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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

An Interview with Gary William Murning

Today I'm very pleased to welcome to my writing blog the novelist Gary William Murning.

Gary is a writer from the north-east of England. His novel If I Never was published by Legend Press in August 2009.

Gary has Type II spinal muscular atrophy. He is an enthusiastic Internet user - I first 'met' him on Twitter - and he has a blog at www.garymurning.wordpress.com.

Without further ado, then, let's get down to the interview...

ND: Welcome to my blog, Gary. Could I start by asking how you got started as a writer? Is If I Never your first novel?

GWM: I started writing novels "seriously" when I was about 20. I'd finished sixth form college a couple of years earlier due to ill-health - exacerbated by my disability. I had time to fill and since I loved reading and writing, this seemed the ideal solution. My early attempts, of course, were complete rubbish, but I quickly started to see improvement.

No, If I Never is... well, actually, I've lost count - but it's probably about my 21st novel. It is, however, the first to be published, which sounds terrible, I know, but that's the nature of the business today. I've had years of encouraging comments and close calls and, if I'm truthful, I was probably close to resigning myself to the fact that it might never happen. And, then, quite unexpectedly, I get the email I've been looking forward to for, quite literally, decades!

ND: How would you categorize If I Never? What was the inspiration behind it?

GWM: I always have trouble categorizing my own work. My publisher uses the word "mainstream" - occasionally "light literary" - which feels about right.

I am finding, however, that some are describing it as a thriller. They all acknowledge that there is rather more to it than that, but that also feels about right, too.

As for the inspiration behind it, I'm still not entirely sure! It was one of those novels that came together piece by piece over a period of time. There was no Epiphany, just a steady drip drip of ideas. I wanted to explore a relationship that existed in some way on the fringes of society - two people who were very much meant for each other but who, nonetheless, had to contend with considerable external influences. Much of it came in the writing. It was very much a roll your sleeves up and get on with it kind of novel!

ND: The narrator of If I Never and his girlfriend both have unusual medical conditions, which you are clearly quite knowledgeable about. I wondered if you have had medical training, or if medicine is a particular interest of yours?

GWM: Thanks to the Internet, Nick, it's incredibly easy to appear knowledgeable about just about anything, these days! I actually have no medical training - but whilst medicine and medical conditions aren't really particular interests, I do quite often find myself reading about them. I'm a bit of an intellectual magpie, I suppose. I flit from one subject - particle physics, biology, Renaissance art - to another - who's going to win win Strictly Come Dancing or X Factor - collecting anything shiny! And every now and then, it finds a place in my writing!

ND: If I Never covers some controversial topics and includes some quite disturbing scenes. Were you at all concerned that some people might be put off reading the novel because of this?

GWM: Whilst writing it, no. I try my best never to consider such things when working on a novel. It can be incredibly inhibiting. Plus, given my track record, I wasn't really expecting it to find a publisher! Once the book was out there, though, I must admit, I did start to worry a little. In places it is quite uncompromising - and to be fair to myself, I think it had to be - and it was pretty clear that some people would take exception to certain parts of it. And one or two have.

The overwhelming reaction, however, has been very encouraging. Most people seem to grasp that this kind of novel can't tiptoe around certain issues. It would lose credibility if it did and, I think, do a disservice to those who find themselves in similar situations in the real world.

ND: You have been promoting If I Never quite actively on Twitter and so on. Do you enjoy this, or do you regard it as a necessary evil?

GWM: Oh, I love it! The whole promotional aspect is proving really enjoyable - primarily because it allows me to meet new people and interact with my readers. As I'm sure you know, writing can be a pretty lonely job, at times, and talking to people about my work really helps to provide balance... on occasion, it even helps me to understand my writing even more.

ND: People are always fascinated by how writers work. Are there any particular times of the day you like to write best? Do you have any unusual working habits or routines?

GWM: I always like to write first thing on a morning. I try not to do anything else prior to starting on my 1000 words. Looking at news websites etc can be pretty fatal, so I avoid at all costs. It usually takes me about an hour to get 1000 words down (I use voice recognition software, so work quite quickly.) Once I've done this, I read through what I've written, making the odd correction here and there (no major edits at this stage!) and then get on with related work - answering emails, taking care of promotional stuff, annoying people on Twitter, that kind of thing!

ND: Are there any other writers whose work has particularly inspired you? I thought I detected a slight Irvine Welsh influence, for example!

GWM: There are many writers who have inspired me, I guess. Irvine Welsh... not really (sorry!). I do admire his work (though I haven't read him for a few years) but I never really read him and thought to myself "That's what I want to do". The writers who most did that to me would have to be guys like John Irving, Joseph Heller, Ken Kesey, William Boyd... the list is pretty endless.

ND: One question I like to ask every writer I interview on this blog – what are your three favorite websites, and why?

GWM: That would depend on my mood and what I was looking for but, well, right now I have a few windows open and let's see what we've got... The Official Richard Dawkins Website. This is one I return to again and again. Leaving aside the whole God issue, Dawkins has such a clear, and often quite beautiful, way of communicating the intricacies of his science and his passion for it that I never tire of it. Next we have the Legend Press website. During the week, I visit this two or three times a day to keep up with what my fellow Legend Press authors are up to. And finally... Goodreads.com - my author page there. Love this website. Apart from the promotional opportunities - I recently did a book giveaway on there and it went really well - it's simply a great place for people who enjoy books. Definitely recommend it.

ND: And what is the one most important piece of advice you would like to pass on to other aspiring novelists?

GWM: Really, I think it's simply a case of reading as much as you can, writing as much as you can and keeping at it. This is a pretty tough business to get into, but the more work you submit the more the odds stack in your favour. Don't expect it to happen overnight, though. It can be a long haul and if you don't love writing for the sake of it I'd seriously consider trying something else.

ND: Finally, other than promoting If I Never, are you working on any other projects at the moment?

GWM: At the moment, I'm working on what should hopefully be my third Legend Press novel, As Morning Shows the Day. I'm also editing my next novel, Children of the Resolution (which should hit the shelves later next year), and I'm in the early stages of outlining a novel called Out Of Season - which probably won't won't be published until 2012. So, yes, I'm keeping busy!

And loving every minute of it!

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Thank you very much to Gary for agreeing to be interviewed on my blog and for providing such detailed and interesting answers to my questions.

If you would like to order If I Never, or read the generally excellent reviews, it's available via Amazon (see image link below) and all good bookstores.


And finally, if you have any comments or questions for Gary, please feel free to leave them as Comments below and I'm sure Gary will be along very soon to answer them!

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