‘You Have to Take a Stand.’ Soccer Phenom Alex Morgan Wants the Respect—and Money—Female Players Deserve

On a drizzly spring evening in New York City, Alex Morgan fixes her gaze on the golf ball at her feet, cocks her arms and then propels them forward with effortless power. The ball leaps off the tee and sails toward the netting between the tee and the Hudson River 200 yd. away. “This is nice,” Morgan says, exhaling between swings. “Really nice.”

The driving range is a favorite escape for Morgan, but she’s spending less and less time there–even as she needs the release more than ever. The reigning U.S. women’s soccer player of the year, Morgan is the sport’s most marketable American star since Mia Hamm and the linchpin of Team USA’s bid to clinch a second consecutive World Cup title this summer. She leads the U.S. into the tournament, which begins on June 7 in France, facing outsize expectations both on the field and off.

As the defending champions and top-ranked team, the Americans are favored to win. But the competition is historically tough. When the U.S. hosted the landmark 1999 World Cup, which led tens of thousands of girls to sign up for youth soccer leagues, only a few countries were considered contenders. Traditional soccer powers like France, England and Spain didn’t even qualify. Now, thanks in part to increased investment from soccer governing bodies and their corporate backers, many more have a real shot in the tournament, which now has 24 teams, up from 16 two decades ago.

Alex Morgan World Cup TIME Magazine Cover
Photograph by Erik Madigan Heck for TIME

“This is the first time I have ever been able to name potential winners on more than one hand,” says former U.S. player Julie Foudy, an ESPN analyst, who sees the U.S., France, Germany, Australia, Japan, England and Sweden as title threats. “Absolutely, this is the most competitive World Cup I have seen.”

Interest should be particularly high in the U.S., where the women’s team not only outperforms the men’s team on the field–the men failed to even qualify for last year’s World Cup–but has outdrawn it too. Four years ago, some 25 million people watched the women’s team beat Japan in the World Cup final–a record U.S. audience for any soccer game.

But the team’s success highlights glaring inequities. Despite the popularity of the women’s team, the men are positioned to make substantially more money. And so on March 8, International Women’s Day, the U.S. players took the unprecedented step of filing a federal gender-discrimination lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation, the national governing body for the sport. Morgan’s name was listed first in the suit, which accuses U.S. Soccer of paying “only lip service to gender equality.” (The federation, in a legal filing responding to the complaint, denied unlawful conduct, attributing any alleged pay discrepancies to “differences in the aggregate revenue generated by the different teams and/or any other factor other than sex.”)

“Eventually, you just have to take a stand,” Morgan says while riding in an Uber from her New York hotel to the driving range. “How come we’ve had to fight this whole time, year after year?”

Her stand has inspired other women’s teams around the world to push for equal treatment and has transformed the U.S. women into a cause larger than soccer. At a Los Angeles exhibition game in April, the actors Jessica Chastain, Eva Longoria, Jennifer Garner, Uzo Aduba and Natalie Portman attended with T-shirts that read Time’s Up Pay Up. At a time of almost paralyzing political division, the World Cup has the potential to be a welcome national distraction, a respite from presidential politicking and cable-news sniping.

“A win for this team is a win for women everywhere,” says former U.S. captain Abby Wambach. “If other women in the business world, in parenting, see these women stepping up and betting on themselves, it gives them the power to want to do it for themselves. And that, my friend, is how the world actually changes.”

No pressure or anything, not that Morgan wasn’t feeling plenty already. Morgan, 29, is the face of Team USA–her steely gaze will be plastered on billboards and dancing across screens in commercials for Coca-Cola, Nike and Secret deodorant. Her millions of followers on Instagram and Twitter give her one of the largest social-media imprints of any female athlete in the world. She starred in a Nickelodeon movie for kids, Alex & Me; wrote a series of books for middle schoolers that was made into an Amazon TV series; and has shared a stage with Taylor Swift.

But Morgan, who in April joined Hamm and Wambach as the youngest U.S. players to score 100 career international goals, has never dominated the World Cup. She was a breakout rookie in a losing effort in 2011, and was hobbled by injuries in 2015 when Carli Lloyd’s heroics powered the U.S. to victory. This year is the best chance for America’s best player to make her mark on the world’s most prestigious tournament–while showing that she should be paid the same as any man for doing it.

