Interview with V.P. Morris
CJ: Good afternoon. How are you doing this fine day? Tell the readers a little about yourself.
VP: I’m doing great! Super excited to have my short story on Drunken Pen. In general, I’m a thriller and horror writer who currently lives in Connecticut. I’ve lived all over the place, California, Arizona, Oregon, New York City and New Jersey. I’m hopefully staying put for some time. I’m a huge fan of anything dark and a little bit weird from horror movies to crime novels to folklore, which I use to inspire my writing.
CJ: Sounds like you have a bit of the wanderlust. Nothing wrong with that. It builds experience which sparks great ideas for writing. Speaking of, when did you first start writing? Is it something you’ve always been passionate about?
VP: I’ve been writing since I was in grade school. I actually started by attempting to be a songwriter in my teen years, but I found that trying to bend my words to a melody was not working out. So, I moved on to writing fiction. I took creative writing courses for most of high school and college, which has definitely helped me appreciate and understand the craft.
Storytelling is something I’ve always been passionate about whether it’s in books, songs or movies, I just so happen to be drawn to writing books and short stories.
CJ: Nothing wrong with that. We aren’t known for our funky musical abilities here at DPW anyway. Now books and short stories, that’s more up our alley. Anyway, what’s your writing process? Are you a coffee shop writer or do you need to be distraction free to work?
VP: I’m very lucky to have my own office in my house that I can lock myself away for a few hours and work in silence. I used to write in coffee shops in college, but now I can’t stay focused if I write in public. As my high school creative writing teacher would say, I’m a “butt-in-chair” writer—meaning I tend to sit and work at a project for hours on end instead of breaking the work apart into smaller chunks.
CJ: As far as consistency and production wise, that’s probably a good idea. Then again, we’re all different. I’d venture to say you aren’t the type to listen to music while writing, though. But I could be wrong. What is your stance on listening to music while writing? Is it too distracting?
VP: I can’t listen to anything when I’m writing fictional works. I have to be completely in the zone and not hear, see, or think about anything else. I do some blogging and technical writing freelance work, and I find I can listen to music or a podcast while I work on those freelance projects because they don’t require as much focus.
CJ: I’m the same way. Freelance work or certain editing jobs I can listen to music just fine. Fiction writing, I need dead silence. But since we’re on the topic of fiction writing, let’s talk about your story, Bloodsuckers. This piece gives a bleak look into the modeling world and the pressures many women face to maintain a certain image. How did you come to write about this specific topic? What gave you the idea?
VP: I feel like women today have a lot of pressures put on us: we need to get a college education, get a high paying job, have an active social life, travel the world, get married, have a family…all while remaining under a size 4 and having the physical appearance of a super model. I also feel like the age of technology has amplified the pressures to appear perfect at all times. This story shows how these pressures can really affect someone.
CJ: You certainly did a good job of conveying the pressures women feel every day. Especially those who work in industries based on physical appearance. A lot of women in the fashion and modeling world feel they don’t have a choice when it comes to being healthy versus thin. It’s either work or don’t work. But there does seem to be a shift as of late in the acceptance of various body types. Do you see this as a passing trend or something that’ll stick?
VP: I hope that the trend of people wanting more realistic looking models is here to stay. I don’t agree with the notion that an ad campaign that features a typically attractive model is offensive or excluding to those who don’t have that body type. But Fashion is a business and if enough consumers make it clear they are sick of seeing emaciated models, the industry would have incentive to change.
CJ: Well, emaciated is the perfect word to describe the protagonist in Bloodsuckers. Especially after the leeches get a hold of her. But what do the leeches in this story represent, exactly? Are they a metaphor for depression and or self-hate? Or are they something more insidious?
VP: To me, the leeches are societal expectations and pressures that are sucking the life out of my protagonist, Renee. At one point in the story, the hairdresser calls the women who are making fun of Renee’s body “bloodsuckers.” I wanted to show a comparison to the physical leech to the metaphorical parasites in her life.
CJ: To say the scenes featuring the leeches were realistically gruesome would be an understatement. What made you come up with the idea to add them to the story?
VP: The actual idea of someone waking up with leeches on their body was part of a different story that involved someone who drowned in a past life and kept waking up soaking wet as they’d relive their death while they slept each night. But I couldn’t get much inspiration for that story, so I repurposed the idea for a story that centered around the societal pressures on women.
CJ: Well it’s certainly an original idea. And this piece was written in a very particular style. Did you outline this before writing it?
VP: Yes, I did do basic outlining for this story. I wrote it one way, hated it, then made myself write an outline for rewriting it and it finally came out how I wanted it to be.
CJ: Do you outline other work, or are you what is referred to as a discovery writer (a person who just comes up with stuff as they go)?
VP: I’m forcing myself to use outlines more. I’m naturally a discovery writer, but I realized that using outlines will save me a lot of time and effort when it comes down to editing. I learned this the hard way when I was writing my novel. I made a small outline, but I didn’t really stick to it. When it came time for editing, I had to do about three rounds of revision to make my book come together. After suffering through that amount of editing, I’m making sure I do outlines from here on out.
CJ: Good idea. Outlining is something we writers love to hate. But it definitely comes in handy when crafting a good story such as Bloodsuckers. Now, since this story is done, do you have any other projects in the works right now?
VP: I finished writing my first novel, Dead Ringer, earlier this year. I’m currently seeking representation from a literary agent for that novel. I have written a few more short stories with a similar dark tone to Bloodsuckers that I’ve just recently submitted to other publications, so I hope to hear back from them very soon. I’m currently outlining my second novel about true crime podcasters which I’m aiming to have finished by the summer of 2018.
CJ: You sound like a busy lady. In the writing world, that’s a good thing. Hopefully you’ll have lots of success in the coming year. And to reach that success, what are some of your ultimate writing goals for the future?
VP: My current goal is to get my first novel published, but my ultimate writing goal is to be on the New York Times Bestseller list. Gillian Flynn is my career idol and I loved how when Gone Girl came out, it seemed like everyone was talking about it and trying to dissect the characters and the meaning behind the story. I’d love to have something I’ve written affect people in that way.
CJ: That would be a tremendous feeling knowing so many people feel deeply about something you created. And it sounds like you’re heading in the right direction with your writing, so what advice would you give to aspiring writers who haven’t found their voice or style yet?
VP: Don’t give up and don’t throw anything away! Growing as a writer takes a lot of time and you’ve got to let yourself get there. The learning is never really done but you won’t develop a style or a voice if you are too critical of yourself to make any progress. Also, even if you hate something you’ve written and are embarrassed by it, don’t throw it away. You never know if inspiration might hit again and you can redo an old story you’ve written. If you throw it away, you could be losing so much. In fact, I’m working on turning a poem I wrote in high school into a short story. The poem itself is nothing to brag about, but I’m able to rework the main idea behind it. So, never get rid of your old writing.
CJ: Solid advice. Thank you so much for speaking with us. It was a pleasure reading your work and talking with you.
VP: The pleasure’s all mine!
V.P. Morris is a thriller and horror writer who currently resides in Connecticut. She is a serial tea drinker and a lover of all things dark and strange. When she is not writing, she is thinking about when she is going to be writing next.