This installment of Author on Author Interview is a collaborative interview and a special treat for our readers. Morgan Locklear, author of Bella Voce, and his wife and beta, Jenn Locklear have interviewed each other. If you're a big fan of Bella Voce, as I am, you will certainly enjoy this interview as it gives us a glimpse into this loving couple's working relationship and how they have worked together to give us the story that has touched so many. Thank you, to you both, for taking the time to participate in our blog.
MOG: Let me begin by writing a bit about our process as a husband and wife, author and beta team. I write each chapter on Mondays and Tuesdays while Jenn corrects grammar, makes suggestions and directs embellishments or cuts on Wednesdays and Thursdays. On Fridays, we test the chapter on a pre-reader to make sure we’ve covered all the bases. We post on Saturday afternoons and begin discussing an outline for the next chapter that same day. On Sundays, we observe our religion - the Seattle Seahawks.
I will ask the first question:
Q: Are you mad that I horned in on your universe?
JENN: (laughs) You just get right to the point don’t you?
At the time, I hadn’t really made my existence known in the fandom. I was comfortable in my lurker status and probably would have remained under the radar if it wasn’t for your story.
If I remember right, I spent a couple of weeks begging you to read some of the stories I found because you are an avid reader and I knew you would love them. I finally wore you down enough for you to ask about the plots of two or three of the stories I was following and then you chose the one that sounded most interesting to you.
Did I expect you to start writing your own story? No, but I was blown away when I read your prologue and first chapter. I knew it was something special and should be introduced to the fandom. As a result, I have met so many wonderful people in that universe. If you hadn’t created Bella Voce, I would probably still be lurking and deprived of some awesome company.
Q: I’ve never asked you this but what was the spark that brought Bella Voce to life? What gave you the idea to write this story?
MOG: I’ve had the title in my head for fifteen years, but it was always going to be the title of a song I wrote with Dany (Cool Beans band mate and godfather to our son). When my first attempt to write a Twilight fic about Edward as a cop in 1940’s Portland didn’t draw you in, I scrapped it and tried again.
Bella Voce swam into my mind and I saw Bella on stage singing an operetta. I chose the time period because I didn’t want to use dirty words in my lemons. And I chose Paris because I wanted to learn more about the city and I knew that this story would provide that opportunity.
Q: What do you see as your biggest contribution to the story?
JENN: I enjoyed the opportunity to brainstorm with you about the outline and important plot points. I remember when you posted the first chapter, you had a pretty good idea what you were going to do with the second chapter but the rest of the story was an unknown at that point. It was wintertime but we took some walks on our favorite trails and, over the course of several evenings, I was able to help you create an outline for the entire story. I have very fond memories of that week. It was a great bonding experience for us as an author/beta team and I feel like it really cemented that aspect of our relationship.
Q: I’m curious to know which character you relate to most? I have my own opinion on this, but I want to hear your answer first.
MOG: I relate to Jacob the most and I don’t really know why. I thought it would be Edward. After all, he’s a musician and I even wrote songs for this story that he sings just so I could get closer to him. I am fascinated by Jasper and I really like his creative choice in weaponry, but in the end it is Jacob’s reactions that have gotten me the most worked up while writing. I remember bawling, I mean really BAWLING when Bella didn’t come home one night and I had to write about how much he would lose if something happened to her. He is, in many ways, the hero of this story and his heart is bigger than Montmartre. I admire him quite a bit. As Dumbledore would say, “He is a fierce friend.”
Q: Why don’t you go ahead and share your opinions on the matter? And then, while you’re at it, tell me what characters you relate to, if any.
JENN: I was thinking about it a few nights ago (while doing the dishes of all things) and I see very specific aspects of your personality spread across many characters. Edward possesses your musical and composition skills while Bella embodies your experience as an onstage performer. Jacob is your heart and that is why you are so bonded to him. Your love of trivia and history shines though in both Jacob and Jasper while your approach to fatherhood comes across in Carlisle. And Emmett perfectly captures your boundless enthusiasm and energy.
As for me? Um. I see some of my personal traits and habits in Bella. I notice you describe her eye color as you describe mine. I also remember a scene where Bella is up in Jacob’s room. He offers her a cup of tea and she uses it to warm her hands and her cheeks which I’ve been known to do. And I recognize that Bella is a character who prefers to stay in more than she goes out. She is perfectly content socializing with her small circle of friends and family, as am I. Having said all that, I don’t think Bella is totally based on me. After all she is a former nun who is now a flying vampire. We just happen to have a few things in common.
Q: I know you work off a basic outline but most of your writing occurs organically. Is there an arc to Bella Voce that took you by surprise when you were writing it?
