Interview with C.E. Murphy, Writing Dynamo
I confess, I've always been slightly (okay, sometimes more than slightly) jealous of C.E. Murphy. When I was just a wee writer putting together my first (really bad) submission, she was signing her first contract for URBAN SHAMAN, which sold a ton of copies and launched her writing career. And she's got a fabulous agent. And in the course of the next couple of years, she managed to sell just about everything that sprang to mind. She's what you would call 'prolific'. She's also one of the nicest people out in Blogland, so when I had an interview coming up this weekend, I decided to poke her and see if she would poke back. And she did!
How did you get started with novel writing?
CE: *laugh* When I was eight I started what was going to be the first book in an on-going mystery series with five young protagonists. One was a set of red-headed twin girls. I don't remember what the other three were, but even at eight it was clear to me that longevity as a writer came in the form of the Bobbsey Twins, the Happy Hollidays, Trixie Belden...so that was what I was going to do. I think I got about twenty pages written, and I experienced my first computer-related loss of material. I wish I still had that! :)
The first actual novel I completed was when, at 19, I read some very bad book (while I'm wishing, I wish I could remember what it was) and thought, "God, I can do better than *that*," and sat down to write a novel. Took me about six weeks. I've still got the manuscript, but I'm afraid to look at it now. :)
How did you break through into publishing?
CE: I actually sold out of the slush pile. I'd written URBAN SHAMAN (which was my fifth manuscript) years before (in 2000) and I knew it was publishable. Over the course of 2002-2003, I attended some very helpful conferences (particularly Colorado Gold, the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' annual conference ( http://rmfw.org/)) that lit a fire under me, and when I heard about Luna--who were asking for traditional fantasy with a strong female protagonist and a strong romantic subplot--I sent them URBAN SHAMAN (which is contemporary fantasy with a strong female protagonist and no romantic subplot: I believe in letting *them* tell you no, rather than saying no for them) and within a few months they bought it.
What's it like working for Harlequin?
CE: Generally fantastic! For me professionally, selling to Luna (a fantasy line under the Harlequin umbrella) was an enormous boon, because it gave me access to the mega-sized Harlequin publishing machine. I was able to sell books to another line, as well (the now-defunct action-adventure romance line "Bombshell"), and that combined with my Luna titles actually gave me the security to become a full-time novelist a year after my first sale. (Well, that and getting laid off with severance from my day job...) But I couldn't ask for a better launching pad than Harlequin. I've had fantastic covers, an incredibly insightful editor, and the kind of promotion a first-time author can only dream of. It's been great.
Tell us a bit about your new release.
CE: New York City lawyer Margrit Knight has finally met the perfect man--only he's a gargoyle, and wanted for murder...
HEART OF STONE is the first book in an urban fantasy trilogy called the Negotiator, in which Margrit discovers a world of Old Races--gargoyles and selkie, dragons and djinn, and vampires--living alongside our own in cautious secrecy. Alban Korund needs his name cleared of murder, but he can't go to the police, and as Margrit helps him, she gets drawn further and further into his world.
The idea was originally born from my love of Beauty and the Beast and a story idea a friend and I talked out one night. Aside from the fact that the hero is a gargoyle, the end result looks absolutely *nothing* like that original discussion. (In fact, the end result of the book looks nothing like the original book, after all the revisions it went through!) It's a darker, more sensual story than the Walker Papers, and the whole trilogy will be out over the course of the next year--the second book, HOUSE OF CARDS, is out in March, and book three, HANDS OF FLAME, is out in August. Or maybe September. Can't remember. But within the year! :)
Random question time - Which came first, do you suppose? Star Wars or fanboys?
CE: Given that Star *Trek* was rescued from obscurity by the fanboys, I gotta say, fanboys.
If Jo from URBAN SHAMAN was to face Margrit from HEART OF STONE in a dark alley, who would win?
CE: Jo. She's got the reach and she's a much better fighter. On the other hand, Margrit would be unlikely to be *alone* in that dark alley, and no way could Jo take Alban out. On the third hand, if Margrit *was* alone in the alley, she could easily out-run Jo, who would be left at the corner panting and wheezing with a stitch in her side while Margrit mocked her monkey pants from the other side of the street.
We're not supposed to have favorites, but do you? Have a favorite character, that is.
CE: Yes. :)
Remember when you read my 20 page synopsis for my first novel? Hee. You were too polite to tell me that it was way too long. If you could give one piece of advice to the noobs of the writing world, what would it be?
