I’m delighted to welcome Morton S. Gray to my blog today. She’s here to talk about her debut novel, The Girl on the Beach, published by Choc Lit.
Morton: Thank you for asking me to visit your blog.
I have been asked several questions by readers since my book was published on 24 January, so I thought I’d answer a couple here.
What sparked the story?
I am a keen observer of life, my ears are always alert for snippets of information, conversation and even unusual names. I scan the news stories every day and store away anything useful. In the case of The Girl on the Beach, it was the combination of a couple of these news articles and my friend, who runs an art gallery at Bevere, near Worcester, holding an art competition at my son’s high school. Once the elements clicked together, I had a story and essentially a question – ‘Who is Harry Dixon?’ That was all it took for the novel to be born.
How do you visualise your characters?
I have a very active imagination, but, in a similar way to the news stories above, I squirrel away pictures that inspire me. The basis for Harry was a model in one of the junk mail clothing catalogues that appear through my door. I just happened to catch sight of him as I was depositing the booklet in my recycling bin and thought – Ooo.
When I have pictures and a story idea, it’s a case of thinking how these characters would act in the situations I am presenting them with for their characteristics to become clear. It’s great fun, but a little spooky when the characters become real in your mind and you even have imaginary conversations with them! I expect the men in white coats any day.
Is the fictional town Borteen, where the story takes place, based on any particular seaside town?
I love the seaside and long to walk on the beach every day. That’s a bit impossible though, as I live probably as far from the sea as you can get in England. I indulged myself writing this book, as I could imagine the feel of the sand beneath my toes and smell the sea air as I was writing it.
Borteen is an amalgamation of many seaside towns I have visited. It has a little bit of Barmouth, Woolacombe, Lyme Regis, Llandanawg, Burnham and many more. I’ve taken my favourite bits of lots of beaches and beach towns and put them together to suit my story. At least if it’s fictional, I can add in the details I need to tell my story.
It’s quite strange though, because I’ve spent so much time in Borteen, I can walk down the streets, go into the shops, even tell you the colour and texture of the sand in my head. At least I can now stroll on my beach every day, as I’m busy writing more stories in the Borteen area. Watch out for some of those characters from The Girl on the Beach!
Who is Harry Dixon?
When Ellie Golden meets Harry Dixon, she can’t help but feel she recognises him from somewhere. But when she finally realises who he is, she can’t believe it – because the man she met on the beach all those years before wasn’t called Harry Dixon. And, what’s more, that man is dead.
For a woman trying to outrun her troubled past and protect her son, Harry’s presence is deeply unsettling – and even more disconcerting than coming face to face with a dead man, is the fact that Harry seems to have no recollection of ever having met Ellie before. At least that’s what he says …
But perhaps Harry isn’t the person Ellie should be worried about. Because there’s a far more dangerous figure from the past lurking just outside of the new life she has built for herself, biding his time, just waiting to strike.
How did she know him?
The headmaster, John Williams, began to introduce the man. ‘Harry Dixon meet Ellie Golden, the inspiration behind our art competition. Harry will be taking over from me as headmaster in September and has agreed to help you decide who wins today.’
Rapidly searching her memory, Ellie shook Harry Dixon’s hand. He had the physique of a rugby player, his dark hair cut short and straight. She didn’t recognise the name, but the huge brown eyes and the cleft in his chin, almost hidden in short stubble, were somehow so familiar. She felt strangely uneasy.
He smiled, displaying even, white teeth. Did she imagine he was holding back, not smiling wholeheartedly? Did he recognise her too?
‘Have we met before?’ she asked, aware that her throat was suddenly dry.
‘I don’t think so. I would have remembered.’
The words brought heat to her face. His voice was warm and deep, clear in tone, but with a slight burr of an accent. She turned to examine the display to hide her blush. The exhibits were arranged on tall baize-covered panels at the back of the cavernous school hall. Each picture had a number with the Art Exposium competition logo, a stylised “A” and “E” with a swirl of paint joining the letters.
‘We’d better get on with the judging, there’s a lot to look at,’ commented Ellie, trying to recover her composure.
The scoring sheet she’d typed up the previous evening seemed overcomplicated this morning, with its profusion of tick boxes. In her confused state, the columns merged and blurred. She knew she must sound prim and school-marmish, and look it too.
What had possessed her to wear this suit? It was the one she’d once used for job interviews, grey and boring, even teamed with the scarlet silk shirt and pearl necklace. A clear case of dressing as she thought she should, rather than how she really wanted to. Focus, Ellie. She fought to bring her mind back to the competition, away from Harry Dixon and his identity. He was so good-looking and she still didn’t know why she recognised him. Those eyes! Stop it, Ellie.
Buy The Girl on the Beach here:
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. As with many authors, life got in the way of writing for many years until she won a short story competition in 2006 and the spark was well and truly reignited.
She studied creative writing with the Open College of the Arts and joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) New Writers’ Scheme in 2012. She is a member of the RNA and The Society of Authors.
After shortlisting in several first chapter competitions, she won The Choc Lit Publishing Search for a Star competition in 2016 with her novel ‘The Girl on the Beach’. This debut novel was published on 24 January 2017. The story follows a woman with a troubled past as she tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her son’s headteacher, Harry Dixon.
Previous ‘incarnations’ were in committee services, staff development and training. Morton 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.
Contact Morton here:
Website – www.mortonsgray.com
Twitter – @MortonSGray
Facebook Page – Morton S. Gray Author – https://www.facebook.com/mortonsgray/