Last year, I posted a Call to Writers, asking my fellow author bloggers to allow me to interview them for guest-spots on my blog. (If you are interested in participating, please contact me.) I asked everyone thirty-five questions — some were basic, and others were multi-part inquiries — and I asked them to answer only what they wanted to or what was applicable. My friend and fellow-blogger, Andrew Conry-Murray, had some very fascinating responses which I’m sure will captivate you, as well. After you read his interview, please be sure to hop on over to his blog and follow him for a regular dose of his charm. And now, I pass the microphone to Andrew…
1. Please tell us your name (or pen name) and a little bit about yourself:
My name is Andrew Conry-Murray. I live near Philadelphia, PA. I was born in Boston, MA and I’ve lived all over, including the San Francisco Bay Area, Rochester, NY, and a short stint in Benin, West Africa.
I’m married and have two boys and one dog.
2. Please provide the link to your blog (and website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc.):
My blog: http://andrewconry-murray.com/
3. How many books have you written?
I’ve published three books. I’ve written one complete manuscript for which I’m seeking representation, and I have two manuscripts in the works.
4. Has any of your work been published yet? If so, please share the link(s) to purchase it:
Wasteland Blues, published by Dog Star Books: http://www.amazon.com/Wasteland-Blues-Scott-Christian-Carr/dp/1935738593/
Fei The Hero (novella): http://www.amazon.com/Fei-Hero-Andrew-Conry-Murray-ebook/dp/B008OMQS9S/
The Symantec Guide To Home Internet Security: http://www.amazon.com/Symantec-Guide-Home-Internet-Security/dp/0321356411/
5. If you have been published, did you self-publish or use traditional publishing? Why? If you have not been published yet, what are your plans for the future?
Two of my books (“Wasteland Blues” and “The Symantec Guide To Home Internet Security”) are through traditional publishers (one of which, Dog Star Books, is a small independent). I published “Fei The Hero” myself as an e-book.
I prefer to work with a publisher because they handle the mechanics of book production (cover art, typesetting, etc.). The downside of working with a small press is that it doesn’t have much marketing muscle. That means I do the vast majority of book promotion. My goal is to get signed by a major publisher.
I self-published “Fei The Hero” because I think it’s a great story and I didn’t want to leave it in a desk drawer. It’s too long for most magazines, so an e-book seemed like a good route. I also wanted to experiment with the self-publishing market. One thing I’ve learned so far is that if you’re going to self-publish, be prepared to hustle. You can’t just put it out there and expect people to find it on their own.
6. How old were you when you started writing? When did you know you wanted to be an author?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was around 12 years old, but I didn’t approach writing as a discipline until I was in my early 20s.
7. What would you say motivates you to keep writing?
I’ve been looking for the wardrobe that would take me to someplace else since I was a kid. Writing is the closest I’ve gotten so far.
8. Who are some of your favorite authors? What are you currently reading (or what is the last book you read)?
Favorite authors include Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Hilary Mantel, David Mitchell, T.C. Boyle and Kurt Vonnegut. I just finished “The Bone Clocks” by David Mitchell, and I’m switching back and forth between “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and “The Singular Mark Twain” by Fred Kaplan.
9. What is your preferred reading method? (i.e., Kindle, Nook, paperback, hardback, etc.) Why?
Paperback or hardback. I like print. It’s portable, shareable, and doesn’t require charging. Plus, I stare at a screen all day for work, so there’s no appeal to getting in bed with yet another device.
10. Do you write in first or third person, past or present tense, and why?
I tend to write third person past tense, perhaps because I like the authorial control and distance, but I’ll use whatever suits the story and the character.
11. Do you “always read” or do you take breaks between reading books?
ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BOOK::
12. What is the title of your current work in progress of the most recent manuscript you’ve completed?
My most recently published book is “Wasteland Blues,” which came out in March 2014. It’s a post-apocalyptic quest story. I’ve also got a finished manuscript that I’m pitching to agents. It’s titled “Atlantis Rising.”
13. What is your novel’s genre? Would you say there is a sub-genre? What makes yours different than other books in the same genre?
The primary genre for “Atlantis Rising” is historical fiction (the book is set in the 1870s), but it has strong elements of the paranormal and a few touches of a thriller. I think what makes my book different is that it’s a mash-up of genres. Plus, it’s a hell of a good story.
14. What inspired the current or most recent story you’ve completed?
When I was a teenager, I saw a print of the Magritte painting “Castle of the Pyrenees” and I thought there had to be a story there. It took me about 20 years to figure out what it was.
15. What is your target audience’s age, gender, etc.?
I don’t have a target age or gender. I hope my work appeals to lots of people.
16. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your story?
