About William Timothy Murray:
I was born in southern Georgia (United States), and I still reside in northeast Georgia. I’ve lived long enough to see the tremendous changes that have taken place in the landscape and culture of the American South. I think my writing reflects some of what I remember and see. Although The Year of the Red Door is a fantasy, many of the things within the tale come from my observations and personal experiences. Small town life, rural hardships, poverty, work ethics, etc. I have a deep love for the folktales, legends, and myths of the world, especially Greek and European myths and legends. But, of course, I also love the legends and folktales from my part of the world, too. The love of old stories, myths, and legends has definitely influenced my writing. I enjoy fiction from the 19th Century, and also 20th Century non-fiction, particularly that which pertains to the World Wars (having known many veterans who fought during those wars). Some of my favorite authors are Charles Dickens, J.R.R. Tolkien, Patrick O’Brian, Victor Hugo, and Boris Pasternak.
Besides writing, I do a lot of tinkering with computers, cars, and other machinery. I’m an amateur astronomer and love to gaze at the stars though my telescope. I also enjoy small boat sailing, gardening, and flying in small airplanes. I don’t socialize a lot, but I do enjoy attending certain reading groups where we read and discuss various stories.
I have a deep appreciation for the working person. During my life I have had a lot of jobs. I started working very early (when I was seven years old). I’ve been a radio announcer and DJ, a researcher for Hollywood movie producers, a farm laborer, a factory worker, and a construction laborer. I’ve worked in cabinet shops, in restaurants, and at gas stations (back when they were full service). And I worked full-time in an academic library for over 30 years.
Music has always been a very important part of my life. I do have some formal musical training, but I no longer play any instruments regularly. I prefer classical music and I have a soft spot for Tchaikovsky and Beethoven. But I also love Celtic music and I listen to a lot of contemporary cinema music. Right now, I’m listening a lot to a group called Revien.
I’ve been writing nearly all of my life, and I wrote my first short story when I was seven years old. Other than a few newspaper articles (written under a pseudonym), The Year of the Red Door is the first major work by me that has been published.
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What inspires you to write?
Perhaps more than anything else, what inspires me to write is the compulsion to explore the characters, settings, and situations that enter my imagination. I feel as if I must record those as best as I can, and try to weave all that into a somewhat coherent narrative.
More tangibly (perhaps), music provokes a certain kind of imagery in me, sparking my imagination in a way that few other things will do.
All that said, the specific initial inspiration for The Year of the Red Door came from the tale of the King of the Wood as described by Sir James George Frazier in The Golden Bough. That got me wondering and imagining the various scenarios of paranoia and power, and of people seemingly trapped by fate or destiny.
Tell us about your writing process.
I suppose you might call me a seat-of-the-pants writer. I only outline after I’ve written a substantial portion of a story, and then only for reference purposes. I don’t usually create any character sketches ahead of time unless it is part of world-building or background studies that I do. In other words, I often discover the emerging aspects of a character as I write.
I normally write in longhand, using notepads or spiral-ring notebooks. Then I scan those drafts into pdfs and transcribe them into a document, doing some editing as I go along. Once I’ve transcribed a whole story, then the real editing begins.
An important part of my editing process is to have the story read to me aloud. Hearing the words often reveals problems that would otherwise get missed. As the story is being read aloud to me, I follow along, word by word, and I halt the reading when I must stop and do editing. This reading aloud is so important to me that I go through the procedure several times during the overall editing process.
Including the back-and-forth with my editors, a story might get edited twenty or thirty times. In spite of all that, things still get missed. It’s important to me that my editors offer suggestions, not because I’ll take their suggestion, but because those suggestions are an indication to me where the editor is coming from. That in itself offers some clues about how a passage might need to be revised, or how effective a passage is at getting the reader (editor) into a certain mode of thought. When a revision is suggested, I often find that when there is a problem with a certain word or phrase, it is a kind of “tip of the iceberg,” and there is an underlying problem with the passage. I can’t stress how important it is to have editors, and how important it is to go over everything many times.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
My characters seem very real to me. I don’t necessarily talk to them (well, maybe sometimes), but I hear and see them in my mind. I hear their accent and tone of voice, and I see their gestures and facial expressions.
Sometimes, though, I like to ‘audition’ different actors to play a certain character. It helps me understand the characters a little better and gives me a better perspective. For example, I’ve put Tom Cruise through the paces of portraying Robigor Ribbon (the father of the main character in The Bellringer). I knew it would be a stretch for Cruise because the character is not an action figure and speaks with a heavy accent. But I also had Paul Giamatti, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant, Sean Bean, and Rufus Sewell audition for the part. Sometimes I only used their voices. And, in my imagination, I sometimes had the real ‘Robigor Ribbon’ sit beside me during the audition so that I could see if he approved or not. It was a good mental exercise that helped me flesh out certain things about the character because each actor brought out or emphasized different aspects of Robigor Ribbon. Just because I invented a character doesn’t mean that I fully understand that character right from the start.
