleased to be talking to Morgan St. James today. I met Morgan several years back when I was just starting my “promotions journey,” and she was then—and continues to be—an inspiration for me of what one can accomplishment, if you just go out and “do it!” Some of Morgan’s achievements include—five novels (two using the intriguing nom de plume of Arliss Adams), a short story collection, an active blog, LA and Vegas Examiner.com columns, speaking engagements, book reviews, and Southern Nevada Sisters in Crime chapter officer (unfortunately recently disbanded)…and most recently, her instructional non-fiction book—Writer’s Tricks of the Trade. I’m worn out just talking about her numerous activities!

Morgan St. James

And fortunately,Morgan is most generous with promoting fellow authors, providing information on Los Angeles and Las Vegas activities, and highlighting writing resources.

Welcome Morgan! To start off, I have a question on logistics. One of the things that has impressed me about your high energy life is your ability to handle simultaneously living in two “bigger than life” cities. What’s it like having one foot in Las Vegas, and one in Los Angeles? I’ve never lived in either place, but have visited and gone to conferences in both, and to me, the ethos of both cities are so different. And what kind of organizational and travel issues for an author does that entail?

The worst part is hauling tote bags of papers back and forth. I keep saying I won’t do that since everything should be in my laptop. Then the day comes to make the drive and lo and behold…at least two tote bags.

 Las Vegas, believe it or not, is very calming for me and a great place to write. Forget the glitz and glamour of the Strip. It’s there if I want it, but our house is in a lovely quiet development. Just saying Los Angeles traffic evokes an image. In Las Vegas I can drive to the market and perhaps see one or two cars on the way.

 Both cities have a different allure. When I’m in either one, I’m home.

Sounds like you’re quite proficient at living in two homes! My “hat’s-off” to you. Continuing on the “duality” theme. I know you co-authored your mystery novels with your sister Phyllice, and you write your Twist of Fate novels as Arliss Adams. So my two-part question is—What has it been like writing with another author (even though a beloved sister!), and what’s it like having two literary personalities, Morgan and Arliss?

 To answer question one, writing with my sister has been an amazing experience. The added benefit is that we’ve gained the closeness we never had. Since we live  in different cities, Phyllice in McMinnville, Oregon and me in L.A. or Las Vegas, much of our writing and editing is done on the net or the phone. However, we get together for writing sessions once or twice a year and it winds up being business plus sister time.

We’ve worked out a great system. As Phyllice describes it I’m a A+type Energizer Bunny and she is a C-. But she is a compulsive editor with a fabulous sense of humor. We plot together during our one-on-one session. Then I craft the chapters and she adds and edits. In the nine years we’ve written together, we rarely have disagreements.

As for writing under two names, suffice to say if I had it to do over, everything would be written under my real name. Two names equals double work when it comes to promotion.

I find being an author a most wonderful activity, and “promotions,” not so much! Since you’ve had several careers, and are involved in so many activities, writing and promotional—I’m wondering—What do you like the most among your current endeavors?

Writing is always number one. I love writing both fiction and “how to.” However, since I co-owned a marketing and promotion business for five years, my marketing hat is always on. My mind reacts like a bear trap as soon as I spot an opportunity.

I know you do workshops, seminars, and presentations. Have you noticed any recurring themes or concerns from the many authors you’ve met? Especially, a twist on author perspectives from your recent trip to Australia?

I think a big concern is how to get to the upper layer of the heap. As more and more authors enter the field the competition for readers’ eyes and dollars grows commensurately. Many fine authors have also opted to self-publish due to the difficulty in landing an agent or publisher. It was no different in Australia—I think the concerns are universal. As the book sales model continues to change, you have to keep up with what’s happening, abandon old ways and find new, innovative methods that work for you

You certainly are right about the book sales model continuing to change! Changing the topic, and on a lighter note, tell us about the “Pigs”!

Ah, my pigs. I began to collect them in 1989 and now have well over 200 “Pigs with Personality” from many places in the world. I try to find a great pig everywhere I go. Friends and relatives have “hopped on the bandwagon” and they also give me pigs. Even in Australia, the Partners in Crime writers’ group visited my website www.morganstjames-author.com, saw some of my pigs and gave me an adorable pig in a police uniform. I have ceramics, stuffed, glass, hand-crafted, resin, automated pigs and some really clever depictions of pigs. Each one is given a label or inscribed with the date and where it was acquired. If it was a gift, the person’s name is also added. It’s a wonderful way to keep a history of travel and friends.

