Writing Memoir With Roz Morris

    Categories: Writing

How do you determine the line between authentically sharing your story vs. writing for therapy? How do you blend episodes from your life that might help others with aspects that might hurt people you love? I talk about these issues and more with Roz Morris today.

In the introduction, I share my lessons learned from 6 years as an author-entrepreneur and also my timeline from writing the first book to making multi-six-figures. I mention the Isle of Wight Challenge, How to Create Anything with Orna Ross, 20BooksLondon.com, Sci-Fi and Fantasy Marketing Podcast about 12 ways to keep your backlist selling and maintain a steady income.

Today's show is sponsored by my own How to Write a Novel course, which I created while writing End of Days, so you get a behind the scenes look at how the book came together. One course member, Leigh Anderson said, “This course is exactly what I was looking for. I now feel well on my way to writing and completing my first draft. It has been a real breakthrough for me. Check it out at www.TheCreativePenn.com/writenovel

Roz Morris is a bestselling author as a ghostwriter and now an award-nominated author with her own literary novels, My Memories of a Future Life and Lifeform Three. She writes writing craft books for authors under the Nail Your Novel brand and her latest book is Not Quite Lost: Travels Without A Sense of Direction.

You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher or watch the video here, read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and full transcript below.

Show Notes

  • The difference between memoir, biography, and autobiography
  • What to leave out of a memoir
  • Tips for finding a memoir's theme
  • How to deal with personal issues in a memoir
  • Dealing with imposter syndrome
  • Marketing a memoir

You can find Roz Morris at RozMorris.Wordpress.com and on Twitter @roz_morris

Transcript of Interview with Roz Morris

Joanna: Hi everyone. I'm Joanna Penn from thecreativepenn.com. Today I'm here again with Roz Morris. Hi Roz.

Roz: Hi Joanna.

Joanna: Welcome back on the show. So, just a little introduction, if you've missed one of the many episodes Roz has been on before.

Roz is a bestselling author as a ghost writer and now an award nominated author with her own literary novels, “My Memories of a Future Life” and “Lifeform Three.” She writes writing craft books for authors under the “Nail Your Novel” brand and her latest book, and the one we're talking about today is “Not Quite Lost: Travels Without A Sense of Direction,” which is fantastic. I've read it myself which I can't say that with all my guests. But I think I've actually read all your books, Roz. That must be a record.

Roz: Maybe, I don't have very many.

Joanna: No, that's fantastic. Because you've been on the show before, we're going to suggest people listen to previous episodes for your history and we're gonna get straight into it and start with definitions.

What is the difference between a memoir and a biography?

Roz: Biographies tend to be written about other people, not by the person who's actually being featured.

But the difference between a memoir and an autobiography, an autobiography, obviously you write your own or someone who ghost it for you but then that's a whole different world. But generally, an autobiography tends to be an entire life. So, it's usually written by somebody who's so famous that you just know their name and just their name would get you interested, really. The whole thing about them is interesting.

But a memoir is much more focused. So, one person might have many memoirs in them according to different phases of their lives, different challenges they've faced. People would be interested in the different things.

Another interesting thing about memoir is it often dovetails with other genres. So, you might have the question of genre of medical and recovery kinds of stories. I might write a memoir about overcoming cancer or being with a friend in their final years or something like that.

It's just a few years, it's just a short period and the arc is defined by this experience. Other kinds of memoirs are travel and taking up adventures in, say unusual places or going around an island with a friend. Or I mean, someone might be really tiny…appears to be very tiny territories like Iain Sinclair, who did a book about walking around the M25. They can be big or small but they tend to be very contained.

Another quite prominent genre is disastrous businesses. So, you know, where you've got a story arc and the story and the subject is probably going to invite people in. It might be a good idea to consider making it a memoir.

Joanna: Well, so much there and we're gonna come back to all these in more detail. But let's come to you now.

Why did you decide to write a memoir now at this point, and maybe dovetail in there a bit about what you're writing for your literary stuff right now, because it's interesting. Because your books are literary so they take longer to write. This has kind of appeared in the middle of writing.

So, why now?

Roz: Well, it all sort of happened quite naturally and by accident with no particular plan. Basically, I have a book that, and I've got it right here.

Joanna: Oh, show us.

Roz: So, a leather bound diary. It's an old visitor's book. I don't know if you can see it there. It's got messages on it. Its leather is really tatty, it's got gold edging, it's beautiful. That always traveled in my suitcase.

Whenever Dave, my husband, and I went anywhere, that book was in the bag and we don't pack it on the first night. He didn't write it, I did. But I just liked it as a special book I would use to write in whenever I was a visitor, the visitor's book.

So, we were on holiday last November. We just went off to stay in a sweet little place that overlooked a river in Nottinghamshire. I opened the book and there were some stories in there, things that had happened to us.

Like there's time when the car window got stuck down. Or there was a strange guy that we met who showed us around the sites of Glastonbury and drove us through the hills and said, “Look at that hill, it's the goddess.” And things like that. I'd written all these things down.

So, first night, I saw there's this and this and this and Dave said, “You should put this in a book.” And I said, “Yes, yes. They'll go in a novel sometime.” Because, you know, I've got heaps of notebooks and things and I write sort of different things and find things that would be useful to my fiction.

But he said, “No, I mean write them as a kind of Bill Bryson sort of journal.” And I said, “Don't be ridiculous. I'm not Bill Bryson. Nobody will take any notice of a little book like that by me.” But he thought it was a really good idea. He kept on at me all through the week.

I actually started to like the idea because I've so enjoyed writing for myself. This is how all our creative work starts anyways, isn't it? We do something that's just sort of pleases us. We can lose hours in it, it feels rewarding to do and we've then have to get better at it. I've got these pieces that I'd written because I wanted to keep them and I wanted to make something out of them.

So, eventually we got back and I thought, “All right, well, I will see if I can make a proper book out it.” And I also tried to get various blunt speaking writer friends to talk me out of it and said, “Look, this could be very self-indulgent.” And I said, “No, do it. I think it's a really good idea.” So, I thought, “All right. So, I should take this seriously.”

So, I started looking at it and I thought, well, I'll look at the pieces that would be the kinds of things that I would tell other people.

They might be interesting and then I thought, well, I'll look a bit deeper and see if there's themes I can use to pull it together and gradually, these pieces emerged.

It was like planets forming, a little bit of asteroid being attracted to central star. In some ways, I felt like it was a bit like an album of songs. Some of them are stories and some of them are more kind of musings about being in a place.

There was one piece that I wrote which was about the first time we had Sat Nav because it seemed wondrous. Because we were driving in our car and a voice would tell us where to go and it could see us and the titles got displayed that said, “Eight satellites are watching you.” And I thought, “But that is fantastic.”

So, I thought, well, I have to see if I can write something that would get other people as excited about that as I was. That was part of the travel experience that I enjoyed. It's the little surprising things about life and odd things, things that I just didn't want to disappear and that was the book.

Joanna: I'm still interested in how it fits into what you're currently writing as a novelist because I find fiction and nonfiction are slightly different. But with memoir, you are bringing in things that I would expect normally to appear in fiction, and like you said, fictionalized in some way.

How did you manage the creative process and did you find any cross-contamination between the two during the process?

Roz: Well, interestingly, I found they were. When I went back over this diary, I found the seeds of various important things that I've put in my fiction and I hadn't realized that's where they came from.

But these experiences had gone into my subconscious somewhere or maybe the process of writing about them and studying them a bit more, meant they became things I then wanted to use in my fiction.

For instance, there's a piece about an old house, a mansion in Devon but now it's mostly overgrown gardens and mysterious steps in the grass and there's a chunk of tower covered in ivy and that's about all there is left.

I remember reading about this and discovering it and visiting what I could of it and thinking, “This is great.” And imagined what it was like when it was actually here.

That became the environment of “Lifeform Three,” which is set in a future when all the countryside has disappeared except for one estate that used to be a country house like Downton Abbey. There are little pieces of the house that remain hidden in the woods. You just find a little corner of stone or a chunk of brick or a fireplace or something.

That idea, I realized, came from my fascination with this house that I discovered and this is what I could of it. So, the ways in which these fascinations stay with us and then creep out again as a place we can inhabit or use.

Obviously, when you're traveling about or anywhere in life, actually you might come across people who are going to be posting themselves into your characters. But I think characters are a bit different because I've never made a fictional character directly from someone I've met. I've always done a lot of work and added things to them.

So, it's more places and environments and chance happenings that I find tend to go into the fiction. They probably also tend to correspond to just what I'm interested in. I love ideas of haunting but in non paranormal ways. So, outlines of old buildings, people seeing places as powerful but in maybe a psychological way rather than a paranormal way is that, that's why I called it “Not Quite Lost” in a way.

The title, “Not Quite Lost” came first of all, as a running joke on the fact where I have no sense of direction. These were little tales. They were just little, it's like columns. You just go about and find one interesting thing and another interesting.

But also, underneath, that was a kind of resonance, an idea of things passing and getting hidden, buried at the time. I suppose what I did in this book was I just took my general outlook, the filter that makes fiction, and I put the raw material in the book instead.

Joanna: I think that's really interesting and I think one of the biggest issues with memoir is what to leave out.

I've read quite a lot of memoir, a lot of travel memoir and I've read a few at the same time as I was looking at yours and that was really interesting to see what people put in and what people don't put in. So, for example, you mentioned you was a vignette over what, like 25 years or something?

Roz: Yeah.

Joanna: You know, the amount of time and you don't have a bridging thing between each vignette. It's just like, this happened and then another time this happened so you've left out the rest of your life and included these segments of theme that fit around your theme.

Talking to people listening who want to write their memoir, how do you know what to leave out?

Roz: It's a very good question. The original draft of this was bigger and then there were things I found that were repeating and I thought, “I don't need to repeat these things.”

Also, gather together. There's one piece which is called “Nobody Comes Here in November” and it's about just being in places out of season and they're not necessarily friendly environments for tourists anymore. But if you comes different time, here they are. Those took place over several years actually and in different places.

I've put them together and there's where I deal with that and then we're not gonna visit that again. With a memoir which might be a story, you know, so you've got a recovery from something or you're coming to terms with something, you probably have at certain points in the arc, one arc that you will identify.

So, beginning, middle and end, the structure that we put on fictional stories is very useful for writing memoir. It helps to actually use quite a lot in the fictional technique.

When I've worked with people who've written memoir, what I've often found is if they identify where these high points are, the various structure points and plot points and then figure out how they're going to make everything else serve those points and serve that to arc to help the reader understand, it's always much easier for them to then see what we can leave out.

Also, you have to be willing to really order events because emphasis is very important with memoir. It's not an event means and in fact you could use an event in a number of different ways just as you could in a work of fiction. You could use it to illustrate some character.

At the beginning, you could use it as a kind of a bit of light relief just after something that's been quite a negative note. You could use it even as a climax.

You need to think of ways that you'll use the raw material we've got and you often have a lot of darlings. But what I will say to people is that with the internet, with the need to have extra materials, all of the stuff you take out can be like DVD extras or the little teaser of pieces that you can use while getting people involved in the book and seeing if they want to buy it. But you will have a huge wealth of material and you need to find ways to massage it and make the best use of it and less is usually more..

Joanna: Obviously, you have your book there, the visitor's book. Lovely, beautiful. That's great because it gives you your theme. I mean, it just gave you it. I think a lot of people would come to memoir in a more of a different way, so theme for you it was obvious.

Behind me, I've got a ton of journals; how would I know how to find a theme in there or is that something that you think comes to all memoir writers?

What tips do you have for people if they need to find their theme in a mass of material?

Roz: I think it does jump out quite obviously. I do know people who have started writing a memoir but not realized that it's best to be focused on one particular story. So, it's like, “This is the story of how I did this.”

If you think that in those terms, then it becomes quite obvious what you'll put in and what you'll leave out for perhaps another book entirely.

In your case, for instance, you've got several episodes to your, the big memoirs of journal all together, would probably be the publishing journey. Before that I know you said you in the past that you've run businesses that didn't go terribly well, so you could have the unfortunate business experience as memoirs. You could have a number of things.

So, if you think of your life in terms of adventures, then that's a way to identify what should go in and what could be left for another kind of book.

Joanna: You mentioned a reordering and also some of the fiction techniques. How much is absolute truth and how much is storified or narrative nonfiction, which some people really hate the idea of?

When is it fiction and when is it memoir? Is there really a line there?

