Dragon Soul Press sat down to interview J.C. Murray, an author of the Dragons & Heroines anthology.
1. Have you always wanted to be a writer?
If you had asked me when I was 12, I would have said yes. Back then I wrote what amounted to Black Beauty and Animorphs fan fiction and scribbled comics starring my siblings and me.
Something painfully practical took over down the road, and I majored in biology and worked in other fields. I returned to writing by accident. I got into table-top role-playing games, and found myself writing more character backstory and setting lore than I could use in a lifetime. Around 2018, I realized they were stories, and started quietly writing just for fun. In 2020, 3 months before the world turned upside down, I started taking it more seriously.
2. How do you come up with the titles to your books?
I loathe picking titles. I never feel confident they capture the idea in my head, or aren’t cliche. I write most stories with placeholder titles like “sad robot story” and invent a label only after the piece is finished by playing with ideas until something sticks.
3. Is there lots to do before you drive in and start writing the story?
Very much so, I outline. I can’t write until I know which dots to connect. I find the degree to which the writing community pushes the plotter-vs-pantser debate interesting. From listening to or reading author interviews, it seems that each writer’s process is unique, and the amount of pre-planning truly is a spectrum.
I pre-plan major plot points, but all the juicy details in between flow once I get started. So, I think the writer I am today is 70% plotter.
4. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I am very much at the beginning of my writing journey. I have one complete unpublished manuscript written in 2020, queried in 2021. I am revising my second fantasy manuscript inspired by the Bronze Age collapse about misfits on an adventure surviving the fallout of a crumbling empire. I will start querying that one in early 2022. I’ve written about a dozen short stories, of which Yasmine Learns to Fly is the second published.
Picking a favorite is so hard! They are all so different. If I had to choose, my favorite is the unpublished short story I affectionately think of as “Casablanca with Mer-folk.”
5. Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?
I am 90% sure I plan to take 2022 off from novels to focus on craft through short stories. Hopefully genre lit mag fans see my name pop up here and there before too long.
I’m leaving the door cracked open for a novel idea to sink its claws in and refuse to let go.
6. Who is your favorite author and why?
The last author I read, usually.
But, seriously, right now I am obsessed with Evan Winter (The Burning series).
Winter’s books are so intense. He writes clean, invisible prose about flawed people stuck in impossible situations. The Rage of Dragons is a masterclass of both crafting and conveying a magic system so the reader deeply feels the cost of accessing that power. Plus, dragons and demons!
7. Share something your readers wouldn’t know about you.
I’ve hiked the first 100 miles or so of the Appalachian trail. I would love to go back and through-hike it one day.
8. What famous author do you wish would be your mentor?
Wesley Chu. I recently enjoyed his Lives of Tao series. I find his brand of action-humor refreshing, unique, and yet somehow attainable. As a person with a career jumping back into writing in my late 20’s, I find his career arc (from I.S. technician to stuntman to author) relatable. Ok, not the Hollywood stuntman part, but for everything else, I’d love to pick his brain over a cup of coffee. How to balance writing and a day job, how to keep improving, etc.
9. How many bookshelves are in your house?
Six, all bursting. My wife is a painter, so she organizes the books on the main three in the living room by color.
10. Who is the author you most admire in your genre?
I deeply respect N.K. Jemisin (The Broken Earth trilogy, The City We Became).
Jemisin’s writing is just so powerful. It’s beautiful at the line-level. She’s mastered hidden worldbuilding. She plays with stakes so well – her books are both deeply personal and capture that epic feeling we expect from fantasy adventures. On top of all that, she’s going to leave your mind a pile of mush as you chew on what you read for days after closing the last page.
She’s pushing boundaries in more ways than one.
11. Where can readers learn more about you?
The best place to chit-chat with me is on Twitter.
I blog about books I’ve read and general writerly thoughts on my website every Tuesday.
If you’re into that, you can see my blog posts interspersed with memes over on the Murray’s Bookshelf Facebook page or on Tumblr.
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