CE: Oh no I wasn't. :) Length wasn't the problem with that synopsis. Believe me, I told you everything I thought was wrong. (And you took it like a champ!)--(ed note: I actually pouted a lot...heh) Synopses, like books, are as long as they have to be. I've written them anywhere from 2 pages to...ok, not 20, but I know people who turn in 80-100 page synopses to their editors, so 20 pages, pshhhht. :)
Noob advice: this is a job. It's work. You do not wait until the Muse Hath Struck to do your writing. You get up and do it whether you want to that day or not, whether the words are coming like a flood or like treacle (the Great Molasses Flood nonewithstanding). You get up early or you stay up late or you write during your lunch hour or your commute (the latter is when URBAN SHAMAN was written) or when the kids are at school or napping, but you write. It's a second job, and it's probably not going to pay for a long time, and then it's not going to pay especially well. But if it's what you really want, you persevere, and at the end of the day, if you write a good book, I genuinely believe you'll find a publisher for it.
Also, btw, writing one good book isn't enough. Write it, finish it, send it out, and start another. :)
You grew up in Alaska, but currently live in Ireland. How do you think both of those places influenced your writing? Or am I on crack?
CE: You're on crack. :) (ed note - I knew it!)
Actually, I'm sure growing up in Alaska did in some way affect my writing, but I couldn't tell you how. Possibly somebody observing me could, but the only thing I can come up with is, "There's not a lot to do in North Kenai. I read a lot." :) Living in Ireland, meh, less influential. I could always write the Irish accent, and a friend of mine made me promise I wouldn't suddenly be writing All Things Celtophile if I moved over here. Then she said, "...of course, a lot of what you write has Irish influences anyway." So, y'know, Bob's your uncle, as they say here. :)
What have you got in the pipeline for upcoming projects?
CE: Next year's a good year for me. As mentioned above, I've got the second two books in the Negotiator Trilogy coming out. I also have a brand new series starting from Del Rey, the first book of which is titled THE QUEEN'S BASTARD, about the daughter of a Reformation queen who is her mother's most secret and most deadly assassin. Uh, hang on, let me find the blurb my publisher wrote for it (it's awesome).
Ok, this is from September, so it may not be the final copy, but it's the gist of the thing. :)
SHE NEVER REALIZED HER OWN POWER . . . UNTIL NOW.
In a world where religion has ripped apart the old order, Belinda Primrose is the queen's secret weapon. The illegitimate daughter of Lorraine, the first queen to sit on the Aulunian throne, Belinda has been trained as a spy since the age of twelve by her father, Lorraine's lover and spymaster.
Cunning and alluring, fluent in languages and able to take on any persona, Belinda can infiltrate the glittering courts of Echon where her mother's enemies conspire. She can seduce at will and kill if she must. But Belinda's spying takes a new twist when her witchlight appears.
Now Belinda's powers are unlike anything Lorraine could have imagined. They can turn an obedient daughter into a rival who understands that anything can be hers, including the wickedly sensual Javier, whose throne Lorraine both covets and fears. But Javier is also witchbreed, a man whose ability rivals Belinda's own . . . and can be just as dangerous.
Amid court intrigue and magic, loyalty and love can lead to more daring passions, as Belinda discovers power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.
This is out in May, and I'm *so* excited about it! *beams* It's a total departure from my urban fantasy style, and I'm hoping it'll bring in new readers and fans! :)
What do you suppose your agent says when you email her out of the blue?
CE: "Oh God, now what?"
If you could get anything for Christmas, what would it be?
CE: A big-money winning Lotto ticket. I mean, world peace, an end to world hunger, and a couple of other high-minded political agenda topics aside, I'm really pretty happy with my life. All I can ask for is the ability to fly first-class anywhere in the world that I want to at the drop of a hat. Is that so much? :)
Ham or Turkey? Eggnog or Cider? Pumpkin Pie or Candy Canes?
CE: Turkey, cider, and ... BOTH!
Thanks to C.E. Murphy for being kind enough to answer all my goofball questions (without even batting an eye). HEART OF STONE is currently in stores and available on the Harlequin website for purchase.
Also, CE's been kind enough to offer to give away a copy of HEART OF STONE! Here's what you do - link to this blog post on your own journal. Leave a comment telling us where your link is. We'll randomly draw a name from everyone that commented on Monday for the winner. So spread the word and win a book!
Thanks everyone (and thanks Catie)!