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GARY WILLIAM MURNING – THE REALM OF THE HUNGRY GHOSTS

In crime on March 13, 2012 at 6:19 am

English author, Gary William Murning talks about publishing and starting his own micro-biz to get those” hard to place” books to his readership. 
First of all, please, introduce yourself to our readers.   Image

 

I’m forty-five, from the north-east of England and have been writing in one form or another for the biggest part of my life. I love the written word, the power it possesses and its ability to bring people together and inform. Writing, for me, is a pretty integral part of who I am. It helps me understand the world around me, put it into perspective. I relate to people better, I think, because I write.

 
You describe your work as largely mainstream fiction, focuses on themes that touch us all — love, death, loss and aspiration — but always with an eye to finding an unusual angle or viewpoint. Has it always been your goal to write about this topics or it came to you gradually? 

This is something that just developed, I’d say. It’s a very broad brief, and not one I consciously think about all that often. I mean, I don’t start my day by saying, “Right, mainstream fiction focusing on themes that touch everyone.” But when I look back at the work I’ve written, that is very definitely an accurate summation of what I do, consciously or otherwise. I like characters that are somehow on the edge or the fringes of society, that kind of thing. Or, rather, people who are perceived that way. So I suppose it’s fairly natural that I would find myself writing the kind of stuff I write.

I actually started off, originally, writing purely horror fiction, funnily enough. That was the kind of writing that inspired me in my youth (many, many moons ago!) I grew up reading writers like Stephen King, William Peter Blatty, James Herbert, Ray Russell et al, and that’s where I, as we all do, started – trying to emulate the writers I then admired.

Your first book, If I Never, was published by Legend Press. Tell us about it. When was it published? What happened when a publishing house like Legend Press accepts your MS?

 It was published late 2009, just when I’d pretty much given up hearing back from Legend. I’d originally submitted to them a novel called The Realm of the Hungry Ghosts (more about that in a moment!) and their editor at that time had really liked it, though she didn’t feel that the “supernatural” elements were quite right for their list. She therefore requested more work and I sent her what I had of If I Never, which I was working on at the time. I quickly heard back from her asking me when it would be completed. I gave her a tentative completion date and sure enough she got back in touch with me around that time to see if I was ready to show her the rest. Which I was. So I sent it off and… she left her post for another job elsewhere. I wrote a few e-mails of enquiry but everything went very quiet for about eighteen months. I’d pretty much forgotten all about it. I’d started work on another novel – a very large project that I was pretty much just writing for myself, the recession making me think that publication wasn’t something even worth chasing under such conditions. And it was going well. I was extremely happy with what I was writing, feeling that, once the economy was back on its feet, it would actually be pretty marketable, and I wasn’t really thinking of the publishing side of writing at all. And sure enough, I get an e-mail from Tom Chalmers, the MD at Legend Press, asking me if If I Never is still looking for a home and telling me that if it is, he’d like to discuss it with me. There followed a long, exciting telephone conversation and within a short time the contract was signed.The actual process was very speedy once it started. The editorial work went very smoothly and quickly (possibly a little too quickly for my liking, if I’m honest), I was involved with that cover artwork decisions and, all in all, it was a fairly pain-free process.

The second novel, Children of the Resolution, was published in 2011. Who published it and what was your experience about it? What’s it about?

Children of the Resolution is much more personal novel than If I Never. It’s a novel that I’d been trying to write for a number of years and it focuses on a fictional account of my own experience of the introduction of integrated education for children with disabilities in 1970s England. A coming-of-age story that draws very heavily on real people and real events and, naturally, it means a hell of a lot to me. It took me three or four goes before I got the novel I wanted and, because of this, I really believed in it. Still do.However, Legend – whilst liking the novel – didn’t feel they could commit to it. I can understand that, of course. It is very different to If I Never and not as obviously marketable. So, with their blessing, I decided to publish it myself using Lulu. And I liked the process. Having (almost) complete control over the product was fascinating and exciting. I did not, however, find Lulu as flexible or professional as I would have liked. Book format choices were pretty limited but, all in all, the quality was good, if pricey.

