Author Interview with Luke Murphy

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Luke Murphy, best-selling Author of Dead Man’s Hand, “a fast, gritty ride”, available on

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:!/AuthorLukeMurphy!/AuthorLMurphy

Dreamers vs. Doers: Some Advice

According to the number of E-books available is over ten million plus.  Add in the number of aspiring authors who are in the process of writing a book + many more millions.  Then there are the people who say someday they would like to write a book = everybody else.

Writing a book is a nearly universal dream.  Some measure of dream following does tie into artistic pursuits.  Is dreaming enough?  Is creativity?  In truth, anyone can write a book.  However, writing one people want to read is a different thing.

Why do it at all?  Fame?  Fortune?  If your intent stops there, you might as well stop clicking keys.  That is not going to be enough because those pursuits cannot sustain a writer through rejection, low readership or bad reviews.

How many writers elated by the onset of self-publishing, were not able to see the pitfalls.  It brings with it a sea of publications that readers need to sift through in order to find what they like and it requires we writers wear the new hat of self promoter.

How do you measure success when the bar keeps moving?  The bar will always be set higher.  You will always have to work harder to reach it.  Some days, you’ll just want to hang yourself from that bar.  That’s not an option.  There is no quitting.

Consider this mock job description for a fiction writer, the job we all want:

  • Little or no pay, years of work required, high level of rejection, near guarantee of self-loathing and potential breakdown of key relationships.
  • Side effects:  sleep deprivation, addictions to caffeine and often, other substances.  A writer may begin to feel isolated, take up talking to oneself and have the potential for severe mood swings.  A writer must have a thick skin, a day job and little or no desire to engage in a social life aside from commiserating with other writers.
  • Most of all, a writer must have unwavering patience.

Can you answer this question, with honesty?

What if only one person buys your book?  Will you want to give up?

To me, it depends entirely on what that one reader thought of it.  Did she like it?

Now answer these:  Why do I write?  For whom am I writing?  What do I hope to gain?

Here is some advice I have found useful so far:

#1 Write every day.  This is the best advice you will ever get.  You get better by doing anything, everyday.

#2 Read, whenever you are not writing because there are people who are much better than you are and they can teach you something.

#3 Writing a blog is helpful because it reinforces #1, but it can also be a time suck, have discipline.  Following blogs of others in the industry will help you, but it takes some time to find the best ones for you.

#4 Joining a writers group will help you overcome some of your fears and likely give you some new ones.  You will learn to take criticism or you will quit.  At least you will make some new friends who are writers and be able to talk about being in a writers group and feel important.

#5 Writers conferences are beneficial if you go with specific goals in mind.  They are also about business and cost money.  It helps to have a plan, a real job or a wealthy beneficiary.

#6 Literary magazines are full of advice and stories about successful writers.  Some days you will find them inspiring, some days you find them depressing.  These publications are in business to make money and want to sell you books, advice, webinars and earn contest and subscription fees.  Some of this may also be helpful.  I find that advice tends to get recycled and since magazines are not interested in making you famous you are better off spending your time on #1.

#7 Social Media:  Unless someone else is doing your promotional work, you need to maintain an online presence in order to save yourself from total obscurity.  I find Twitter a good venue, you can show off your writing prowess and find some more writing friends and then promote each other.  An Author page somewhere will give some credibility and then there is Facebook, enough said.  Linked In has a more professional feel.  You might want to join Goodreads or Pinterest as well, if you think you have that much time.  The more you do, the more you benefit, however, managing social media will be a drain on your writing time, be judicious.

#8 Self-publishing is work and costs money.  There are some websites that offer free publishing if you do all the work yourself.   Back to the money thing…publishing is business even though the industry is changing the goal is the same, online publishers want to make money.  They will take a percentage of your selling price.  What happens if after all of this, you only sell one book, to yourself?

#9 It takes a really, really long time to write a good book.  Of the ten million plus self-published books out there are they all good?  Is yours?  Can you be objective?  Why rush it?  One more rewrite might make a significant difference.  Hire a proofreader!

#10 It does not seem possible that every author who claims bestseller status could actually be.  What defines best selling today?  Could some of these claims just be a fake it till you make it kind of promotion tactic?  Do not get distracted by things that do not matter, focus on #1.

You can follow that dream, but first make sure you have your eyes open and are fully awake.  Thanks for reading and keep writing!

Here are some short stories I wrote, free for the rest of the month:

Some New Summer Shorts on Smashwords

Hello all,

I have taken the self publishing plunge via

Check out this three-story collection if you care to;  I’d love to hear what you think!  If you do, thank you!  And this concludes my shameless self-promotion for today!



Seeing Scarlet, vol.1, cover