Roz: I think it has to be self-imposed. There are probably a lot of people who get away with writing things as memoirs and they've made stuff up. But I decided that my own rule, because I do write fiction, well, I thought my own rule had to be it's true, everything is true.

What I have changed is people so that they're not recognized well, unless I've got that permission to put them in. But otherwise, the people are hopefully not identifiable but the events are all true because this was the point of the exercise.

I had to make it things that I could get other people interested in, and part of that would be the way I handled the material. So, that often came down actually to telling a joke against myself about maybe how use of this has been about four languages.

There's one piece called “Pardon Our French” which is just about the kind of pickles that both Dave and I got into. Because although we are really good at English, puts us in a foreign country where we have to use some other language, we are hopeless and helpless.

I found this incredibly funny because I thought this just illustrated how you can take a fish out of the water and it is completely useless. So, all that though, it was all truth.

What I had to do was find a thing to make out of it and again, there were quite a few pieces that I tried and I couldn't find a way to make them work. So, I just discretely withdrew them and they have gone back in the book, and maybe they'll end up in fiction.

Joanna: The guideline is, it should be true like 90% truth in order to stay memoir. Your description of the tumbled down building and adding…if there wasn't any ivy on it, it would be nice if there were some ivy on it because that's what people expect from a tower.

Would you have embellished the ivy or some other stuff like that to kind of make it more atmospheric or other things like that?

Roz: I'm trying to think, if I did do things like that, that's how genuine did have ivy on the cycle.

Joanna: I believe you.

Roz: In fact, it was like a big square of ivy. All together ivy beard it was amazing.

But I think what I did was I tried to go back to the truth as much as possible but I might have to remind myself of things. I went and looked at all the current pictures and thought, “Oh yes, I do remember.” It was a little line that went up there and it had this feel to it. I think I have to do a lot of reminding. But it was just my own personal boundaries.

I had to make sure absolutely everything was true and real. And that when I was describing people, even though they weren't going to be recognizable, I was being true to the person in another way. Because what I find a fiction is, because I can make up absolutely anything I like, then these are completely different department.

Joanna: Coming to people then, because this is I think one of the biggest issues of memoir, is many people write about a painful family experience. For example, you've mentioned your husband, Dave. But you also have some stuff about your family which I didn't know. A strange family situation and your brother.

There's obviously sensitive things that must have come up for you or maybe you've dealt with that. But in reading it, it's kind of like, oh, it's a little glimpse into something that's more intimate than an ivy covered tower, for example.

From your perspective, how difficult is it to deal with personal things out loud in a memoir?

Roz: It is quite, yeah, it is quite difficult.

When I first had the idea that I must write that piece, I was 50% collywobbles and 50% eager to do it because I thought, “Can I write something that will deal with this and in a way that would be interesting, and of any interest at all to other people, for a start, and that also it would be fair to everybody involved?”

And it's not that revealing actually. It doesn't dig any dirt. But it was writing about a time and a situation that was very difficult.

I had to work very hard on that piece and find a way to do justice to it and make it something that stood up in its own right as well. It is hard but I was reading a lot of personal essays at the time and I love that as a form. I love the way someone can really open themselves up to the page. They would write about something like, say a person they had a relationship with or just one conversation they had. And in that, you feel you've seen them in an incredibly honest place. I love that.

Once I've got the idea, well, I must just try to do that with this piece. Forget about anyone who might read it. Do justice to the material first and try to create something that does communicate something that seems like it would be able to give to other people. That's what I did.

But I often find with my fiction that in order to write that with truth, I have to think what characters feed and go quite deep in those two recesses of yours.

I know you've talked about this, about how you write something and you find, “Oh, I'm actually delving into some stuff here.” People don't necessarily have to think it's me but I know I'm drawing on something that I understand and maybe you've never talked about out loud. So, similar sort of thing but I think that's something that writers do. We kind of, we plum ourselves.

Joanna: I think you're right and I don't think you've done this because you're a very wise writer. But I do know that people who might not have as much experience as you, whose first book might be a memoir, I think there is a danger of memoir as therapy.

How do people know where that line is between, as you said, sharing something of truth that will help others versus writing for therapy that might be better left in a journal?

Roz: That is so difficult and it's probably better if you feel there's something that you just got to discharge, write it as therapy, write with the doors closed and then let it rest and come out and think, “Okay, what, how could this accommodate readers?”

