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Morgan Quaid talks Novels, Comics and World Building

Morgan Quaid talks Novels, Comics and World Building

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Yesterday I caught up novelist, comics writer, musician and fellow Australian, Morgan Quaid, to discuss his move from Novels into the Comics medium. Morgan hails from Brisbane, QLD and has had a lot of success in the Comics world – thanks to Kickstarter. Despite this, Morgan hasn’t abandoned his author roots and continues to release books as an independent writer to this day.

Interview with Morgan Quaid – Australian Novelist, Comic Book Writer and Musician

Morgan and I covered the finer points of comics and book promotion as an independent writer, the mistakes you can easily make as a creator and how to avoid them, plus he makes the controversial claim that System of a Down’s best album is Mesmerize. But don’t throw rocks at his glass palace just yet – read the interview first.

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Morgan Quaid talks Novels, Comics and World Building
Morgan’s hometown – Brisbane

Hi Morgan Quaid, how are you going right now? How is this chaotic world treating you?

Morgan Quaid: Busy, but good busy!

Where in the world are you from?

Morgan Quaid: Brisbane, Australia.

What projects are you currently working on?

Morgan Quaid: Writing book 4 of The Seven Hungers novel series, finishing scripts on 4 comic projects, reviewing art on 2 projects, lettering on 3 projects, writing a screenplay for an indie film which will be filming early next year. Also prepping for a kickstarter campaign launching at the end of the month, sending books for editing and review, and writing a short story for an upcoming collection.

And then there’s the music stuff. All exciting stuff though and I’m thoroughly enjoying the work!

Ooo. That’s interesting. What music are you working on?

Morgan Quaid: I’m constantly building out new music packs for my sound label business (music loops that producers and composers use to build out their projects). I’m also writing music for a TV series in the US (mostly R&B style stuff with clean guitars etc.).

In the near future, I’m going to be composing a soundtrack and some new songs for an upcoming indie film I’m writing. Filming should start early next year, but I want to get some music together early to help set the tone for the piece. It’s a western horror, so it’s gonna be great fun to put together!

How did you first get started?

Morgan Quaid: I started writing novels years ago, tried to go the traditional route (finding a literary agent, waiting for a publishing deal, etc.) and found that to be an intensely depressing enterprise. I kept writing, but wasn’t really sure where things were going until I discovered the renaissance of indie comics and fell in love with the medium! Since then, it’s been a huge learning curve, lots of mistakes, meeting lots of great folks, and thoroughly enjoying the journey.

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What’s the Seven Hungers novel series about?

Morgan Quaid: It’s an urban fantasy thriller series centering around an exiled sorcerer named Ambrose Drake. Essentially, there are seven “Hungers” or hell realities that exist below our world and Drake is the only sorcerer who has ever travelled to all seven Hungers. Creatures from below are constantly trying to break through into our reality, and Drake (along with all other Crown sorcerers) is charged with protecting humanity from these incursions.

Years earlier, Drake was tricked by a powerful sovereign (ruler of the Seventh Hunger) into travelling all the way through the Hungers (she made him think that his wife was trapped down there and the woman he was living with was a doppelganger). When he eventually made his way back to our world, Drake’s body was possessed by that Sovereign.

By a quirk of the contract between the Sovereign and Drake, she can’t kill him and take over the human world as she’s planned, instead she is bound to keep him alive at all costs.

The series starts with Drake being called out of exile to assist in quelling an incursion by a creature from the third or fourth Hunger. The first person he meets at the scene is his (real) ex-wife.

The series is full of twists and turns and tends to move very fast. It’s told through the perspective of Ambrose Drake and brings in some really cool characters as the story progresses.

Morgan Quaid talks Novels, Comics and World Building
Morgan Quaid and his comic series: Enmity

What’s the biggest mistake you feel that an aspiring novelist can make?

Morgan Quaid: Waiting for someone else to promote and market your work (e.g. publisher). In this day and age, no matter who you are, you need to get out there and promote your work, otherwise no one will be able to find it and read it. Sadly, unless your one of half a dozen people working with very big publishers, no one is going to really help with the marketing of your work.  It’s not something that writers tend to enjoy or be good at, but it’s an important part of being an author.

Tell me more about this Kickstarter that’s launching next month.

Morgan Quaid: This is for the Enmity series, a collection of comics with a post-apocalyptic, horror bent.

Essentially it’s about a sixteen-year-old girl name Daisy who sets out to find her deadbeat dad in a post-apocalyptic world, after the death of her mother. What she doesn’t know is that her father is Lucifer and the apocalypse was actually cause by him (Lucifer was fed up with his job and so decided to quit, leaving a power vacuum and causing the apocalypse).

The campaign will feature 4 comics (2 issues from the main story, 2 side issues), and a graphic novel all revolving around the central story. There are also signed copies, variant covers, A5 prints, stickers, bookmarks and more available.

I’m also going to run a “Win your own theme song” competition for backers, and putting together a spoof post-apocalyptic horror film called “Chester of the Apocalypse” which 5 lucky backers will have a chance to act in!