MOG: Basic outline, you must mean chapter title? Yes, I pretty much just sit down and figure things out as I go for the most part so the biggest surprise to me was realizing that this story was big enough for two books and that I would have to write a sequel. Since the chapters are written as pairs (Theatre of the Night / Theatre of the Mind) it makes perfect sense that the story would have a sister as well: Bella Voce (Beautiful Voice) and Brute Parole (Ugly Words.)
Q: What is the difference in working as a beta for me versus working as a beta for the other authors you are involved with?
JENN: I have a unique opportunity as your beta because I am always in close physical proximity to the author. Anytime a random thought goes through my mind or I have a question, you are immediately available to talk about it. I also feel a certain sense of ownership when it comes to Bella Voce that I don’t necessarily feel for the other projects I beta, although I always take my work as a beta seriously.
Working with other authors has shown me how to be more objective in my overall approach. You and I have had some passionate discussion over certain scenes in Bella Voce and there was a time or two early on when I was more stubborn with you, insisting on certain things. Working with other authors has helped me to learn when to let you as an author make your own call about what is best for the story.
Q: Have you enjoyed your experience as one of the few male authors in the fandom? What has that reception been like?
MOG: Well, I always thought it was a good PR move to let my….um….flag fly. I know the appeal of an anomaly and figured the story would be good enough to hold readers once they came over to see what the silly boy was doing. The fandom has been quite kind to me and I have made some lifelong friends. You get a lot of girls telling you how lucky you are….I can hardly disagree.
Q: Do you think you would ever write a story?
JENN: Humble, as ever, sweetie.
Would I ever write? I did enjoy writing when I was in school but eventually real life took over. It’s been a long time since I tried it but my work as a beta this year has reawakened my creative side. I did have an idea for a one shot this past summer and outlined it but I’m still looking for the time write it all out. I would definitely consider writing something if I felt the inspiration strike but I don’t see myself committing to a writing project until I’ve followed through on all my beta commitments. Right now, that is my sole focus.
Q: Since I always feel the need to plan out my life I was wondering…Now that you have a taste for writing fiction, what are your plans for the future? Do you think you will keep writing after Bella Voce and its sequel are completed?
MOG: Oh yes, it’s my new passion, (besides you and the kids….and tacos.) I actually have a game plan and for the following chart please use the Key provided:
Bold = attempted publication
Italic = TwiFanFiction:
2010 Bella Voce
2011 Brute Parole
2012 Zombies 101
2013 Zed Like Me (Zombies 101 sequel with a first ever….zombie POV.)
2014 The Mouth of the Mediterranean
During the two years I write without a weekly deadline, (Zombie books,) I will write short stories about a legally blind Edward (clever title yet to be thought up) for FanFiction. I might end up trying out my idea for a Con Woman (Bella) sailing around the Mediterranean Sea and being pursued by Johnny Law (Edward) on FanFiction. That one will take place in the 1930’s and I’m very excited to get to it. Don’t know what after that, but I have a feeling that I will write a book a year with five or six songs attached to each. (Well, maybe not the zombie books.)
Q: How has your reading experience changed now that you have gone from lurker to beta extraordinaire? For instance, do you review more often knowing how helpful we find feedback ourselves? Have you fully come out of your shell and is it for obligation or are you having fun? Didn’t I see your boobs on the UofEM thread?
Jenn: Uh…I was simply modeling my FGB t-shirt and, as I recall, you were the one holding the camera. Moving on…
Yes, I have to admit, I review more often now than I did as a lurker. Before Bella Voce, no one even knew I was floating around and I had convinced myself it didn’t really matter if I commented on someone’s story. Now that I am on the other side of that fence, I understand how nice it is to receive feedback on something you have spent many hours working on. And now when I review, I always try to offer something that is informative to the author – my favorite lines or my general impressions or what I felt emotionally as I read an update.
Obviously, my reading experience has completely changed since I stopped being a lurker. I am having more fun with the whole thing and really enjoy interacting with everyone online. I find reading FF so much more enjoyable when I have someone else to discuss a story with. As you well know, I am shy in real life but I have found it much easier to chat with people via twitter and the threads than I would have expected. I guess I feel comfortable because I can still have some control over what I tweet or post before it’s seen or heard by others. You can still control your level of anonymity, although I had to let some of that go when you began writing. Which leads me to my next question…
Q: You made a very conscious decision to use your real name when you established your personality in the fandom. Why? Were you at all worried about merging your real life and your FF world?
