Meet the Author: Stephanie Morrill
Today we get to feature a writer who splits her time between authoring fiction and offering guidance to aspiring authors. Booklist described her most recent release as an enjoyable yet sobering mystery with a surprising twist for inquisitive readers. Her book Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft into a Published Book has been rated 29 times on Amazon; one of them is 4-stars, the rest 5. Meet Stephanie Morrill.
Your website introduces you with: “I write books about girls who are on adventures to discover their unique place in the world.” Have you discovered your unique place in the world yet? Tell us about it.
I feel like my unique place in the world is always evolving.
Some of my unique places are places I chose. Like Overland Park. Staying in and raising my children in my home is an adventure I wanted. Or being a writer is a unique adventure that I chose.
Other adventures, like having a child with epilepsy, are pieces of my story that I wouldn’t have picked. Yet the efforts involved in keeping his seizures under control have definitely carved out a unique community for me and my family. Because of his health issues, I care about causes and know people that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
And what would you like to share with us about those books?
My contemporary YA novels are about the more subtle kinds of adventures. Like choosing to be kind or true to who you are, even when it comes at a personal cost.
My historical mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street is about a more obvious kind of adventure. The story is set in Chicago in 1924, and the main character’s best friend goes missing. When Piper gets involved, she finds that discovering the truth about what happened to her friend will cost her more than she initially imagined.
You are also the creator of Go Teen Writers, website ("honesty, encouragement, and community for writers") and book. What is that and what role does it play in your professional identity and writing career?
Go Teen Writers was born out of how many emails I received from teen writers once my first book had been published. As I received more and more emails, I started thinking it would be wonderful to have a place where I could help them, but also where they could build community with each other.
I started the blog seven years ago, and have invited several other writers to join me along the way. I love the opportunity to be around the young writers and their infectious energy. Trying to pass on my knowledge to them has helped me to solidify my own writing process, and I think it keeps me from being tempted to get lazy. I know there’s a savvy group of readers out there who will pick up my books and know if I didn’t put in the effort I should have!
How have you come to focus your stories and encouragement on teen readers and writers, in particular?
That’s just the age that my story ideas naturally fit into. When I graduated high school, I wanted to be a “serious writer” and write the kind of literature that would be read and dissected by high school English students. But I couldn’t come up with anything. I’m so glad that I finally gave in and let myself write what I wanted instead of writing what I thought I should want to write.
When did you first decide to pursue a career in writing? When did you begin to feel like you’d “become” a writer? What was the journey like, getting from the goal to the accomplishment?
I fell in love with writing in elementary school, and from first grade on I was always telling people that I wanted to write stories when I grew up. I began to pursue publication my junior and senior years of high school.
The journey can be really lonely. My parents and my boyfriend (who became my husband) were really supportive, but as a teen I didn’t know anybody who wrote stories. I learned everything with on-line research and trial/error. After going to my first bigger writers conference at age 22, I finally made a few writing friends, so I highly recommend conferences to aspiring writers.
Being published is a bit of a false summit. You think you’re going to feel different—secure, confident, validated—but in my experience, that’s not what it’s like. Don’t misunderstand me, being published is a wonderful and fulfilling accomplishment, and I’m proud of it. But there’s still plenty of work to be done as a writer after that first book hits the shelves.
What are you working on now? What does the future have in store for you?
I’m going to stay in historical YA fiction for the foreseeable future. I absolutely love the 1920s, and I could write endless stories in that decade alone.
What do you like most about being a writer?
The stories. Brainstorming them, writing them, editing them. Even on hard days, I still love every piece of the process.
What do you like least about being a writer?
Anything that involves a stage and a microphone.
What advice would you offer other writers about the writing process? About the publication process? How distinct are the two—writing and publishing—in your mind?
Early on, writing and publishing feel like two very separate things. You write stories you love and enjoy, and then you go about trying to get them published, whether that’s traditionally or going through the process of self-publishing.
But a mistake I made early on was to not consider the publishing piece as I was crafting my story.
To be clear, I never recommend chasing trends or writing stories you don’t believe in just because you think they’ll sell.
But often you can make tweaks to a story that will help it be more marketable and appealing without sacrificing the story you care about. Marketability matters whether you are trying to sell to a literary agent and editor, or directly to a reader on Amazon.com.
I think there’s great value in having a story idea you love, and then asking, “Why would somebody buy this story or pick it up at their library? What does it offer them?”
What role have libraries played in your life (as both reader and a writer)?
I write historicals, so I’m constantly at the library. Especially during research seasons. As a mom of three, I absolutely love that I can order the books I want on the JCL website, and then swing into my neighborhood branch to pick them all up at once. (Though my kids whine if they don’t get to go look in their sections too!)
I love listening to audiobooks, so I’ve especially loved the way Johnson County has expanded the relationship with Axis 360 so I can listen on my phone.
What’s your all-time favorite book?
I’m a big Jane Austen fan, and I reread Pride and Prejudice every couple years.
If you could bring one character to life from a favorite book, who would it be? Why?
Oh, wow. I’m not sure how to choose! I loved bright, spunky Puck in Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races. She could teach me how to ride a horse.
What's your least favorite word?
It’s a tie between “peeps” and “pics," the shortened versions of people and pictures. I don’t know why, but they grate on me.
If you joined the circus, what act would you most want to perform?
Whichever one had the least amount of stage time! Maybe I could hold hoops for animals to jump through, or something.
Which albums, films, and books are you ashamed to admit you love?
I don’t have any current shameful secrets, but I went to a lot of Backstreet Boys concerts as a teenage girl . . .
If you had to be trapped in a TV show for a month, which show would you choose?