November’s author interview is with Luke Murphy, whose debut novel Dead Man’s Hand, was released by Imajin Books on October 20, 2012. Both Kindle and Paperback are available on Amazon.
Thanks so much for visiting with us today, Luke. I’m honored to have you here. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I live in Shawville, Quebec with my wife, three daughters and pug. I also played six years of professional hockey before retiring in 2006. Since then, I’ve held a number of jobs, from sports columnist to radio journalist, before earning my Bachelor of Education degree (Magna Cum Laude). I currently teach elementary school.
Hockey is one of the big passions in your life. In fact, I saw on your website that at one time you even wanted to be an NHL superstar. Has playing hockey so intensely taught you anything that you apply to writing, or are the two completely separate for you?
The term “practice makes perfect” can basically relate to anything you do. Hockey and writing are no different. Many people might not see a connection between writing and hockey, but there are many similarities in not only your preparation, but “musts” once you’re there. In both hockey and writing, you need three things: patience, persistence and thick skin.
My transition from professional hockey player to published author was surprisingly smooth. Hockey and writing have many things in common. For both, it takes hard work and practice. There are many critics, and you need to be thick-skinned. Both the hockey and writing worlds are small communities, filled with people who want to help you succeed. In order to find success, in both you need to be persistent and confident.
It’s all about taking a chance, putting yourself out there to be evaluated by your peers. That’s the scariest part. You’ll hear a lot of “no’s” along the way, but all it takes is one “yes”. It’s all about “staying the course” and not getting off track.
What about your weekly sports column? Did the demands of journalism (writing on a deadline, and with limited space) help you to improve your craft in regards to writing fiction?
Writing a sports column taught me many things. Among these was the importance of meeting deadlines. But I think what the column did the most for me was that it gave me an excuse to write every day. Writing, like anything, takes practice to improve, and writing a sports column allowed me the opportunity to write consistently, and to work with an editor. I learned quickly how to “cut the fat” off my writing, and fit my articles into the limited space provided by the newspaper. Writing a sports column gave me the benefit of being part of two of my favorite things—sports and writing.
Can you tell us a little bit about the critique group you were part of when working on your first novel? How did you find them and what advice would you give writers going into critique for the first time?
I first met Nadine Doolittle and Kathy Leveille at a writer’s conference in Ottawa. They are exceptional writers, and like me they were just getting their feet wet in the publishing industry. At that time, they had both published one novel with a smaller publishing house, so we all knew that we needed the experience and advice from one another to improve our writing and allow us to take that next step.
Since Kathy, Nadine and I didn’t live in the same town, the internet and email were our only means of communication. We sent 25 pages a month to each other to review and comment. So each of us had 50 pages a month to critique on. We decided that we would give each writer 6 comments, 3 positive (things we liked), and 3 things that could be built upon or possible suggestions for improvement. Because it was our work, it was to our discretion if we took the advice or disregarded it.
Even though my schedule no longer allows me to be a part of this group, I would like to rejoin it again in the future. I encourage new writers to join a critique group. It’s great to receive feedback from peers and professionals. It will also give you the courage to put your work out there for others to comment on. You will also have the opportunity to do editing and learn writing techniques and strategies along the way.
You have quite the packed schedule of appearances, interviews, and guest blogs posted on your website. Do you have a manager who books most of these things or do you reach out to people yourself?
I have an agent and publisher but I do all of my own managing and promotional marketing. Since I published with a smaller company, I knew going in that they didn’t have a million-dollar marketing budget to help me with. They do what they can, but the bulk of the load rests on my shoulders. I do the promotional part of my writing late at night when the rest of my family has gone to bed.
How do you personally build strong connections with your readers, and with other writers?
I’ve attended writing conferences, and I always encourage readers to send me messages via my website. I make it a point of responding to every message personally. On Facebook, I always post questions to motivate my fans to respond and keep them engaged. On Twitter, I always directly contact new followers and thank them. I also use Twitter to converse with followers.
Even though book signings and live events are not really profitable these days, I enjoy doing them to meet people and make personal connection with readers. I’m always contacting other writers on Twitter, I host writers on my blog, and I do guest blogs, interviews, etc. on other blogs.
You’re also a teacher. What do you teach and what has teaching taught you about connecting with an audience?
I teach elementary, any level from kindergarten to grade 8. Last year I taught grade 5, but this year I am still without a contract so I am only supply teaching until something comes up.
I think that teaching gives me the opportunity to speak in front of crowds, and learn how to be a good communicator. There’s also the time management factor, and it teaches me to multitask and fit everything into a tight schedule.
You’re currently represented by the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency. What was most surprising to you about working with a professional literary agent?
I’m a personal guy, so I wasn’t prepared for the agent-client relationship. It is very impersonal. I rarely hear from my agent. Even if I send an email, it could take weeks to receive a response. My agent is so busy with a full client list, and the industry moves so slowly that I only hear from her every couple of months to tell me if anything has happened. The speed of the writing industry was definitely something I had to get accustomed to.
What advice would you give writers who are still looking for an agent?
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.
Can you tell us a little bit about your recent novel, Dead Man’s Hand?
Dead Man’s Hand is a crime-thriller set in Las Vegas. It takes readers inside the head of Calvin Watters, a sadistically violent African-American Las Vegas debt-collector, who was once a rising football star, now a murder suspect on the run.
This is from the back cover:
What happens when the deck is stacked against you…
From NFL rising-star prospect to wanted fugitive, Calvin Watters is a sadistic African-American Las Vegas debt-collector framed by a murderer who, like the Vegas Police, finds him to be the perfect fall-guy.
…and the cards don’t fall your way?
When the brutal slaying of a prominent casino owner is followed by the murder of a well-known bookie, Detective Dale Dayton is thrown into the middle of a highly political case and leads the largest homicide investigation in Vegas in the last twelve years.
What if you’re dealt a Dead Man’s Hand?
Against his superiors and better judgment, Dayton is willing to give Calvin one last chance. To redeem himself, Calvin must prove his innocence by finding the real killer, while avoiding the LVMPD, as well as protect the woman he loves from a professional assassin hired to silence them.
Where can interested readers purchase a copy?
Both Kindle and Paperback are available on Amazon. It’s also available for Nook and Kobo. It’s on Goodreads, iTunes, Createspace and anywhere else on the internet. The Paperback is also available at any local bookstore.
Can you give us any hints about what to expect from your next novel?
I’m currently working on my second novel, another crime-thriller, following the career of rookie, female LAPD detective Charlene Taylor.
Right now, I have a full time job (teaching), a part-time tutoring 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 eventually I would love to write a series of novels featuring Calvin Watters. But I will not limit my novels to Calvin Watters, as I would like to write a variety of novels, all in the crime-thriller genres.
Luke Murphy lives in Shawville, Quebec with his wife, three daughters and pug. He played six years of professional hockey before retiring in 2006. Since then, he’s held a number of jobs, from sports columnist to radio journalist, before earning his Bachelor of Education degree (Magna Cum Laude). Murphy`s debut novel, Dead Man`s Hand, was released by Imajin Books on October 20, 2012.
For more on Luke Murphy you can:
Visit his website
Read his blog
Like him on Facebook
Follow him on Twitter
Read reviews of Dead Man’s Hand on Goodreads