Rich Lam—Getty ImagesAlex Morgan #13, Lauren Holiday #12, Abby Wambach #20 and Whitney Engen #6 of the United States of America hold the World Cup Trophy after their 5-2 win over Japan in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 Final at BC Place Stadium on July 5, 2015 in Vancouver, Canada.

“We have to do more in general–we have to be the athlete, we have to be the role model, we have to lead the way for the next generation,” Morgan says. “Are male athletes doing that? Are they thinking about anyone other than themselves? I don’t know. We do have more than one job within this role, and are getting paid much less.”

So it’s understandable if the weight of it all weighs on Morgan as she hacks away at the driving range. After a few crisp swings, she whiffs, missing the ball completely. “I’m going back to my 7-iron,” she says when her driver catches air. All that looms in the background is national unity, gender equality and Morgan’s professional legacy. “You can’t think about it,” she says. “But you can’t not.”

Leading the fight for equal pay in sports was far from the mind of the 8-year-old Morgan when she left a Post-it for her mother, Pam, at their home in Diamond Bar, Calif., a suburb east of Los Angeles. “Hi Mommy!” Morgan wrote on a note Pam still has. “My name is Alex and I am going to be a professional athlete for soccer!” She signed it “Ali Cat.”

The certainty was surprising. Unlike most promising young soccer players, Morgan avoided the high-pressure Southern California youth circuit and played many different sports as a kid. Her competitiveness was honed in fierce board games with her parents and two older sisters. “Alex strove not to be the loser,” says her father Michael, a retired masonry contractor. “Because she knew she was going to get party-danced around.”

Morgan began playing elite travel soccer at 14, years after many of her contemporaries. She credits playing a range of sports with preventing her from burning out. “When I went to soccer practice, I was really excited because I hadn’t been there in four days,” says Morgan. She worries that today’s youth system is also pricing out potential soccer stars and is counterproductive to America’s future competitiveness.

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Morgan’s speed and knack for scoring earned her a soccer scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley, where she graduated with a degree in political economy and met her future husband, Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Servando Carrasco, who also played for the school. Morgan excelled on the pitch for Cal and was named to the U.S. Under-20 team, which functions as a feeder for the top national team. After helping lead the U.S. to the 2008 Under-20 World Cup title with a brilliant left-footed goal in the final, Morgan was called up to the senior squad.

Her impact was immediate. Morgan scored a key goal against Italy to help the U.S. qualify for the 2011 World Cup, and she emerged as a go-to substitute in the tournament. Undaunted by soccer’s biggest stage, Morgan scored in both the semis and the finals in her first World Cup, which the U.S. lost in heartbreaking fashion to Japan.

The performance endeared Morgan to her older teammates, who gave her the nickname Baby Horse. “She ran so fast and has a very specific gait,” says former teammate Shannon Boxx. “Baby horses are little unsteady with her legs, and we kind of saw that.” Morgan disliked the name but knew better than to complain. “When you’re young and have no leverage on the team, you’re like, Sure, I’ll take Baby Horse,” she says. “But after two or three years, I was like, O.K., it’s funny, but let’s move on.”

Baby Horse became a key cog in the team’s gold-medal run at the 2012 Olympics. Her winning goal in the semifinal against Canada–a header seconds before time expired–has become soccer lore. “What’s unique about Alex is the closer she gets to the goal, the slower the game happens for her,” says Wambach, who has written a new book called Wolfpack: How to Come Together, Unleash Our Power, and Change the Game. “She can see the rotation of the ball, and imagine and create a situation where most players would be like, ‘Oh, this is shut down.’ It’s like something else inside of her body just goes into a natural state of flow that allows her to score goals. Her power is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”

The Olympics made Morgan into a star. She appeared in McDonald’s ads with LeBron James and helped the fledgling National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) get off the ground by joining the Portland Thorns for the inaugural 2013 season. Buoyed by endorsement deals, her annual income grew into the seven figures–far beyond that of any other top U.S. women’s player. She published an autobiography in 2015 and began writing The Kicks, a best-selling kids’ fiction series with a 10th installment coming in June.

