- GUEST AUTHOR -
Today, I welcome a guest I have previously hosted on my blog. In fact, Luke was one of my first guests some six and a half years ago. Luke is an author from Canada, and he provides some interesting responses to my questions.
Welcome, Luke ...
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
Actually my writing happened by accident. Growing up I never thought much about writing, but I was an avid reader. The only time I ever wrote was when my teachers at school made me. I wanted to be an NHL superstar…period.
It was the winter of 2000, my second year of professional hockey, and I was playing in Oklahoma City. After sustaining a season ending eye injury (one of the scariest moments of my life), I found myself with time on his hands.
My girlfriend at the time, who is now my wife, was attending a French college in Montreal. She received an English assignment to write a short story, and asked me for some help.
I loved the experience—creating vivid characters and generating a wire-taut plot. So, I sat down at my roommate’s computer and began typing. I wrote a little every day, around my intense rehabilitation schedule and before I knew it I had completed my first manuscript.
I didn’t write with the intention of being published. I wrote for the love of writing.
Twelve years later, I still write for pleasure—and I still love it! The fact that I am being published is a bonus.
I made the decision to write a book with the intention of publication in 2005. I enjoyed writing so much as a hobby, I decided I wanted to take my interest one step further – write a story with the intention of being published and making it available for friends, family, and readers around the world to enjoy.
I`m not one to take things lightly or jump in half way. I took a full year off from writing to study the craft. I constantly read, from novels in my favorite genres to books written by experts in the writing field. I continually researched on the internet, reading up on the industry and process. I made friends (published and unpublished authors), bombarding them with questions, learning what it took to become successful.
Feeling that I was finally prepared, in the winter of 2006, with an idea in mind and an outline on paper, I started to write DEAD MAN`S HAND. It took me two years (working around full time jobs) to complete the first draft of the novel.
I then worked with editors and joined a critique group, doing anything I could to learn, to improve my writing and my novel to point where I could create the best possible work.
My years of hard work finally paid off. With my dream still in mind and my manuscript ready, I hired the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency to represent DEAD MAN`S HAND.
I signed a publishing deal with Imajin Books in May, 2012.
Since that time, I’ve had two other novels published, including a sequel to my first book.
2. WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
I started writing when I was young and playing professional hockey. A couple of hours a day on the ice and in the gym and then the day was mine. I also suffered a serious eye injury and couldn`t play, so I had a lot more time on my hands. Now that I`m older, with a family and full time job, makes it a lot harder to find the time to write.
These days I don`t have a schedule or routine. But when I do write, I find that I am most productive in the morning, and I always have to have a mug of steaming tea in front of me.
Before I even sit down at a computer, I have hand-written notes of ideas for my book. This could be anything from plot, scenes, setting, characters, etc.
Once I sit down, I just write. No editing, no looking back, I just let it flow. Unless I`m certain, no title until after I`m done. As I write, I keep notes by hand on the timeline.
When my first draft is complete, I go through it twice, once for the creative editing process and the next for flow, repetition, etc. Then I have two trusted editors look it over. I’ve been using these editors for a long time, with all of my novels.
For me, the most difficult thing about writing has nothing to do with actual writing (ideas, flow, writer`s block, etc.), but it`s finding the time.
3. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
What I enjoy most about writing is that it allows me, for a short time, the freedom to leave my everyday world and explore new avenues, to be in another place and time. It allows me to get inside the head of characters—to think, do, and say whatever I want with no rules or restrictions. It means liberty and freedom to express myself.
4. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
For me, the most difficult thing about writing has nothing to do with actual writing (ideas, flow, writer`s block, etc.), but it`s finding the time.
Between teaching, tutoring and reffing, with three small children and a wife at home, finding the time to sit down at a computer and have serious, quality writing time is almost impossible.
But I love my girls and spending quality time for them is a great feeling. It just puts writing my next novel behind a bit.
5. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
I always say I write because I can’t sing or dance (LOL). Writing isn’t my full time job, I would have starved long ago if it was.
Growing up I always wanted to be an NHL superstar. Injuries and age limited that dream to only 4 games with the Florida Panthers in 1999, but I spent 6 years bouncing around the minor leagues and loved it.
Now, I’m an elementary school teacher, I tutor Math and English part time and I’m a husband and father. So as you can see, I only write when I find time.
6. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
That’s an easy one…having a novel published.
7. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
I’ve just released my third book, the second in the Calvin Watters series.
I would love to write another book. Right now, I have a full time job (teaching), a part-time tutoring job, a part time hockey ref job, and three small children (all girls, YIKES!!).
