All The King’s Men is being written by an incredibly talented and diverse team of writers from around the world. The stories in the anthology are informed by their unique perspective on the world, and their own fascinating experiences.
We here at anthology HQ want to celebrate these writers and their experiences. We not only want to support their other creative endeavours, but we also want to give you some insight into them as people and as creators, and to give you a chance to follow these great writers beyond this anthology.
Today’s featured writer is Tanner Morton, a writer, journalist and editor based in Canada.
Please, tell us about yourself.
Well, my name is Tanner Morton and I’m a recently graduated 22 year-old, trying his best to make a career out of writing. While the majority of my published work has been nonfiction, whether journalism or academic writing, I’ve always had a more narrative bent to my work, and have been working on more short fiction in the past year and half. I’m currently working as an editor at an independent newspaper called The Ontarion and will be, hopefully, pursuing my Masters in Journalism come autumn of 2017.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing pretty consistently for about a decade, which I don’t think is too shabby for someone my age. I think I’ve really started to find my own voice in the past couple of years, whereas before I was probably cribbing too much from stereotypical young male influences.
Who is your favourite writer, and why?
For anyone who is looking for direct inspiration from Glass Paw, it may come as a surprise that my favourite author would probably be Neil Gaiman, mostly because my story is not Gaiman-esque by any stretch of the imagination. I think that the way that Gaiman comments on the idea of stories, and the influence of mythology on culture and society. As a reader, I adore his ability to play with the pacing of his stories. I’ve never felt the need to race through his stories, I wouldn’t call his novels, short stories or comics pages turners, but I always feeling satisfied when I finish one of his works. The issue here is, that if you were to ask me the same question last year, or probably in eight months’ time, I could very well have a different answer. Jeff Lemire, Grant Morrison, and Geoff Johns would probably be my other top comic writers, if any of their names appear on an issue’s cover I’ll at least give it a shot. Lev Grossman’s Magicians trilogy is the most influential collection of work on my decision to write, but I’ve also been digging Patrick Rothfuss lately. Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell sent me down a Victorian rabbit hole that I may never recover from, and the classics from this period will probably always stick with me. As an English major, I had to read more “classic literature” than I normally would have, and I think that some of that education has crept its way into my writing, much to my chagrin.
What can you tell us about your writing process? Do you approach each project in the same way?
My writing process is akin to an incandescent lightbulb, decent amount of light, but not particularly energy efficient. Working for a weekly publication, plenty of people would imagine that I’ve developed a knack for cranking out work, but I find anything creative still takes plenty of my time to get right. Glass Paw itself had plenty of different iterations that floated around my head, before I even put pen to paper (I still handwrite most of my rough drafts). Usually I throw on some sort of music that brings me into the spirit of the work, and then I just write until I near some sort of first draft Then its countless read-throughs and edits before I send it off. For Glass Paw specifically, I wrote most of it while I was working as a social media writer up in the Catskill Mountains in New York, which meant that the majority of the script was done between 10:30 pm and 2 o’clock in the morning. I definitely find that, once I get on a role, the words just flow, but sometimes I’ll go too long without writing anything of much value. I know that my own writing style is “why say something in two words when you can use nine?”, which isn’t always the best for scripting, or journalism for that matter.
Your story in All The King’s Men is a comic entitled Glass Paw, a story about an underdog competing in an illegal underground fighting ring with the life of a young boy at stake. Can you tell us what inspired this story, and what it means to you?
When readers get the opportunity to read Glass Paw, I’m sure that Rocky will be the assumed inspiration but, to be honest, I didn’t even really connect the two until you mentioned it during our initial conversations about the pitch. Once it was mentioned, of course, I couldn’t believe that I never pitched it as “Space-Rocky”, especially with Creed being such a success. I actually had three separate influences to the story. The most prominent one, in my mind, is Daredevil: Yellow, a story that I revisited around the same time because of the arrival of the second season of the Netflix show. I always found the story of Battlin’ Jack Murdock was incredibly compelling, an older fighter trying to earn his son’s respect, I’m sure you can see the inspiration. There’s also a lesser known Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy lead movie called Warrior, which really approached the concept of a “fighting movie” from an emotional perspective. I’m not saying that other boxing, or fighting, films lack emotional resonance, I just felt that Warrior put the characters first and the fight was acted as the inevitable climax between the two main characters. I tried to capture that in Glass Paw, the idea that it wasn’t really about the possibility of success for Owen, it was about showing the world he was willing to try, instead of hiding away and waiting to die. The final, and more tonal, inspiration for the story was the music I listened to while writing it. Even though it was in space, I’ve always pictured it as a quiet southern story, though I’m neither southern or particularly quiet. I listened to a swath of sad country ballads while writing, which is different than my typical musical taste, but that forlorn whiskey tinged sadness is present in Glass Paw if you look for it.
