Lisa Morton interview with David Alan Binder

posted Nov 1, 2018, 3:37 PM by David Alan Binder

Lisa Morton interview with David Alan Binder


BIO: Lisa Morton is a screenwriter, author of non-fiction books, award-winning prose writer, and Halloween expert whose work was described by the American Library Association’s Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror as “consistently dark, unsettling, and frightening”.  Her work – which includes three nonfiction books on Halloween, four novels, and more than 130 short stories – has been translated into eight languages and received six Bram Stoker Awards®, a Black Quill Award, and the Halloween Book Festival Grand Prize. She co-edited (with Ellen Datlow) the anthology Haunted Nights, which received a starred review in Publishers Weekly; other recent releases include Ghosts: A Haunted History and The Samhanach and Other Halloween Treats. Lisa lives in the San Fernando Valley and online at

Link to hi-res photo (if possible, please credit Seth Ryan):




1.     Where are you currently living?

I’m a native Los Angeleno, now living in the hills at the north end of the San Fernando Valley.


2.     What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?

Never give up. There are times, especially in the beginning of every writer’s career, where it might seem like no one is listening, but that’s exactly the time when you have to write even more. Just be prepared to accept that it’s going to take years to build your name, that there’s no such thing as overnight success, and that it’s unlikely to ever make you rich.


3.     What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?

I don’t really think of myself as a particularly quirky writer (sometimes I wish I was quirkier, in fact!), but I suppose I could say that I really love to use my hometown in my work. Los Angeles has more history than most people realize – and I’m talking way before the arrival of the film industry – and it’s also got a rich melting pot of diverse cultures to draw from.


4.     Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?


a.      Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they located?


There are advantages and disadvantages to both. If you’re going to self-publish, you need to make sure you understand the ins and outs of marketing and are prepared to put a tremendous amount of time into it. I have friends who are very successful at self-publishing, and the amount time they put into marketing and promotion every day is mind-blowing!

I’m just not that good at the whole marketing thing, so going the traditional publishing route works best for me. I write mainly short fiction (I’ve published nearly 150 short stories) and non-fiction, so I’ve worked with dozens of publishers, everything from the major New York houses to micropresses. One of the things I love about working with publishers is the collaborative editing process. That’s something you don’t get in self-publishing (unless you pay an editor, as many indie writers do), and I’d miss it if I moved to self-publishing.


5.     Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

Personally, I read both eBooks and print books, although I prefer print books (partly because I love well-designed books, especially if they’re illustrated). For years the media tried to hype eBooks and suggest that printed books were on the way out, but that’s just not happening, and I’m glad because I think there’s more than enough room for all kinds of books!


6.     Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?

If there was a secret tip, I’d be selling it! Succeeding as a writer is like getting ahead in any other field: you start by learning the craft (which means reading, reading, reading), you stick with it, you dedicate yourself to constantly improving, and eventually you succeed. I will suggest that getting out to meet other writers is very beneficial, especially if you can also connect with some publishers, editors, and agents. Go to horror conventions, join the Horror Writers Association and hang out with the local chapter, even just join conversations on social media. That can pay off in surprising ways sometimes.


7.     How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent?  Any tips for new writers on getting one?

Most writers will tell you that acquiring an agent is one of the hardest things any writer will go through. I have extraordinarily talented and award-winning writer friends who’ve never had agents, and I’ve had other friends who talk ten years to get their first agent (that’s close to my experience). The best tip I’ve heard is to pick up published books that are similar to yours and turn to the Acknowledgments page because writers almost always thank their agents. Once you’ve got some names, research those agents online and see who is open to new submissions, study some effective query letters, and then start sending your own queries out…and be prepared for a long haul with lots of rejection.


8.     Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be so specific that this most likely will not have been seen elsewhere)?

In addition to what I’ve mentioned above, I’m going to say something that I’ve said before: FOLLOW GUIDELINES. It’s amazing that this needs to be said over and over, but it does. Talk to any editor, and they will tell you that at least 70% of the submissions they see do not follow their clearly-stated guidelines; this applies equally to both novel and short story submissions. Some of this is pretty obvious – for example, if you’re submitting to an anthology about werewolves, don’t send them a story with no werewolves. Some of it’s a little less obvious – formatting your manuscript can be surprisingly difficult. Most guidelines will specify no space between paragraphs, but Microsoft Word’s default setting is to put a space between paragraphs. If you don’t know how to fix that, you need to look it up online and get that straightened out before you send in your manuscript, because YES, editors DO notice these things and may reject your manuscript unread if they realize you haven’t followed their guidelines.

9.     What was one of the most surprising things you learned with your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?

I write a lot of non-fiction, which means I’m constantly researching learning surprising new things. It’s like a treasure hunt to me, which is why I love doing it. Among the most surprising things I’ve learned were how many common misconceptions there are about Halloween. You always hear things like, “Trick or treating goes back to the ancient Celts,” or, “Halloween is based on the worship of Samhain, a Celtic Lord of Death,” and so many of these things simply aren’t true. It’s kind of fun to demolish bad myths!

10.                         How many books have you written?

I’m asked this question a lot, and I truthfully don’t know, mainly because I’m not sure if I should count every anthology I’ve had a piece in, and every new edition of an older book. Let’s just say I’ve had four novels published, three books about the history of Halloween, two film biographies, a book about the history of ghosts, a non-fiction graphic novel, ten novellas, two collections, two anthologies, and a whole lot of shorter stuff.


11.                         Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be so specific that this most likely will not have been seen elsewhere)?

READ. Read all the time. Read within your genre, of course, but also read outside of the genre. Make sure you have a good working knowledge of the classics in your genre – every horror writer, for example, should have read Dracula, Frankenstein, Tales of Mystery and Imagination, The Haunting of Hill House, and some Barker, Rice, Bradbury, and King, just to start with.


12.                         Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?

There’s a little mental game I play with my own work: when I think I’ve reached the end of a story, I ask myself, “But what if this isn’t the end? What if the story keeps going?” I’ve come up with some of my best twists using that method.

13.                         What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?

The classics stand out because they investigate original concepts with carefully-crafted language and skill. I’d like to think that some of my books stand out for those reasons, but I think that’s for readers to decide, not me.


14.                         What is one unusual way in which you promote your work?

I don’t know if it’s unusual, but I love putting together a monthly newsletter. I try to make it as entertaining as possible, and I also love including a giveaway with every issue.


15.                          What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?

In my own very peculiar case, I wish I’d started writing prose earlier. I spent ten years working exclusively on screenplays. It wasn’t until I actually had some movies produced (they were mostly very bad movies!) that I realized I really was a prose writer.


16.                         What saying or mantra do you live by?

Persevere (this word actually appears on my family crest!).


17.                         Anything else you would like to say?

Thank you!