Author Interview: Terri Morgan
Terri Morgan is a freelance writer from California’s Central Coast, and the author of nine books, including Playing the Genetic Lottery. Her work has appeared in thousands of newspapers, magazines and newsletters, as well as on numerous websites. PtGL, which she self published in May 2012, is her first novel.
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When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
In 5th grade, when I was about 10. I loved reading and had an opportunity to help run the school library. Walking around the library and looking at all the books made me realize that someone had written each one. And I decided then that I’d like to be a writer.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I find it hard to write when there is someone in the house, because I then tend to brace myself for interruptions. That prevents me from relaxing and letting the words flow.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
How much work was involved!
Where did you get ideas for your books?
Different places. For my novel, the idea came from a conversation with a friend. For my non-fiction books, I chose the topics because I either had a publisher interested in them, or felt like I had a good chance of finding a publisher for them.
Out of all the books you have written which is your favorite and why?
Playing the Genetic Lottery, because it’s my first novel. It was a lot of fun to create, although it did entail quite a lot of hard work.
What age group do you think best describes your reader?
People who have a schizophrenic family member; people interesting in mental illness and how it impacts families; and book clubs, because it triggers great discussions.
What do you think makes a good story?
An interesting topic, likable characters and good writing.
Who are some of your favorite Authors?
John Steinbeck is my all time favorite. I also enjoy reading Jodi Picoult, Elizabeth George, Henning Mankell, Larry McMurtry, and dozens of others.
If you could pick one actor to play a character in your book in the movie version, who would it be?
I don’t know. I read so much that I rarely go to movies or watch TV.
What song best describes your book and Why?
That’s a tough one. I don’t know if there is a song that describes my novel, as my book is really unique.
Who are some of the people that influenced your love of writing?
My parents, who read to me as a child and encouraged me to read on my own. My theory is that a love of reading can, and in my case, led to a love of writing.
If you had one piece of advice for an aspiring Author, what would it be?
Just do it.
What would you like to say to friends and family of writers (not just your own)?
Writing is hard work and involves a lot of lonely hours. The best thing you can do to help is provide support, encouragement, and don’t bug someone when they’re writing.
What projects do you have up and coming?
Just started doing the research for my second novel.
Is there anything else you want to share with your readers?
Thank you all. Without readers, there would be little need for writers.
Playing the Genetic Lottery
Every morning when I first wake up I wonder and I worry. Before getting out of bed, before registering my full, aching bladder, before remembering what day it is and what responsibilities await — I assess myself for signs of the disease. I roll my eyes around the room, looking for phantoms that may have appeared while I was sleeping. For odd, moving sights, like my dresser transformed into a rolling automobile or roaring lion. To make sure that the clock radio on my nightstand or the framed photos on the bookshelves haven’t cloned themselves overnight and morphed into twins or even triplets.
Then I listen carefully. I hear Jason snoring lightly beside me. I hear the ticking of the living room clock. I hear the jangle of Rosco’s tags as he rolls over on his bed in the corner of our room. I hold my breath and listen for mysterious voices or alien noises. Then, once I’m sure I’m not hearing any unusual, strange sounds, I ask myself—silently so not to wake my sleeping husband—-a series of questions.
Who am I? What’s my address? Where do I work? How old are my children? What’s my husband’s name? Who’s the president? Only after the correct responses to the first five pop into my mind, and I chuckle to myself after answering “Calvin Coolidge” to the sixth question because I know good and well that Barack Obama currently resides in the White House, do I know I’m safe for another day. If I still have my sense of humor, and apparently my faculties, I’ve still escaped it.
Escaped the mental illness that afflicted and consumed my mother, my father and my brother. Escaped the schizophrenia that robbed them of their minds and me of a childhood.
I know that at 32 my chances of developing schizophrenia are miniscule and keep shrinking with every passing month. Despite that, I’m still obsessively terrified of developing the devastating mental illness that was an ever-present part of my formative years. It’s shaped who I’ve become, and I’ve worked for more than half my life to recover from its impact. My father, mother and brother all lost the genetic lottery, and their misfortune continues to ripple through my life even today.
My name, at least the name I go by now, is Caitlin. That’s the name I chose for myself 18 years ago when I fled my childhood home of horrors. I cast off the name on my birth certificate for the new one in hopes of casting off the madness that was my family.
There are a lot of popular misconceptions swirling around about schizophrenia. Some people, especially those who are fortunate enough not to have had first-hand experience with this devastating, disabling mental illness, think schizophrenics suffer from a split, or two vastly different personalities. I imagine they picture someone like a benevolent, beloved school teacher who bakes cookies for the neighbors in her spare time turning into a vicious profanity-spewing crone who butchers small cuddly animals with her bare hands during episodes. Others, who are steeped in popular culture, believe all schizophrenics are geniuses, like the Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Nash. These kinds of misconceptions are annoying, but not surprising, considering there are so many mysteries about schizophrenia that have yet to be solved. Despite billions of dollars worth of research, scientists have not yet pinpointed the causes of schizophrenia, although they believe a combination of genetics, brain chemistry and brain abnormality are involved. They do know that there is a hereditary basis for the susceptibility of the disease, meaning that schizophrenia often runs in families. Unfortunately, it runs in mine.