A run of knee and ankle injuries, however, slowed Morgan’s ascent. She was hobbled by knee problems at the 2015 World Cup and isn’t proud of her individual showing despite the team’s win. “I don’t feel like I met my goals,” Morgan says in late February at a Philadelphia hotel, where the national team was staying for a game against Japan. “In the first half of the final, I was just gasping, dead. My legs would not go. I wasn’t thinking about how to beat my opponent and be that fearless attacker. I was thinking about how to be pain-free.” A year later at the Rio Olympics, Sweden bounced the U.S. in the quarterfinals, the earliest the U.S. women’s team has ever been eliminated from a major international tournament.

It was a low moment. Morgan needed to rekindle her passion for the game. So she did what many other Americans in search of inspiration have done: move to France. After being courted publicly by Jean-Michel Aulas, the president of the French club team Olympique Lyonnais, Morgan agreed to join the squad for its 2017 season. Lyon has become a powerhouse in the women’s game, dominating the competition by attracting top players from around the world, paying them more and treating them like a men’s team. This simple, seemingly intuitive idea is radical in professional soccer, where the men’s teams of top clubs are routinely afforded more perks than their women’s sides. “It was something I needed at the time,” says Morgan. “To focus on soccer solely and entirely, without having my family, without having my friends, not having anyone but the team I went to play for.”

Lyon soared with Morgan, winning the league championship, the French Cup and the Women’s Champions League title–a feat known as the treble. More importantly, Morgan rediscovered the joy of playing. She began meditating and doing yoga, and soon switched to a vegan diet after deciding it was unethical to eat meat.

Save for exalting the beeflike Impossible Burger, Morgan couches her new regimen as a personal choice and keeps the proselytizing to a minimum. But over a dinner of artichokes and stuffed peppers in New York, she says the change has boosted her energy on the field. It’s impossible to argue with the results: from August 2017 through the end of last year, Morgan scored an incredible 25 goals in 26 games. She is decidedly no longer Baby Horse. “She has worked to promote the game, promote her team and promote herself,” says Hamm, who still casts a long shadow over women’s soccer. “She’s done an amazing job.”

As Morgan has developed into America’s leader on the field, she has strengthened her voice beyond it. Among the pro-athlete orthodoxies she’s willing to break: don’t criticize management, and steer clear of politics. After Major League Soccer’s Orlando City team declined to retain her husband, Carrasco, while Morgan was playing for the Orlando women’s team, she called out the clubs’ shared management for breaking what she says was a deal. “We were told it was going to be a long-term relationship between the club and us,” Morgan says now. “When you promote a business acting as a family, I would expect to be given that treatment you promote.”

President Donald Trump is another target. “I don’t stand for a lot of things the current office stands for,” Morgan says. She’s particularly upset about the Administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the southern border, noting that her husband’s family is from Mexico. Indeed, if Trump invites the team to the White House after the World Cup, Morgan says she won’t go. If that turns anyone off, so be it.

“We don’t have to be put in this little box,” Morgan says between sips of red wine at dinner. “There’s the narrative that’s been said hundreds of times about any sort of athlete who’s spoken out politically. ‘Stick to sports.’ We’re much more than that, O.K.?”


A national team doesn’t simply decide to sue its governing body on a whim. The roots of the equal-pay fight go back decades. In the early 1990s, the team flew to a tournament in China in cramped economy seats adjacent to the smoking section. “We were pretty much smoking for 13 hours,” says Hamm, who played on the team from 1987 to 2004. Players recall staying in roach-infested rooms and taking the hotel shuttle bus to a game. “We sit now and we have to laugh,” says Hamm. “If you didn’t, you’d cry.”

Conditions for the team have vastly improved since the 1990s, and U.S. Soccer has invested far more in women’s soccer than most other countries. But plenty of indignities linger.

At one stop on the 2015 World Cup victory tour, a series of 10 exhibition games across the country meant to celebrate the team (and fill U.S. Soccer’s coffers), players were shocked by the conditions at Aloha Stadium near Honolulu. Rocks filled the turf. In some sections, the aging field was pulling up out of the ground. The team felt it was unsafe and refused to play. U.S. Soccer agreed and canceled the game, but it rankled the players that it wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t spoken out.

“It falls on us sometimes to decide what’s just, what’s unjust,” says Morgan. “We as players shouldn’t have to make those decisions. But I’m happy we came together and did.”

It was a lesson that informed the decision of five of the team’s star players, in 2016, to file a complaint over inequity in pay and bonuses with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “We realized that just because we had success without being given what we deserve, doesn’t mean we didn’t deserve it,” says Morgan. “That was like a flip of the switch.”

