AUTHOR: Jim Murray
BOOK TITLE: Brother
PUBLISHER: Amazon / Goodreads
Please tell us about yourself.
I am the owner of a media company in Dublin, Ireland which is a specialist recruitment consultancy to the Advertising and Web sectors. My role is mostly operational – I pull the levers and keep the cogs turning, but I am also the driver of our marketing and branding. We are known to be highly innovative in our branding and advertising. My writing abilities are often called upon to create content for our website and advertising.
In the past I worked for a time as a freelance journalist, writing features for magazines in Dublin. My most notable were a series on Dublin’s many historical eccentrics. I used to also get extras work on movies and write articles about my experiences. For example, I got a day’s work in Braveheart. My part was as a sentry. In full knight’s regalia, I was required to stand as a guard under a burning brazier. When the scene was being filmed, everyone was told to hold their positions no matter what – even if one happened to catch fire, which is exactly what happened to me. That was the last day of my career as a freelance journalist. Combustion was one thing, but I was also starving – I only ever made enough money from freelance journalism to keep me in beer. It was then that I set up the company that I am currently managing.
Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
Morning, definitely morning. I can have a good run of about four to five hours, and then I’m out of ideas and mental energy. 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 toddler son, so I am now, essentially, a naptime novelist.
What are your thoughts about promotion?
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 utilize 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.
Do you ever have writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it?
I never did – not until I became a father. I think I should have named my baby son ‘Writer’s Block’.
What are your current projects?
I am working on a novel which is a police procedural with maybe a hint of the paranormal, and written in a literary style.
I have finished the first draft of this novel. The main character is haunted by the expectations of dead people – the question is whether these expectations are real or does he assume them. There are quite a few twists and turns in it, and I believe it is warming up to be a very gripping story.
How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?
As yet, I do not have a website or blog, but I am quite active on Twitter; my Twitter address is: twitter.com/jimmurrayauthor
What genre do you write in and why?
In terms of genre, my published novel, Brother, is a mix of family saga and thriller, and while the subject matter might appear to be dark, I believe that it is at times humorous, and is sufficiently quirky and offbeat to lighten the narrative.
Tell us about the current book you’re promoting.
Brother is a novel based on two feuding brothers who have been enemies since infancy, and are in part formed of their mutual hostility – they have grown to be restless and tormented men. When a killer conspires against them, they expect only attack from each other and have no sense of his schemes. If they can overcome their lifelong feud and come together to defeat their enemy, they have the opportunity to resolve their life-long conflict, and in doing so each find peace.
Do you outline before you write? If not, what’s your initial process?
With the novel, Brother, 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.
Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?
Strangely, the same story seems to thread through each of my books – a naive, hapless, hero in thrall to a manipulative psychopath. I have never had this experience in my life, so maybe the naive hero and scheming psychopath are two facets of my personality! In truth though, I believe that I am good at translating to paper the type of individual who I might hate and fear, and I seem to have the ability to write sinister bad guys who evoke outrage and anger in readers. It pleases me that I can write characters that illicit such a visceral response as I am conscious of the importance of writing believable characters.
What advice would you give a new writer starting out?
I feel that my current novel works well in terms of a strong story, characterization and dialogue. The narrative flowed when I was writing it; however I have had to write a lot of duds to get to this point. It is much like learning to drive a car – for a long time we struggle to co-ordinate our hands and feet, and we concentrate hard on doing so, and then one day we realize that we are not thinking about the varying actions at all, and we drive along with a blank mind. It is important that a new writer puts in these hours to develop and refine the craft.
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.
What, if anything, bugs you when you read a novel?
The thing that bugs me most is when an author is self-indulgent and devotes pages of text describing things that have little relevance to the story – say, a stone wall or a tree; I believe that this descriptiveness serves only to but the brakes on the narrative momentum. I am more interested in the story and the characters than how poetic the author can be.
What do you look for in a book when you sit down to read for fun?
A book needs to carry me along. To achieve this, I don’t believe a book should have any one particular quality – it is more-so the combination of great characterization, dialogue and plot. If the book doesn’t carry me along and if I don’t look forward to returning to it, I abandon it. I used to have a policy of finishing every book, regardless of its quality, but I now ditch them quite quickly if they don’t grab me. As I have heard it said: there are too many good books in this World to waste our time ploughing through the bad ones.
Dominic blames his brother, Spencer, for bringing ruin to their childhood home. He saw his baby brother as a malign force that provoked their parents to conflict and bitterness.
Only once in their childhood did the brothers nearly reconcile, and that was when Spencer defended Dominic from the school bully, Lar Mangan.
As the brothers grow to adulthood, Dominic’s path again converges with Lar Mangan when he joins a new company and discovers that Mangan - by now an ex-convict – is working and prospering there under a false identity.
Dominic has become the possessor of a deadly secret, and as the brothers stoke up their feud, they are wary only of each other and have no sense of Mangan’s sinister schemes.
They face a choice - to allow a lethal trap to close or to choose their bond over their feud - salvation over blame – and come together to defeat Lar Mangan.