A Chat Over Tea with Author, Playwright, and Editor Briana Morgan

Welcome, friends and bookworms, to the first ever interview of this blog!

*throws dark confetti*

*makes tea for everyone* 

As an indie author, there’s nothing I love more than helping other indie authors be seen and spread the word about their books.

Starting today, every month I will have a chat with another self-published author about all things books! You could call it an interview (I mean, I just did), but really this’ll be an informal talk over tea.

My first ever guest is extra special, because it’s Briana Morgan! Not only is Briana a super talented author, but she’s also been my editor ever since Rise of the Sparrows, and she has been a friend just as long. I’m thrilled to be chatting to her about all things books, operas, and witches today!

S: Please, Bri, help yourself to tea and tell me what you’re reading at the moment. I always find the first read of the year to be super important, but the first read of the decade? I want to make sure I kick it off well! What have you chosen and why?

B: I’ve chosen to reread The Great Gatsby since a) it’s my favorite book, and b) I thought it would be perfect for kicking off the 2020s! Although at this point, I can say I feel like I’ve memorized parts of it!

S: That sounds like a lot of re-reads! How often have you read The Great Gatsby? (I’ll just hang my head in shame here, because I haven’t read it once o.o)

B: God only knows at this point. I still can’t believe you haven’t read it since we’ve become friends!

S: You’ll have to hassle me this year 😉 What do you enjoy about it–or about any book–that you keep coming back to it?

B: I love how real (read: flawed) the characters are in it, as well as the lyrical prose. Fitzgerald was the first writer to move me with just his description, which is something I aspire to do as an author myself.

S: I love a flawed character <3 And you’ve already answered my next question! I was going to ask what a book needs to have for you to enjoy it and how that influences your own writing, but you’ve clearly read my mind 😉 Got anything to add?

B: Other things I look for in a good book: compelling stakes/conflict, diversity, and well-written dialogue that leaps off the page!

S: Do you try to fit those into your own books? If it doesn’t spoil anything, can you tell us how you’ve incorporated those things into your own writing?

B: I do, as much as I can! My writing process has definitely changed (and gotten better) over time, so I can’t speak as much to the past, but now it is something I strive for. In my upcoming novel Livingston Girls, for example, I’ve tightened my dialogue, presented diverse and realistic characters, and tried to evoke setting in an interesting way. I hope all that comes across well for the reader.

S: Yes, let’s talk about Livingston Girls! I’m SO intrigued from what I’ve seen on Instagram. It’s about a girl who starts her education in an all-girls school full of witches, right? And she’s not thrilled at first?

B: That’s mostly correct! Rose gets involved in a student-teacher scandal at her old schools and her parents ship her off to an all-girls boarding school, stuffy Livingston Academy. There, she meets a secret coven of witches that need her help to protect the school and put a stop to the asshole witch-hunter in town. All the while, she battles her own sexuality and growing feelings for her roommate, who is… complicated, to say the least.

S: Well, that just sounds all kinds of awesome <3 What I love about your books is that they’re all different, from plays to urban fantasy to… well, still urban fantasy, but also different. *pours more tea* This one sounds like it’ll be a new favourite! Who was your ideal reader for this book? Who did you write it for?

B: I think I mostly wrote it for my teenage self. It’s the kind of book I would have loved as a teenager, especially because of how witchy it is. I also wrote it for queer kids struggling with their identity or feeling like they don’t have a place in the world, as well as for anyone, regardless of age, who worries that they can’t find love because they’re far from perfect.

S: This is why I love you <3 I think my teenage self would have loved this. What did you enjoy the most about writing Livingston Girls?

B: Oh, gods, that’s a tough one! I had so much fun writing this book! I think my favorite part was the dialogue, as well as how it shapes the characters’ relationships with each other. That, and creating the magic system, of course!

S: Now, I was going to ask you to share a brief teaser, but I believe you’ve shared the first three chapters on your blog! How about the opening paragraph (or paragraphs, if it’s really short) and a link to the rest on your blog?

