North Morgan - London Preppy, Maine and me
Novelist North Morgan is a name to watch. Just don't mention Bret Easton Ellis
First, I have to declare an interest in North Morgan. In the acknowledgements to his novel, 'Exit Through the Wound', he thanks me for 'discovering' him. Of course, I didn't, not really. He'd already had a million hits on his blog by the time I encountered him. But I did commission a short story from Morgan, and introduced him to his publisher, Bobby Nayyar of Limehouse Books.
That said, 'Exit Through the Wound' is a seriously impressive debut. The tale of a young Greek guy living in London, it's not a million miles from Morgan's blog, London Preppy, which he describes as 'a combination of world-weary, over-educated disgust at the shallowness of the world and lots about self-abuse and pumping up your body so it looks real nice'.
The novel's central character, Maine, drifts through his day job, works out obsessively and ingests large quantities of recreational and pharmaceutical drugs. Supported by his wealthy parents, he changes his name to avoid sounding like a Greek national and is grateful that he can pass as American. He's equally ambiguous sexually, in love with a woman but also drawn to men and familiar with the London gay scene. His lifestyle is strikingly similar to that of men you see photographed every week in the gay press.
Morgan created his blog as a way of keeping in touch with friends. 'Then, as it became more widely read, I stopped making it so personal and created a fictional character who was progressively more removed from me', he explains. 'I did this to protect myself, because I didn't want people to know everything about my personal life. But creating a character also made for more interesting reading. I don't think I'm fascinating enough to maintain all those people's interest. I'm slightly unstable, but I'm not that consistently unstable day after day. If I were, I'd probably be institutionalised by now.'
Why does he think the blog became so successful? 'It had a lot to do with people identifying with the characters and the situations I was describing. I write for all those people in their twenties and thirties living in the world's big cities, who are still uncertain of what they want to do with their lives and have an overall feeling of “This is it?” There's a certain type of person who's educated, enquiring and restless. This is who the blog was for then, and this is who my book is for now.'
Like London Preppy, Maine is an extension of Morgan himself. 'There are definitely elements in the book that are autobiographical,' he says. 'Like Maine, I was born in Greece and moved to the UK. But the story that's built around that is purely fictional. Still, if people want to believe that I am 100 per cent London Preppy or Maine, that's fine. It probably means they think I'm extremely weird and are slightly terrified of me, which can only be a good thing.'
Reading the book, it's clear that Morgan is a Bret Easton Ellis aficionado. For years, he even had the author's name tattooed on his left bicep. 'I'm a big fan of his first few books,' Morgan says. 'He mentioned London Preppy in an interview once. He said he was looking himself up on Google and came across my blog because of the tattoo. I actually had that covered up recently. It's a big block of black ink now. The tattoo was always an appreciation of his art rather than the person. But there came a point when I felt let down by his public statements. Following him on Twitter was hugely disappointing to me. I found a lot of what he was saying sensationalist, attention-seeking and unfair. The main problem with having built a personal brand as an enfant terrible is that when the youth is gone, all that's left is a terrible old man.'
So much for Bret Easton Ellis. But what about Morgan's less-than-complimentary comments about his countrymen? 'Hopefully it's clear that my intention is comedic,' he says. 'I think I'm more at a liberty to make these jokes, because I'm Greek, after all. It's like poking fun at myself. No one has complained. Perhaps everyone who's read it has got the joke, but then again people tend to complain about everything these days, so we'll see.'
What does his family think about the book? 'Ha! They are a typical Greek family, so they're very proud and supportive. They keep buying copies, anyway. I don't know if they get them to burn, but they buy them nonetheless.'
So what's next? 'In an ideal world, which this isn't, I would be given the opportunity to write another book. I've already started doing work on it. I hope there's enough interest for me to put it out there. I'm not sure I want to continue writing the blog, though. I'm at a completely different stage. Plus I'm not sure anyone writes blogs anymore. It's almost vintage.'
Exit Through the Wound' is published by Limehouse Books at £7.99. We have five copies to give away. To be in with a chance of winning, click tweet below and share this article