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5 Questions with Mark Morris on IT SUSTAINS and the Shirley Jackson Award

[NOTE: This is part of a series of Q&As with the Shirley Jackson Award nominees.]

Mark Morris became a full-time writer in 1988 on the Enterprise Allowance Scheme, and a year later saw the release of his first novel, Toady. He has since published a further sixteen novels, among which are Stitch, The Immaculate, The Secret of Anatomy, Fiddleback, The Deluge and four books in the popular Doctor Who range.

His short stories, novellas, articles and reviews have appeared in a wide variety of anthologies and magazines, and he is editor of the highly-acclaimed Cinema Macabre, a book of fifty horror movie essays by genre luminaries, for which he won the 2007 British Fantasy Award.

His most recently published or forthcoming work includes a novella entitled It Sustains for Earthling Publications, a Torchwood novel entitled Bay of the Dead, several Doctor Who audios for Big Finish Productions, a follow-up volume to Cinema Macabre entitled Cinema Futura and a new short story collection, Long Shadows, Nightmare Light.

Kristin Centorcelli: Congrats on the Shirley Jackson Award nomination! Will you tell us about your novella and what inspired you to write it?

Mark Morris: The protagonist of my novella IT SUSTAINS is a teenage boy called Adam, who is trying to come to terms with the violent death of his mother. He and his father move to a new town, where lots of odd and disturbing things start happening. It’s a kind of coming of age story, and it’s also a story about death, and more especially about grief. As for the inspiration, my own father died very suddenly from a heart attack at the age of forty-nine when I was in my early twenties, and IT SUSTAINS is my attempt partly to make sense of the feelings I had at the time, and partly, I suppose, to exorcise them in a way.

KC: What, or who, have been some of the biggest influences on your writing, and why did you first begin writing?

MM: I’ve always written, ever since I was little. I wrote long stories full of monsters and ghosts and spaceships whenever I got the opportunity to do so at school, and I used to buy lined ring binder notepads from WH Smith and write stories and novels at home, even making my own covers and everything! I’ve always loved stories and I’ve always been an avid reader. As for influences, they are many and varied. Names which immediately spring to mind include, from childhood onwards: Terrance Dicks, Malcolm Hulke, Nigel Kneale, Brian Clemens, Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Robert Aickman, M.R. James, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Peter Straub, Clive Barker… I could go on.

KC: If you could experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?

MM: One book? Crikey, that’s tricky! One of my most vivid reading experiences was of being utterly captivated and enthralled by Richard Adams’ Watership Down when I was eleven or twelve years old, so my instinct is to go for that. I have, however, had similar reading experiences with Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion by Terrance Dicks, The Fog by James Herbert, The Shining by Stephen King, Books of Blood 1-6 by Clive Barker, The Secret History by Donna Tartt, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, Ghost Story by Peter Straub… but I’ll stick to my original answer and go for Watership Down.

KC: What does it mean to you to be nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award?

MM: It’s a huge honour. I’m incredibly proud to be nominated – even more so because I had no idea that the awards were coming up, so the nomination came right out of the blue! Like most writers I know, I live constantly with self-doubt, wondering whether my work is good enough, whether it stands comparison to the output of my peers. To be nominated for such a prestigious award is, therefore, a little bit of vindication and reassurance. It enables me, for a little while at least, to tell myself that maybe I am doing something right, after all.

KC: What’s next for you?

MM: I’m currently writing the second book of a dark fantasy, time travel trilogy called Obsidian Heart. Book one, The Wolves of London, will be published by Titan in October, and book two, The Society of Blood, will be out in October 2015, with the final book, The Wraiths of War, following a year later. I’m also editing The Spectral Book of Horror Stories (hopefully the first of an annual series), which will be launched at the British Fantasy Convention in September, and next year I’ll have two new novellas out from different publishers, plus a new short story collection, which will be published by ChiZine.

About Kristin Centorcelli (842 Articles)
Kristin Centorcelli is the Associate Editor at SF Signal, proprietor of My Bookish Ways, a reviewer for Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly, and has also written for Crime Fiction Lover, Criminal Element, and Mystery Scene Magazine. She has been reviewing books since late 2010, in an effort to get through a rather immense personal library, while also discussing it with whoever will willingly sit still (and some that won’t).
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