In April 2017, the players signed a new collective-bargaining agreement with U.S. Soccer. As part of the deal, the players won control of certain licensing and marketing rights. They partnered with the NFL Players Association and the WNBA Players Association to form REP Worldwide, a new licensing-representation company, in late 2017. REP expects to sign some 25 licensees–for things like jerseys, scarves and digital collectibles–for the women’s soccer players by the start of the World Cup. REP says the players can expect between $ 1 million and $ 2 million in net royalties by the end of 2020.

Despite these gains, the women often end up with less than the men–and that includes the coaches. For the fiscal year ending in March 2018, women’s head coach Jill Ellis received $ 318,533 in total compensation–making her the 10th highest paid employee at U.S. Soccer. Jürgen Klinsmann, who was fired as U.S. men’s coach in 2016, still received $ 3.35 million. Bruce Arena, who replaced Klinsmann and oversaw the failed effort to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, got $ 1.27 million. Even the coach of the Under-20 men’s team made more than Ellis. (U.S. Soccer says she has since received a six-figure raise that will be disclosed in next year’s tax filings.)

“It’s devastating to see a male coach who hasn’t been coach of the men’s team for more than two years still be paid significantly more than Jill, who has a World Cup title on her résumé,” says Morgan. “It’s terrible.”

This long history was on the players’ minds when they decided to sue their employers in an effort to close the pay gap once and for all. As the team’s top player and biggest name, Morgan agreed to be listed first in the complaint.

“I’m not sure our team would have done that three months before the World Cup,” says Foudy, who played on the seminal 1999 U.S. team that won the World Cup on home soil. “We wouldn’t want all that noise. I respect that they’re willing to absorb all that. It’s courageous.”

According to the complaint, U.S. Soccer “rejected requests for compensation for the WNT players that would have been at least equal to that afforded to the male MNT players.”

U.S. Soccer has argued that since the organization signed different collective-bargaining agreements with the men’s and women’s teams, the gender comparisons are unfair. Women’s national team players, for example, can now receive salaries of around $ 170,000 from the federation if they also play in the NWSL, which U.S. Soccer helps finance. The U.S. provides no such base pay to the men’s players, since they can earn contracts playing in pro leagues that are far more lucrative than organizations like the NWSL. According to U.S. Soccer, the men are eligible for higher per-game bonuses because the federation pays them on a per-game basis as opposed to a salary. For example, the men receive $ 17,625 for winning an exhibition game, or friendly, against a top-10 team or Mexico; under the 2017 collective-bargaining agreement, the women get $ 8,500 for a friendly victory over a top-4 team or Canada. Some of the pay gap also comes from the stark differences in World Cup performance bonuses from FIFA. FIFA awarded $ 9 million to the U.S. after the men reached the round of 16 in the 2014 World Cup, while the federation received $ 2 million after the women won it all in 2015. FIFA has attributed these differences to the larger revenues generated by the men’s tournament.

The litigation is expected to take months to play out. U.S. Soccer is attempting to get the case dismissed, while the players may try to force a settlement. Whatever the legal result, the U.S. women have already secured a victory. Their push for more equitable benefits has inspired other female athletes to fight for their fair share.

“The women’s soccer team, in my opinion and the opinion of many of my teammates, continues to lead the way in advancing women’s sports,” says Meghan Duggan, a member of the 2018 Olympic gold medal–winning U.S. hockey team, which threatened to boycott the world championships in 2017 unless their pay improved. (The team struck a new agreement with USA Hockey before the tournament began.) The U.S. team’s stand has set off a chain reaction in women’s soccer. The Danish women’s national team boycotted a World Cup qualifying match in October 2017; it has since signed a four-year collective-bargaining agreement that included increased investment in women’s soccer. After refusing to promote their appearance in the 2017 Euro tournament finals, Scotland’s female players signed the first collective-bargaining agreement with their federation. And Norway’s women achieved pay parity with the men.


In some ways, the equality fight is being won piecemeal. The foodmaker Luna Bar pledged to pay each of the U.S. women who made the World Cup team $ 31,250, to make up for differences in roster bonuses. Nike has launched a national ad campaign called “Dream With Us,” built around Morgan and the women’s team as inspirational figures. Still, relying on corporate largess to compensate for a cultural double standard is halting progress at best.

