I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Luke Murphy, best-selling Author of Dead Man’s Hand, “a fast, gritty ride”, available on Amazon.com: http://ow.ly/hd4Xv
Question: Why did you choose mystery as your genre?
Answer: I was always an avid reader. My first books were the Hardy Boys titles, so they are the reason I love mysteries. As an adult, some of my favorite authors are Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly and Greg Iles, so naturally I write what I love to read – mystery/suspense novels.
Question: How has being a former hockey player shaped your writing in terms of discipline, style and work ethic?
Answer: The term “practice makes perfect” can basically relate to anything you do. Hockey and writing are no different. Many people might not see a connection between writing and hockey, but there are many similarities in not only your preparation, but “musts” once you’re there. In both hockey and writing, you need three things: patience, persistence and thick skin.
My transition from professional hockey player to published author was surprisingly smooth. Hockey and writing have many things in common. For both, it takes hard work and practice. There are many critics, and you need thick-skin. Both the hockey and writing worlds are small communities, filled with people who want to help you succeed. In order to find success, in you need persistence and confidence.
It’s about taking a chance, putting yourself out there for evaluation by your peers. That’s the scariest part. It’s also about “staying the course” and not getting off track.
Question: Did you find writing Calvin’s character cathartic? Also, is Calvin’s physical description, based on a real person, a friend or a former colleague?
Answer: I’m frequently asked this question about Calvin Watters and how I can make any real connections to the main character in my novel. The answer, as for my connection…no, I have never been involved in a homicide investigation, LOL. The plot is completely fictional. Although I am not a 6’5”, 220 pound African-American, I’ve used much of my athletic background when creating my protagonist Calvin Watters. Watters past as an athlete, and his emotional rollercoaster brought on by injuries, I drew from my experiences. His mother died of cancer when he was young, as mine was. There are certainly elements of myself in Calvin, but overall, this is a work of fiction. I did not base the characters or plot on any real people or events. Any familiarities are strictly coincidence.
As far as characterization goes, Dead Man’s Hand’s protagonist Calvin Watters faces racial prejudice with calmness similar to that of Walter Mosley’s character Easy Rawlins. But Watters’ past as an athlete and enforcer will remind other readers of Jack Reacher of the Lee Childs series. The Stuart Woods novel Choke, about a tennis player who, like Watters, suffered greatly from a dramatic loss that was a failure of his psyche, is also an inspiration for Dead Man’s Hand. When thinking about creating the main character for my story, I wanted someone “REAL”, someone readers could relate to and connect with.
Physically, keeping in mind Watters’ past as an NCAA football standout and his current occupation as a Vegas debt-collector, I thought “intimidating”, and put together a mix of characteristics that make Watters appear scary (dreadlocks and patchy facial hair), but also able to blend in with those of the social élite. Although he is in astounding physical condition, handsome and well-toned, he does have a physical disability that limits his capabilities. He’s proud, confident, bordering on cocky, mean and tough, but I also gave him a softer side that readers, especially women, will be more comfortable rooting for. After his humiliating downfall, he is stuck at the bottom for a while, trying hard to work his way back up.
He has weaknesses and he has made poor choices. He has regrets, but has the opportunity to redeem himself. Not everyone gets a second chance in life, and he realizes how fortunate he is.
Question: If you had not become a writer, what would you be?
Answer: I always say I write because I can’t sing or dance! Writing isn’t my full-time job, I would have starved long ago if it was. I’m an elementary school teacher, I tutor Math and English part-time and I’m a husband and father. So as you can see, I only write when I find time. It actually happened by accident. Growing up I never thought much about writing, but I was an avid reader. The only time I ever wrote was when my teachers at school made me. I wanted to be an NHL superstar…period.
It was in the winter of 2000, my second year of professional hockey, and I was playing in Oklahoma City. After sustaining a season ending eye injury, one of the scariest moments of my life, I found myself with time on his hands. My girlfriend at the time, who is now my wife, was attending a French college in Montreal. She received an English assignment to write a short story, and asked me for some help. I loved the experience—creating vivid characters and generating a wire-taut plot. I sat down at my roommate’s computer and began typing. I wrote a little every day, around my intense rehabilitation schedule and before I knew it I had completed my first manuscript. I didn’t write with the intention of being published, I wrote for the love of writing. Thirteen years later, I still write for pleasure—and I still love it! The fact that I am being published is a bonus.
Question: How does being a Dad affect your work?
Answer: Greatly, especially when it comes to time management. But I love my girls and spending quality time with them is a great feeling. I wouldn’t give up my games of ring-around-the-Rosie and duck-duck-goose for anything in the world. It just puts writing my next novel a little behind.
Question: Do you have a favorite writing spot, i.e. indoors/outdoors?
My wife and I created a tiny office in our house, upstairs at the end of the hallway. I have a desk, chair, computer and printer; everything a writer needs for success.
Question: Are there any specific rituals you have developed to help you stay focused on writing?
Answer: With a family and full-time job, makes it a lot harder to find the time to write. But when I do write I find that I am most productive in the morning, and I always have to have a mug of steaming tea in front of me. Before I even sit down at a computer, I have hand-written notes of ideas for my book. This could be anything from plot, scenes, setting, characters, etc. Once I sit down, I just write. No editing, no looking back, I just let it flow. Unless I’m certain, there’s no title until after I’m done. As I write, I keep notes by hand on the timeline. When my first draft is complete, I go through it twice, once for the creative editing process and the next for flow, repetition, etc. Then I have my former English professor read it over and she gives me her thoughts. I edit it myself again. Then I send it to my agent for her thoughts. Then, I edit it again myself. Only once my agent and I feel ready do we send it to publishers. For me, the most difficult thing about writing has nothing to do with actual writing, its finding the time.
Question: What would you like to share with other writers about your writing and publishing journey?
Answer: It’s long and hard road. Don’t give up. People try to bring you down, but don’t quit. Keep pressing on. You can’t let anyone or anything get in the way of your goal. I started writing DEAD MAN’S HAND in 2006, so it took 6 years before I saw it in print. I never once faltered. I never once thought about shutting it down.
Write every day. Even if it is just for a short time or something small, find an excuse to write as much as possible. Good luck, it’s a tough industry to crack. Honestly, for anyone who wants to be a writer, you need to have three things: patience, determination and thick skin. You will hear a lot of “no’s”, but it only takes one “yes”. The writing industry is a slow-moving machine, and you need to wait it out. Never quit or give up on your dreams.
Contact Luke Murphy: