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Interview with Morgan Tarpley Smith

Your debut novella is one of three in a special Christmas collection. What message do you hope readers take away from your story?
I hope readers take away from “A Louisiana Snow” exactly that…hope. The song, “O Come All Ye Faithful,” plays into the story and the hearts of my characters with its truth of how we are called to simply come in faith and adore our Savior, not just at Christmastime but every day.

God spoke this message to me during the writing of the story, and I hope readers see His truth woven within the pages and are encouraged in their faith.

Writing in tandem with other authors presents its own unique set of challenges and benefits. Please share something you learned from working with Betsy St. Amant and Lenora Worth.
I had only co-written a nonfiction book before this project, so going into writing three interconnected stories certainly held its challenges for me. Thankfully, this project was with Lenora and Betsy, who are amazing and very talented women.

We had the best time working on this project, and I learned so much from them. One thing that stands out to me would be their continued encouragement of me and my writing through this project as I was the newbie author in the trio. They offered advice where needed and answered my questions, but they also respected the dynamic I brought to our group as well. I am honored to work with them on this book. It was a wonderful experience all the way around, and we are so excited for this story to reach readers.

You also wrote a nonfiction book with award-winning author Melanie Dobson. What key takeaways did you glean from that experience?
What a privilege it was to work with Melanie on our book about writing split-time fiction. Melanie is fantastic and so knowledgeable about this style of writing as well as fiction in general.

I would say one takeaway from the experience is to always be clear in your communication with co-authors and don’t be afraid to offer honest yet constructive comments as needed. Using Google Docs was also very helpful for us to add, view, and reply to comments in a live document.

Melanie and I had great rapport throughout the whole process, and we truly enjoyed every minute of our time on this project.

You have fallen in love with the split-time genre. These stories often require a great deal of research to seamlessly weave the two storylines. What literary pilgrimages have you taken for research? What has been your favorite so far and what did you discover or learn?
These types of stories are what I like to call the best of both worlds since they typically contain contemporary and historical storylines. I love that connection of the past to the present that the reader not only experiences but the author as well as we weave these tales.

I actually experienced two incredible research pilgrimages this spring and summer respectively to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia and Edinburgh, Scotland. The next two split-time novels I plan to write are set in each of these places, and I was able to spend nearly a week in Virginia and two weeks in Scotland.

What an experience with boots on the ground to immerse myself in the sense of a place and speak to the most amazing people while there too. I came back with many contacts for follow-up questions as well as more research books and materials of course. I also took hundreds of photographs that I will refer back to as the stories develop and I’m in the throes of writing.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Hands down, I would say the best money I’ve spent as a writer was and is to attend writer’s conferences, trainings, and webinars whether in person or virtual. I not only had a great foundation built and grown through attending these events but I also have met some of the most incredible and uplifting people on the journey. I will never stop learning, so I’ll keep spending money in this way. I see it as an investment.

As a world traveler, you likely make good use of your many journeys to inspire the settings of the novels you want to write. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
My novel inspiration certainly grows out of my travels, and I adore revisiting locations either through my photographs and memorabilia or returning to the place if possible.

I likely spend far too much time researching before beginning a book, and it honestly continues through the whole process. I’m a plotter, and I do heavier research upfront through a mix of written material and books, online resources, documentaries and videos, on-site observations, etc. I also adore walking my settings on Google Earth or finding videos of the settings on YouTube.

Throughout the research, I’m adding to a list of questions I still need answered or resources I need to find. The next step is to search online for those answers and afterward reach out to experts at historical societies, institutions, museums, etc. to seek out information and hopefully gain more resources. I love a good research rabbit hole to wander down and have to sometimes set time limits on myself during this stage.

As writers, we often must be careful of our word count. Sometimes, that means snipping bits of what we write during the revision process. That being said, what did you edit OUT of this book?
I was so conscious of word count for this story, knowing how words can run away with me. As I mentioned I’m a plotter, so I made an outline and followed each chapter’s word count very closely. Surprisingly, I hit the exact range we needed for word count, only cutting a few overused words, and not having to edit out much more than that. It was a relief.

If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
Great question. I wish I would have known about writing camps and workshops for young people, and I would have pestered my parents to take me to one. And I wish I would have spent even more time writing.

You sideline your writing with award-winning journalism, freelance writing, and being an author assistant. How does any of this work play a role in the books you write, and what challenges do you face managing it all?
Journalism plays a direct role in my writing. As you will see in my Christmas novella, Mattie is a reporter at a newspaper, which I did for well over a decade. I also think being a journalist has taught me to ask better questions, conduct more thorough research, and observe the world around me with a closer eye for detail. I had to strengthen all these skills and more in my journalism training at university.

The challenge of multiple jobs and projects is daunting to be sure. I’m still learning to manage it. I am taking some great advice to heart though from the ACFW 2022 conference. Susan May Warren taught in her workshop about time blocking her week and how she makes time for everything she does. I’m trying to do more of this to be a better steward of my time. It’s a work in progress.

Finish this statement: In the future, I will…look back at right now and continue to be thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had and for all the wonderful people God has put in my life.

Any parting words?
Thank you so much for having me for a guest interview! What great and insightful questions, Tiffany. I enjoyed answering them. And I hope, Readers, when you’re ready for a good Christmas read you’ll spend a little time in Louisiana with A Louisiana Christmas to Remember.
Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood, when she was accused of having an active imagination and a flair for the dramatic. Today, she has honed those skills to become an award-winning author and speaker who works as a homeschool mom and independent contractor, helping others become their best from the inside out. She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, in Kentucky. They have a daughter and son, and 2 cats. She has sold over 25 books so far, three of which have won annual reader's choice awards. She is represented by Tamela Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. (

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