Tee Morris is an extremely busy author, whose most recent release is ‘Phoenix Rising – A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences‘, a sensational steampunk offering written in collaboration with Pip Ballantine.
I read and reviewed the book, and loved it, and it made me curious to get to know a little more about the mind behind Wellington Thornhill Books, Esquire.
We approached him with some questions so we could all get to know a little more about Tee Morris.
How did you get started as a writer?
I’ve been writing all my life, since elementary school days. I didn’t take it seriously until I found myself in the middle of co-writing what would become my first novel. Even that I didn’t take seriously until I saw the story taking shape. I’ve been riding this roller coaster since then.
What made you pursue writing as a career?
It really was something I had to ask myself “Would I be happy doing this?” At the time I reached this crossroad, I was pursuing an acting career. Both brought a lot to my life, and I loved both with a passion; but I needed to take a step back and really think about what I wanted to do with my life. Writing just felt right, and so far I’ve been very happy with the choice.
You write across different genres, where do you get your inspiration from?
My influences come from music, from film, and from travel. I am also a bit of a history buff. I love afternoons at museums, be they the International Spy Museum or the Smithsonian Air & Space. I tend to find life’s experiences bring a lot to the table. Just getting out and looking at the world with a sense of wonder can spark ideas.
‘Phoenix Rising – A Minsitry of Peculiar Occurences Novel’ is your latest release, what can you tell us about it?
Remember The Avengers with John Steed and Emma Peel? Take that and give it a steampunk feel, and you have an idea of what Pip and I aimed for with Phoenix Rising. Steampunk has been booming pretty hard over the past few years, and we wanted to write something different than what was out there.
Apart from Gail Carriger and the Foglios, very few writers were delving into comedy; so Pip and I put together something fun. What we ended up with was a steampunk romp that is fun, dark, whimsical, and wicked. All in one.
Phoenix Rising is a collaboration with Pip Ballantine, can you tell us a bit about how a collaborative novel works and how you write it together?
When authors collaborate, it’s different from team to team. What is essential in a collaboration is to tell a story—the same story— while remaining true to your own style. Pip and I set to write the bulk of the story from either Wellington’s or Eliza’s POV but then smooth out our distinctive styles by editing one another’s chapters and writing Interludes that are told from a variety of characters’ points-of-view.
So Pip and I talk over a few things we need to get done in the story, then we get to writing either Interludes, a scene from Eliza’s POV, or Wellington’s. From there we make things fit in edits.
How did the idea of this collaboration come about?
Originally, this was going to be a podcast-for-pay spinoff of a novel I had just started. We were casually putting this idea together when Pip’s agent Laurie reached out to her. There was interest in Pip’s “steampunk project” announced on her blog, and that was when we started writing in earnest. I picked up Laurie soon afterwards, and the two of us worked to turn this podcast script into a novel.
What has been the best thing about working with Pip Ballantine on the Ministry of Peculiar Occurences series?
I think making one another laugh, smile, and even shudder at what we come up with. Maybe we have a subversive competitive streak between us but we try to ramp up the tension for both Eliza and Wellington, and whenever she is done with a chapter I look forward to what she is going to surprise me with. It’s that ability to bounce ideas back and forth. It makes the writing process seem less solitary.
Can you tell us a little about what constitutes ‘steampunk’ for you?
This debate has been dominating blogs as steampunk grows more popular, and we have seen a lot of different definitions as to “what is steampunk,” especially after being guests at the Steampunk World’s Fair this year. For myself, steampunk is the possible past-that-never-was. It is about technology and what would have happened if Babbage and Tesla had not been so easily dismissed. It is also more about how the technology is used, and to an extent how society interfaces with it.
The “punk” of steampunk is a harder definition to pinpoint because the “punk” movement is also defined and redefined by different people. Being “punk” does not necessarily mean “Dystopia! Down with the Republic!” but more about being able to “do it yourself” and find an “expression by being true to yourself, not by society’s imposed-upon standards.” For me, the punk in steampunk is an attitude, and I see that very clearly in Phoenix Rising.
Up to this point in your career, what has been a major highlight?
It’s really hard for me to narrow down just one major highlight, but if I were to pick one I think it was speaking at Te Papa Tongurewa in Wellington, New Zealand. I was there, speaking on Social Media (and I had just finished work on All a Twitter, my third title in the subject matter) and its potential. I was, at least in the Southern Hemisphere, a complete and total unknown. The staff at Te Papa were hoping for 50-100 to attend. They lost count after 300. I went overtime, and no one left the theatre. It was a real delight to speak there, and I hope to return one day (with Pip) to talk about steampunk, or Science Fiction & Fantasy and its impact on society.
Can you share with us a quirky fact about you that we wouldn’t know?
I’ve always had a thing for puppets. In my acting career, one of my first professional gigs was being a puppeteer. (I was puppeteer for Aladdin in Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp. Best. Job. Evar!) And I still dabble now and then, just for fun.
What do you like to do in your downwtime?
Downtime? What’s that?
When I’m not writing, I get my actor’s fix when I produce podcasts. I started this in 2005 and it opened a lot of doors for me. Now the line between “fun” and “promotion” blurs a bit, but I do enjoy tinkering with audio and video. I am still in the midst of putting together a video of a vacation Pip, myself, and my daughter took across New Zealand and Australia. I also enjoy a good run or a swim. Gets me away from the computer and keeps my imagination going.
What’s next for Tee Morris?
I want to try something new in steampunk, something rarely seen perhaps because of one of the genre’s sacred cows. I don’t want to dive too deeply into the idea, but I can tell you it is a return to my first novel, Morevi. I still believe in those characters and concepts, but I think it can be more.
After talking with my agent about it, I will be (as Hollywood would say) rebooting Morevi, setting it in a steampunk Earth. Morevi will become China. The Arathellean Elves will be cut. It was still feature Captain Rafael Stringfellow Rafton, and he will still match wits with a Warrior-Queen…
But there will be many, many changes.
And with all this, there will be Of Cogs & Corsets coming for Wellington and Eliza. All this is going to make for one busy—but oh so fun—remainder of the year.
I can’t wait for Of Cogs & Corsets! I’m developing a deep appreciation for Steampunk and can’t wait to read more!
Thank you for your time and your insight Tee!
I devour books, vampires and supernatural creatures are my genre of choice but over the past couple of years, I have broadened my horizons considerably. In a nutshell – I love to write! I love interacting with a diverse range of artists to bring you interviews. Perhaps we were perfect before – I LOVE WORDS!