What advice would you give other writers?
I’ve learned the importance of writing every single day, and learning to write in any environment. So my first advice is to always have pen and notebook with you wherever you go and use every work break and lunch break to write. If you are in the doctor’s waiting room, write. If you are waiting for the bus, write. You must write something every day, and you must write as well as you can every single time. Don’t be like me and fall for technology. Using a pen and paper is a thousand times more effective than any app or keyboard. I learned that the hard way. Besides, pen and paper are more rugged and more portable. They don’t need recharging, and they won’t interrupt you or tempt you to chat with others.
My second bit of advice is along the same line. I’m a techie and a programmer. I have owned and used written programming for computers, tablets, and smart phones for a very long time. I can tell you this: While writing, you can’t be connected to what you are writing if you are connected to your electronics. Turn them off. Believe me, I know how hard that is to do. But the quality of your writing will soar as a result. You will focus better, you will delve deeper, you will develop your skills faster, and you will tell a better story.
My third bit of advice is built upon those first two bits. It is this: Demand of the universe your writing space and time. That means that whether you explain it to others or not, you must insist on your daily writing time and your writing space. If it is a park bench (such as where much of my own writing has taken place), pick one that is away from other people who would wish to chat. If it is at home, make it a time and place away from your family. Yes, after a while this will set you apart from your fellow human beings. That will create problems, misunderstandings, and friction. But it is absolutely necessary if you want to be serious about writing.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I knew early on that the chances were very low that a traditional publisher would take on The Year of the Red Door. It is a long tale, it is different, and it does not fit into the current mold of what a fantasy should be. However, I decided to try the traditional publishing route anyway, since I had nothing to lose but time.
I acquired a high-powered agent who saw the worth of the work. He tried his best with dozens of publishers. Many were tempted, but were (I think) afraid to take the risk. Many publishers expressed the concerns that I had predicted: too long, too in-depth, too ‘old school.’ Many wanted radical changes made before they would seriously consider publishing The Year of the Red Door. Some simply could not figure out what marketing demographic it would appeal to. I got lots of positive feedback on the writing and the story, but no takers. At one publishing house, it created quite a stir and debate among the editors and marketing people. From what I gather, it went back and forth and more and more people at the publishing house were drawn into the debate. In the end, they declined to take it on.
So I set out to do what I thought from the very beginning I would have to do. I created my own publishing company (Penflight Books), and I began the publishing work myself.
The lesson here is to try different routes, see what happens, and learn from the process. If you retain the rights to your work, you can always shift to a different route if one does not pan out. Assess your work very carefully. Make any changes that you feel would enhance its chances for readership ONLY if those changes do not undermine the story or the quality of writing. And learn everything you can about the publishing business, about self-publishing, marketing, and book production.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
Publishing is, at is core, a production industry that is highly dependent on existing technology. It has changed as technology has changed. Look at the change that took place when the printing press was invented. Then look what happened when steam-power supplied machinery the means of printing huge quantities of print. And consider what happened when telecommunications enabled stories to be wired around the world. Bear all that in mind when thinking about publishing and current technological trends. And remember, publishing is about producing something that will be sold in the marketplace at a profit. Like cars, coffee, or clothing. Publishing is not an art, it is a business.
It looks to me that three general demographics of readers are emerging that will affect publishing: Electronic Readers, Print Readers, and Hybrid Readers. Each of these groups of readers has its own particular expectations and demands and each has its own reading styles and preferences. That means that the product that a publisher puts out cannot be a compromise, but must fulfill the expectations of each demographic group. Print Readers demand good quality interior layouts, for instance. Electronic Readers demand electronic access to maps, images, and other resources pertaining to what they are reading. The successful publisher will reach these readers by fulfilling their expectations, and the publisher will do so in a way so that every part of the supply chain, from the author to the bookseller, will profit.
That said, the big publishers are, I think, doomed unless they successfully convert to a service industry model such as CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing, or Smashwords. Right now, they don’t seem to know that they are competing against CreateSpace, etc. Most of the big publishers have already shifted the burden of marketing and promotion to their authors. Most of the big publishers are actually only doing production work, that is, sending material to be printed and managing distribution of the product. But if the big publishers shifted and made access to offset printing more widely available to independent authors, then they might survive. I don’t think they’ll do it. I think the big publishers will continue to devolve into media outlets serving celebrities and non-print media media such as internet, cable programming, television, and movies.
What do you use?: Professional Editor, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?: Fantasy
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print
All information in this post is presented “as is” supplied by the author. We don’t edit to allow you the reader to hear the author in their own voice.