Following the recent release of her new romantic novel, Sunny Days at The Beach, Morton S. Gray joins me to discuss all things books, including how she got into writing, where she finds inspiration for her characters and what we can look forward to seeing from her next.
Hi Morton, thanks so much for joining me. Tell us a bit about your new novel.
Sunny Days at the Beach is my fourth novel with publisher, Choc Lit. It’s a contemporary romance with more than its fair share of intrigue and mystery. The book features Mandy Vanes, who runs Owl Corner Crafts in my fictional seaside town of Borteen. Mandy arrives at work one morning to find teenager Nick Crossten sitting on the craft centre steps. He is distraught as he tells Mandy that his mother has left him home alone and gone off with her boyfriend to start a new life. As if that wasn’t enough, gin distiller, Graham Frankley arrives on the scene and tells the pair that Nick’s mum has written to him to say that he’s Nick’s dad!
Is this a stand-alone novel or part of a series?
Sunny Days at the Beach can be read as a stand-alone novel, but both Mandy Vanes and Nick Crossten have appeared as secondary characters in my previous novels for Choc Lit – The Girl on the Beach, my debut novel, which won Choc Lit’s Search for a Star competition in 2016; The Truth Lies Buried and Christmas at Borteen Bay.
How long did your new book take you to write?
Inspired by a magazine article I read in 2016, I wrote the first draft of this novel soon after that. I can write a first draft quite quickly, but then each book has to wait in line to be refined to publication standard. I like taking part in the annual writing challenge NaNoWriMo or National November Writing Month to write 50,000 words in November and I believe this novel was originally one of those manuscripts.
What’s your favourite part of the book?
Ooh, difficult to answer without giving away too much plot!
I guess I love the fact that my heroine, Mandy Vanes, declares the need for a change in her life, because her reputation in the seaside town of Borteen is terrible, but that change is brought about by something she would never have anticipated, when she takes in an abandoned teenager and has to grow up herself as a result.
When did you start out writing?
I have always read a lot and written stories. I can still remember the absolute delight when I learned to read and write. I devoured books from the library, which we visited every Saturday and I loved creative writing at school. When I was fourteen, I gave a school friend my first novel to read – it was a pirate romance, mainly inspired by the Errol Flynn swashbuckling films I used to watch on Sundays with my Nan. I still have this manuscript today.
Fast forward through O and A Levels, university, a divorce, two children, a marriage, two careers and then I started to write more seriously. I attended a weekly creative writing class and took an Open College of the Arts qualification, I began to shortlist in competitions for poems, short stories and first chapters of novels, eventually winning Choc Lit publishing’s Search for a Star competition in 2016.
What are the best and worst things about being a writer?
Being a writer is a very up and down profession emotionally. Worst – the hours of slaving away to perfect your manuscript, followed by gut-wrenching anxiety when you launch the finished book into the world. Best – when someone really gets your work and leaves you a nice review.
How do you get inspiration for your characters?
I get most of my inspiration in the shower! No, seriously, I seem to have characters and plot points come to me when I’m in the shower, or else walking the dog. I guess both of these activities take me away from my desk and allow my mind to freewheel.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned throughout the writing/publishing process?
Stay true to yourself! It is very easy to listen to other people saying don’t try that publisher, don’t write about that it will never sell, etc. You need to believe in yourself and go with what your gut is telling you to do.
What are your top three reads of all time?
Wintercombe – Pamela Belle – set in my favourite period of history, the English Civil War.
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen – I think this is the book that made me want to write.
Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert – I’ve chosen this one because I have read it many times and each time got a nugget of truth to help me with my life.
What are you reading at the moment?
At the moment I am reading a novel that has been on my to-be-read pile for a long time: The Best Boomerville Hotel – Caroline James.
What’s next for you?
Sunny Days at the Beach is the first book of a new three book contract with Choc Lit. All of my books to date are set in my fictional seaside town of Borteen – next up is a Christmas book about the Borteen solicitor and the one I’m working on right now is about Becky Finch, who has had a walk-in part in some of my other novels as a psychic barista working in a supermarket café.
Thank you, Morton, and the best of luck with the new book. It sounds very intriguing, as does the psychic barista in your work in progress. Can’t wait to read them!
More about Sunny Days at the Beach
From party nights at the pub to sunny days at the beach …
Craft shop owner Mandy Vanes has always enjoyed a commitment-free singleton lifestyle — in fact, she’s well-known for her wild ways in her small seaside town on the coast.
But when local teenager, Nick Crossten, turns to her for help, Mandy has the opportunity to prove she can be a responsible adult. Although things get tricky when gin distillery owner Graham Frankley comes to town with some unexpected news.
Could this mean that Mandy the party girl is finally ready to grow up?
About the author
Morton lives with her husband, two sons and Lily, the tiny white dog, in Worcestershire, U.K. She has been reading and writing fiction for as long as she can remember, penning her first attempt at a novel aged fourteen.
Morton previously worked in the electricity industry in committee services, staff development and training. She has a Business Studies degree and is a fully qualified Clinical Hypnotherapist and Reiki Master. She also has diplomas in Tuina acupressure massage and energy field therapy. She enjoys crafts, history and loves tracing family trees. Having a hunger for learning new things is a bonus for the research behind her books.
You can catch up with Morton here: