Interview with Morgan Nyberg

Morgan Nyberg

Interview Date: 5/8/2012


Morgan Nyberg was born in Port Arthur, Ontario and grew up in farming country in southern British Columbia. After graduating from the University of British Columbia he worked as a labourer for a decade before finally settling into teaching. For most of the last 30 years he has lived abroad, teaching English as a Foreign Language in Ecuador, Portugal and the Sultanate of Oman. His first book, "The Crazy Horse Suite", a verse play, was performed on the stage in New York and was broadcast on CBC Radio. His memoir, "Mark", won the CBC Literary Competition. His first venture into book-length fiction, a children's novel, "Galahad Schwartz and the Cockroach Army", won Canada's prestigious Governor General's Award for Literature. Since then he has added a further children's novel, "Bad Day in Gladland", and three novels for adults, "El Dorado Shuffle", "Mr. Millennium", and "Since Tomorrow". He currently lives on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

When did you start writing, and was there a significant event that prompted you to do so?

I discovered that I had the potential to become a serious writer at the University of British Columbia, whose Creative Writing program was one of the first in North America. I was among the first graduates. This was in the `60s.


If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

I would like to be able to escape my ego and all of its manifestations, and to experience for an indefinite period of time the reality of the present moment, like a young child. This may not sound like a superpower, but do you know any adult who can do it?

Kev's response:  I can't say as any of us can, unless one has the ability to "break" one's personality for a while.  It's a hard thing to do (and stay sane).


My favorite superhero.

I fondly remember Plastic Man, a ’50s comic book hero. His body was plastic, a relatively new material at the time. He could contort his body into any shape or grossly extend the reach of his arms and legs. Bullets did not penetrate but only stretched his flat plastic flesh for an instant.

Kev's response:  I've seen images of him recently (on the web), so he's floating about!


What are your thoughts on inspiration?

I believe in perspiration, not inspiration.


What is your approach to planning?

I make a detailed outline for about three-quarters of a novel. I outline the last quarter when it becomes clear what should happen. I also make an outline for each section, even if the section is only 2 pages in length.


When do you write?

I was a teacher for 30 years. I wrote whenever I could find the time, if necessary getting up at 6 a.m. to put in a couple of hours before work. Now that I am more or less retired and living on a government pension it is like having a permanent writing grant.

Kev's response:  Nice!  I must admit to being a bit jealous!


Favourite genre.

For years I wrote poetry exclusively. My verse play, “The Crazy Horse Suite”, was performed on the stage in New York and received an hour long production by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Radio. Now I write mainly novels.

Kev's response:  Very cool.  That's an intriguing accomplishment.


What do you enjoy the most about writing?

I enjoy reading the finished product – the feeling of amazement: I made this?


What do you not enjoy about writing?

I hate planning, especially at the beginning, when there is nothing to build on. It’s a difficult and colourless intellectual exercise, but a strong story depends on it.


Can you tell me something odd about yourself?

I have lived and worked on 4 continents: North America, South America, Europe and Asia.

Kev's response:  So ... you've been on the run for a long time?  (Just kidding!)


What are your thoughts on paper versus digital books?

Paper books will go the way of vinyl LPs. However, they will continue to be valuable as a repository of knowledge, necessary for the economic, technological and ecological collapse that lies ahead (see my novel “Since Tomorrow”).

Kev's response:  Plus, they are nice to see on the coffee table to be proud of.  (At least I am of my seven, but apart from them I don't keep other novels in any visible area.)


What are your current projects?

My novel, “El Dorado Shuffle” was published in print in 1997, before there was such a thing as independent digital publishing. I thought the physical book was the end of the line, so I saw no reason to keep the “floppy disks” the writing had been stored on. Of course I regretted that decision when I recently decided to independently republish “El Dorado Shuffle” as an ebook. I was left with no choice but to scan the entire novel. I went to a local printer and had them slice the spine off one of my copies so that the pages would lie flat on the scanner bed. But then I discovered that Word 2010 does not accept editable text scans directly from a scanner. I had to send the scans as PDFs to AdobeExportPDF, and they would convert them to editable Word texts and send them back. It was an awkward and tedious process. Not only that, but the text was crammed with  mistakes. After a long slog I am now almost ready to publish digitally.

Kev's response:  Ugh, as an Information Technology guy (for my day job), I know all too well the steps you'd have to take ... and the lack of OCR accuracy.  I feel for you.  You might have been better off setting up a pair of voice recorders - one using Dragon Dictation, the other to record as MP3 to sell audio copies.  The dictation would have had a lot of errors as well, though.


My other current project is a sequel to “Since Tomorrow”.


My online sites.

My book website:

My blog:

My amazon page:

Kev's response:  Morgan, thanks for joining me.  Good luck on the sequel, and I hope the digital version of "El Dorado Shuffle" goes well.
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