What’s your favourite era of creative work by other creators?

Morgan Quaid: Honestly, right now! I never really read comics as a kid, so I don’t have a history with the classics. I really like the indie artwork coming out now because it tends to be more flexible in terms of what you can and can’t do. I’m a writer, so my first interest is in the story and how to communicate that to readers. So, any way that I can make the process more engaging for readers is great.

Morgan Quaid talks Novels, Comics and World Building
(Probably not the real Enmity front cover)

What’s some indie creators that you’ve really vibed with that you think we should all keep an eye on?

Morgan Quaid: On the comics side, I love what Legacy Comics and Lesser Known Comics are doing. They’re putting out some great stuff and both run by great guys with a real passion for storytelling and indie comics. There’s a great Australian indie comic scene with some amazing creators there (Leigh Chalker’s Battle for Bustle series, Rob Lisle’s Sluggish, Es Kay’s Wordsmith series, and so many more!), and I have to shout out Aus Comx (Shane Syddall) for all the work they do promoting Aussie comics and connecting indie creators!

Honestly, there’s so much great stuff going on in indie comics – too many great creators and projects to mention! You just gotta go check it out!

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Are you more of a horror or sci-fi nerd? What are your go to films to check out?

Morgan Quaid: Definitely more sci-fi than horror. To be honest, it was only a year ago that I finally gave in and started calling myself a horror writer. Took me twelve years to come to terms with the fact that I actually write horror…or stories with a horror bent. I think the reticence on my part to identify with the horror genre is that I’ve never really been attracted to horror films or novels. I’m an idea junkie. I love exploring new worlds and strange ideas, so sci-fi fits much better with that than horror.

My stuff tends to blend both genres though. I love the way horror can shock and really crush expectations for the reader, but I need to be exploring larger conceptual (sci-fi) ideas to keep me interested.

In terms of films, I mean, I’ve watched almost everything. Anything with a sci-fi flavor, I’ll watch. Dune, The Matrix, Inception, Dark City, Interstellar – I watch it all! Even films that aren’t great have something to offer and I’m a sucker for the escapism of watching sci-fi. Oh… and of course I have to mention Star Trek. Because… well, just because!

Morgan Quaid talks Novels, Comics and World Building
Enmity2 – Art in Progress

Who are your main creative influences and what aspects of your creative work can we find them in?

In terms of writing, I love everything by China Mieville. My writing style is quite different to his (and far less complex), but a lot of the ideas that I’m obsessed with (steampunk machines, interactive tattoos, living shadows, portals to other worlds etc.) come up in one form or another in Mieville’s work, though in much more impressive and rigorous forms (fanboy alert!).

I also love Jack Vance’s Eyes of the Overworld books – the exquisite language and imagery, the quirky, circular nature of Cugal’s Saga, etc.

I owe a lot to more traditional and newer grimdark fantasy writers as well (Joe Abercrombie, Robert Jordan, etc.) as fantasy books have played a huge role in my conceptual development as a writer.

Honestly, pick up any book or comic of mine and you’ll find elements that lean heavily on these influences. Quirky characters and steampunk/horror oddities (The Blood Below), living shadow (Shadow’s Daughter), strange worlds impinging on our own reality (Whiplash). I tend to circle back to the same kinds of themes and character types, so they’re not hard to find.

Who are your go to musical jams to put on while you’re working?

Morgan Quaid: I use to use music quite extensively to help with writing. I’d play System of a Down when writing an intense action theme, or classical piano if I was writing a more mellow sequence. These days though, honestly, I don’t listen to music at all when I write. When I’m doing lettering, or putting storyboards together I’ll listen to music (mostly 90s rock stuff, modern indie, or Jamiroquai), but the writing tends to be in silence (interspersed with me yelling at my son to please stop thumping around upstairs!).

Favourite System of a Down album and justification?

Morgan Quaid: I’d have to go with Mesmerize. Even though it’s departure from a lot of their other stuff, I really liked the melodic thrust of the album (also…good name for a band, Melodic Thrust!).

Morgan Quaid talks Novels, Comics and World Building
Morgan Quaid’s The Script Rebellion

What strengths in previous jobs have helped strengthen your creativity?

Morgan Quaid: In my non-creative work life I tend to do a lot of strategizing and managing (both people and projects). This has helped me keep multiple projects on track, as well as giving me tools for working with artists and other creatives.

One nasty secret about being a writer, particularly if you’re making your own comics, is that it’s a business. That means you need to know how to budget, how to manage your suppliers, make sure customers are happy and keep coming back, and, most of all, how to market and promote yourself and your work. Most of my previous roles haven’t helped me creatively, but they’ve helped a lot with the business side of things.

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What weaknesses have you identified in your current project that you’re going to work on in the future?

