- Guest Author -
Today I feature my first author from Ireland, a magnificent country full of interesting, funny and smart people. Jim Murray is one of them.
Welcome, Jim ...
Welcome, Jim ...
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I think I wrote my first book when I was little more than a toddler. I managed to cram a volcano, an explosion, a plane crash and a lion attack into the first paragraph, and it pretty much continued in that vein! I have always scribbled, and made my first concerted efforts to write prose in my late twenties when I knocked out a few experimental (unpublishable) novels. Then, as I saw many of my friends progress in their careers, I realised I had to earn, so I set up a business in my early thirties and have been working on that ever since – for more than ten years. I returned to writing a few years ago, and recently completed the novel, Brother, which I have self published.
WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
With the novel I have just published, I pretty much ‘shot from the hip’. It wasn’t an ideal process, and as the story unfolded, I found I had to engage in a lot of rewriting, much more-so than I would if I had mapped it out beforehand. I am currently working on my next novel, and I wrote a very comprehensive outline to it before I got down to the real writing.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
I think it is legacy. I don’t want to pass through this World without leaving a contrail. When I write, I feel that I am leaving that mark of my existence – whether any, or many, people will every read my writing, that is besides the point. In my mind I am creating something that will endure.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
The hardest thing for me was the lack of power I felt in the face of disinterested and dismissive Literary Agents and Publishing Houses. I actually feel that the traditional publishing industry is the architect of its own doom. The main interest seems to be in publishing celebrities. I feel that if I were a thrice divorced footballer with a drug problem and a ghostwriter, I would get a deal tomorrow. At the last count, Justin Bieber and Kathy Price (aka Jordan) each have three autobiographies under their belts!
I have a friend who once got a publishing deal with a major imprint, and had his novel appear in the leading retailers. He didn’t sell the requisite volumes in a very short space of time, so they pulled his books. He is now back to obscurity, albeit a bitter obscurity, and I think he is worse off than a self or never published writer as he had thought he had hit the big leagues.
It was a relief for me to discover self-publishing, especially through the Amazon platform. However, this of course brings its own problems – in particular the daunting challenge of raising visibility and reader interest.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
I am working on a novel which is a police procedural with maybe a hint of the paranormal, and written in a literary style.
WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
I like a compelling plot, so I am drawn to Crime / Thriller / Suspense, but I write in quite a literary style.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
I remember when I first started writing, I wanted to show the World how clever I was. I spent a lot of my time crafting elaborate similes and metaphors. Over time I learned that a good writer is economical when it comes to descriptiveness – they limit the obstacles to the flow of the story. The best bit of advice I have ever heard is: write your page, read it, and then cut out anything that looks like writing. Essentially, a writer needs to learn to get out of the way of the story. If they are a genius, or a highly talented writer, that will shine through without being forced on the reader.
Also, if a new writer is going to go down the self published route, they need to learn skills that go beyond writing. Presentation of your work is hugely important; cover and book description in particular. It might not be a bad idea to publish your book to Amazon and then submit a question to the writers’ forum in Amazon KDP, or on Goodreads. This is what I did – I submitted a query on KDP - and I got a lot of brilliant advice on my cover and my description.
I took all of these recommendations on board, and I feel that my presentation has improved dramatically for it. The participants in these forums don’t usually critique the actual writing, but they will pull you up on bad grammar and spelling. It is very important to take all of this advice for what it is – the generous gift of these writers’ time and experience.
DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
I never did – not until I became a father. I think I should have named my baby son ‘Writer’s Block’.
DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
Morning, definitely morning. I have steam for about 4 – 5 hours, and then I’m done. Afternoons, I can sometimes manage a little revision. However, these days I get very little time to write. The fact is that I have a ten month old son, and as I heard another writer with small children phrase it: I am now a naptime novelist.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
Not really. When I first started writing it was pen and paper – that already sounds quaint. I was very glad to graduate to a word processor, though I do need a desktop PC. I can never write on a laptop keyboard, and certainly not without a mouse – so maybe I am again at the point of being outmoded!
DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
I don’t. I am an obsessive re-writer. My current novel has probably been through hundreds of drafts, and I think in fact that I am an editor more-so than a writer.
WHAT FIVE BOOKS WOULD YOU TAKE TO HEAVEN?
I’ve already read them J I’d take my Kindle and hope for WiFi.
DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
I have noted a trend in my characters – my stories usually involve a conflict between a naive hero and a manipulative psychopath. I don’t see myself as fitting either of these personality types, and I have never really known anyone who does, so I wonder if these two characters aren’t opposing facets of my psyche!
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER.
I feel that it is important to write for pleasure rather than ego. Ego will lead to disatisfaction. Once I abandoned all of those fantasies of paparazzi and prime-time chat shows, I began to hugely enjoy the process. Success to me is a meditative enjoyment of the craft and the unfolding story. If fame and financial success are to follow, that will be a bonus.
HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
On my current novel I had a graphic designer acquaintance do me a freebie cover. She didn’t read the book, and the final cover – while nice – didn’t really speak for the book. I put a question to the writer’s forum on Amazon, and was amazed by the comprehensive feedback I received. Many of the commentators remarked that the cover needed work, so I decided to invest a whack of money in getting this right, and I contacted a very talented designer I know. He read the book, and he came up with the current cover which I am very happy with.
WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
I had written my current novel with the hope that I would secure a traditional publishing deal and let the publishing house worry about design, marketing and PR. This didn’t happen, and when I decided to go down the self publishing route, I had to quickly learn to wear many hats. I have to say, though, that so far it has been largely an enjoyable process. I already had a good handle on how to utilise social media, so I set up author accounts on Twitter and Facebook. I am still in the early stages, but I will eventually be launching an author website and blog.
WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?
And there followed an awkward silence . . .