Because often when you write as therapy, people actually write in a big tunnel and they don't think of how they're coming across or how they're building up other people's understanding of the situation.

They might launch in and they know everything that the reader doesn't. They've got to think of how to bring people in and it takes a lot of practice.

The best thing to do is to read other books that have done that successfully so you can then spot how they've used material, how they've brought the reader in, how they've let the reader understand how they felt and kept the reader on their side, even when they've done dreadful things.

Often these books involve confessions of things that people are actually quite disturbed by or even ashamed by, or they wish they could've done better, all those kinds of things. It is possible to make a memoir out of that material but it takes a lot of work and the splurge drafts, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, but just the gush where you just get it out is just one phase.

Some people don't move beyond that and that's fine because therapy is something that is useful and writing as self-understanding, is also useful. But if you're writing it to share with a book buying audience, that's when you have to start really thinking about how to meet that audience.

Joanna: Yeah, it's a good point. Out of my lots and lots of journals, about three of them when I got divorced, a personal period in my life and the woman who wrote those journals did therapy through writing and I don't think they're ever worth publishing at all.

But it's interesting how sometimes not everything needs to go in a book, at least in an obvious way. And yes, to everyone listening, we're absolutely saying writing as therapy is brilliant. It just doesn't mean it has to be published in some form.

Okay. So, that's very cool. I want to ask about staying on the people, the final part of people and truth, many people worry about getting sued by someone who they might have used in a memoir because of course, subjective truth is very different depending on which side of the coin you might have been on.

Do you have any tips for people if they're worried about any legal ramifications and they don't want to ask permission, so they don't want to ask the person's permission and they say it is a divorce and they want to write something that has that other person in.

Do you have any tips for dealing with that?

Roz: Well, try to make them completely unrecognizable and that might be extremely difficult if it's a divorce because divorces involve big networks of people. Everyone knows who they were and anyone could come out of the woodwork and say, “Oh, you wrote about me here.” And it's really, really difficult.

Usually, if a book's being published by a mainstream publisher and they all have chosen to take on some of the legal risk and they'll have a lawyer through it and so on, and they'll have editors who are used to dealing with this kind of material, it's a bit more difficult. You might have to get a lawyer to look over it and it might be money well spent.

It all depends on what your story is, really. If the story is focusing a lot more on you and what you did and you learned and how you changed, you might not have to worry about it so much because really, the joke's on you.

You probably won't be using other people, painting other people in a bad light. But again, you should be quite careful of what request people have written memoirs and they've put people together to make a character represent several and sometimes that's worked. You just have to be careful.

There was a situation in “Not Quite Lost,” where I actually contacted some people and said, “Do you mind?” And some of them said, “Oh yeah, that's absolutely fine.” And I said, “Well, you can look at it if you want.” They said, “No, no, it's great.” And those are the people in the downside. The cryonicists, I contacted them and they were quite worried. So, I sent them the piece and they went back and said, “Oh, this is a bit iffy,” Yep, I'd be happy to change anything which is not sort of actually correct. So, that's fine.

But you always have to be careful about things like libel. Libel is bringing somebody into disrepute. And even if you can prove they were an absolute rotter, it is still quite a headache so you have to be careful.

My final word on this is that some people will find themselves in your book even if you were never writing about them. I read an essay by Caroline Leavitt, who's recently on my series. She said she got sued over a couple of her novels actually. These were novels, they weren't fiction.

A couple of people wrote to her publisher and said, “You've used my situation and put me in the book.” And she said, “But I can prove I've never heard of you.”

Unfortunately, it did get to the stage where lawyers were being talked to. So, bear in mind that that's the environment you publish into so you do have to be extremely careful.

Joanna: Yes. So, basically we're not lawyers and disclaimer-disclaimer but be careful what you're writing and consider how it might affect other people.

Again, I think that's where the therapy issue bleeds a little bit because if you are so hurt by something, and I'm saying this because whenever I meet someone who's writing a memoir, they're always saying something about some very, very volatile situation that sounds like they need therapy rather than to write a book to entertain other people.

That's why I bring it up because anger is a very big reason to write memoir.