I don`t have much time to write, but when I get a chance, I do all I can. It could take some time, but I would love to continue the Calvin Watters series. I’d also like to write a second Charlene Taylor novel. Okay, now I’m getting way ahead of myself LOL.
8. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
As for inspirations, I never thought much about writing when I was growing up. But I was always an avid reader, which I owe to my mother. She was a librarian, and although I lost her when I was young, I will always remember a stack on Danielle Steele books on her bedside table, and a lot of books lying around the house at my disposal.
My first chapter books were the Hardy Boys titles, so they are the reason I love mysteries. As an adult, some of my favorite authors are Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly and Greg Iles, so naturally I write what I love to read – mystery/suspense novels.
Plot: I get my ideas from stories I hear about, whether through reading (newspapers, magazines, etc.), what I hear (radio) or what I see (TV, movies, internet, etc.). The plots are completely fictional. I wouldn`t say that one thing or person influences my writing, but a variety of my life experiences all have led to my passion in the written word. There is not a single moment in time when ideas come to me, they just stay with me for a while. The internet also provides a wealth of information, available at our fingertips with a click of the mouse.
Setting: I usually set my stories in cities I`ve visited and fell in love with. Las Vegas was the perfect backdrop for this story, glitz and glamour as well as an untapped underground.
Characters: I have never been involved in a homicide investigation, LOL. Although I am not a 6’5”, 220 pound African-American, I’ve used much of my athletic background when creating my protagonist Calvin Watters. Watters past as an athlete, and his emotional rollercoaster brought on by injuries were drawn from my experiences. His mother died of cancer when he was young, as mine was. There are certainly elements of myself in Calvin, but overall, this is a work of fiction. I did not base the characters or plot on any real people or events. Any familiarities are strictly coincidence.
9. WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
My first chapter books were the Hardy Boys titles, so they are the reason I love mysteries. As an adult, some of my favorite authors are Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly and Greg Iles, so naturally I write what I love to read – mystery/suspense novels. My novels have been compared to James Patterson books, which to me is an honour. Maybe in style (short chapters, a quick read), as I have read many of his books.
10. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
Get a part-time job to pay the bills (haha). Just kidding. Honestly, for anyone who wants to be a writer, you need to have three things: patience, determination and thick skin. You can`t let anyone or anything get in the way of your ultimate goal. You will hear a lot of “no`s”, but it only takes one “yes”. The writing industry is a slow-moving machine, and you need to wait it out. Never quit or give up on your dreams.
11. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
I have never suffered from writers block, or I should say that I have never been affected by it. Since writing is not my full time job, and it’s more of a hobby for me, if I’m ever sitting at the computer and drawing a blank, I just get up, shut off the computer, and walk away…live to fight another day. If the next day the same thing happens, then I walk away again. For this reason, I never give myself deadlines or WIP challenges
12. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
When I decided to write seriously, my wife and I made me a little office in our house to write. I have a desk, chair, computer and printer set up upstairs, at the end of the hall. Everything a writer needs to succeed
13. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
I have many favourite authors, as I’ve been reading a long time. But my top 3 are probably Harlan Coben, Greg Iles and Michael Connelly. They are all gifted storytellers and masters of suspense.
14. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
I’ve been very fortunate to have many 5-star reviews from not only readers on Amazon, but also from bestselling authors. I think that receiving these review blurbs from peers in my field has been fulfilling. Certainly when someone compares me to a successful, bestselling author is a huge compliment to me. This one felt great:
“All the danger, treachery, and action a thriller reader could wish for. Luke Murphy has the touch.”—Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Order
15. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
I have received a couple of 2-star reviews, but to be honest, they were actually pretty nice 2-star reviews. More comments like, “it wasn’t for me” or “thought it was a Western”. So I can’t complain so far.
16. OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
Family, friends, BBQs, golf, hockey, reading
17. DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
Yes I did, as I do for all my books. I have two trusted editors that I have used for all of my books, before I send them off to my publisher’s editors.
18. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
Spending the day with my wife and children is always a pretty perfect day. But if you’re talking about writing, it would be this:
I wake up and cook breakfast for my wife and girls. Then I would kiss my wife goodbye as she goes to work, and take my children to day care. When I get home, I would boil water and start the computer. I would make a hot cup of tea and head upstairs to my office. My dog would be sleeping in his bed placed beside my desk, and I would hear his soft snores as I type away at my next book. Then I would have supper ready for when my girls get home.
19. IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
The smart answer: My wife (I would want to spend the remaining days of my life with the woman I love). Just in case she reads this. LOL.
Wyatt Earp (can you imagine the stories he would have to tell)
Natalie Portman - for obvious reasons J
20. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
What the hell is this world coming to?
21. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
Just to be happy. I don’t ask much out of life. I want to be able to support my family, give them everything they want and need. I want them to be happy and satisfied.
I’d love to write more books.
22. WHAT FIVE BOOKS WOULD YOU TAKE TO HEAVEN?
Ouch, wow, that is tough. There are so many great books that I like. Let’s see…
Anything by the following authors:
Greg Iles, Michael Connelly, James Patterson, Linwood Barclay, Thomas Perry, and more…..
23. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
Many people have asked if I can make any real connections to my Calvin Watters. The answer, as for my connection…no, I have never been involved in a homicide investigation, LOL. The plots are completely fictional. Although I am not a 6’5”, 220 pound African-American, I’ve used much of my athletic background when creating my protagonist Calvin Watters. Watters past as an athlete, and his emotional rollercoaster brought on by injuries were drawn from my experiences. His mother died of cancer when he was young, as mine was. There are certainly elements of myself in Calvin, but overall, this is a work of fiction. I did not base the characters or plot on any real people or events. Any familiarities are strictly coincidence.
When thinking about creating the main character for my stories, I wanted someone “REAL”. Someone readers could relate to. Although it is a work of fiction, my goal was to create a character who readers could make a real connection with.
Physically, keeping in mind Watters’ past as an NCAA football standout and his current occupation as a Vegas debt-collector, I thought “intimidating”, and put together a mix of characteristics that make Watters appear scary (dreadlocks and patchy facial hair), but also able to blend in with those of the social elite. Although he is in astounding physical condition, handsome and well-toned, he does have a physical disability that limits his capabilities.
He’s proud, confident bordering on cocky, mean and tough, but I also gave him a softer side that readers, especially women, will be more comfortable rooting for. After his humiliating downfall he is stuck at the bottom for a while, but trying hard to work his way back up.
He has weaknesses and he has made poor choices. He has regrets, but Watters has the opportunity to redeem himself. Not everyone gets a second chance in life, and he realizes how fortunate he is.
Calvin Watters is definitely worth rooting for.
24. DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
At times, yes. It’s an incredibly difficult industry to crack as a first time author. Major publishing houses won’t take many chances on new-comers so many writers are turning to small publishers, self-publishing and Print-on-demand. And it is such a slow-moving industry, sometimes it can be very discouraging.
25. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
Many times I asked myself, “What’s the point?” It took me six years to get my first book into print, and that seemed like a lifetime. But writing is only a hobby so I never expected to get rich from writing. I just write for the love of it, when I get some free time, so really I never thought of quitting a “hobby”.
26. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
That’s hard to say for any author with more than one book out. Each one of my novels holds a special place with me, but if I HAVE to answer, I’m going to say my new book, WILD CARD. It was fun to write a sequel and work again with characters I enjoyed creating in the past.
27. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER?
I used to think that it was earning a lot of money. We need money to survive, to support my family, to pay bills, to eat, to live, etc. But at the rate I’m on, I will never be happy (LOL). I think that writing something that you’re proud of, that people enjoy reading and that entertains, is just as important as financial success.
28. WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
I want to be like my favorite authors. I want to entertain readers and allow them, like when I read, to escape reality and for a moment be in another place and time. I want to give them that level of freedom in their lives.
29. HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
My publisher takes care of the book cover. They ask me what I envisioned when I saw the cover in my head. I take into consideration everything that happens in the book, the plot, and what might attract a reader’s eye.
30. WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
To write for a living. To earn enough money from my books each year to strictly stay at home each day and write.
31. WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
The big thing to remember is that selling books is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time to build a platform and establish yourself in the social media world. Don’t try to get big too fast, go through the motions, do what it takes and don’t take any shortcuts. Build yourself on social media, take time to build relationships.
Once my publishing contract was signed, then the real work began, building my “platform”. I knew that when I signed on with a smaller publisher that the bulk of the promotion load would fall on my shoulders, and I accepted that.
I did four things quickly: created my own website, started a blog, and opened a Facebook page and Twitter account.
32. ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
No, I’m traditionally published by Imajin Books, a small publishing house in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
33. ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
Ask me again in 5-7 years when my girls are teenagers. LOL.
I’m a true hometown boy. I moved back to the town I grew up in and bought my dad’s house, where I’m now raising my family. I’m teaching in the elementary school I attended and most of my friends and family are still in town.
My kids are in the same groups I was in, play the same sports I played, and are experiencing the same things I did as a kid.
I couldn’t be happier than I am right now…unless I became a bestselling author of course
34. WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?
Thank you for taking the time to read my novel and I hope you enjoyed it.
Clancy's comment: Thanks, Luke. I love Canada and have met many Canadians as I've traveled. Good luck with book sales.