Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Real, live author interview: C.E. Murphy

Did you know that I know somebody famous? I totally do.
(That run-in with George Bush during my days as a college newspaper reporter don't count, as I didn't capitalize on my opportunity to punch him in the tummy when I had it.)

C.E. Murphy was Catie when I met her four years ago at an Alaska chapter meeting of the Romance Writers of America. She was days away from both moving to Ireland and releasing her first urban fantasy novel, "Urban Shaman." Now Catie's done growns up on us and published a plethora of amazing titles, but she was nice enough to take time away from her INSANE writing schedule and answer a few questions about process (she's driven, to say the least), pressure (she certainly feels it) and a computer named Nook (you'll meet Nook in a minute.)

Here's a link to her Amazon store. (Yes, she's got her own Amazon store, too.) Here's a link to her home on the Web. Buy her books. Drop her a line when new ones come out (she likes that...you'll see.) Tell her I sent you. :)

Hi, Catie. Can you make like we’re in freshman English and introduce yourself to the class?

*clears throat, puts on big cheesy smile* HI MEGAN. I'm C.E. Murphy, better known in real life as Catie. I'm a writer, which is a useful catch-all phrase for "obsessive compulsive who feels it necessary to not only chronicle the lives of people who live in her head, but who gets upset when she mixes details of these fictional persons up." I write novels for profit, the occasional short story for fun, and comic books as my down time project. I need a hobby.

So, the last time I saw you, you had a couple historicals under your belt and were on the cusp of releasing Urban Shaman on to the world. And you were leaving Alaska. Now look at you! How has your life changed in the last four years? How on earth do you have seven novels out since we last spoke? Do you sleep?

Actually, I have thirteen books out since we last spoke, but who's counting? :) I do sleep. I sleep a lot. I just don't do anything but write and sleep.

Honestly, it's been an extremely tiring few years. It's been worth it, but it's been very tiring. I write fast naturally--even my current slowed-down pace is faster than most people manage, apparently--which is helpful. It's also helpful that I had entire books or huge chunks of books already written when I sold, so I had backlog ready to offer to editors and publishers. But this has been a seriously break-neck pace and I'm very glad to say it's finally about to slow down.

Lady, you’re one busy writer and I admire that. What’s your workday like now that you’re writing full-time, professional-like and all? Are there ever days where you wish you had a newspaper route or weaved baskets for a living instead of living with the pressure to produce, produce, produce? If so, how do you deal with the pressure? If not, can I have whatever you’ve got?

*laughs* Yeah, but I'm no longer qualified to be anything but a writer. I don't think I could even get hired on as a newspaper boy...

I kind of put the pressure on myself. I had a goal when I started, to get a certain amount of shelf space. Well, today (today as I'm typing this, anyway) my eighth C.E. Murphy novel, THE PRETENDER'S CROWN, hit the shelves, and there is now a significant amount of space dedicated to my name when you walk into a bookstore. Since that's what I was after, well, I kind of have to live with the pressure to produce.

My workdays have actually been really ideal lately. I'm writing in the morning (except today, when I'm trying desperately to answer interviews and email and fulfill other promises I've made...), then doing word wars in the afternoon with some other writers. I'm getting about five hours of writing time a day out of that, and the book I'm working on (DEMON HUNTS, book five of the Walker Papers, due out in June 2010!) is going like gangbusters. So this is a perfect scenario, though I have an even more perfect scenario where I'm not late with any projects and can dedicate my mornings to *not* writing, and just do the wars in the afternoons to get my books written. That'd be nice!

Bonus question: How on earth do you still find time to update your blog?

I don't have to *think* about the blog! It's just stream of consciousness blurting at the world. It's like a vacation!

Let’s talk about your characters. In your series, you have Joanne Walker (from the Walker Papers), Margrit Knight (from the Negotiator Trilogy) and Belinda Primrose (from the Inheritor’s Cycle). Where did they come from? Do you feel you’ve got more of an “in” with one of them? Were any of them more difficult to write? Do you have a favorite?

Joanne arrived on an airplane. Margrit joined me in the shower. Belinda...look, I don't know where Belinda came from. She's scary.

Jo really did arrive on an airplane. We were flying into Seattle and flew over a street that had all white lights except one amber one, and my husband said, "Huh. What would you do if you looked out a plane window like this and you saw somebody running for their lives?" And that's the opening chapter of URBAN SHAMAN. Beyond that, at the time I wrote the book, Jim Butcher was writing wizard Harry Dresden and Laurell K. Hamilton was writing vampire hunter Anita Blake, and there wasn’t yet the explosion of urban fantasy we've got now. So I said to myself, okay, we've got wizards and vampire hunters, what isn't being done? Shamans! So that's where Jo came from. She's the easiest to write, because she 'sounds' the most like me (though I think she's funnier than I am, and I *know* she's got a lot more neuroses than I do.)