Roz: Yeah. Writing in a state of heart, writing in a state of injustice, at any of this there might be another side of the story but you have your right to tell your story, you have your right to figure out your feelings and to use whatever you need to do that. And sometimes it might be better to use it for a novel instead.

Joanna: Yes. That's what I think. I do want to ask; you mentioned the dance, a commercial chapter which is really interesting. I didn't find it so interesting for the dove sing as for your comments on impostor syndrome because you're just like, “Yeah, I'm not a professional dancer and I'm ending off in this…with all these professional people.” You talked about feeling like an imposter, fear of being exposed as a fraud.

Part of me has always wanted to write memoir and then I think, “Oh no, I'm not famous.” How could I write a memoir?

You must've felt that too, right? Like you said, “I'm not Bill Bryson, so how can I write something like this?”

How did you get over that in order to tackle that impostor syndrome?

Roz: Well, it's funny. I think there are two departments to my writer brain, and maybe to tell everybody this impostor syndrome works.

At the beginning of this book, for instance, I was thinking, “Oh, I can't write that. Don't be silly. People like me don't write books like that or people don't read books like that by people like me.”

And then enough people said, “Of course you could write something like that. I'd read it,” sort of thing, but then still, that is just a small group of friends.

But then there's kind of another part, such a confident part of me, I think. It's maybe how I would but maybe other people do too. I find that if I was reading a book like that, I think I'd enjoy writing this kind of thing and actually, I think I may be a writer too.

But then I'd find I'd read a few pieces, a few columns by someone who is writing the same kind of thing. And you think, “Oh, I can just imagine how my piece on such and such would go.” And it's like you find if you have a go, you might be able to hit a groove. That's what I found with “Not Quite Lost.”

I found it's a bit different with my novels because what tends to happen with my novels is I get an idea and then the hard work starts and I think, “Oh, what have I bitten off.” Really, I mean, because I intend to do different things each time.

It was very easy if I was going to do a ghostwriting series because it would be just like, “Oh yeah, okay. I know exactly where I am, it's a familiar environment, familiar people, everything.” But with each novel it's just a big starting block to get over.

I would think, “I don't know if I can do this.” As I thought back over my experiences doing that, I thought, “This is what I'm always like.” This is me realizing I always feel like an impostor when I start something because I'm a bit sort of, that makes me a bit worried but I don't know if I can pull off. Then I find I get into it and fought a few fires and it's still all right, it's still going to just about be workable.

I just find my feet and certainly with writing, I can trust the process. The process has got me through my books and so when it's going badly or just ain't right, the process will get me through today and tomorrow something will need to get out.

Then by the time I'm halfway through, I think, “Okay, I have got scripts of this and more problems are just dropping on me but that's all right because I've already got this number that I've sorted out in the past.”

So, that's it but I think with each book I feel impostor syndrome, before I've got to a certain stage where I'm feeling comfortable in it. And I probably always will feel like that.

Joanna: Yeah. If you stop feeling that, then maybe you're not writing on the edge of what you should be writing.

If you're too comfortable, then probably it will be boring for the reader.

Roz: Boring for the reader and it will bore you as well, which of course, the reader will know. But yes, the thing that keeps you interested is sometimes and that is a wish of danger. Can I get away with this?

Joanna: Yeah, exactly. I was talking to another interviewee, Michael Ridpath, about when do you know if a series is finished and we were both saying well, it's when you don't want to write it anymore because you can't get that feeling anymore. You're like, “Yeah, I don't want to spend my time writing another book like this.”

Let's just come on to marketing because you have the “Nail Your Novel” series, which is books for writers and you've been on the show talking about that before. Very clear target market, authors, writers and easy enough to market that. You've got a blog, you market, you talk to writers, you do events, etc. Then you've got your fiction, your literary fiction which everyone knows is difficult to market.

Roz: Oh yes.

Joanna: We're not talking about that but with this memoir, how are you doing marketing for a memoir, which I mean you're not gonna have a whole series of travel memoirs, I don't expect.

Roz: No, I don't think I travel enough for that really.

Joanna: No, exactly. So, this is kind of a standalone nonfiction in a new niche, that you don't have any, you know.

How were you marketing this book?

Roz: Well, what I did was I looked it up, I did a lot of research on Amazon. I looked up comparison titles, I figured out what their categories were. Tried to find outlets that were interested in covering that kind of book.