You set up a micro-publishing house for those projects hard to place. Where and when did you get the idea and how did the set up work? Do you find it is helping you the way you hoped? Did you encounter any major problems/glitches? Is it open to anyone else interested in getting published by your house? If yes, how would they go about doing that?

This really spun off my experience with Children of the Resolution. I’ve been writing for a very long time and I know exactly what I want my work to do, now – and, given the responses I get from readers, I know I’m generally achieving that. Nevertheless, my work as a rule can be pretty difficult to place with mainstream publishers. I don’t fit neatly and each book I write tends to be quite different to the one before. Consequently, it became apparent that whilst I’m probably going to continue publishing through the more traditional route, I may find myself having work left over, so to speak. The self publishing route – which even some well established authors are now trying – was the obvious solution. I did not, however, want to repeat the experience I’d had with Lulu. If I was going to do it, I decided I would have to do it in such a way that allowed me more flexibility with regard to book size et cetera. Also, I wanted Lulu taken out of the loop so that I might get the cover price down. I did this by directly approaching their printer/distributor, effectively cutting out the middleman. This reduced production costs and allowed me to bring out the novel that was, in spite of length, much more aggressively priced. Yes, this was a rather more complicated process. Instead of dealing with one company, you find yourself dealing with two or three and having to get used to doing things like buying blocks of ISBN numbers and so on. All in all, though, it was incredibly easy. Yes, it certainly helped that I already knew a little about how the business side of things worked, but still I was surprised.At the moment, no, I’m not open to submissions from other authors – though this is very much something I’m hoping to do in the not too distant future. The idea is to pretty much test the model with my own work and then build on that. You can read more about this on the about page of the GWM Publications website here: www.gwmpublications.com

Japanese scroll which describes the realm of t...

Image via Wikipedia

The Realm of the Hungry Ghosts. What’s it about and where did you get the idea from?

It’s very much about the driving need that we as individuals have to constantly strive for more. The driving force, I guess, behind cultural development, the building of civilisations and so on – but also, when given free rein, the possible architect of dissatisfaction and despair.

Hungry Ghosts are taken from The Tibetan Book of the Dead. They have these huge cavernous stomachs and are constantly hungry. They also have, however, very small mouths (or thin necks, in some versions), so they can never consume enough, quickly enough, to satisfy their appetites.

Although I don’t use these specific ghosts in any literal sense, I like that image.

ImageAnd so I started playing with it, settling on a fairly suburban setting – a very ordinary family, a group of friends who, like said family, have problems of their own, and the discovery of an old diary buried in the back garden, a diary that belonged to a rather hedonistic occupant of the asylum that used to stand where the housing estate in the novel now stands.

It’s a pretty full on novel. Lots going on, lots to think about, and it’s probably my most complete novel to date. To use the vernacular, they go on quite a “journey”.

You’re on a virtual book tour at the moment. How are you finding it? Have you done it before? If yes, what are the main differences between the previous one and this one? Has anything changed? If not, what are the main hindrances/hiccups? Where can our readers find out more about your future dates?

Well, it’s really a very casual affair! No rigid timetable, just, basically, pouncing on opportunities when they arise and generally nagging people into letting me natter on for a while on their blogs, websites and so on. It is something I have tried before and apart from being very enjoyable, it does allow me to reach more people. You do have to do a lot of them, though, if you really want to maximise the effect (so if anyone is interested in hosting me, please let me know!)

What are you working on right now?

At the moment, I’m doing another round of edits on a novel called The Legacy of Lorna Lovelost, which is currently pencilled in for publication around about this time next year (though this may change at any time). I am also in discussions with traditional publishers regarding another completed novel, As Morning Shows the Day. And, as well as that, I’ve just finished the detailed chapter outline for my next project, Recalling Calloway Vaughan, which I plan to start writing once the launch of The Realm of the Hungry Ghosts is out of the way. So, yes, pretty busy!

Where can our readers find more about you and your work? 

Your readers can keep up with everything I’m doing either through my website www.garymurning.com, my Twitter stream https://twitter.com/garymurning , my Facebook timeline http://facebook.com/gary.murning and, with regard to my publishing concerns, my GWM Publications website www.gwmpublications.com

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