And I really was in the shower when Margrit came to me. I just had this sudden idea of a black woman lawyer who ran in Central Park at night, and there she was, bam, fully fledged. I had the idea of a gargoyle story at the back of my mind, and the whole thing just kind of fit together. Margrit is actually maybe the most like me, not in voice, but in personality: she's really, really driven, very focused, and once she's committed to something she wants to get it done fast and done right. That did not, however, make her easy to write...

I really *don't* know where Belinda came from, except I've been an Elizabethan era history buff since I was a kid and that's always an interesting question: what of Elizabeth I had a secret child? And what if that world had magic? So Belinda grew out of that, out of the idea of secrets and magic, I guess. You know, in a way she's actually the easiest to write, because she's *so* clear-cut. She has no moral quandries. Uncertainties are to be discarded because they're useless to her. I always know what choices Belinda's going to make, whereas Jo surprises me all the time.

You’ve got two major releases on the horizon: Pretender’s Crown (Inheritor’s Cycle’s second book) and Walking Dead (Walker Paper’s fourth). What’s life like for you around a release? Do you travel much for signings? Is it hard to balance the excitement of new releases with the demands to keep writing and keep the series alive?

Bahaha. I am not nearly cool enough to go traveling around for signings and things. I do a few, but mostly it's "go into a bookstore if I'm in town and see if they've got my books and offer to sign them if they do".

Release day is sort of surreal, particularly living in Ireland, where my books are not often stocked. I can't go rushing off to a bookstore and dance around squealing, so that part of the whole process usually happens for me when I get my box of author copies. That's often a month before the book hits the shelves, so by the actual release day I'm like, "Great! What about the next one?"

But I do love, love, love people emailing and saying, "The book has shipped!" or "I saw it in the store!" That's my vicarious squee. :)

How do you stay motivated? What is this word wars you mention in your blog?

I personally find needing a paycheck to be very motivating. I mean, I did this before I got paid and I'd still be doing it if I wasn't getting paid, but still, knowing I don't get paid until the book is in sure does get the auld butt into the auld chair.

People tell me *all the time* that I'm insanely disciplined. I guess I must be, but I tend to think I'm pretty flaky and that if I really applied some discipline then, well, *then* I could get a lot done. There's a great quote about that which I'm currently too lazy to look up the source for, but it's something very like, 'Others judge us by what we have done; we judge ourselves by what we feel we can do.'

Word wars are the r0Xx0r. Basically what they are is a bunch of writers getting together in a chat room, yelling, "GO!" and minimizing the chat room for half an hour while they work as hard and fast as they can on their personal projects. At the end of half an hour, everybody comes back, reports their wordcount, and then after a short break you do it all again. "Winning" doesn't matter; the whole point is just to get words on the page. The winner does get bragging rights, of course, but it's really just a way to share the misery and break up some of the solitude of being a writer. I *love* them. If you want to potentially join the word wars I run daily, you can always get the URL from my writing community, toonowrimo.

How did your experience with hooking Nook (your writing computer) up with Internet pan out? Nook is famous. Your lack of Internet attached to your writing computer was such a great idea when I first heard about it back in 2005, that I decided to do that with my laptop—no Internet, just writing on it. Now I don’t ever use my laptop. Ha!

Oh! You know, it's working brilliantly, because Nook is ten years old and can't handle the internet worth beans. :) I can only have one web browser window open at a time or the computer crashes, and the browser it can run is so old that it mis-loads most of the modern pages on the net, so all I do with it at all is open it up for the word wars. It's brilliant. Not a distraction at all. It's perfect!

And finally, what are you working on currently? What’s got you excited for the future when it comes to your writing?

Right now I'm working on DEMON HUNTS, book five of the Walker Papers. Next up is WAYFINDER, sequel to next year's TRUTHSEEKER, which are a pair of books about a woman who always knows if she's being told the truth. Those are fun little books to write. :)

Aaah, as for the future, what I'm really looking forward to is writing no more than two contracted books a year (I've been doing about 3.5 for the past several years) and maybe taking some time to work on pet projects like my young adult fantasy novel. I'm hoping I'll get to write more Inheritors' Cycle books, and of course there are more Walker Papers in my future. It's all good!

No comments:

Post a Comment