Sure. This is what I’m sending to agents. If anyone has feedback on how to improve this, I’d love to hear it:
James Rush, an ambitious young correspondent, doesn’t believe in the myth of Atlantis. But he accepts a curious assignment to seek evidence of the lost kingdom because it could make him the most renowned explorer of his times.
What Rush doesn’t know is that Atlantis is real. Powerful men want to recover Atlantis to resurrect an ancient practice that bestows immeasurably long life, but at a monstrous cost: children must be bred like cattle, their minds and souls obliterated, to serve as empty hosts for the masters of Atlantis.
The danger intensifies when Rush discovers he’s being used. He turns against his masters and races to claim Atlantis—and the glory of its discovery—for himself. Aided by a half-mad Englishman and a feisty aviatrix, Rush plunges headlong into an adventure that propels him from a mysterious island in Africa to the shattered remains of a kingdom that hovers thousands of feet above the surface of the earth.
As he and his companions fights for their lives among the ruins of an ancient city, Rush realizes he must choose between the glory he craves and the countless lives that would be devoured if the secrets of Atlantis are revealed.
ABOUT HOW YOU WRITE::
17. How often do you write?
I write every weekday.
18. Approximately how many words do you write at each sitting?
I don’t know. In his book “On Writing” Stephen King says to write 2,000 words a day. I don’t think I’m close to that.
19. Do you do your own editing or send it to someone else?
Both. I do my own editing until I have a draft I’m satisfied with (or tired of looking at) and then I pass it along to my wife, who’s always my first reader and editor. Then I’ll send a second draft to a couple of friends or family members.
But as the writer, you should be your most ruthless editor. I think it’s really important to give yourself some space from the manuscript. Put a finished draft aside for a good long time—maybe a month. That distance is invaluable to approach the manuscript with fresh eyes and a steely editorial pen.
20. What is your method of writing? (i.e., Do you write the entire manuscript, then go back and make changes? Do you plan chapters as you go along or write the story then go back and add chapters? Do you re-read as you go along or after you are done with the first draft?)
I start with a general idea, and then write my way through it. Sometimes I have to stop and make changes, or throw away parts that aren’t working. I re-read a lot of what I’ve written and edit as I go. Once I’ve got a full draft, I read from the top and make changes as seem necessary.
21. How long does it take you to write a full manuscript?
Way too long. Probably a year or more.
22. Do you give yourself a word limit for each day or a time limit to finish your novel? If so, please elaborate.
23. How do you come up with your character names and geographic location / business names?
It’s funny, but I often find names to be a challenge. It’s important for me that my main characters’ names have the right sound—the name has to suit them. I play around with their names in my head until I find one that feels right.
24. How long (or how detailed) are the notes you take before you start writing?
Not very long. Maybe a brief sketch. But I do a ton of reading as I’m writing, particularly for historical fiction, and I’ll pull out salient details or notes as necessary.
25. Do you have any “must haves” to help you write? (i.e., a full cup of coffee, a view of the ocean, etc.)
A hot cup of tea and some quiet.
26. Do you only write during a certain time of day or in a certain location? If so, do you make yourself stop after a certain time?
I write early in the morning, before anyone else in the house is up. I stop when it’s time to get the kids up for school.
27. Does your real life ever neglected because of your writing? If so, how do you feel about that?
Occasionally I get carried away with what I’m working on, and then I have to rush around to make up the time I took from elsewhere, but I don’t feel bad about it.
28. What is the quirkiest thing you do or have ever done when writing?
I often wear headphones, even if I’m not listening to music. It feels like a blanket for my brain.
ABOUT YOUR WORK::
29. If you have written more than one novel, which is your favorite and why?
I think my favorite novel is always the one I’m going to write next, because the idea is still alive with tantalizing possibilities and I haven’t fucked it up yet.
30. If you could be one of your own characters for a day, who would it be and why?
It would be James Rush from “Atlantis Rising” on the day he walks through the gates of an ancient city that’s floating ten thousand feet over the surface of the Pacific ocean.
31. If one of your books became a movie, who would you choose for the “perfect cast” of main characters?
I think “Wasteland Blues” would make a great cable TV series if there are any producers out there looking for ideas. But as for casting, I’d rather leave that to someone else.
32. What is the oddest thing you have ever researched for one of your books?
The practice of “money digging” and other folk magic in upstate New York in the early 1800s.
33. What is the most difficult thing you have ever researched for one your books and why?
It wasn’t difficult per se, but I spent a lot of time researching hydrogen ballooning to make a balloon expedition over the Pacific Ocean in the 1870s sound plausible.
Thank you, Andrew, for allowing me to interview you. I hope everyone else has enjoyed learning about you and your work as much as I have.