Author Luke Murphy was kind enough to let me interview him about his debut novel Dead Man's Hand to give an insight into his experience trying to get published:
- What inspired you to write Dead Man's Hand?
I never thought much about writing when Iwas growing up but I was always an avid reader, which Iowe to my mother. She was a librarian, and although I lost her when I wasyoung, I will always remember a stack of Danielle Steele books on her bedsidetable, and a lot of books lying around the house at my disposal.
My first chapter books were the Hardy Boystitles, so they are the reason I love mysteries. As an adult, some of myfavorite authors are Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly and Greg Iles, so naturallyI write what I love to read – mystery/suspense novels. DEAD MAN`S HAND has beencompared to James Patterson books, which to me is an honour. Maybe in style(short chapters, a quick read), as I have read many of his books.
Plot: I get my ideas from stories I hearabout, whether through reading (newspapers, magazines, etc.), what I hear(radio) or what I see (TV, movies, internet, etc.). The plot is completelyfictional. I wouldn't say that one thing or person influences my writing, but avariety of my life experiences all have led to my passion in the written word.There is not a single moment in time when this idea came to be, butcircumstances over the years that led to this story: my hockey injuries,frequent visits to Las Vegas, my love of football, crime books and movies. DeadMan’s Hand became real from mixing these events, taking advantage of experts intheir field, and adding my wild imagination. The internet also provides awealth of information, available at our fingertips with a click of the mouse.
Setting: I usually set my stories in citiesI`ve visited and fell in love with. Las Vegas was the perfect backdrop for thisstory, glitz and glamour as well as an untapped underground.
Characters: I have never been involved in ahomicide investigation, LOL. Although I am not a 6’5”, 220 poundAfrican-American, I’ve used much of my athletic background when creating myprotagonist Calvin Watters. Watters past as an athlete, and his emotionalroller coaster brought on by injuries were drawn from my experiences. His motherdied of cancer when he was young, as mine was. There are certainly elements ofmyself in Calvin, but overall, this is a work of fiction. I did not base thecharacters or plot on any real people or events. Any familiarities are strictlycoincidence.
I’ve always been a self-motivated person,and my harshest critic. Whether it was in school, hockey or writing, I’ve beenthe one to put the most pressure on myself to succeed, to be the best ineverything I try.
- What was the most difficult part in trying to get published?
Every step of the way, through the wholepublishing journey, is a challenge.
Step one: writing that great novel. Manypeople have actually started writing novels, but very few finish. So congratulateyourself, you have done something that most people only think about doing. Toactually have the patience, persistence and determination to complete amanuscript is a huge accomplishment. It’s time consuming and sometimes justplain discouraging. Kudos.
Step two: finding that agent who will sellyour book. Talk about a long process. Query letter after query letter, rejection after rejection, it seems like there is no light at the end of thetunnel. But you have to stay positive and truly believe that there is someoneout there who will fall in love with your book and writing. The key is toresearch which agent is looking for what, and be at the right place at the righttime. To be honest, there is some luck involved.
Step three: finding a publisher to printyour book. If you were lucky enough to find an agent to represent your work,way to go, you’re halfway home. Signing an agent doesn’t guarantee youpublication, but it sure makes life easier. Now you just have to wait it out,and trust me, this can be agonizing. Let your agent do the work, just startwriting that next book.
The main thing is to be patient. It can betough. You’re excited about your book and you want to see it in print, but itall takes time. I started writing DEAD MAN’S HAND in 2005, and it was releasedin October 2012. That’s seven years of waiting, but man, has it been worth it.
So if you think that one month you’ve beenwaiting since sending out query letters is a long wait, just think of my sevenyear publishing journey.
Nowadays, for me, the most difficult thingabout writing has nothing to do with actual writing (ideas, flow, writer`sblock, etc.), but it`s finding the time.
Between teaching and tutoring, with threesmall children and a wife at home, finding the time to sit down at a computerand have serious, quality writing time is almost impossible.
But I love my girls and spending qualitytime with them is a great feeling. I wouldn’t give up my games ofring-around-the-rosie and duck-duck-goose for anything in the world. It justputs writing my next novel behind a bit.
- Obviously, playing for theNational Hockey League helped with writing the weekly sports column. Do you feel that playing for the NHL hasgifted you with experiences that have benefited your fiction writing?
The term “practice makes perfect” canbasically relate to anything you do. Hockey and writing are no different. Many people might not see a connectionbetween writing and hockey, but there are many similarities in not only yourpreparation, but “musts” once you’re there.
In both hockey and writing, you need threethings: patience, persistence and thick skin.
My transition from professional hockeyplayer to published author was surprisingly smooth. They have 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 andwriting worlds are small communities, filled with people who want to help yousucceed. In order to find success, in both you need to be persistent andconfident.