It's a much easier kind of book to market actually than any of my fiction. I just throw my hands up with my fiction. I just don't know what to do about it beyond a few places.

But with this, I found I was getting more and more ideas. So, travel magazines, walking magazines, anything to do with Britain. I found a website which just loves anything English and that's is quite an English book. So, right, I would pitch them, they were really happy.

I just found places that had covered books like this and said, “I've got this coming out.” It also helped. I did something I've never done before, which was I had a two month lead-in before the publication date. It doesn't actually officially publish until the 2nd of October but I started my marketing on the 1st of August. I think they would be proud of me.

Joanna: Yeah, that's amazing. I never do that.

Roz: Usually, I just push the book off the nest and it's there already. But I found out from previous books actually that some of the magazines, the mainstream magazines, like a couple of months to figure out what they want to cover and get their books pages all sorted out well before the publication date.

So, I allowed myself enough time to actually have a good run off at those magazines. And that meant I had time to try quite often to do more in-depth research and just talk at my marketing a bit more intelligently than I have in the past. But it is a title that is more easy to market than anything else I've written.

Joanna: How interesting. I guess because it is travel, British travel memoir, it does have quite an interesting niche. Did you, with your marketing hat on, I know that the writer and the marketer have to be different.

As you were writing, did you kind of scatter mentions of some of your novels within it?

Roz: What I did was I put a piece at the end called “Westward,” which is, first of all, it's all the places in case people want to visit them and where they can find them. But it's also how some of those places were pre-calls for what eventually ended up in my novels.

Because by the time I finished massaging the pieces so that they would make proper pieces for a book like this, I could learn quite a lot about where I thought and the way ideas worked on me.

So, I included a few paragraphs about how some of those travels had ended up in the novels and also how those destinations that are going into “Ever Rest”, which is the novel I'm working on at the moment. So, I hoped that people who've enjoyed my writing style are those, who also like fiction, might also find their rates more in fiction.

Joanna: I think that's right, and because as you say, your literary fiction is standalone as well. People might just try that.

On the publication of it, I remember a while ago you were looking into doing a special print edition that was similar to your visitor's book.

What did you end up doing around the physical publication?

Roz: I did go to Clays and asked them about leather bound volumes. I had a lovely meeting. I was shown some really lovely things. But the cost was prohibitive. I could maybe, if the sales of the original were going really well, I could do something, a kick-starter and try and get funding for a…

Joanna: Limited edition.

Roz: A different version, a limited edition. I could possibly do that. But I figured I didn't have the time to do a proper campaign for that.

I know people have done KickStarters. You can't do any of this just by slapping a few things on the website and hoping it will work. You've really got to look at them properly. Any publisher would have people whose dedicated job was all this stuff in the marketing.

Any special editions, anything like that, they will have to be done properly and they didn't want to do a shoddy job. So, I shelved that. I know what it will cost so I know how I could do it. But what I did in the end was I just did my usual eBook version. I've got a lovely paperback. And there's the back.

Joanna: Lovely.

Roz: I've got that so far and I'll just see how those go.

Joanna: I've got to ask you too, have you got the taste for memoir? Are you going to do some more?

Roz: Dave would love me to do more. He keeps seeing all the other memoirs and say, “You could do one like that.” He suddenly thinks I might just hit a rich scene like Bill Bryson. I point out to him that it's about 20 years' work that went in that book. So, he's going to have to do a lot of adventuring.

I did find myself writing another piece but I don't know if there will be another book yet because it will need a lot of pieces to go with it. But I do enjoy that kind of writing.

I've found a new groove that I just found rewarding. I like doing it. I probably won't stop writing like this and maybe in a few years time it'll be another. I don't have specific plans but I can see that it could get a bit wearing that friends and family will say, “Oh, we don't want another adventure.”

Joanna: What about with your nonfiction book because you have “Nail Your Novel” and “Edits” and lots of different books for authors.

What about Nail Your Memoir?

Roz: Well, that's an idea and they are nonfiction. It's something I had thought of doing because I've not only written the name on all those books I've worked on are also nonfiction. When I was running a publishing imprint, it was mainly nonfiction we did so I've seen a lot of nonfiction books through little germ of an idea to the finished book being printed on a ship on its way from China, all that stuff.