B: You got it! Here’s the opening:

“The reek of mothballs and disinfectant almost knocks me over. Wood paneling lines the walls. It’s not a big dorm. Just enough space between the twin beds to prevent awkward touching in the night, twin dressers and desks that have seen better days, and a gray-brown carpet. Beside the door, sitting on a patch of linoleum, is a sink with a tiny mirror. Still, the room looks clean, and the big window lets in more light than I expected.

I slide the strap of my guitar case off my shoulder, set the guitar on the bed, and walk to the window. Livingston Academy is sprawling. I doubt I’ll ever find my way around–even my residence hall is massive. Though there’s still a day before classes start, the lawn outside my dorm, Meyer Hall, ripples with activity. A few girls sit on the stone steps leading to the front doors. Others lean against the wrought-iron fencing or the building’s brick exterior, make small talk by the rose bushes, and stretch out on the browning grass.

A pang of yearning knifes my chest. I turn away.

I don’t have friends. All I have are my parents—barely. And once they go home, I won’t have anyone. “

If that intrigues you, you can read the rest of chapter one (and chapters two and three) on my blog!

S: I love it SO MUCH. 

Now that you’ve put the finishing touches on it and Livingston Girls is live for pre-order, what’s next for you?

B: I’m doing a combination of editing my full-length play Unboxed and outlining the Livingston Girls sequel(!) Livingston Coven!

S: And, of course, there’s the opera… We need to talk about your opera, Bri. When does Touch hit the stage? How excited are you??

B: I am so beyond excited and humbled! I can’t believe I’ve written something that resonates so deeply with another creator that it’s being adapted into an opera. Plans for now are that it will be out sometime in 2021, but of course that’s out of my control. Still, I am so pleased with this team, and I cannot wait to see how everything turns out.

S: I’m just so excited for and proud of you! It’ll be in London, right? That’s HUGE.

B: It will be! I’m flying out for the opening.

S: I’ll have to see if I can meet you for it 😉 But let’s get serious for a moment. You’re doing so well and you inspire me with your work ethic, but everyone struggles with something, and I think it’s important that we don’t forget that no one’s life is perfect, no matter what shiny online profiles make us believe. So, what’s your biggest struggle as an indie author, playwright, and editor?

B: My biggest struggle is not feeling overwhelmed and getting distracted. I’ve had anxiety for years, and I suspect I also have undiagnosed ADD/ADHD. Those two make it tough for me to concentrate sometimes. When I feel overwhelmed, I can’t get as much done as I’d like to, and I tend to beat myself up for that. It’s tough.

S: I get that. I had a day like that just yesterday where I was exhausted from not getting enough sleep the weekend before and the bad weather was doing a number on me. I just couldn’t focus and didn’t get the work done that I’d wanted to. I felt so guilty, especially because I don’t work just for myself but for other authors.

I think we both need to remember that it’s okay to have bad days. Everyone has them. That’s what makes self-care so important!

B: That’s right! I’m trying to be kinder to myself in 2020.

S: Same. Last year was busy for both of us, but we don’t have to push ourselves this hard, Bri. No one does. Burning out isn’t fun, and we don’t need that shit.

I don’t know about you, but when I really need a break, I love to curl up with a good book, a tea or hot chocolate, and wrap up in my blanket. My familiar tends to fall asleep on me too. What’s your perfect reading situation?

B: I love curling up on the couch or in bed with my cat and a hot drink too! Even better if the weather is nice enough to open the windows.

S: Ooh, or better yet, when it’s nice enough to read outside! <3

To wrap up, where can we find you and what do you share there?

Briana Morgan – Author, Playwright, and Editor

B: I have a website where I blog and where you can find my books, an editing website, Twitter where I post about writing and books, and Instagram where I share information about writing, books, and a behind-the-scenes look at my everyday life. 🙂

S: And I can say from personal experience that your Instagram is very honest and incredibly encouraging and inspiring! Plus the pictures of your cat are adorable and make my day ^-^

Thank you so much for stopping by and chatting with me! It’s been lovely having you here.

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Sarina Langer