Writers Exchange Author Interview
With Ian Moore-Morrans
Exchange Personalities presents an interview with Ian Moore-Morrans, author of Metal Machining Made Easy. This was his first published work originally issued in 2002 as a “how-to” or “do-it-yourself” e-book under his former name Ian Morrans. Since then he was widowed and then remarried, changing his name to Moore-Morrans by adding his new wife’s birth name to form a new family name.
A second edition of the DIY book has been issued (April 2018) by WEE (available through Amazon) as an e-book to be followed by a print edition in due course. As of this writing, Mr. Moore-Morrans has published three other books as self-published volumes, most recently under his and his wife’s own publishing company, Moomor Publishing. They include two works of fiction: Beyond the Phantom Battle: Mystery at Loch Ashie and a chapter book entitled Jake, Little Jimmy & Big Louie, as well as a non-fiction work, the memoir: Came to Canada, Eh? Memoirs of a Scottish Nomad, all of which are available for order through Amazon.
Residing in the city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Ian has been a client of Writers Exchange since 2002.
Tell us about yourself and what lead up to your first published work?
I didn’t begin to write seriously until age 63. Before that, I was too busy trying to make a living in my chosen field of machining or playing in some band somewhere so I never took time to sit down to write until I was close to retirement. I quickly realized that I’d have to learn to type and use a computer if I wanted to get anywhere with my writing. So I bought a used computer and a “teach yourself to type” tape and went to town on it. That’s me, though. I usually get enthusiastic about something new and go whole hog, plunging right in and damn the torpedoes! At first I wrote down some fictional stories that I thought were pretty good but couldn’t convince any publishers to take them seriously. Then I thought I’d tackle a field in which I had some expert knowledge. I completed Metal Machining Made Easy in 1998. I was fortunate enough to publish it in 2002 through Writers Exchange E-Publishing and am happy that it is now being made available in a revised and updated version available though Amazon.
- What do you feel is your greatest personal achievement? That would have to be overcoming a childhood of abject poverty which I describe in my third published book, the memoir my wife and I published in 2012, From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada. In answering this question, I’m led to your next question for amplification.
- What person or event do you feel shaped who you are today? A whole number of people and events have helped to shape the person I am today. Despite their poverty and lack of education, my mother and step-father were both decent people who tried to guide me as best they could under very trying circumstances; my mother’s influence led me to the Salvation Army in my childhood where I was taught how to live a respectable and God-fearing life. It gave me a place where I knew I belonged, was respected and valued (although I rebelled off and on at a lot of restrictions it placed on my choices of entertainment). Most importantly, it gave me an opportunity to learn to sing and play several instruments. Because of that I can truly say that my real avocation in life is music-making. A man called Jock McMillan was the band leader and music instructor at the Salvation Army in my hometown. He taught me and two of my teenage pals to read music and to play instruments. I learned to play the trumpet and trombone and spent a lot of time in my youth playing with the Salvation Army brass band. Discovering that I had musical talent gave me a lot of confidence that I might never had otherwise had. After the school-leaving age of 14, I worked as an apprentice to a blacksmith who was a drunken, ignorant sort; however, for a time he had an assistant blacksmith who took me under his wing, answered my questions and taught me those things I needed to know to learn my craft. His influence showed me how important it was to mentor younger persons whom I later encountered in life both professionally and personally. Perhaps the greatest single decision in my life that started to lift me out of poverty, though, was quitting my apprenticeship and enlisting in the British Royal Air Force. Overnight I had three decent meals a day, a decent-paying job and future prospects. Plus that, I could continue to play in a band and had money left over to send home to my mother to help her out a wee bit. After joining the RAF, I played trumpet in military bands wherever I was stationed. For a period of almost sixty years (in Britain, Egypt and later in Canada) I played in military, dance and concert bands as well as in combos. I’ve continued singing Scottish folk songs for various festivals, parties and competitions even into my eighties, although my voice isn’t anywhere near as good now as it used to be. My first wife and our two daughters enriched my life through their love and trust as they followed me across the ocean to a new country and then all over that country through the years from one job to the next, one town and province to the next, always helping me to look up and strive for a better life. The most significant encounter in my life, however, began when I was 71 years of age. My second wife, Gayle, was working as a magazine and program editor when I met her. We quickly bonded in our mutual literary and musical interests. Her editing and publishing talents have led to the success I’ve had in becoming the published writer I am today.
