Episode 40: Which Way is North? with Chris Morris

Chris Morris is the author of Which Way is North?: 15 Mixed Genre Short Stories, which he independently published in late 2020. He is also a dad to a lovely 5-year old girl, teaches percussion and drum kit, works in school, and shares weekly stories on his Short Stories By Chris Morris podcast. I am excited to be talking to him today about how he's been using writing as a catharsis in these strange times and of course swapping some great book recommendations. 

Chris has enjoyed writing since he was a young kid getting published in school projects, but 2020 was the year he decided to be intentional about writing and sharing his work. The intense emotions and frequent isolation that came with the COVID-19 pandemic also greatly impacted his creative efforts this past year. 

The time where Chris wrote "Is There Anybody Out There" was a breaking point for him, but writing the story helped him process the emotions and start to move forward. He explained, 

"Writing is a way of getting things off the chest, not just for creative writers, but even just keeping something like a diary or journal, for people writing these things down can be really important. For me, doing it in a creative way by writing a sort of short story out of it was really helpful, and that became, then, the turning point."

He started the podcast a few weeks later, and that story became the first story on the podcast. 

 

Books we talked about on today's episode

11/22/63 by Stephen King - Chris mentioned reading several Stephen King books, describing them as "all dark in some way, but some not actually in the horror genre." I mentioned that 11/22/63 is on my TBR... If I get up the nerve to read it. 

The Shining by Stephen King - Perhaps one of Chris's favorite books of all time. 

The Witches by Roald Dahl - One of the first books Chris remembers reading as a child on his own, and now he's enjoyed reading it aloud to his daughter. His daughter also loves the books of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda.

The Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine - Chris enjoyed this series as a boy, and was even in a Goosebumps club where he got a book every month. 

Then there was a book that he heard read aloud in school that made the teacher cry. The plot was something like a boy traveling the world to find a cure for his sister's disease...but Chris has no idea what the title is! 

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami - As we were talking about films versus books, this was mentioned as a very well written book that would make a terrible screenplay. 

Lord of the Rings - books versus movies debate! Chris and I both agreed that the LOTR film adaptations did a great job with the books, and Chris mentioned that the films actually have a bit more humor and emotion in them, which he appreciates. He has the Silmarillion on his shelf, which he'd like to read, but hasn't yet. 

Other books by J.R.R. Tolkien that we talked about: The Children of Hurin, The Fall of Gondolin, and Beren and LĂșthien. Another few stories are coming out this June according to this news story I read recently, and the listing for The Nature of Middle-earth is already up on Amazon with that June release date. Yay!  

Chris just finished reading Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe - the Nigerian author's debut and one of the first novels by a native African written in English to receive global critical acclaim. Chris had it as part of a three-book collection called The African Trilogy. 

As a part of his effort to get into audiobooks, Chris is listening to A Splendid Ruin by Megan Chance. He also just started reading Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stewart, which was recently awarded The Booker Prize and is the Scotsman's debut novel. 

Chris recommended to Laura

Gold by Chris Cleave - The blurb on Chris Morris's copy of this book was so intriguing, he read it aloud to me on the episode. It sounds fascinating, if a big vague on the details of the book itself. I read Everyone Brave is Forgiven by the same author, so I'm excited about this recommendation. 

Charlotte Street by Danny Wallace - by the same author who wrote Yes Man. In Charlotte Street, a man helps a very attractive woman who is struggling with her bags getting into a taxi, and then realizes that he ended up with her disposable camera. He must decide whether to try and track her down to return it by getting the photos developed. Chris says this is a funny and enjoyable take on that premise.

The Complete Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino - A collection of short stories about the cosmos and how the universe came to be. One of the stories Chris described made me remember the Pixar short, La Luna (it was before Brave) that has some similar symbols to one of Calvino's stories, like a rowboat with ladder reaching to the moon, but ends very differently. 


Technically Chris didn't "recommend" I read The Witches by Roald Dahl, but I have it on my shelf after picking it up in a little free library last year, and all his talk about reading it to his daughter is really making me think that soon will be the time that I need to actually read it. 

Laura Recommended to Chris

I suggested to Chris that he might find the resources available on The Rabbit Room to be interesting, and I'm part of The Rabbit Room Chinwag group on Facebook. 


The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson - a series appropriate for children but also super wonderful as an adult reader. I think Chris will enjoy them now, and his daughter will be ready for them to be read aloud soon! 

The Midnight Library  by Matt Haig - this fascinating book starts out dark, but ends up hopeful. Nora finds herself in a library where each book holds one possible way her life could go. Her task is to find a life worth living. Chris said that sounded interesting, and reminded him a bit of Veronika Decides to Die

My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman - I thought of this one for Chris when he was talking about how helpful it is to him to use storytelling to work through feelings and emotions. In this story, the little girl's grandmother has constructed this entire fantasy world and shared stories with her granddaughter that have far more to do with real life than she ever imagined. This book is alternatingly touching and laugh-out-loud funny. 

I think Chris might really enjoy Terry Pratchett, especially Night Watch or Witches Abroad for how much fairy tales and stories play a big role in that narrative. Chris has read The Color of Magic already, but it just wasn't quite the right book at the right time for him.  I also Love the Tiffany Aching books that Pratchett writes (starts with The Wee Free Men) about a young girl who is learning to be a witch. I haven't read Mort yet, but I intend to. 

Comment below if you have book recommendations for Chris or me based on today's episode. We'd love to hear from you!

With lots of literary love from my library to yours,

~ Library Laura 

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Laura is an avid reader who is happiest when surrounded by books, tea, blankets and/or friends. Host of the Library Laura Podcast.

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