So, it could be something I'd do but I find, like I was saying, with the leather bound version, to do anything like this, you actually have to have proper time. There are so many things that we could do. We've got to decide what we're going to spend our time on.

At the moment, the thing I've really got to try and nail is my third novel because it really matters to me to get that out. So, I'm hoping that would be next thing. Unless I get some big amazing project, I suddenly get pulled into, and think, “I can't pass that up,” but yes, we've only got a finite amount of time with energy and that's the main problem.

Joanna: It is, absolutely. So, what can people find on your website and where is your website and where can people get your book?

Roz: Right. What's the easiest way? Absolutely loads of links all over the web. I'm on Twitter, so you can find on Twitter, @roz_morris, and the Roz is R-O-Z. I do put the underline in because there's another Roz Morris, who tweets me all the time and she often tweets herself. So, she must be having quite a weird experience. I'm also on Facebook. You can find me on my blog which is “Nail Your Novel” and that will lead you to the other places.

Joanna: And the book is out…

Roz: The book is out on the 2nd of October but you can pre-order it before then. It's available in the eBook format and a lovely paperback.

Joanna: Fantastic. Oh, and are you considering reading it for an audio version? Because you have a lovely voice.

Roz: Oh, thank you. I am considering it. I have to brush up on my audio production skills and I did do some audio production on my course, my ghost writing course and I've now forgotten everything.

Joanna: That's what studios are for.

Roz: Yes. Well, that's another possibility.

Joana: Yeah. But I think it would definitely work as an audio book as well with your voice. I think that would be really lovely. So, the book is “Not Quite Lost: Travels Without A Sense of Direction” and thanks so much for your time, Roz. That was great.

Roz: Thank you for having me. It's great to be back.

Joanna Penn:

View Comments (4)

  • Haven't listened to the interview yet, but a BRILLIANT intro. My "time off work to write" is running out rapidly, and this was a timely reminder to crack on with the stuff that only I can do, namely finishing the manuscripts. Fannying around with websites and cover illustrations are things I can pay someone else to do when I'm back sitting in an office.
    Many thanks. Christine

  • I found this an interesting read--I self-published a memoir about two years ago. It was on my experiences during Desert Storm. I wanted the right the book right after the war and I was thinking of it even as early as a year. But it was a very different book then, and I was very angry (war has the effect of very strange, unfocused anger). And I was afraid of getting sued. With a lot of the vets, it's not about telling their story--it's about revenge. I didn't want go down that path.

    I tried writing it over the years and even as fiction,n but never really got past the first few chapters. I'd been a writer before the war, and I think the writer was saying that I didn't have a story yet. I eventually gave up on it, figuring it wasn't going to happen. Then the 25th anniversary came up and I started blogging about the war. I'd been blogging on what the military was like for people not in the military, so I did the posts from that same perceptive: What was the war like?

    And suddenly I realized I had the book. Not all the posts ended up in the book because they didn't fit with the whole story I was telling, and there was one part of the story I left out entirely. I also left out all the other people, other than references like "The rumors were driving my officers crazy." The simple blog post format and the slat allowed me to be able to do that. The format allowed me to turn it into a fun experience for the reader, not the therapy session I'd been trying to do.

  • How lovely that the book evolved in this relaxed way, Linda. What you're saying echoes so much of what I've seen when people are dealing with very emotional, personal material. The first version will be raw, but it probably needs to come out. Then you can apply more creative and intellectual processes that will build a bridge to other readers.

  • Someone asked me to make a guest post on her blog and it relates to personal experiences. I have written a huge block and felt I had no sense of direction, having never done something like a memoir post. My son dropped lemonade on my laptop's keyboard and I've been waiting for a replacement (it's being fiddled with as my hard drive is os7 and the new laptop has no drivers for os7 and I want to keep my old files.), so I've had a lot of time to think, but I didn't feel like I was holding onto anything concrete.

    Come yersterday, I pull up old emails I haven't got through yet on my tablet and the first one is this. Focusing on a theme is so simple I'm astounded I couldn't figure this one out. Very insightful. I will find my arc and rework the texts as soon as I have my new laptop as I'm not a fan of writing on my tablet too much; ms words is clunky at best.

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