Ann Morgan is a writer and editor based in London. Her writing has been published in the Guardian, Literary Review, and BBC Music Magazine. She is author of three books and has given a TED Talk on the year she spent reading a book from every country on Earth.

Her latest novel, Crossing Over, is an Audible exclusive and details the unexpected coming together of a migrant from Malawi and an ageing British woman with dementia.

You can read my review here: Crossing Over by Ann Morgan

In Crossing Over, we have two big issues at play: dementia and illegal immigration. What interested you about these topics and what made you bring them together?

I’m fascinated by representing altered mental states in narrative and how mental illness affects storytelling (something I explored with bipolar disorder in my first novel, Beside Myself). Many therapies are built on the theory that telling a story can help a person move past a traumatic event – so what are the implications for people who are unable to articulate what has happened to them coherently? It struck me that bringing together two characters whose storytelling is compromised – one through linguistic limitations and PTSD and the other through dementia – might provide an interesting way to explore this.

Crossing Over by Ann Morgan book cover
Inhabiting the mind of an older person with dementia and a young man crossing into a new country must have proved challenging. What sort of research did you have to do, and are you happy with the result?

The research process for Crossing Over involved a lot of reading, thinking and talking to experts, as well as drawing on personal encounters and experiences (for example, with several relatives who have gone through dementia). A number of books were helpful, in particular John Bayley's touching memoir of his wife, Iris Murdoch's illness, Iris and groundbreaking works on PTSD such as Judith Herman's Trauma and Recovery and David J. Morris's The Evil Hours.

The work on PTSD among migrants is still relatively new – most of our understanding of this syndrome is based on studies of war veterans. However, recent powerful pieces of reporting and documentaries such as the BBC's Exodus series (which gave cameras to a number of people trying to cross the Mediterranean into Europe) have shed light on the traumatic experiences attached to many such journeys and the emotional toll this can take.

That said, as mental health is viewed rather differently in Malawi, I think it's important to note that Jonah would not necessarily describe himself as having PTSD – the diagnosis itself is a Western construction. Just as his English is different to the language he encounters in Britain, so his view of his own experience may be rather different to the way we might categorise it.

I’m happy that I explored the topic as I wanted to, which is all you can ever really hope for as a writer.

Jonah travels to Britain from Malawi following a terrible famine – do you have any connection with Malawi?

I visited Malawi in 2008 and know several people living and working there who were very helpful with my research. I also follow the work of a charity called the Neno Macadamia Trust, which does great things to support smallholders and combat deforestation there.

Whose story is Crossing Over, Jonah’s or Edie’s?

Readers or listeners may have different views, but I would say it starts off as Edie’s and becomes Jonah’s.

With two distinct voices in the story, how did you approach the writing? Did you write both characters in parallel, separate them out, etc.?

I wrote them chronologically, pretty much in the order the sections appear in the book.

Crossing Over is currently available as an audiobook only – was this always going to be the case, or did you write with the intention of the story being consumed as a book?

I wrote it envisaging that it would be a print book. I hope it will be one day.

How much input did you have into the audiobook?

Quite a bit. Audible asked for my opinion on their choice of narrator and the cover design. I also got to go and hear the fabulous Adjoa Andoh recording some of the early chapters, which was a real treat.

Having written journalism, travelled the world, and read books from every corner of the Earth, you have a broad range of experience to draw on. Crossing Over is nevertheless very much of the Western European literary tradition stylistically - I wonder, did you experiment with other ways of telling the story, particularly Jonah’s side?

I’d like to think it does play with a few conventions. But you also have to write with your readership in mind. Writing is very often a balancing act, finding the sweet spot where you can challenge readers without making them want to hurl your book at the wall in exasperation.

Away from Crossing Over, which authors / books do you enjoy reading?

A huge number. Too many to single particular names out. I feature one book a month on my blog (, which continues to be a nice record of my reading.

Do you approach writing fiction differently to journalism/blogs? Is your process similar, do you follow the same steps, do you write in longer bursts?

They’re very different beasts. Both need a sense of flow and story but achieving that uses entirely different parts of my brain, at least at the first draft stage.

Favourite word, and why?

I’m afraid I’m not much of a one for favourites. The more words the merrier!