Dolan Morgan launched his debut collection of short stories That’s When the Knives Come Down at WORD bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Joining him were B.C. Edwards and Chelsea Hodson. He gave out plastic knives to the crowd–a nod to the title of the collection–and brought with him vodka infused with the pages of his collection.
Before the event began, Morgan’s mother explained that when he was younger, Morgan said to her, “I have a hard time calling myself a writer,” and she quipped back that a good first step would be calling himself one. Morgan read a selection from the second story in the collection, “Euclid’s Postulates.”
He began writing the oldest stories in the collection back in 2007 while finishing the last of them a little over a year ago. He explains that he had originally mapped out a vision for the collection, but he felt it didn’t quite work conceptually, meaning that over the last seven years, the collection has evolved from significantly from his original plan. Now he says if there is an over arching theme, it would be about the idea of nothingness.
“I have a lot of strong feelings about scams,” he says, describing his interest in the spam emails he receives in his email inbox. He finds the writing of these kinds of messages fascinating–someone is sitting there creating this content and distributing it to the world. He enjoys replying to the scammers. The production of the scam is what interests him, though. Someone is concocting the schemes and other people are convinced of their authenticity, all based on the hope of taking money.
“I’m fascinated by bureaucracy in general,” he says. He sees the scam emails as a kind of bureaucracy, an administrative task to swindle money from people.
While a freshman in college, he realized that the phone line in his room was connected to a stranger’s house line. He could hear the family talking on the line sometimes, and often be prevented from making a call. But he also never got billed for long distance service. He eventually started talking to a Nigerian scammer, and for about a week the two of them talked on the phone regularly. “He liked me,” Morgan says. His phone liaisons were ruined though when the owner of the phone line came on.
One thing Morgan likes to incorporate into his writing is math. “I don’t see enough math in literature,” he explains. He doesn’t see the two subjects as inconsistent. “There should be more marriage between math and literature.”
When it comes to process, Morgan has spends plenty of time planning, but then ends up ignoring it. “I do a lot of planning and then don’t follow the plan.”
B.C. Edwards chimes to explain a similar style he employs. He describes it as if he is building a playground and then doesn’t bother playing with it, instead choosing to dig a whole next to the playground he just built.
A normal process for writers creating characters about odd professions includes interviewing people in the trade. Morgan did the process backwards, first writing about the profession, and then asking professionals about their careers. He insists he got most of the details right.