Buzz Words Interview

Michelle Morgan - Sunday, July 27, 2014

I had the privilege of being interviewed by Ann Harth for the July 15, 2014 issue of Buzz Words, a twice monthly e-mag for children's writers and illustrators. It contains news, reviews, articles, interviews and information on opportunities for writers, including conferences and festivals. Some of Ann's interview questions delved into my writing process for Racing the Moon, while others touched on my experience as a playwright:

Your ability to make a reader feel the essence of 1930’s Sydney is a gift. You mention in your notes that you were inspired by stories from your uncle who grew up during this time period. This would have been invaluable, but what other kind of research did you have to do to recreate this feeling?

I immersed myself in the period by reading as much as I could (mostly non-fiction), visiting libraries and museums, doing online research, and keeping my eye out for interesting info. I also found old photos, YouTube videos and listening to oral histories very useful, even though what I used in my writing was only a very small amount of what I actually researched.

Are most of the places in your book real or did you use some creative licence for your settings?

Most of the places are real but I used creative licence with St Bart’s, the Farm and Joe’s address: 51 Abbey Rd, none of which exist.

How did you develop these relationships?

The family relationships developed over time with each subsequent edit.

Some of your secondary characters are fascinating. Do these people, or some of their traits, resemble people you know?

I developed my characters by selecting personality traits and behaviours inspired from a range of people that I might have met, read about or seen on TV or in movies.

I felt that you handled Brother Felix’s attraction to boys with great sensitivity. Was he a character that you had always planned on including, or did this situation develop as the story did?

Brother Felix was planned from the start, although he did undergo a couple of name changes. It was also very difficult to come up with the words that Joe uses to describe what was happening.

Did the story develop around the setting or was the story envisaged before the setting?

I had a strong idea at the start as to how the story would develop and then let Joe tell the story. I also reviewed the structure every now and then, making adjustments to build tension, heighten the drama or bring in some humour.

As an experienced playwright, can you name a few differences between writing a stage play and writing a novel?

A play relies on the director’s and actors’ interpretations of the dialogue and stage directions, and is a visual, aural and sensory presentation of the written play. With a novel, you have to create this sensory world through words on a page and there is no intermediary to interpret the script for readers. For me, it is harder to write dialogue for a play, but I also find it challenging to create characters and their world in a novel because of the absence of visual and other sensory cues, everything depends on the language used.

Can you tell us what inspired you to get into playwriting?

I’ve always loved the theatre and discovered writing short plays to be an excellent way to start learning the craft. It’s also a lot of fun working with directors and actors and seeing your own plays performed.

What was the first play you ever wrote? Was it performed?

The first play that I wrote was an adaptation of Oliver Twist when I was in 5th class, and it was performed by the class on the school stage. The first play that I wrote as an adult was Driving Me Crazy, which was performed at the Favorite Shorts Festival in Armidale in 2009.

If you had one day a week when you couldn’t work or write, what would you do?

I’d go for a walk or ride a bike, do yoga, have lunch in a café, go to the movies or read a book, then a BBQ at home on the deck. Bliss!

(Ann Harth, Interview: Michelle Morgan, Buzz Words, July 15, 2014, pp 3-4)

Racing the Moon was also reviewed by Ann Harth in the February 6, 2014 issue of Buzz Words. You can read the review online at

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Reviews of "Racing the Moon"

Michelle Morgan - Friday, May 23, 2014

This is what some reviewers had to say about Racing the Moon:

“Racing the Moon is confronting Young Adult fiction and readers of any age will be captivated by Joe, who wins our admiration as a stoic and heroic figure." (Deb Robins, ReadPlus, 28 April 2014).

"Beautifully written, this book is a great read for 10 to 15 year-olds. I would recommend it to read aloud to a class. It has humour, history and plenty of childhood escapades to keep the listener engaged." (Nova Gibson, Massey Primary, Allen & Unwin Teacher Reviews, April 2014)

“Set in Sydney during the Great Depression, this is a beautifully written, well-researched and deeply engaging story." (Wendy Noble, Good Reading, April 2014)

"This story is skilfully written, the pace is swift and it kept me so engaged I finished it in two sittings.”... “This is an auspicious start to what could be a lengthy career as a writer for the YA market and I look forward to reading more of Michelle's work." (Barbara Braxton, ReadPlus, 17 March 2014).

“Potentially confronting strong topics such as domestic violence and sexual abuse are treated sensitively for the intended readership, so with its feisty hero and interesting characters and events, this engaging novel is recommended for Upper Primary to Lower Secondary readers.” (Chloe Mauger, Magpies, vol. 29, Issue no.1, March 2014, p. 38.)

“Racing the Moon is a captivating historical narrative set in the Great Depression. Morgan has created a refreshingly frank and necessary narrative we must read and you are guaranteed not to be disappointed.” (All the Buzz about Books, Issue 1, 2014, p. 4)

"I would recommend this story for young people who enjoy character-driven historical fiction. Clear and compelling, this book will leave its audience with a genuine feel for life during the Depression." (Ann Harth, Buzz Words, 6 Feb 2014)

There are also excellent Teachers' notes by Fran Knight on the Allen & Unwin website.

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Review of "Racing the Moon" on Buzz Words

Michelle Morgan - Saturday, February 08, 2014

Check out the great review of "Racing the Moon" on Buzz Words!

"I would recommend this story for young people who enjoy character-driven historical fiction. Clear and compelling, this book will leave its audience with a genuine feel for life during the Depression." (Ann Harth, Buzz Words, 6 Feb 2014)

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