James Morris is a former television writer with produced credits including episodes of “Smallville,” “Crossing Jordan” and “The 4400.” Born in Chicago, he now calls Los Angeles home. He lives with his wife and dog, and when not writing you can find him experimenting in the kitchen.
How did you begin writing? What inspires you to write?
I’ve been writing stories here and there ever since grade school. I followed my passion, went to college and studied English Literature and film, and then moved to Los Angeles to break into the entertainment industry. Hollywood is its own story – I ended up writing for a few shows with my writing partner – but after we broke up, I turned to novels. It’s been a rollercoaster ride, that’s for sure. Some scary dips, indeed!
Who is your intended audience and why should they read the book?
You know, I’m not a fan of labels, of calling something Young Adult or New Adult or something else because it seems exclusionary. I’m a grown man, and I read young adult! But having said that, the audience is really geared towards readers of the thriller genre and less about contemporary YA. This is certainly not your John Greene-type YA novel (and I love some John Greene). It’s more of a thrill-ride geared toward older teens and adults-who-are-forever-young (like me). For readers who want a bit of escapism with a fast pace that hopefully raises some interesting questions, then WHAT LIES WITHIN is for them!
How did you come up with the title of your book or series?
I liked the dual meanings of the word “lies.” It could mean something that’s inside of something, or it’s the lies that we believe about ourselves, so WHAT LIES WITHIN seemed a natural fit. I can tell you if I ended up writing a sequel, it would be titled WHAT LIES BEYOND.
Tell us a little bit about your cover art.
My friend Lani Rich of StoryWonk designed it, and I liked it because it’s a stark image that captures the tone of the book. I loved the red hair that represents Shelley, as well as the tears of blood.
Who is your favorite character?
That’s a tough one! I like them all! Maybe it’s a cop-out, but I have to get inside and understand all of them – even the villains – to bring them to life. Winston was probably the easiest to write, though, simply because he’s the most like me.
If I could change ONE thing about your novel, what would it be? Why?
You know, I do have thoughts on this. There might be a couple things I would change, but I’ll keep them secret. I learn on every project I do, and yet, no project is ever perfect (much to my frustration!) I try my best, giving the story and characters a lot of time – I’ve been over that draft hundreds of times – and at the end of the day, I’ve made it as good as I could during the time I worked on it. It’s a bit like thinking about previous relationships: the coulda-woulda-shoulda, and yet, you can’t go back and change things; you can only learn from them.
Give us an interesting fun fact.
WHAT LIES WITHIN is actually the 3rd book I wrote, but the first that landed me an agent, and the first to get published. Two others, and the years they took to write, but the act of writing them taught me a tremendous amount.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I’m currently working on a couple projects, and mulling over a sequel to WHAT LIES WITHIN. But sequels are tricky – you want to make sure the sequel is worthy – and better – than the original, and not just done because you can.
What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?
First, any reader who even appreciates a bit of it is a superstar. I’m not one of those writers who is like, “I am an artiste – you will like what I give you!” Not at all. I write for an audience. I write knowing someone is going to sit down and choose this book over another book, reading instead of watching TV or calling friends or doing a million other things. You have to respect that level of commitment. A reader is sitting down with me, basically. And I don’t want to disappoint. If a reader likes it, of course, share the experience and tell your friends!
Do I have any tips for other writers trying to get published?
First, writers write because they love it; they write because they have to. There are so many other ways to try and make money, that if that’s the goal, I say cut your losses. But if you’re an addict, and hopelessly addicted to stories, then the advice is simple: keep going. Second, have elephant skin with the soul of a poet, and expect rejection. Learn from it. Learn from criticism. Be open to it. Tell stories that are important to you. Don’t try to catch a trend. Worry less about getting an agent and getting published and doing the much, much harder thing, which is getting down a solid draft.
Anything else I’d like to say?
Just thank you. Really. For helping spread your experience of the book. For helping me get my name out there. Writing can be very lonely, but it’s worth it when you actually make an impact. I try not to get too emotionally invested in reviews – reading is so highly subjective – but it’s still great to hear that people enjoyed the read. It makes all the hours very well worth it.
Book Summary (Goodreads):
“You’re going to die”
A single text message and Shelley Marano’s world is upended. A normal high school senior, Shelley discovers she is adopted. She goes on a journey to uncover her past, only to find she was part of a horrific experiment to test the theory of nature versus nurture. In a culture of violence committed by young people, she may be one of these killers. With the lives of her and her friends in the balance, one thing is certain: she will never be the same.
Exclusive Book Excerpt:
The motorcyclist didn’t move, just stared back, and then he looked down at a photo in his hand and slipped it into his back pocket.
Ordinarily, the kid might’ve made some remark, but the motorcyclist looked like a well-armored samurai. Something in the kid’s brain told him to screw the gas–just peel out and don’t look back. Only when the motorcyclist turned away and put in a credit card to unhook the nozzle did the kid relax.
Seconds passed and he sensed something was wrong. He couldn’t discern why until he realized he hand’t heard the normal sounds of a motorcycle gas cap being unscrewed or the clank of the nozzle against metal. In fact, there was no sound at all. He turned–
The motorcyclist held the gas nozzle in his hand.
In the span of a second, as time expanded, the kid’s eyes glanced downward. The motorcyclist’s hand tensed against the handle, unleashing a torrent of gasoline. It sprayed with the force of a fire hose, nearly waterboarding the kid in the mouth. Its unmistakable aroma consumed him, and he fought the urge to gag. His mouth stung, hands held up, blind, eyes burning, the sting, the smell, the fear–
Then it stopped.
The gas dripped from his face, little beads of toxic perspiration, his hair wet, his clothes soaked, face contorted in a rictus of poison. He opened his eyes, the world blurry, grainy, and he caught the glint of something shining in the motorcyclist’s hand followed by a sound: flick, cap, flick, cap.
The kid squinted to try and focus.
Flick, cap. Flick, cap.
He saw then what it was.
–What Lies Within, James Morris
Be sure to check back for the book review of What Lies Within