MOG: I gotta be me! I’ve been involved with theater and music since childhood and I’ve also worked in radio so I guess I’m just used to it. Although if I had stopped to think about it for a day or two, I might have made a different decision. But people have respected my private life. It hasn’t been an issue. And I don’t care that friends and family know about my fanfic. Actually, several of my relatives are reading the story. It’s great!
Q: Do you think it’s weird that I write lemons for a bunch of women?
JENN: Surprisingly, no. And I guess that’s because when you told me you wanted to post Bella Voce, I explained to you that it would be an expectation for you as an FF writer. I believe you are probably more uncomfortable with the idea than I am.
Q: Do you think it’s weird that you write lemons for a bunch of women?
MOG: Totally. But it provides a way to explore emotion for my characters and, as you did explain, it’s expected so I went with it. I’m getting better at writing lemons but it is still my least favorite part of the process. I’m too stressed to even get excited when I’m writing.
Q: Are you going to make me change that last answer?
JENN: (laughing and kissing your forehead) As your wife, I think you’ve answered it perfectly, my dear husband.
Q: Why did you choose a vampire story instead of an all human plot?
MOG: It’s TwiFic. I just assumed at the time everyone was writing vampires. I had only read ten or so chapters of University of Edward Masen at that time and thought that the all human thing was a rarity. I was surprised, still am that the vampire aspect doesn’t play into the majority of FF. You know I prefer my vampires to catch fire and die if they are exposed to the sun rather than sparkle like a pretty set of earrings so I went with a bit of old school lore mixed with a bit of my own dogma. Besides, everyone is better with superpowers.
Q: You spend a lot of time cutting stupid jokes I make as the narrator. How do you deal with a crazy author who keeps sabotaging his story with lame attempts at humor? What makes you let a few by each week?
JENN: I would never say your humor is lame. I think you’re very funny - how else could we stay together for so long? While I have drawn a red line through some of your jokes it’s only because I was somehow distracted from the scene. Not every joke works but if you don’t make the attempt, you’d never know that. I like that you are fearless that way. I would fret and fuss over whether to attempt a joke in the first place. I would over think the whole process. You just allow yourself to be caught up in the moment and let what happens, happen. I admire this a great deal.
Q: One of the exercises I’ve enjoyed watching from behind the scenes is one in which you add something completely over the top into a chapter, sit back, look at me and say “Let’s see if I get away with this.” Can you provide a few examples of that and how have those moments been received by the readers?
MOG: Well it all started with one of the early cliffhangers, and like George Bizet, composer of Carmen, I was convinced every one would hate it. But then reviews came in and no one complained. I remember even being disappointed that no one flamed me over the whole severed, yet still cursing, vampire head on the railroad track.
I try to write smart stuff most of the time so that I can get away with all of my indulgences. I like a good chuckle and I have even given more funny lines to characters in later chapters. The narrator used to get all the good lines but now, like Bill Murray in Ghostbusters II, I have spread the jokes around.
Q: What has been your biggest surprise about Bella Vice, both in and out of the story?
JENN: Within the story, I would say the chapter where Jacob and Rosalie traveled to Versailles. When you told me about the idea of writing that chapter, I remember thinking it would make great outtake material but had doubts about it working within the regular narrative. Not only did it work as a regular chapter, but I was surprised by Rosalie’s character development. I had wondered about her backstory and why was she so unhappy before meeting Jacob. Not only did you answer that question, you made me fall in love with her. One other surprising thing about that chapter was that it wasn’t in the original outline. Jacob and Rosalie were intended to have a fling that would fizzle out but, apparently, Big Spoon and Little Spoon weren’t ready to let one another go.
Outside of the story, I would say I have been awed by the overwhelming positive response by the fandom. Neither of us had any expectations of developing a loyal and lasting readership base, but one quickly formed and it has been nothing short of amazing.
Q: Bella Voce is winding down and the sequel will begin soon. Can you share anything about Brute Parole with your readers?
MOG: The story will take place in New York City. There will be many surprises, it will include more original music and we will also see more backstories. I love New York and I am very excited to write about my favorite city.
And now we have been provided with some fun and light questions that we have decided to answer for each other. Here is the list of questions:
*Peas and Carrots?
*Favorite genre of art?
*E-mail or letter?
*Most inspiring place you’ve ever traveled and why?
Morgan answers for Jenn:
*Banana cream pie
*FanFic and RPattz (duh)
*Alaska because it made you want to see more of the world.
Jenn answers for Morgan:
*Ben & Jerry’s Karamel Sutra
*NYC because it was the first place you visited where you felt your blindness didn’t impede you.
We’ve been together for a very long time, we know it all…
Song from Bella Voce that Jenn Locklear inspired: "Watching New York Go By" by Morgan Locklear and Betti Gefecht.