Mafia 4-1-1: An Interview with Author A.M. Morgen

Tomorrow, May 8, is the official launch of Inventors at No. 8 A.M. Morgen. To help celebrate the big day, the Mafia was lucky enough to have A.M. answer a few question as part of our 4-1-1 series. Enjoy this today, tomorrow you should buy the book!

Middle Grade Mafia:  Where do you find the inspiration for your stories?

A.M. Morgen: Because I mostly write historical fiction and historical fantasy, I find my inspiration in real people and real events from history. I think readers experience a deeper level of connection to a story when it’s based in as much truth as possible. I know I did when I was a kid! In particular, I loved the American Girl series because of the historical information at the end of each book. Experiencing history through a story rather than a textbook brings the past to life in a unique way. We’re living in a world that’s been shaped by all the people who came before us. I get really inspired by anything that makes an interesting connection between the past and the present.

MGM: What is your writing process?

A.M.: Before I start writing, I do lots and lots and lots of research. Then, while I’m writing, I do more research as little quandaries arise. (For example, how did people seal envelopes in the 1820s? Trick question! Most people didn’t use envelopes until the 1840s.) If I’m being honest, sometimes I like the research more than the writing!

I try to plan out a scene in my head before I put it on paper, which means my brain is always occupied with a story even when I’m not in front of my computer. That’s helpful because I don’t write very quickly. I’m lucky if I can write 500 words per day. While I’m writing, I like to make a list of bullet points that I want to cover in each scene. As I incorporate each bullet point into the narrative, I get to delete the bullet. Deleting a bullet is like crossing something off a to-do list, which feels very satisfying.

MGM: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received regarding writing?

A.M.: Finish! Every other piece of advice is totally useless unless you can get to the end of a draft.

MGM: How long from when you started writing the featured book until it was published?

A.M.: I started working on the book in March of 2016 and it’s being published tomorrow in May of 2018, so a little over two years from start to finish. My first book took me over six years to write and revise and then it never sold on submission. Since that was my first experience, I was really surprised at how fast everything happened for Inventors at No. 8.

MGM: Ada is such a fun character. If she could talk directly to the reader, what would she want to say?

A.M.: This is the best part of writing about a real person! Ada can talk directly to you. Ada’s character is based on Ada Byron, daughter of the poet Lord Byron, writer of the first computer program, and technological visionary. Her letters to her mother starting from when she was about 8 years old are available for anyone to read.

As a child Ada was very curious. She was obsessed with learning how to fly. I think if she could talk to a modern reader, she’d be full of questions about flying and computers. She’d probably also want to know if anyone today remembered her. She might also want to know the answer this question about rainbows she asked her tutor in a letter from 1834:

Why [does] a rainbow always appears to the spectator to be an arc of a circle[?] Why is it a curve at all, and why a circle rather than any other curve?

I’m sure Ada would be thrilled that she could Google the answer to her question instead of waiting for an answer from her tutor.

MGM: Can you share a fun photo?

A.M.: I would love to! This is a picture of me at my summer job when I was 18. I was a counselor at a camp that replicated life in colonial America. We wore period-style clothing, lived outside in tents, and cooked over an open fire. It was a great experience, but I’m immensely thankful I live in a world with hot showers and electricity!


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