“When I was playing, 75% of my money came from endorsements, 25% came from playing. I would love for that to be flipped,” says Hamm. “It’s frustrating that we’re still having these conversations. I’m proud of the women that they’re saying we’re not taking no for an answer.”

To Morgan, the best way to state her case is on the field. She sees another World Cup win as essential to boosting public support for equal pay. “Seeing women supporting other women on a grander level is pretty unique,” she says. “We need to capitalize on that now.”

The path to victory in France, however, is narrower than ever. The host team is hungry for its first title; the last time a World Cup was held in France, in 1998, the men won at home. England, which reached the semifinals in 2015, won the SheBelieves Cup in March. And Japan, which has reached the finals of the past two World Cups, remains a threat. The U.S. opens against Thailand, on June 11, and must fare well against the other teams in its group, Chile and Sweden, which is led by former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage, to advance.

To prepare, Morgan has studied video of her performances with her personal coach and worked on a bending left-footed shot, from outside the 18-yd. box. She’s also taking extra care of her body. When the national team introduced high-tech wristbands to monitor rest quality, Morgan ditched the device. “I swear when I started wearing it, I stopped sleeping well,” Morgan says. “After two nights, I was like, F this.”

Back at the driving range, the sky clears over the Hudson River as Morgan talks about her ability to compartmentalize. Among the things on her mind is an ambition to launch a media company for girls and women who love sports. But she has balanced performance with the demands of stardom as well as any athlete before her. So why not expect more of the same this summer? “If we do our job,” she says, “people will be captivated. This can be something greater and bigger than there’s ever been before.”

Morgan takes one last swing with her driver. Whack. Her ball flies high and long, straight toward the sunset.

This appears in the June 03, 2019 issue of TIME.
Sports – TIME


Haven, the health venture led by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan, just lost its No. 2 exec

Jack Stoddard, Haven's second hire and its COO, left for personal reasons and has yet to be replaced.
Health and Science


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Trump taps Mark Morgan, former Obama official who supports border wall, to head ICE

Morgan had been the top official at Customs and Border Protection in the Obama administration, but has been outspoken in favor of Trump’s signature proposal for a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.


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Morgan Stanley Shares Rise After Q1 Profit Beats Estimates

Morgan Stanley (MS) reported first-quarter earnings that surpassed the analysts’ estimates. Shares of the company were up more than 2 percent in premarket trade. The bank reported earnings of $ 1.39 per share compared with $ 1.45 per share a year ago. Total earnings declined 9 percent year-over-year to $ 2.34 billion. During the quarter, it recorded certain tax benefits of $ 101 million, or $ 0.06 per share. Excluding this, earnings were $ 1.33 per share. On average, 20 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected the company to report profit per share of $ 1.16 for the quarter. Analysts’ estimates typically exclude special items. Wealth Management delivered pre-tax income of $ 1.2 billion reflecting strong expense management.
RTT – Earnings


JP Morgan in ‘attack mode’: Mega bank is bigger than ever, and Jamie Dimon bullish on economy

Fears that a recession is on the horizon spiked last month when bond markets gave signals that confidence in the economy is dimming.


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Lyft threatens Morgan Stanley with legal action over IPO claims

Morgan Stanley is trying to distance itself from its role in helping early Lyft investors bet against the ride-hailing company after Lyft threatened to sue them and report them to regulators, The Post has learned. On Monday, The Post reported that Morgan Stanley, the lead underwriter for Uber’s upcoming IPO, had been helping Lyft’s pre-IPO…
Business | New York Post


Biotech stocks are off to the best start of the year since 2012 on heels of J.P. Morgan conference

Two new deals to the start the year and positive trial presentations at the J.P. Morgan Health Care conference, have breathed new life into some of last year's biggest stock losers.
Health and Science


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JP Morgan sees a ‘window of opportunity’ for stocks in the first months of 2019

The first three months of next year will likely see stocks rally, J.P. Morgan says, so long as the Federal Reserve "skips" its March meeting and does not hike interest rates again.
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Morgan Stanley fined $10M for anti-money laundering failures

Wall Street’s industry funded watchdog fined the brokerage unit of Morgan Stanley $ 10 million on Wednesday for compliance failures in the firm’s anti-money laundering program, the regulator said. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (Finra) said the lapses spanned more than five years, from January 2011 until April 2016. Morgan Stanley, which agreed to the fine…
Business | New York Post


Ariana Grande Destroys Rank Misogynist (and Disgraced Journalist) Piers Morgan

Photo Illustration by Kelly Caminero/The Daily Beast

Just in time for Thanksgiving, patron saint of gratitude Ariana Grande is saying thank u, next to Piers Morgan, a crusty old misogynist masquerading as a journalist.

In recent years, Morgan has clung to relevancy by “feuding” with celebrities; these spats usually consist of Morgan picking on a star for wearing revealing clothes, with her “clapping back” by saying that she can wear whatever the fuck she wants. The disgraced former tabloid editor’s high-profile targets range from the Kardashians to Chrissy Teigen and Emily Ratajkowski. His triggers include naked bodies and women who talk back to him (or just talk?). Now, it’s not ridiculous to have a healthy skepticism toward beautiful, thin celebrities who tweet out nudes under the guise of radical self-love and female empowerment. There’s potential for an interesting, nuanced conversation there. But tweeting at a grown woman “It’s time for @KimKardashian to put her clothes back on” ain’t it.

This month, England’s estranged inappropriate uncle took aim at the girl group Little Mix for a promotional photo in which they posed naked with insults written across their bodies. On Good Morning Britain, Morgan attacked the image, which is part of a larger conversation that Little Mix is trying to facilitate about empowerment and body confidence. “What is empowering about this?” Morgan ranted. “I mean seriously—get your kit off, airbrush yourself to within one inch of your lives and put a bunch of horrible words on yourself.” Next, in a strong bid to make me learn the name of an individual member of Little Mix, singer Jesy Nelson called Morgan a twat on the radio. When the girl group was asked during an interview if they were surprised by Morgan’s remarks, Nelson responded, “Of course not, he’s a silly twat.” Morgan proceeded to demand a public apology from Nelson, and tweeted the controversial photo shoot next to the Dixie Chicks’ iconic Entertainment Weekly cover, accusing Little Mix of stealing the idea.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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How to write a novel by author & commissioning editor Phoebe Morgan

In the second instalment of our Writers Bloc series, we get the inside scoop on how to write a novel from commissioning editor and author, Phoebe Morgan

how to write a novel

A commissioning editor by day and novelist by night, Phoebe Morgan is the author of The Doll House, published this month, and The Girl Next Door which is released in February 2019, both psychological thrillers. She is 28, and lives in Clapton, East London, with her boyfriend.

Where do you write? Are you one of those novelists who can write anywhere, or do you have a special place where your mind focuses best?
I wrote some of The Doll House in the Pret by Leicester Square, some of it in the British Library – which is free and such a beautiful place to spend time – and some of it in my downstairs neighbour’s flat in my old building. I used to babysit her son and so after he’d gone to bed I’d sit down with my laptop and beaver away. I can pretty much write anywhere but I do now have a little desk in our bedroom, complete with a sunshine yellow chair. It has to be said, though, a lot of my second novel was written in bed whist looking at my desk… I think as a writer it’s best not to get too hung up on where you write; getting the words down on the page is the most important thing and that can be done almost anywhere. Motivation and persistence are more important than setting. And it turns out Pret will let you nurse a coffee for a really long time.

What inspires you? Do your books tend to start as the kernel of an idea and develop as you start to write, or do you plot meticulously before you dive in?
My books tend to start more as the gem of an idea rather than a fully fleshed out plot. The idea for The Doll House came from a real doll house I had as a child, and I love the idea of it being a little microcosm of the real world. So many people play at happy families but almost every family has its own secrets and demons and I was really keen to explore that idea through my characters. I often take inspiration from the world around me – so often when I’m out and about I make little observations and write them down in my iPhone, as you never know what might come in handy in another book. I find the idea of plotting meticulously quite daunting – for me I prefer to begin writing and see where the book takes me, then go back and revisit everything once I’ve got a first draft down. Ideas often come to me as I’m writing, so as long as I have an initial idea of character, I’m happy opening up my laptop and beginning to tell the story. Some authors have terrifying wall charts of coloured post-it notes and Excel sheets detailing each scene of their novel, but I’m very much in awe of those people – it’s just not the way my mind works.