- Your website says that yourtrue love is fiction. Would you say thatwriting for your local newspaper helped you get recognised by agents/publishersas a professional writer?
I don’t think my column helped me getnoticed by agents and publishers, but it probably added to the credibility ofmy writing. I wrote for a very small, rural newspaper with a small circulation,so I don’t think the “big boys” in NYC saw it. But it did give me the chance towrite every day, which has certainly benefited my writing, allowing me thetime and practice to hone my craft.
- You are clearly an ambitiousperson who never gives up on their dreams. Have you got any tips to helpwriters battling the slush pile and getting rejections?
Get a part-time job to pay the bills(ha ha). Just kidding. Honestly, for anyone who wants to be a writer, you needto have three things: patience, determination and thick skin. You can`t letanyone 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-movingmachine, and you need to wait it out. Never quit or give up on your dreams.
- Holding qualifications inmarketing and education, you seem to be in a suitable position to teach us howto promote our writing. What lessons wouldyou like to share?
A platform is crucial for a writer thesedays. I hate to say it, but sometimes your platform is more important than thequality of your writing. Just look at how many celebrities are having bookspublished.
Once my publishing contract was signed,then the real work began, building my “platform”. I knew that when I signed onwith a smaller publisher that the bulk of the promotion load would fall on myshoulders, and I accepted that.
I did four things quickly: created my ownwebsite, started a blog, and opened a Facebook page and Twitter account.
Now, I have been fortunate to have had manyjobs in my life, jobs that have created interest in not only myself, but what Ido.
Here are some things I did next:
- Iscribed a letter to all of my email contacts (2500) and all of my FB friends(2500).
- Iscribed a letter for all of the media outlets (radio, TV, print) in the citieswhere I played hockey, or have contacts. One of the benefits of playingprofessional hockey was that I went through a lot of interviews withpersonalities in all forms of media.
- Ipicked out the site for my launch party and spoke with the owner about it.
- Iplayed hockey for teams and leagues all over North America, creating a fan basein a variety of cities, and also worked in hockey camps, so I already had somefollowers that I contacted.
- Iwas a reporter on the radio for a couple of years after retiring from hockey,and my radio reporting was a presence on the web as well as in radio.
- Mysports column (2006-2009), Overtime, which was a main feature in The PontiacEquity, not only had a following but helped in writing concise and excitingprose.
- Icomposed a list of local stores for potential book signings
- Icompiled a list of local stores to sell my book
- I started creating relationships on theinternet through Facebook and Twitter. I met not only authors, but fans of thegenres I write.
When my book was released in October, 2012,I felt I had a solid foundation to stand on, but I still had a long way to go.
I contacted media for interviews, held booksignings, joined shows and blog toured. I contacted anyone who wrote a blog andasked about being a guest. I joined Pinterest, Linkedin, and Google +, as wellas sites created to support Indie authors. I did anything I could to get myname out there and get my book in front of readers.
My publisher set up special promotionswhere my book was FREE on Amazon for certain periods of time. All of this wasdone to increase my following, and expand the awareness of my book on aworldwide scale. This will hopefully lead to future sales with not only mydébut novel, but subsequent books if I’ve fortunate enough to write more.
I’ve been happy with the result thus far,but I don’t have anything to compare it to. I feel that the more books I write,the more success I will have. The more I get out there, the more excitement andinterest is garnered.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. J
- Have you got any advice on whatpotential authors should do or should look out for?
Times are changing. Guilty as charged,okay, I admit it, I don’t have an ereader. There is just something aboutholding a book in my hands, the smell and the feel. I can’t explain it but forme I love holding an actual book. That being said, I sell a ton more ebooksthan I do paperback, so I appreciate where society is taking us into apaperless future. As for publishing, I’ve always been a traditional kind ofguy, but I realize times have changed, and more writers are gaining anopportunity, exposure and a chance to get their books in front of readersthough self-publishing and PODs. I think I just enjoy the challenge of beingevaluated by my peers, and I think that it is more fulfilling when you realizethat a publisher wants to take a chance on your work, rather than you paying tohave it done. But I have heard very positive things about self-publishing. It’sdifferent for everyone.
- Spoiler alert! What can we hope to see from you in thefuture?
I’m currently working on my second novel,another crime-thriller, following the career of rookie, female LAPD detectiveCharlene Taylor.
I would love to write another book. Rightnow, I have a full time job (teaching), a part-time tutoring job, and threesmall children (all girls, YIKES!!).
I don`t have much time to write, but when Iget a chance, I do all I can. It could take some time, but eventually I wouldlove to write a series of novels featuring Calvin Watters. But I will not limitmy novels to Calvin Watters, as I would like to write a variety of novels, allin the crime-thriller genres.