Emmy Winner, community Leader, and author Dolores Morris, on her new book a tribute to her World War II veteran father’s Wartime experiences
by Jennifer Vikse
Native Staten Islander Dolores N. Morris, a St. George resident, spent her career in development, production, and acquisition for cable television giants HBO, the Family Channel, and other media outlets. More recently, she’s struck success with a new passion: writing.
We caught up with Morris to talk about her career, her life on Staten Island, and her book, The Soldier That Wagged Her Tail: A Black Veteran’s Story of WWII (KCM Publishing, 2015), which chronicles her father William A. Morris Jr.’s wartime experiences with his dog, Trixie, by his side. “A little Terrier mutt dad found in England just before D Day,” she writes in the book’s introduction, “[Trixie] stayed with him throughout the war, from Omaha Beach to the Battle of the Bulge, and became a trusted companion…both for my father and the men he served with.”
Industry: Do you have any formal writer training?
Dolores Morris: I graduated from Hunter College with a BA in physical anthropology and a double minor in political science and biology. I thought I was going to be Jane Good all and study animal behavior and at one point I was premed…Then I took organic chemistry, or rather, it took me!
Industry: How did your experience in development and TV production lay the groundwork for writing books?
DM: I have always been a storyteller. I think I get it from my father, who is a great one. Writing was my first love. I wrote plays and short stories and poems from the time I could first string letters together. My career in TV and in development is grounded in that ability to tell a good story and to figure out how a story affects others.
Industry: What prompted you to write this book?
DM: Growing up, I knew my father had served, and I actually knew Trixie. It was when we started visiting schools, however, and dad started telling his story to children and I witnessed their reaction—their questions and their compassion—that I knew I had to write a book.
Industry: What was it like for you both to relive his experiences?
DM: It was an amazing journey, one I was blessed to have…one a daughter rarely gets to have. I took notes as dad spoke at schools and asked him questions about his reaction to events. It wasn’t always easy for him; he often cried at some of the memories.
Industry: Was it your idea to give voice to Trixie?
DM: Yes. I had almost finished writing the book when I realized that there was something missing—that Trixie was an indispensable piece of this story. The hardest thing was trying to figure out how to give presence to a dog that didn’t make the story sound like a children’s book or make Trixie a cartoon. I tried different approaches but finally just decided that Trixie was dad’s guardian angel in animal form and so I made her sound like a human. When I read dad that first chapter of her speaking, I held my breath and he said, “Yes, that’s how she would sound,” and I knew I’d nailed it. My greatest joy was that I was able to complete it and give the first published copy to dad on his 96th birthday.
Industry: What is your creative process like?
DM: I’m old school. I like to do a lot of research… write lines over and over again on cards. I did five rewrites of the actual book and I did them all in longhand.
Industry: Are you working on another project?
DM: I always have about five books in my head, and was actually in the process of writing another when I stopped to finish dad’s story. That book is near completion—it’s about my adventures working in television and Hollywood—at all the studios, production companies, and networks. The title is Kiss Me Baby, Nothing Makes Me Sick: the Story of a Black Woman in Hollywood. I should finish it pretty soon, and the timing seems right; with everything in the news lately about the behavior of these men in powerful positions in Hollywood, I think it could offer an illuminating perspective