Caren Morrison grew up in France and was a music journalist for Melody Maker in London for seven years. After staying up all night in Barcelona with Green Day and touring Scotland in a tiny van with Courtney Love, she decided to become a lawyer. She graduated from Columbia Law School, prosecuted foreign drug cartels at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, and finally ended up as a law professor in Atlanta. She now lives with her federal agent husband, two red-haired children, two sweet but poorly behaved dogs, and a cat. She is currently working on a novel about the corrosive power of remorse in the aftermath of a police shooting. This is her first personal essay publication.
Eckleburg: What captures your interest most in your work, now, as a reader of your work?
Caren Morrison: What captures my interest most when I read my own writing are the times when something funny works — the joke lands, or the wording surprises me. I really love when I read something that I don’t remember writing, but I think, hey, that’s really neat. It doesn’t happen very often, I might hasten to add.
Eckleburg: What are you working on now?
Caren Morrison: I’m working on a story about the aftermath of a police shooting. It’s based on an actual incident in Brunswick, Georgia where police wrongfully shot and killed a woman in her car and never faced trial or reprimand. But the officer never got over it. Somehow the system that was supposed to protect him, that was in some ways unfairly slanted to shield him from legal scrutiny, put him in an impossible situation. He could never come clean, could never apologize, so his remorse had no outlet. He eventually committed suicide.
I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The officer had seemed so callous and unfeeling, but that wasn’t it at all. So I’ve imagined a character in that situation who seems like a total jerk, who kills someone and is initially just concerned about keeping his job, but who is actually deeply troubled by what he did. He joined the police force to protect people, to be one of the good guys, and he is unable to forgive himself, not only for what he did, but for getting away with it.
Eckleburg: Who and what are your artistic influences?
Caren Morrison: There are many, and any list is going to leave a bunch of them out and have me up all night rewriting this interview in my head. But anyway: Anne Tyler, because of the effortless-seeming way she balances humor and compassion for people’s flaws. Raymond Chandler, cause he’s so damn cool and his writing is beautiful. Lloyd Alexander, because The Book of Three was my favorite book growing up and I still reread it and the other four books in that series with enormous pleasure. I love big fat novels that are completely immersive, like Jane Eyre and A Passage to India, as well as small thin novels that are immersive and mysterious, like The Trial and Heart of Darkness. Also Zadie Smith, George Saunders, Jo Ann Beard, Russell Banks, Toni Morrison, Kate Atkinson, Stephen King (even though I cover my eyes during the scary parts). And P.G. Wodehouse, because there’s no one funnier.
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