In this feature, we ask our Crime Cymru authors to name six things that influenced their life and shaped them as a writer. This week, S J Morgan reveals her love for Nordic Noir and her idyllic places to write, and we get to meet her fabulous writing companions.
The Life of Rebecca Jones by Angharad Price
This book, which I read recently, managed to burrow quite sneakily under my skin. Angharad Price wasn’t a writer I was familiar with and I didn’t know what the book was about when I picked it up. My (Welsh) doctor recommended it but steadfastly refused to give away any details whatsoever – she just kept saying: read it. So I did. I devoured it in a day and I loved it. If you haven’t read it, I thoroughly recommend you skip the blurb on the back and just start at page one. A special book indeed.
One inspirational place
I have lived in several different countries over the years. All of the places, in their various ways, have undoubtedly seeped into my subconscious and inspired my writing. But Australia remains the most affecting. My first experience of the country was travelling in an old station wagon from the Northern Territory, and down the west coast of the country so I got to see and experience the iconic Australia of my imagination with its strange wildlife, its never-ending roads, its vast, awe-inspiring skies. It was this huge, deserted landscape that inspired my Welsh-Aus thriller, Hide. In a country that can be so parched and empty, the beauty of its isolation sits alongside a pulse of menace: it’s easy to let one’s imagination wander and see the harsh, unforgiving side of the environment. It was this darker side that led me to set much of Hide in outback Australia.
It’s hard to know if recently-released films will stand the test of time and go on to become one’s own personal classics, but this film, I suspect, is a definite contender for me. It’s a Danish production starring Mads Mikkelsen. This was such an unusual, entertaining and unexpectedly poignant film. It centres around four male teachers who test out a social/scientific theory regarding blood-alcohol levels and the effects of alcohol on performance and creativity. An interesting premise that becomes a very compelling story. It’s wonderfully written, acted and directed and is one of those tales that simply stays with you. I’m itching to watch it again.
One TV series
Generally, I’m a sucker for the various Nordic Noir series that appear on TV – those stories set in vast, gorgeous locations where gruesome murders take place under crepuscular skies. But occasionally, I’m all for a bit of dry heat, desert and danger. For me, Breaking Bad is one of the best examples of fine storytelling. I remember being awestruck by the opening scene of the first episode and wanting to quietly study just how the writer had managed to devise such a perfect teaser. The image of an RV, hurtling wildly through the desert with a driver wearing underpants and a gasmask is one I will never forget. Yet by the end of that first episode, the weird set up makes absolute sense. Whenever I watch it, I always wish I’d been the one to write it.
One writing space
South Australia, home and away
I live in a beautiful part of the world – the Adelaide Hills in South Australia. It’s a green, wine-growing area surrounded by historic towns and lush rolling hills. It’s a peaceful place to write and it’s where I’m at my happiest and most relaxed. But a change is as good as a rest and a few times a year, I’m lucky enough to spend time at a weekend seaside retreat with a couple of writer-friends. The house we go to is on the coast, overlooking the sea, just an hour or two from home. The days are blissful and surprisingly productive. We get up at six each morning and start tapping away on our keyboards – stopping occasionally for a meal break, a drink, a stretch, but essentially, we stay at our posts till six in the evening when we finally stop for drinks, chats, eats and relaxation. We usually manage plenty of new words or edits while we’re there – and it’s good for the soul to be around people who are going through the same struggles and who can celebrate with you when you overcome the writing hurdles.
One (set of) writing companion(s)
Last and certainly not least – most of us like to have our favourite things around us as we create: a calming picture, a piece of music, an object that stirs memories. For me, it’s my two greyhounds, Dylan and Maxie. They’re old boys now: Dylan, 14 and Maxie, 12. They don’t move far and no longer move fast, but they stay by my side as I write, and I’m sure the words wouldn’t flow so well were it not for those boys dozing quietly at my side.