- What motivated you to start writing? If you’ve stopped, why / otherwise what keeps you producing? What keeps you going through the long process of creation? I’ve always had a hankering for writing which was limited to letter writing until I got close to retirement and thought, “it’s now or never.” I never was interested or motivated to develop a complex system of writing, words just formed naturally and flowed without much effort on my part. I have found, though, that I need my wife/editor’s keen eye to organize my “flow of consciousness” method of writing. Now that I am an older senior and in palliative care, I no longer have the ability to write but am thankful that I’ve left a pile of work for my wife/editor to continue working on. My long process of creation has come to an end and I’m content to rest and let her take over.
- Describe your body of work in 3 sentences or less. My body of work doesn’t fit into any neat category unless you want to call it “eclectic”. My four published books include two works of fiction: a chapter book about a boy and two pet birds and an adventure story of time-travel set in Scotland from the 21st back to the 12th Centuries ; the afore-mentioned “how-to” book on metal machining and a memoir of my life from 1932 until 1970 set in Scotland and then in Canada.
- In the grand scheme of your writing endeavors, what can readers next expect? Because of serious health problems since I turned 75, I no longer write. I did write quite prolifically for about eight years, though, and have left my wife/editor a pile of stories that we hope someday she can get through, if she ever finds time along with her care-giving duties. They include sequels to my already published memoir and the adventure/time travel novel, several more children’s stories, plus a tale of revenge called “Legal Hit Man” and my wife’s and my account of our two-and-a-half year adventure in Mexico entitled “Mexican Follies”.
- Describe the evolution of one of your titles from concept to completion? What kind of research and/or investigation did you do to support your efforts? The idea for writing Metal Machining Made Easy came from my years of experience as a machinist and the view that my background and training as a British machinist was superior to that of most North American machinists with whom I worked after I emigrated from Scotland to Canada. My wife/editor is presently editing my second memoir entitled Came to Canada, Eh? Continuing a Scottish Emigrant’s Story. In it I describe the short experience I had in 1984 teaching a course about machining metal. While between machinist jobs, I had been invited to teach an adult class for people who had metal-cutting lathes and wanted to learn how to better use them. I loved this first and only experience of formal teaching. Thus, some years later I used the experience I gleaned to write this “how-to” book about machining steel, written for the type of people I had been teaching. The book’s text is similar to the verbal instructions I gave as my students observed my machining processes and had their own chances to try out their turn on the lathe. All of the 60-odd illustrations I did by hand, calling on a lot of skills I had honed over my years of machining.
In place of answering questions here, I’ve chosen to reprint an essay I wrote for the publication, 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading, 2013-2014 Edition by The Authors Show.com Radio & TV Show which had featured my memoir, From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada. Each of us featured writers had been asked to address the topic: “Why I Write.” The following is my conclusion, with an added update to take the story to my present circumstances:
Why I Write – My Writing Journey
Folks have often remarked that I have a gift for gab and storytelling. However, throughout most of my life, whatever free time I had was taken up by music-making. Important as it was to me, writing took a back seat to making music.
Though growing up in abject poverty in Scotland during the Great Depression, I was fortunate to attend school until I was 14. I liked learning and tried my best to do well in my class work. My English teacher had remarked about the quality of my essays and compositions. When she mentioned that I should become a journalist after I finished school, I found it an intriguing but totally impossible suggestion. I could only conclude, ‘What a picture that would be–me sitting at a desk with holes in my shoes and no underwear!’
When schooling was over, I had to find a job. Working as an apprentice to a local blacksmith, I had neither time nor energy to write, though I earned some money and built up muscle. My free time was spent learning to sing and play an instrument as part of the Salvation Army. Music-making became my passion.
Four years later I joined the Royal Air Force. Finally I had decent food, clothing and living conditions plus an opportunity to learn a trade–Flight Mechanic Engines–and to continue to play in a band. I served in England, Wales, Scotland and the Suez Canal Zone in Egypt. Being far away, I enjoyed writing letters home and hearing remarks about how exciting I made my life sound and how much folk learned from reading what I wrote. I was to benefit most by corresponding with my pen-pal. Mary and I kept up a steady correspondence and then met in Glasgow just after I returned to Britain. We were soon married.
Whenever I had a chance at work or leisure, I told stories when I wasn’t singing songs or playing my trumpet. I fancied myself an entertainer but never thought of trying to earn a living at it. After five years’ service, I left the RAF. Not only did I have a wife to support; we were soon blessed with two daughters. I found work as a machine fitter in the steel industry around Glasgow. After awhile I applied for a clerk’s job in a big steel company. When interviewed, the supervisor mentioned that one of the biggest problems in the job was reading what someone had written. He asked me to write the numbers from 1 to 10 and also spell each one out in longhand and then print the words in capital letters. “Very good” he said, “at least we’ll have one person whose writing is legible. When can you start?” I couldn’t believe that was the test! Soon, my “penmanship” earned me a better job as a shift scheduler.
