Author Interview: Alice H. Murray

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

To fully appreciate my answer, you need to know what I look like. I’m of Irish descent and have red hair. (And freckles, or sun kisses as my mother called them, too.) And who was my early heroine? Why Brenda Starr the beautiful and talented journalist in the comic strips. She led an exciting life with newspaper assignments to exotic places and a romance with mystery man. In pursuit of that career goal, I wrote plenty of stories to hone my writing skills, read the newspaper daily (it was worth reading back then, but I digress), and wrote for my high school newspaper, eventually becoming its co-editor my senior year. But then (drum roll), I took a political science class and fell in love with the law. Even more attractive about it? I could utilize my writing skills to be persuasive in that profession. So, good bye Brenda and hello law school.

Are there any books/authors that inspired you to be an author?  

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a child. I simply devoured Nancy Drew books as a young girl. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the next book about the girl sleuth. What a dream I thought it would be to be able to pen books that inspired people to read like that. As an adult, I find it ironic my first book was an annotation of an Agatha Christie work. The unbelievable success of Agatha Christie mysteries inspired the publisher to come up with the Nancy Drew series for girls.

Have you listened to any audiobooks? Which did you enjoy the most?

Audiobooks are a go-to item when I travel by car. Time passes much more quickly and the trip is more pleasant when the car occupants are absorbed in a good story. When my kids were young, we wouldn’t travel without them. The Cat Who book series was a favorite of ours. It provided a mystery for the adults, was appropriate for all ages, and entertained the entire family. As an adult, especially when traveling by myself, I’ve indulged in deeper works presented via audiobook that make you really think or teach you something.

What’s the best money you’ve ever spent with regard to your writing?

Paying dues to belong to Word Weavers International, a Christian writers’ group, is undoubtedly the best money I’ve spent to improve my writing and advance my writing career. The group is divided into chapters which meet monthly for critiquing each other’s work. The members encourage each other, share writing opportunities, and exchange tips. All the critique given is constructive and offered in a caring, respectful manner. Members of the group are fellow writers and “get” you. They also can offer practical advice whereas family members and friends who read my work are simply apt to tell me it’s “good.” I want to know if the work doesn’t flow, is confusing, has grammatical errors, etc.

If you could spend a day with another popular author, whom would you choose?

Hands down, I’d choose the prolific John Grisham. I think we’d feel a kinship as fellow attorneys who practiced and then turned to writing. I’d love to hear how “thinking like a lawyer” (which they drill into your head during law school) translates to writing a best-seller.

What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given about writing?

I’ve heard several times and from several different people that you should just get your first draft written without trying to polish it into a finished product. You can go back and edit it later, but the initial chore is to get your thoughts down. You lose the creative flow if you stop to figure out if a comma is needed or to look up the correct spelling of a word. Focus on one thing at a time. Create in the first draft. Polish (and polish and polish) in the editing phase.

At what point do you think someone should call themselves a writer?

If you write, you are a writer. You may not be published, but you are a writer. I like the definition Wikipedia gives for a writer: “A writer is a person who uses written words…to communicate ideas.” You’re a published writer or author at a later point than being a writer. You had to be a writer to write that book or article that got published, right? You don’t become a writer after the fact.

8. Do you prefer ebooks, printed books, or audiobooks most of the time?

Nothing beats having a tangible book in your hands. (Exception: when you are traveling and all car occupants listen to an audiobook together.) It’s fun to turn pages and easy to flip back to confirm who that character is or what they said. And I’m an inveterate underliner, highlighter, and comment writer in books I own. If I find a cool quote, note an error, disagree with a statement, I mark it. I even write definitions in the margins when I find a word I don’t know. You too can multitask–read and improve your vocabulary at the same time!

What’s your favorite and least favorite part of publishing?

I think the universal answer for all writers is that their least favorite part of publishing is having a piece you have put your heart and soul into rejected by a publisher/editor. And worse? Sometimes the publisher/editor never bothers to even do you the courtesy of telling you they are rejecting you. (Did their mothers not teach them any manners?) Apparently, you are supposed to figure out at some point, months down the road, that no news is rejection news. I’d prefer a form rejection letter/canned email to not hearing anything at all. At least I’d know that door had closed, and I could move on. My favorite part of publishing is notification that your work has been chosen for publication. This news puts you on cloud nine. Words can’t express (and I’m good at using words) that feeling of elation, accomplishment, and amazement.

Do you play music when you write? If so, what’s your favorite?  

Oh, no. I am in my own little world when I’m writing. I want to be absorbed in that task and not distracted. I need quiet. Once I took a vacation to the US Virgin Islands. While being driven around the small island of St. John, I told myself if I ever won a lottery (not too likely since I don’t buy lottery tickets…), I’d get a place on that peaceful, quiet, and gorgeous spot to do my writing away from the day-to-day hubbub.

Now that who I am is no longer a secret, I hope you’ll be enticed to check out my book, The Secret of Chimneys.

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Radio Spot: Christian Mix 106: Murray’s Motivational Moment Mondays at 10 and 2 CT.