AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Marilyn Celeste Morris, Author of THE WOMEN OF CAMP SOBINGO

Our special guest today is a very lovely lady and talented author, Marilyn Celeste Morris, author of THE WOMEN OF CAMP SOBINGO!

Born a military brat, Marilyn Morris attended schools overseas, in Seoul Korea, 1946-47 and Linz, Austria (1949-1952) and various schools stateside. From this background, she has crafted her autobiographical Once a Brat, relating her travels with her army officer father from her birth in 1938 to his retirement in 1958.

Her first novel, Sabbath’s Room, was published in 2001, and her most recent work, Diagnosis: Lupus: The Intimate Journal of a Lupus Patient was released in December 2005 by PublishAmerica and her new book, The Women of Camp Sobingo, the story of four women from diverse backgrounds who bond together in a military compound in Seoul, Korea, in 1946, is published by Mardis Gras Publishing.

She has taught creative writing at Tarrant County College, Fort Worth TX and survi ved numerous book signings and speaking engagements. She is co-facilitator for the Fort Worth Lupus Support Group, North Texas Chapter of the Lupus Foundation of America and advisor to the Board of Directors. When not writing or editing emerging writers’ manuscripts, she enjoys searching for former classmates and true to her Brat heritage, she has a suitcase packed under the bed, ready to travel at a moment’s notice.

Marilyn Celeste Morris may be reached at (817) 246-2639 or by email: marilyncmorris@sbcglobal.net to schedule a speaking engagement or arrange for editing services. See also for excerpts of all three books.

Her publications may be purchased by calling the publisher at 877-333-7422, from the website at http://www.publishamerica.com/ ; http://www.amazon.com/ or your local bookstore can order for you.

TWL: Welcome to The Writer's Life, Marilyn! Can you tell us when your passion for writing began?

Marilyn: At birth, I'm sure. My family was a reading family, and I learned to read before I started kindergarten. In kindergarten, I found out that I could write stories any time I wanted to, and the ability to entertain myself by writing stories came into good use while I was stationed in remote military compounds with my US Army officer father.

TWL: Can you tell us what your typical 'writing' day is like?

Marilyn: It's kind of chaotic. I wish I could say I was a disciplined writer, with a set schedule, but that rarely happens. My goal is to be seated at the keyboard every day by 9:00 a.m., take a short lunch break and then resume writing until about 4:00 p.m. But that rarely happens exactly according to plan.

TWL: Do you write full time?

Marilyn: I'm retired from corporate America, thank God, so I am able to spend most of my time writing.

TWL: Can you tell us a little bit about your book?

Marilyn: Four women of diverse backgrounds form a bond while en route to join their Army officer husbands in Korea in 1946. Their experiences in a far-flung military compound strengthen three of the women, but a fourth chooses to end her life, and during a reunion
twenty-five years later, long-held dark secrets and sorrows are revealed.

TWL: Who published your book and how has your experience with them been?

Marilyn: This book is e-published by Mardi Gras Publishing, and is my first experience with this publisher and with epublishing. I'm not quite sure I like the concept, but I'm told this is a wave of the future and I'm just old-fashioned. Maybe. I still would like to see this book in
print.

TWL: Can you tell us the inspiration behind your book?

Marilyn: A number of people have asked me what was behind this book – the “real” story. I have no ready answer. I was only an 8-9 year old kid in 1946 in that military compound so far away from the country of my birth. It was while I was writing Once a Brat, about my experiences as an army brat accompanying my army officer father all over the world in the days following the end of WWII, that the image of my mother telling me that one of the women in the compound had died, sprang into my mind.

And not only had she died, she chose to end her life there. I often wondered why a woman would destroy herself, what kind of dark forces in her childhood would convince a person that death was the only way out of the terrible pain?

So, being the incurable writer (story-teller) that I am, I made it all up.

The four women in the story are composites of women I have known throughout the years, some stories are true, others appear quite by accident as I sat at my keyboard and allowed the characters free reign to do as they pleased. And often the results were a complete surprise to me. I began wondering why the beautiful Leah Damon would want to kill herself, and imagined a troubled childhood, a feeling of being “different” from the others in school (no doubt a mirror image to my own childhood where I was always the new kid in class, and do girls here wear Peter Pan collars or sweaters?)

My mother is portrayed most nearly true to form. She is the West Texas farm girl who marries a soldier and becomes an army wife, following him to the literal ends of the earth.

Maggie is probably my alter-ego, if I would let it out to play. She is a brassy, bossy, fun-loving woman who takes all the challenges life throws at her and almost literally spits in fortune’s eye.