Having been misled by the inflated promises of an unscrupulous Ontario official, we got “itchy feet” and headed for Canada. Arriving in 1965, we soon found that my promised machining job was not available, nor were we in a financial position to buy a house as we had been led to believe. After five years of misadventures finding and keeping jobs and suitable homes, we finally reached the level of prosperity we had had in Scotland.
My family and I continued to live and work in Canada, moving almost every year to a different house, town or province (and different band) as jobs came and disappeared. I never seemed to have time to write down my stories, though I told plenty of them, both true and made-up. Finally, in 1995 at age 63, I decided if I didn’t start writing, I’d never do it.
In longhand over three evenings, I wrote “My Friend Jimmy”, a children’s story about a budgie that had no wings. Then I bought a simple, used computer and studied a learn-to-type book. I rewrote my children’s story and sent it away to a publisher, thinking full well that he would deem it the very best children’s story he had ever read! Soon I could just about paper the wall with rejections. ‘Never mind,’ I thought, ‘where there’s life, there’s hope.’ I went on to write others, thinking that I’d give “My Friend Jimmy” a try again at a later date. (Finally, almost 20 years later, my wife/editor and I published “Jake, Little Jimmy and Big Louie,” a highbred of the original story!)
Next, I tackled my life’s story. Several times I’ve encountered people who heard my Scottish “burr” and then told me of Scottish ancestors. After inquiring, I would hear they had died and the family didn’t even know where in Scotland they had originated. Finally, I vowed to write my life story to avoid that state. Thus began the long process of remembering and writing into the wee hours of the night over the course of several years. I ended up with two volumes called “From Poverty to Poverty” and “Came to Canada, Eh?” Again, I submitted manuscripts which were politely rejected.
In 1984, I taught an adult class for men who had metal-cutting lathes and wanted to learn how to better use them. I loved this first and only experience of formal teaching. Later, I wrote a “how-to” book about machining steel, written for the type of people I had been teaching. Completed in 1998, I called it “Metal Machining Made Easy.” I did all of the 60-odd illustrations by hand. This was published in 2002 through Writers Exchange in Australia, (with the second, updated edition coming out in 2018).
In late 2002, my wife Mary died. I vowed to go on with life, continue to write but also to socialize, make music and enjoy what time I had left. Then came the most significant encounter of my life. I started a conversation with an attractive widow about the eclectic assortment of stories I had begun writing after retirement. When I learned that Gayle was working as a magazine editor, I began to envision a future of our living and working together. We married in 2003 and, after she took an early retirement, we bought a motor home and set out to explore Mexico. While basking along Mexico’s Pacific coast, Gayle started editing my stories while I sat at the laptop and did re-writes, as well as writing a story of revenge called “Legal Hit Man”. Later moving inland to the mountainous north shore of Lake Chapala, we became residents of the world’s largest community of English-speaking expatriates. We joined the local writers’ group and met some wonderful writers from around the world. Soon my short story, “The Moonlit Meeting”, was published in a local magazine.
We returned to Canada in 2007 and spent nine years living in British Columbia where we began to perform as a singing duo, “Okanagan’s Mr. Scotland and His Bonnie Lassie”, as well as publishing two books with a Scottish flair–a novel of adventure and time-travel, “Beyond the Phantom Battle: Mystery at Loch Ashie” and my memoir “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada”.
Age finally caught up with me. When I first started seriously writing, I sketched out a few notes and went to work with everything flowing fairly smoothly. I kept going at all hours and wherever I was. Then, after over five years of illness, it became harder to find the energy to write. Luckily, I had a number of manuscripts waiting for Gayle to work on. Since then my literary work consists of reading through edits, giving my approval or comments, and letting her do the rest.
In 2015 it became time to move again as my health continued to deteriorate and we decided to return to our “roots” in Manitoba where the majority of my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren live so that Gayle would have more help in caring for me. We now live in a downtown senior’s high-rise apartment building in Winnipeg where we continue our literary pursuits whenever family and palliative care help allows Gayle some spare time to do her editing and publishing “thing”. Me? I’m relaxing, resting, reading interesting books and re-reading my writings whenever I can stay awake. Aren’t I fortunate?
Ian died in Winnipeg on February 22, 2019 at the age of 86. His wife, editor and sometimes co-author, Gayle Moore-Morrans, continues his publication work.