Mur Laffertyis the winner of the 2013 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Her new urban fantasy novel, Ghost Train to New Orleans, the second book in the Shambling Guide series, was released on Tuesday and is available wherever books are sold. Mur is the creator and host of the highly acclaimed I Should Be Writing podcast, winner of the 2007 Parsec Award for Best Writing Podcast. Visit her at THE MURVERSE ANEX or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
I discovered I Should be Writing about a year ago as I neared completion of A Shot at Redemption, my debut novel. I had no idea what to do next and I thank Mur for all her guidance and advice. She also turned me on to a literary genre I really didn’t think I’d like. Click here to read my new review of The Shambling Guide to New York City. Mur was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule answer some of my questions about her experiences as an author and podcaster.
Q: How would you describe your own writing?
A: Humorous speculative fiction. I do urban fantasy, mythology, folklore, and zombies with a twisted bent.
Q: What do you think is your biggest strength as an author?
A: I can make people laugh.
Q: What’s your biggest weakness?
A: Writing vivid description is like pulling teeth for me. It’s so hard, and even when I’m aware of it and approach the problem, it doesn’t get easier.
Q: What was the biggest mistake you made in your attempts to get published?
A: I quit for 10 years.
Q: What is your long term plan for the Shambling Guide series?
A: Hope I get another contract for more books! Beyond that, I’d like to take the stories to San Francisco, Orlando, Boston, and some international cities like London and beyond.
Q: In The Shambling Guide to New York City, Zoe is hired to write a travel guide for any undead visiting New York. Excerpts from that travel book are scattered throughout the novel. When were the excerpts written in regard to the rest of the manuscript?
A: I wrote them at the end of each chapter. It worked out that way so I could write some travel bits that connected to the preceding chapter.
Q: You refer to I should Be Writing as “the podcast for wannabe fiction writers.” When you started the podcast way back when, you would have put yourself in that category. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned since sending out that first query letter?
A: I need to have self confidence and consider self doubt a luxury I can’t afford.
Q: Your podcasts have always been very candid an even self deprecating. Has the podcasting process helped in dealing with your own struggles?
A: It makes me feel less alone as I know there are thousands listening that know what I’m talking about. At least, according to the email I get. 🙂
Q: What is the biggest mistake you see new authors make?
A: They ignore “the man” and run straight to self pub when their writing isn’t accepted immediately. There’s a fine line between self publishing something of quality because a publisher can’t find a home for it, or you have a readership you know you can reach, and rage-publishing your first novel after you get a rejection that hurts your feelings. The process of dealing with “the gatekeepers” does more than hurt your feelings, it makes you a better writer because it often points out things that are wrong with your writing.
And this final question comes from Mr. Curtin’s AP English class at Windsor Central High School. They recently read To Kill a Mocking Bird and have since been discussing symbolism. Full disclosure here. My son and most of his classmates believe symbolism is a bunch of hooey.
Q: I know you’re a student of writing and literature. Without going into too much detail, how often do you think symbolism is a deliberate device by the author versus something that’s completely misinterpreted by readers/critics? In other words, when is a cigar just a cigar?
A: Sorry, but I think it’s both. I’m seeing this in my own writing, telling stories that I didn’t consciously intend to. We have a narrative subconscious that we share, it goes back into folklore and myth (many cultures have an Oedipus figure, for example, or a god that dies and returns). Did Lee sit down to say, “Here is where I will put in the Christ figure” – I’m betting not. But writers who read and write a lot begin to write stories on different levels. They write the story they’re writing, but they’re putting in subconscious story elements as they go. They probably don’t even see it; they’re too close to the story. So it’s real, but I think it’s hooey that writers sit down to deliberately make it happen.