Morgan Quaid: Primarily, I’m going to try and limit my own criticism! Like many creatives, I can tell you exactly what’s “wrong” about every project I’ve ever worked on. I know what I’d like to be better, and, if money weren’t an issue, I’d probably end up re-doing every single project I’ve worked on. But that’s no way to life and it’s not financially viable. Plus, I’ve realized that people don’t all share my opinions of my work – either in a positive or negative sense. You just don’t know how people will react to a certain type of artwork, or themes of a project.

I automatically assume that people are going to be negative towards my projects because I can see all the “holes” in them. But experience has taught me that fans are far more forgiving, and most don’t even see the mistakes and issues that are glaring to me. That’s because they only see the finished product, and that’s why they buy into. They don’t know what you originally intended, or what nagging little issues you’ve been mulling over. I’m learning to do the work, connect with fans, and let them be the judge of what they like or not.

Also, regardless of the little issues, I genuinely love the creative work I do and the characters that emerge out of that work.

Morgan Quaid talks Novels, Comics and World Building
Morgan Quaid’s Idle Thuggery

Let’s talk about some memories that you had when you first started getting creative? How has this changed from childhood to adolescence to creating as an adult?

Morgan Quaid: The central love of exploring new worlds hasn’t really changed since I was a kid. I’ve always had a mind that wanders and I’ve learnt to harness that wandering and turn it into plots and storylines. The other day I picked up a short story I wrote when I was eleven, or thereabouts. It was a classic fantasy labyrinth exploration, full to the brim with fantasy tropes and the like.

Thing is, when I read the story (written in pencil), if I ignored all the spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, the story itself was pretty good. I felt myself getting pulled into the world of the story fairly easily and I still got a thrill out of the odd surprise thrown in here and there.

The main areas where things have changed relate to technique (favoring first person present, writing with more concision, trying to avoid repetition, etc.), but the way I think and write probably hasn’t changed that much.

What’s the worst nightmare you’ve ever had?

Unrelenting bloodshed. It’s one of the few nightmares I can remember and it was a flying camera view of a battle scene taking place below me. Thousands of soldiers stabbing at each other with bayonets and swords, or shooting with guns. It was that kind of montage style, where the camera kept moving from place to place.

One soldier would pick up a gun and shoot his enemy, only to be stabbed in the back by another soldier. Then that soldier picks up the gun and shoots someone else, before he, himself is shot. I just went on an on like that, a horrific, pointless slaughter. The horror of war distilled into an ever churning roll of footage that just never seemed to end.

Do you ever worry you’ll get stuck in a war?

Morgan Quaid: More for my son than myself. I have a fairly unjustified belief that I’d be fine in a war situation (and, by “fine” I mean, likely dead very quickly), but I worry about what life would be like if my son was caught up in it. I know a bunch of creators I work with regularly who have been impacted directly with the war in Ukraine and it’s devastating what’s going on over there. That fact that I had to check with half a dozen people I knew whether they were ok when war started, just shows how connected we all are and brings home how widespread the impacts of war can be.

There are times I hate being so far away from Europe or the US, but there are definitely benefits to living on an island like Australia.  

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Morgan Quaid talks Novels, Comics and World Building
Enmity2 Kickstarter Bundle

Do you have a favourite soft drink?

Morgan Quaid: Pepsi Max.

Who’s your favourite telepath or gifted character in pop culture?

Morgan Quaid: I like Patrick Jane from The Mentalist. Just like his manner and the way he can be so chilled and laid-back, then switch to blinding anger, hinting at the stuff beneath the surface.

Which creative work would you most like to be remembered for?

Morgan Quaid: Tricky question, and I’m honestly not fussy……just remember me…..please, dear God, remember be!!

My biggest world-building enterprise is the Rust Chronicles series (books, comics, short stories, etc), so I’d probably love it if people were still discovering that world long after I’m gone.

Everyone is into world building these days. How did you build up to eventually starting the Rust Chronicles series?

Morgan Quaid: I’ve been a world builder since I was a kid. It’s one of the things I love most about writing.

Rust really developed over a ten year period or so, basically starting with a single idea for a novel, Whiplash (a young man gets abducted, taken to an underground bunker and forced to fight in a war in a world of dreams). Me, being me, I’m not content to just leave it at that. I have to explore the dream world, and populate it with characters etc. to make it feel real. So, I decided to write a bunch of short stories all set in the world of Rust. It allowed me to explore the world of the series and introduce new characters, but without the daunting prospect of having to write full length novels.

I also commissioned a bunch of artwork for the short story collection, helping me to better visualize the world (including a map of the main city, Rust). That first short story collection really helped me build out the Rust universe and, from there, it was very easy to write novels exploring different characters and aspects of the larger story.

I also wrote music to go along with the short story collection. The idea being that people would listen to a certain song while reading a certain story. It was a great idea I reckon, but I released it a long time ago and I don’t think people were ready for it. Also, I knew nothing about marketing or promotion, so I just stuck it out there and didn’t bother telling anyone about it (forehead slap!).

Incidentally, here’s a link to the music.

Where can my readers find you online?

You’ll find everything on my website and on social media.

What did you think of this Interview?

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