Friday, January 26, 2024

Novella Project: Tiffany Morris Interview

Today for the novella project we're speaking to Tiffany Morris:

Tiffany Morris is an L'nu'skw (Mi'kmaw) writer from Nova Scotia. She is the author of the swampcore horror novella Green Fuse Burning (Stelliform Books, 2023) and the Elgin-nominated horror poetry collection Elegies of Rotting Stars (Nictitating Books, 2022). Her work has appeared in the Indigenous horror anthology Never Whistle At Night (Vintage Books), as well as in Nightmare Magazine, Uncanny Magazine, and Apex Magazine, among others. She has an MA in English from Acadia University with a focus on Indigenous Futurisms and apocalyptic literature. She can be found at or on twitter/bluesky @tiffmorris.

Green Fuse Burning was reviewed earlier this week by Phoebe, which you can read here.

For your recent book Green Fuse Burning, what made you decide to write it as a novella? Was it a particular attraction of the form, or something about this story that suited it?

While I explore a lot of the themes that are present in Green Fuse Burning in my poetry, I really wanted a more expansive form to express some of the interwoven complexities of grief - having an interior glimpse into the mind of a character and how they respond to the things that happen to them felt like the most immediate way for me to do it. But the brutality of how this character experiences grief wasn't something I wanted to expand into a novel, because it's already emotionally difficult subject matter.

That makes a lot of sense - and certainly seems true of a lot of novellas I've read. They're a great way to explore a particular theme without overburdening the reader, and occupy a useful transition point between short fiction and a full novel.

Picking up from that - do you find generally that the form you choose ends up being dictated by the content, or do you ever go in thinking "I am going to write a poem/short story/novella/etc." and then shape the content to mould to the form?

It's funny, my writing process always forms from fragments and seeds - my Notes app is full of images, random sentences, or story idea - and sometimes things jotted down devoid of context that I can't really turn into anything. Ideas that I intend to be novellas or novels will inevitably end up being short stories - or even poems, because my tendency is to pack everything down into dense sentences. I suppose what it becomes really depends on if I think a character needs to think through and experience the idea. 

Do you think that density in your writing comes from being a poet, as well as prose author?

Sort of - I think I have a tendency toward maximalism in pretty much everything, haha. Even when I was writing my master's thesis, my advisor would recommend I expand and simplify my ideas for greater clarity. It's part of why I love the revision process so much - looking at what needs to be pared down, and what needs to be left as-is.

How did you come to be working with Stelliform?

I've been a fan of Stelliform since the very beginning - I won a copy of Michael J Deluca's Night Roll through a twitter giveaway and have been hooked ever since. I'm behind on my reading now, but I think I've read about 75% of their catalog, so I'm thrilled to now have a book of my own in the mix. Selena and I were fans of each other's work, and she reached out to me about submitting; I'd had a few ideas that I pitched rolling around but kept coming back to the pond.

Are there any particular novellas in Stelliform's catalogue you'd recommend or think more people should read?

I think Stelliform has something for everybody! I'm partial to Night Roll by Michael J. DeLuca, Arboreality by Rebecca Campbell, The Impossible Resurrection of Grief by Octavia Cade, and House of Drought by Dennis Mombauer. I haven't had a chance to dive into Sordidez [Roseanna's note: Phoebe has a great review of this up here] by E.G. Condé yet, but I'm looking forward to it!

Do you have any thoughts about working with a small press generally? Things that work better, or are just different than you were expecting, or advice you'd give your past self about the process?

I love working with small presses! Both Elegies of Rotting Stars and Green Fuse Burning have been released through small press, and while each experience was unique to the press, both were great. Having a small editorial team focused on your work is such an honor - you get the sense that there is a deep investment in your work, and also in making it the best that it can be. 

Picking up on the focus on your work, did this include you having any input into the cover design at all? And was that something important to you and how you felt your book was presented to the world?

I did! Selena was very considerate of what I might like for the cover - we both wanted to prioritize having Indigenous art, or work from an artist of color, or a queer artist, in showing reflection and solidarity with my own work. We're both huge fans of Chippewa and Potawatomi artist Chief Lady Bird's work, so we were thrilled when we were given approval to use her piece for the cover. It resonated so well with the spooky, swampy themes of Green Fuse Burning.

It’s striking and haunting and I think it looks great!

After your experiences writing Green Fuse Burning, would you write another novella? And if yes, do you think there’s anything you’ve learnt from this one that you’d take forward in a future project?

Thanks so much! 

Yes, I'd love to do another novella - the form is so interesting to me because it's a great way to delve deeply into an idea while still having some focus, or a thesis. There isn't the need to be as expansive as with something like a novel, and that constraint opens up a lot of room for experimentation. 

Final question: can you tell us a little more about your book?

Green Fuse Burning is about an L’nu’skw (Mi’kmaw) landscape painter who is tricked into a residency at a remote pond by her girlfriend with whom she’s having issues. As she works through her residency she experiences increasingly strange and supernatural sights and sounds - is it a manifestation of her grief or something more sinister?

Thank you Tiffany!

POSTED BY: Roseanna Pendlebury, the humble servant of a very loud cat. @chloroform_tea