How to write a novel

How many drafts do you tend to write, and do you edit as you go or prefer to push through to the end and work through any problems in rewrites?
I wrote several drafts of The Doll House, probably even five or six by the end. I’m lucky to have a very hands-on agent who worked with me on redrafting the manuscript once or twice – we ended up cutting out a whole character which felt traumatic at the time but actually was definitely for the best. I prefer to push through to the end of the novel, as I find the blank page intimidating and think it’s always easier to edit once you have something to work with. I’m an editor for my day job too, which probably helps! I don’t know a single author who hasn’t done a rewrite at some point – it really is all par for the course, and it’s often once you start the editing process that things start to feel clearer – you can see which scenes help move the plot forward and which don’t, and you can be brutal in terms of cutting out unnecessary sections or even characters. I think I prefer the editing process to the first drafting process – it’s just such a relief to have that first part done.

Are you a plotter or do you let the story unfold in the writing of it?
I let the story unfold, although I often have an idea of how I want the novel to end. This might change as I write, of course, but it’s good to have a rough idea of which direction you want the story to be headed in. Sometimes I find that my characters almost take on a mind of their own – when I was writing The Doll House, the character of Ashley became much more of a key player as I redrafted, and actually a lot of people have since said she is their favourite person in the novel, even though in my mind she’s not strictly the main protagonist. I think it’s important to let your imagination take hold when you’re writing – try not to be too strict with yourself as you can end up limiting yourself if you try to stick rigidly to a plot that wants to take a different direction!

For The Doll House, I wrote a huge amount of backstory for one of my characters and then ended up cutting it all out – but having that knowledge, even just in my head, really helped strengthen the character even though it didn’t make it to the final edit. Sometimes it really is about knowing your characters inside out. They start to feel very real once you’ve spent that amount of hours with them. My least favourite part is the structural edit – so if an agent or editor suggests a major rework it can feel really overwhelming. I remember calling my friend crying once after another round of edits had come in, sitting on my bedroom floor and telling her that I had no idea how I was ever going to re-jig the manuscript. She said: ‘Of course you’ll do it,’ and those very simple words really helped – I just had to trust that I’d get there and eventually, I did.

Have you ever suffered from imposter syndrome?
Oh, all the time! I’m not sure it’s something I have ever overcome, I don’t know if anyone does. I think it’s something I’ve just learned to live with and it’s not always a bad thing as I think it keeps you quite grounded. It can feel really strange having a book out in the world, and whilst it’s lovely hearing from readers who have enjoyed the book, I do sometimes feel as though everyone is going to realise I’m some sort of fake and take all of this away from me at any moment. I mainly just try to focus on getting the work done, remind myself of what I have achieved so far, and try not to listen to the negative voice in my head which tells me I’ll never be able to write another book! The writing and publishing community is on the whole such a supportive one, though – I have a group of writer friends and we’ve often talked about imposter syndrome, so I know that everyone suffers from it and that none of us are alone in that. That really helps.

What does your writing schedule look like – are you a believer on the mythical golden hour or tend to work nine to five, or something else entirely?
I work full time as a senior commissioning editor so my nine to five is taken up solely with that. I’m lucky as I absolutely love my day job and wouldn’t change it for the world. Therefore, most of my writing gets done in the evenings or the weekends – I’m much better at staying up late than getting up super early, so whilst doing the final edits on The Doll House there were a few very late nights. My boyfriend’s dad once walked into the kitchen to find me on my laptop at 3am, drinking my fifth cup of coffee and with a slightly deranged look in my eye! I try to be quite strict with myself when I’m working on the first draft of a new book, with word counts to hit, as this helps me keep going and prevents me from worrying about making everything perfect in that initial draft. If I take a whole day off work I can get lots more done, but my day job is quite intense so there isn’t much scope for that at the moment.

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring writer, what would that be?
The key really is persistence. I know so many authors who didn’t get a book deal with their debut – it might be your second book that sells, or even your fifth! If writing is something you really want to do, keep going, and be prepared to accept feedback. Editors always want the best for your book, just as much as you do, and so if you can listen to their comments and keep pushing yourself to make the book the best it can be, the end result will be much stronger. My other piece of advice would be to take chances – put yourself out there in the writing community, say yes to things, be prepared to try new publishers – you never know where it will take you.

The post How to write a novel by author & commissioning editor Phoebe Morgan appeared first on Marie Claire.

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