What an interesting and unique way to remember the important events of your life. What’s next for you—I just know you must be planning something exciting–a new book, maybe?

How did you guess? Actually, several are in work. The new Silver Sisters Mystery, “Diamonds in the Dumpster” is in work with “Vanishing Act in Vegas” having been released in September 2011. I have a finished manuscript entitled “Big Trouble in Paradise” which has not found a home yet. (Paradise is a fictional federal prison.) I’m working on a memoir called “Confessions of a Cougar,” and after attending the Author 101 University conference here in Las Vegas on Halloween weekend, am really jazzed about beginning a book I know I must write about staying young at any age. Last year’s conference inspired me to write “Writers Tricks of the Trade.” Besides sharing my own thoughts, I’ll be interviewing people who are Baby Boomers and older to find out what makes them tick. These are youthful, energetic people who are a delight to be around. Interested? After all, you are one of those.

As always, you’re bubbling with ideas! And yes, I’d love to be interviewed. Congratulations, on all your successes—well deserved! I’m looking forward to meeting up with you again—soon I hope—on the “promotions” or “panel” trail.

Morgan can be contacted and followed at write2morgan@aol.com , Facebook, Twitter and more. Visit her websites, www.morganstjames-author.com , (where you will also find links to all of her books) www.morganstjames-author.com, http://writerstricksofthetrade.blogspot.com and http://morgan-stjames.blogspot.com. As you can see, Morgan is very active! Read her Spotlight Columns on Tuesday in the Las Vegas edition of www.examiner.com and Wednesday in the Los Angeles edition. Writers’ Tricks of the Trade runs on Thursday in Las Vegas and Friday in Los Angeles. Her books can be purchased at most online bookstores or order them from your favorite local bookseller.

Thank you, Morgan, for visiting with me today!

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11 Responses to “A Conversation with: Morgan St. James”

  1. mmgornell said

    Thank you, D.K., Anne, Betty, Wendy, and Sue for stopping by. I know how precious a writer’s time is! Morgan’s aplomb in handling two cities IS amazing–and yes, I can’t imagine two promotions efforts–am barely surviving one. Your comments are very much appreciated!

    Madeline

  2. Great interview with Morgan, whom I met at the 2010 PSWA Conference. I too lived in two places and it’s crazy–whatever you want is at the other house. It drove me crazy, and buying 2 of everything wasn’t the total answer.

  3. W.S. Gager said

    Wow Morgan, didn’t realize you hopped between cities. That’s great but I would be loaded down with bags. Lived between two places all last year and hated it. The shirt or shoes that was perfect for an outfit were always in the other closet!
    Wendy
    W.S. Gager on Writing

  4. An informative indepth interview. Enjoyed it.

  5. What an thoroughly engaging interview! Thank you M. M. and Morgan. I especially appreciated your comment about two names means double the promotion. Yikes. I can only imagine how much time that must consume.

    Great post.

  6. dkchristi said

    I lived in California and often drove to Las Vegas for a weekend. My son lives in Las Vegas now. The interview was right on about Vegas having two sides. Tickets round trip from Ft. Lauderdale are often cheap; I’d love to participate in a Vegas author event and surprise my son! http://www.dkchristi.com author of Ghost Orchid and more.

  7. mmgornell said

    Thanks, Colleen, Ann (I love where you’re living now!), Jean, and Jacqueline for commenting on our conversation. Morgan certainly is a whirlwind! Sometimes I need “jazzing up” by being around someone with Morgan’s energy! As you can see from the picture at the top of my blog page, I live in a very low-key environment…

    Madeline

  8. Jacqueline Seewald said

    Good interview. I love L.V. myself. California is great too.
    Both great settings for novels.I agree I’d much rather write than promote.

  9. Hi, Morgan. I’ve also lived in Vegas and LA, and I have to agree that the desert is more condusive to writing than my birthplace in southern California. I’m looking forward to reading Confesssions of a Cougar. I know it will be as humorous and entertaining as the rest of your books with Phillice (whom I’d like to interview someday soon).

  10. My two favorite “M” ladies – Madeline and Morgan! How I miss both of you and GLAWS, but I’m settling in nicely here in Rowell, NM. And I have my good friend Alice Duncan close by.

  11. Now you’ve done it, Madeline! You’ve given me some more must reads! Great interview. I’ll be on the hunt for Writers Tricks of the Trades and will await Diamonds in the Dumpster. The very idea of those sparklers being tossed sends shivers up my spine!
    Colleen

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