Owen, the main character of Glass Paw, is a recovered alcoholic whose addictions cost him his career and his family in one fell swoop. Is addiction something that has touched you or someone you know?
It’s funny, because Owen’s addiction issues is one of those elements that just sprouted from the character, for me. I actually do have quite a history of addiction in my family, on my mother’s side, with my brother and I being the first generation to not suffer from debilitating alcoholism. The members of my family who have battled addiction issues, interestingly enough, all recovered before I was born, so I haven’t had any first-hand experience with the consequences of alcoholism. I think that the fact that it’s a thread that has woven through my family for generations still has an impact on my writing, but more in that its able to be talked about openly within the family, rather than some dark held secret. Most of my writing, even a lot of the non-fiction, is concerned with the mythology that link generations, and I think that the dark secrets are just as important, if not more so, than the successes.
In addition to writing fiction, you are also a journalist and are currently working as an editor at Guelph’s independent newspaper The Ontarion. Do you feel that your journalist and editing duties influence your fiction-writing craft in any interesting ways, or are they completely separate?
I’d say the two probably cross over more than I’m aware of, but I try to keep the two decently separate. As a journalist, the old go to method of reporting is keeping the authorial voice relatively limited in your work, whereas in fiction, your authorial voice can help you stand out amongst the rest. This is, of course changing, with journalistic writing transitioning over from the old newspaper model to one that’s dominated by bloggers and personalities. I actually found my interest in writing from being an actor, I went to a theatre centered high school, so I’ve always had a knack for having my own voice in my work, which can be a detriment. As a journalist, I’ve met writers, and editors, who all come from different backgrounds, and you can often see it in their work. I know that I have an issue with commas, I tend to use them as I would pause while talking, but that doesn’t mean they’re always grammatically correct. I think that being a journalist has allowed me to develop my skills at conveying information, which is still vital for fiction, and the nuts and bolts of writing. Fiction is where I allow myself to bend the rules, and have more fun with my own voice, while still playing within the rules of the world I’ve created.
Are you working on or planning anything else at the moment?
I’m currently working on a few separate stories, those annoying ones that keep sticking around in your mind until you finally decided to put them down in ink, or on a digital screen. I have no clue what I’ll do with them yet, but a larger overarching narrative is starting to develop, so maybe they might be my first long form fiction work. I’m also still actively looking for more collaboration efforts in a graphical medium. As a writer, its daunting to see all of the other writers who are also trying to break into the same business, but you still have to keep working away at it. Unfortunately, I don’t have a visually artistic bone in my body, to the point where I once had a teacher who told me to spend my art class working on other subjects, because it wasn’t worth the time for me to try and make an assignment that was halfway decent. I think that writer/artists, especially now with the proliferation of web comics, have a leg up in putting their own work out into the world, even if there’s so much more that readers have to wade through to find it. At the same time, I’m still working each week at The Ontarion and outing out stories through there.
Where would you like to see yourself and your writing career in five or ten years’ time?
I’d like to see myself writing fulltime, but I still haven’t quite decided what form it will take. Being so young, I don’t want to pigeonhole myself into any specific medium, or genre for that matter. I’d love to work in a writer’s room, and I have some long gestating comic ideas that I’d like to get produced sometime. By the time that All The King’s Men is out, I’ll be waiting to hear about my graduate school offers, which could dramatically change the course my life is going to take, but as long as I’m creating, I’ll be happy.
We here at ATKM HQ think Tanner is a writer worth following.