And Trudy. Ah, yes, Trudy is the shy girl who marries into wealth and power and yet she follows her husband to make a home for themselves in a distant country, where she can be herself instead of one of the Cavanaugh Women of fame and fortune. Years later, she finds her own hidden strength, and a weakness that led her to believe events that were not true.

Perhaps the following will describe more in detail the process I undertook getting this story from my imagination to the publisher’s website.

A Note to the Reader

There really was/is a Camp Sobingo, located outside the capitol city of Seoul, South Korea at the end of WWII. This military compound’s cookie-cutter “quarters” was home to the women and children who joined their Army officer husbands during the US Occupation. The camp had a
school, a post exchange, a dispensary, a commissary, and even a movie theatre (think “MASH”). Ever-present, however, was the military presence, both Korean and our own US forces, and the tyranny of the Russians located across the 38th parallel, who merely annoyed the dependents
with their random denial of electricity to the American contingent.

Most of the Americans had deployed to other assignments before June 25th, 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea. Those remaining escaped safely, but “The Land of the Morning Calm” would never be the same.

In 1954, my father was ordered back to Korea as part of the Military Advisory Group. He took a short drive to what remained of Camp Sobingo, and sent snapshots of our former quarters, (Hq.G-27) which had been pock-marked by aerial strafing, and natives were stripping the
floorboards for fuel.

The window, where I had sat and dreamed a 9 year old’s dreams and played with my homemade doll-house populated by models cut from the Sears, Roebuck catalog, was boarded up. More pockmarks surrounded the framework.

An unusual childhood, one might correctly assume, yet I was not alone in this kind of adventure. There are vast numbers of military brats and wives of servicemen who carry the same experiences from different countries. Thanks to the power of the Internet, we are finding each other.

Two such sites that assist in this process are: http://www.military-brats.com/ where you may register so that others may find you, and www. Overseas-Brats.com. Another organization of interest is the American Overseas Schools Historical Society, which recently broke ground for a museum to be built in Wichita, Kansas, housing such “sacred artifacts” as my 4th grade report card from Seoul Dependents Elementary School. Many of the schools currently in operation overseas are being closed as our military presence is no longer required.

Researchers and historians will be astounded by such a treasure trove detailing one small but important part of our nation’s history.

TWL: Can you tell us ways you are promoting your book? Have they been successful?

Marilyn: Thanks to you, Dorothy, and your newly-formed company, I am learning how to publicize my book(s). My first experience with your company was in promoting my book, Once a Brat, and my statistics went up dramatically. I'm learning as I go along.

TWL: Do you have a mentor?

Marilyn: Yes. I have two mentors, actually -- you and Jamieson Wolf. When I first started writing seriously, I was mentored by the late Grace Nies Fletcher, whom I met as a student in her creative writing classes at Texas Christian University. She was a great inspiration to me and we maintained a friendship long after my classes were over.

TWL: What future projects do you have in the works?

Marilyn: I have several novels in progress: A sequel to Sabbath's Room, named Sabbath's House; a historical romance novel, The Unexplored Heart; Forces of Nature, about a military plane that crashes into a crowded shopping mall during a deadly tornado; The Murders at 5400, where four women solve a series of murders in an upscale condo community; and am putting
together some of my humor/human interest columns written over a ten year period for a suburban weekly newspaper, which will be called My Ashes of Dead Lovers Garage Sale and Other Stories. Recently began another novel to be called Fireflies in a Jar, about small town girls in the 1950s and how their childhoods influenced them in later life. This may be a science fiction tale; I'm not sure yet exactly how this will take shape.

TWL: Can you give aspiring authors words of advice towards getting published?

Marilyn: Make sure your work is letter-perfect, as well as your submission letter. Have it professionally edited. Everyone wants to be represented by an agent and published by a big-name NY house, but that's not likely to happen. Print-on Demand or self-publishing are viable options, and if you join writers groups, such as this one, you can gain valuable information and encouragement. Writers are for the most part, the most non-competitive people you would ever want to meet.

TWL: What’s one thing about your life that you think is important, but nobody asks?

Marilyn: Tough question. My life is an open book, especially since I bared my soul in my book, Diagnosis: Lupus: The Intimate Journal of a Lupus Patient. I relate my anger, frustrations and depression so others can realize they are not alone in their feelings. Also, I do believe that my
early life as an Army Brat has influenced my life greatly, and now and then I gain greater insight into how and why I became the woman I am today.

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