Michael Morris writes distinctly Southern tales in Blue Moon
by Mandy Shunnarah • January 11, 2013 @ 6:00am
From the tradition of oral history to preserving Southern heritage, local author Michael Morris discusses life as a Southern writer.
It’s not every day you hear that your grandfather had a cousin shipped to his country store in a crate—especially if the reason for the odd mode of transportation was that the man had been accused of a murder he didn’t commit. Yet this is precisely the story that local author Michael Morris grew up hearing.
Now his grandfather’s age-old story has been rejuvenated in the publication of Morris’ most recent novel, Man in the Blue Moon. Set in 1918, the novel is Morris’ first work of historical fiction.
“I started writing the novel when my Grandpa was 99. I recorded him telling what life was like in rural Apalachicola, Florida back then. It was like the Wild West. He saw a man get shot in the head for stealing cattle, and saw his brother get into a duel over moonshine,” said Morris.
In writing Man in the Blue Moon, Morris discovered that he enjoyed the research process of writing historical fiction, and his grandfather’s stories influenced him to include personal elements in his novels.
“All of my novels have a sliver of something personal in them. Whether it’s a story that my grandfather told me or something I experienced myself, like watching my mother flee from domestic violence or being raised by my grandparents, the personal is present in my writing,” Morris said.
Morris’ grandparents also influenced the theme of holding onto family land seen in Man in the Blue Moon.
“When living in North Carolina, I saw areas developing so fast that shopping centers were built on top of farm land. My grandparents always said to never sell family land if you didn’t have to. In selling the land, you lose a part of your heritage,” explained Morris.
Similarly, Morris noted that attempted to change a Southern accent has the same effect. At one point, Morris tried to extinguish his own Southern drawl, but came to embrace his accent after hearing Southern writer Lee Smith on NPR on afternoon.
Likened to Flannery O’Connor and praised by Pat Conroy, Morris enjoys being in the ranks of legendary Southern writers.
“I could write other things, but I’ll stay in the South because it’s what I love and what I know. I’m a Southerner at heart and I’m not running from that,” said Morris.