SEVERAL YEARS AGO I met Author Morgan Mandel at a writers conference, and like so many such relationships, our paths continue to cross. Morgan grew up in Chicago, married her college sweetheart (I won’t say how many years ago) and worked for a Chicago law firm as an administrative assistant until this year when she became the victim of the economy, which allows her to spend more time writing while looking for a new day job.
Mike: Thank you for joining us, Morgan. First, let me ask you about your books. I count three, can you tell us a little about each.
Morgan: My first book, Two Wrongs, a mystery set in Chicago with references to such popular places as the old Marshall Field’s, depicts what happens when a young boy mistakenly testifies against the person he believes killed his sister. That person goes to prison. After his innocence is proven, he emerges from prison, no longer innocent, but intent on getting even.
For a change of pace, after all that doom and gloom, I wrote a romantic comedy, Girl of My Dreams, a Cinderella story about a director’s temporary assistant, whose well meaning attempt to save the director’s reality show by becoming a contestant gets her into madcap scrapes and ill favor with the director. I had a lot of fun writing this book.
Then my publisher, Hard Shell Word Factory, went into a state of transition before being sold to Mundania Press. After a chance conversation with Austin Camacho at a Love is Murder Mystery Conference, I decided to experiment and enter the arena of self-publishing. Self-publishing wasn’t easy. I had much to learn about setting up the cover, the book block and other mechanics. Not only that, I needed to make sure the book was as polished as it would be if published by a traditional press. To make sure that happened, I hired a good editor. Fortunately, I belong to a blog called The Blood-Red Pencil, which is rife with great editors. I chose Helen Ginger and recommend her highly.
Killer Career, my current release, is about a lawyer whose career change to writer could be a killer because her mentor, a New York Times Bestselling Author, not only writes about murder mysteries, but also participates in them. Then, there’s her law partner, who comes to realize she means more to him than he thought, and he doesn’t care for the way her relationship is developing with the strange author.
All three of my books are available at Amazon.com in print and kindle. Also, signed copies can be obtained by emailing me at email@example.com.
Mike: This discussion comes up at many writers events, so let me get your opinion. As a writer, what is more important: Plot or Character?
Morgan: In the contest between character and plot, I’ve always considered character more important, maybe because it comes easily to me. I enjoy getting into the person’s head and want my readers to share that experience. Dialogue is also a fun part of revealing a character’s psyche. As far as plot is concerned, when I write I have a vague idea about what I want to happen, but let the plot unfold as I go along. Plotting doesn’t come naturally to me, but I’m ecstatic when I discover a way around a tricky situation. Writing is as much a discovery to me as it is to someone reading one of my books.
Mike: What started you writing?
Morgan: I always loved to read, but didn’t get the writing bug until after I attended a library presentation by members of Chicago-North Romance Writers of America. That’s when I realized authors are normal people, from various walks of life. That knowledge encouraged me to tackle writing my own book. I joined Chicago-North RWA, served in various capacities from secretary, to manuscript chairperson, president, and advisor. After a while, what I learned from the meeting critiques gelled and I got published. I’m still a member of the chapter and go to every meeting I can.
Mike: Can you tell us a little about writing habits? In other words, do you write each day, morning, evening, etc.?
Morgan: My writing habits have changed. Before, when I worked a day job, I’d write mainly on the train while commuting to and from Downtown Chicago, and sometimes on weekends. Now, since I don’t commute, I’ve set a goal of writing 1,000 words every day, in the morning or afternoon, or both, no matter how long it takes me. Since I’m a slow writer, I can spend two, three or more hours getting those words out of my brain and onto the screen. By evening, my brain is fried, so if I haven’t completed my word count during the day, I’ll cruise the Internet or do something else that’s simple.
Mike: You have three books in print, is there anything you are working on now?
Morgan: Right now I’m working on a paranormal thriller, tentatively called Forever Young, about a 55 year old woman whose husband is killed in an auto accident. In desperation, she takes an experimental drug to turn her to 24 forever. Then she learns her husband may have been murdered and the pill is somehow tied in with the murder. The first draft is in its final stages. Then I’ll be doing some cutting and pasting to get the back story in the right spot, plus add more descriptions and depth. To keep up to date on its progress, click the link to its Facebook page.
Mike: Besides writing, do you have any hobbies, etc. for spare time?
Morgan: My chief hobby is books. I adore my Kindle, but also read print books. Writing is an offshoot of my love of books. I’m also a social media fanatic, spending a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter and other popular media spots, as well as blogs, and e-groups, like DorothyL, Murder Must Advertise, Epic, and too many more to mention. I love listening to country music, talk radio, and have a special spot in my heart for dogs, especially my own dog, Rascal. I volunteer for the local Fourth of July Festival. I also confess to being a slots fanatic, but restrain that vice to vacations. This year, due to my current state of unemployment, I’ll be curbing my slots playing even more. I didn’t mention shopping, another vice. I’m a firm believer I can’t have enough shoes and purses. That’s another obsession I’ll put on hold for now.
Mike: I see you involved in several blogs, can you tell me a bit about them?
Morgan: I’m also an addicted blogger. I’ve met many wonderful online friends through blogging. My chief blogs are: My personal blog, Morgan Mandel’s Take on Books, Blogs, Dogs, Networking and Life, is exactly what it says, covering a spectrum of topics, which usually, but not always, tie in with writing in some way. I set up a group blog, Acme Authors Link, with a small collection of authors who blog each week, concentrating mainly on romance and mystery writing. I also own the group blog, Make Mine Mystery, with a large contingency of members who blog every other week. Lastly, I belong to the blog I mentioned before, The Blood-Red Pencil, comprised chiefly of editors and a few authors such as myself thrown into the mix. I also own a few other personal blogs which don’t generate as much traffic, but I started for the fun of it, and sometimes contribute to them, such as the one about my dog, Rascal. You can find all of them on my Blogger Profile Page. Blogging takes up a lot of time, but it’s a fun part of my writing life I wouldn’t want to discard.
Mike: As a dog lover, I have two myself, what is all this about Rascal?
Morgan: I mentioned my dog, Rascal. She has her own pages on Facebook, the most popular being Our Little Rascal, where she has a number of followers, who not surprisingly happen to look like dogs. She also belongs to Doggyspace. She’s got a few blogs, but I don’t get around to updating them as often as I should. One is Our Little Rascal – The Blog of a Special Dog Who Can’t Hear.
Rascal’s the subject of many of my videos at youtube.com, along with writing and other fun events. In case you haven’t figured it out, when I can get around to it, Rascal will have her own book. That will be my way of righting a wrong against the much aligned pit bull breed.
Mike: How can readers contact you?
Morgan: The best places to reach me are through my email, or Facebook, as well as main personal blog, Morgan Mandel’s Take. I can also be reached at the group blogs mentioned above on my posting days. I don’t update my website as often, but if you have extra time, I have lots over there at http://www.morganmandel.com/, starting with the time my debut mystery, Two Wrongs, first came out. I plan to reconstruct my website once my new book, Forever Young, goes into production.
All of my books are available in print and e-book at Amazon.com, but Killer Career is also available on Smashwords, if you don’t have a Kindle. Autographed copies are available by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike: Thank you so much for joining us today, and good luck with your new project.
Morgan: Mike, Thanks so much for hosting me at your wonderful blog. It’s been a pleasure to let you and your readers know more about me and my writing life.