I read Saving Missy by Beth Morrey in March and extremely loved it. It is one of those books I’ll surely add to my most loved books of this year. I’m so thrilled to have Beth here on my blog.
In this interview, Beth shares about how Saving Missy surfaced, her book publishing process, her writing, and her writing space, her favorite authors, and many more interesting things about her debut book and her reading and writing interests.
You can find my review of the book Saving Missy HERE.
About the Author:
Previously Creative Director at RDF Television, Beth now writes full time. She was shortlisted for the Grazia-Orange First Chapter award in 2011 and had her work published in the Cambridge and Oxford May Anthologies while at university. Beth lives in London with her husband, two sons, and a dog named Polly. Saving Missy is her debut novel.
What made you become a writer?
I have wanted to be a writer since I was six years old and my teacher asked us to write a story about Icarus. Everyone wrote a page except me; I just kept on writing and writing and felt that I’d discovered something I wanted to do forever. I have loved writing since then, and always had a dream to write a book because I wanted to hold the physical thing, see my book in a shop. Getting Saving Missy published has been a dream come true.
How the story of Saving Missy happened?
I’ve been trying to write a book since my early 20s but was mainly constrained by lack of time. With a full-time job and, later, two young children to look after, it was difficult. When I was on maternity leave with my youngest son, my husband suggested we put him in nursery two days a week so I could write my book. I spent the first nine months of my maternity leave planning it, and the last three months writing it. I’d had an idea about a lonely protagonist who is saved by getting a dog, and the story evolved slowly as I pushed a pram (and walked my own dog) around my local park.
Why did you choose the protagonist of your story, an elderly woman of seventy-nine-year-old?
I had a scene in mind that took place at a famous Cambridge party in 1956–the party where Sylvia Plath met Ted Hughes. I wanted my protagonist to meet her future husband there on the same night, but if she meets him in 1956, then that would make her nearly 80 when my book begins, in 2016. I realised that was actually a great opportunity–to tell the story of a rich, complex, thorny life and marriage. I also believe that our notions of the older generation are changing–people are living much longer and more active lives and have so much to offer well into old age.
I loved your writing in the book. I even expressed it in my review how enthralling your words were, how minutely you narrated the Missy’s everyday life. How did you write all the minute details so well, what made your words flow so effortlessly?
Thank you so much! I really like writing that is full of tiny details because I think that is how scenes come to life; making small ordinary things loom large. I write quite fast and instinctively because surprising, organic things happen that way. But afterward, I edit minutely, over and over again, to make sure each word is exactly right.
How long it took to write Saving Missy? Did you write daily? How was your writing process been like for this book?
It took me three months, working two days a week, to write the first 80,000 words of the draft. Then I went back to work and wrote nothing for three months! I booked a weekend away and wrote the last 15,000 words in three days. So, the first draft took from October 2016 to March 2017 to write. I then spent about a year editing it.
Do you practice writing? What are the most important elements of writing for you?
I like writing all the time, so I guess I’m always practising. I have a regular TV blog on my website, which is useful for staying ‘supple’ and making sure I keep churning things out. The most important elements for me: to think very carefully about what I want to write but, crucially, make hardly any notes. I don’t want to jinx the magic! Then I write it in a rush and if I’m really lucky, I get that feeling of being transported that Edna O’Brien talks about–but I’m happy to write without it!
Did any publisher reject to publish Saving Missy? How the publishing process of the book was like?
The process of querying and finding an agent was long and tough (many rejections and silences), but once I’d found my agent it was like a dream. She was incredibly sure about her plans and strategy and outlined clearly what she wanted to do. Over the summer of 2017, she gave me detailed notes on my manuscript, and in September 2017 she submitted it to publishers. It all moved very quickly, and we had ten offers before eventually going to auction. It was one of the most exciting, dizzying experiences of my life. But once I signed with my publishers, the hard work started again, editing the book and making it ready for publication. I feel very new to the publishing world and am still learning, but mostly, I love the whole process.
What is your writing quirk?
Probably the fact that I don’t like writing notes. Or at least, not many. It’s not that I don’t plan, I just don’t like to write it down in case I ruin the magic. I also like my characters to have interesting, curly or colourful hair, because my hair is so boring…
Describe your writing space.
Usually, I write in a café, because I like a gentle, friendly buzz around me that I can tune in and out of. But I’m not particularly fussy and can mostly write anywhere–in my gym, in our study, in our kitchen. Now we’re in lockdown in the UK, I’m mostly writing in our study and frankly, I’m just happy to have any time off home-schooling…
Who are your favorite authors?
Nick Hornby was a huge influence. I admire his simple, direct prose that seems straightforward but isn’t. I love Sue Townsend and adored all her Adrian Mole books–so dense with detail, warm, funny and sharply-characterised. I’m a big fan of CJ Sansom, who writes the Shardlake series–they bring Tudor England so vividly to life. I have a sideline interest in sci-fi and the supernatural, and enjoy anything by MR Carey – gobbled up his Felix Castor series. And finally, you can’t beat a Georgette Heyer Regency novel – they’re witty, comforting, and absurdly romantic.
Are you planning to write your next novel? Would you like to tell us something about it?
I daren’t say too much in case it changes, but it’s a novel set in the same area of London as Missy, and it’s about a struggling single mum who is trying to make her life bigger and better. It features an eccentric old lady, a very bossy teacher, and a dog called Bernadette. Everyone has amazing hair.
Tell us one reason the reader must pick up your book.
Because, hopefully, it will make you cry in a happy way, and feel good about the world.
I hope you enjoyed the interview. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.