QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Monday, February 28, 2011


Last month, John Murphy, one of Querytracker.net’s success stories, saw the release of his first novel, MURDER YOUR DARLINGS. We’re thrilled to have him here to talk about his pathway to publication. Also, make sure you check out the side link for an upcoming agent contest. It starts this Thursday and is for adult fiction.
In August 2009, you landed John Talbot as your agent and he sold your mystery novel, Murder Your Darlings, to an imprint of Penguin. The book came out in January. Can you tell us about your journey from The Call to now?
It has been a perilous journey, fraught with danger in exotic locales!
Just kidding. It has been surprisingly simple—almost uneventful. The editing process with my darling editor was a piece of cake. I was asked for some ideas for the book cover, and I was thrilled with the cover that Penguin came up with. Frankly, the hardest part was the copy-editing stage, where I was called to “defend” a number of historical references. (Fortunately, I had done my homework and that went down fairly easily as well.) As a matter of fact, the greatest challenge presented itself when the book was released—how can I let people know about it? I’m still working on that one.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?
Two surprising things: We hear a lot these days that editors don’t have time to edit and publicists only have time for the most successful authors. That was not my experience with MURDER YOUR DARLINGS. Both my editor and publicist have been surprisingly generous with their time and very open minded about my suggestions.

Was there ever a time you felt like giving up? Why didn’t you?
Yes, every day I felt like giving up. And I still do. As everyone who reads this knows, getting published is foolhardy. It’s brutal on the psyche. But, aside from the day to day doubts, my “darkest hour” was right before my agent John Talbot called. I had thought I had a slam dunk of a book, but after sending out nearly 60 query letters and getting no action, I figured I must be wrong. Fortunately, right when I was truly about to throw in the towel, I got the call. Sometimes it’s just a matter of sending out letter after letter after letter, and hoping it clicks with someone who understands.

What is the hardest/least favorite part of being a writer?
The worst part is the carpal tunnel injuries from signing all those hefty paychecks. Will they never stop pouring in?
Huh? Wha? Oh, OK, I’m awake again. Fell asleep there for a minute… The hardest part of being a writer, for me, is finding the time to write. I have a busy full-time job, six-year-old twins, and a house in need of constant repair. I need to learn how to write in my sleep. That would be really helpful.

If you could give a message to aspiring authors everywhere, what would it be?
Two things: If you’re really serious about being a writer, then get serious about writing. Don’t wait for the muse to whisper in your ear. Treat it like a job. Punch in and do your work.
Second, forget about writing what you know. Instead, write what you want to read. What kind of story do you wish somebody would publish? Write that. There’s somebody else out there who’s waiting for the same story to be on the bookshelf.

What is your advice to new or unpublished writers? 
Take it seriously (even if you’re writing something frivolous) and, if you’re serious, keep at it. Oh, and be hard on yourself when you wear your editing hat. Also, don’t take others’ advice without a grain of salt.

What kinds of things are you doing to promote your books? Did you do anything before you found an agent? If so, what?
I’m learning that word of mouth is the best form of promotion. And writing a good book is the best thing you can do to create word of mouth. That said, I’ve written several guest posts on other people’s blogs, and that’s been very positive and rewarding.

Is there anything you wished you had done differently?
I wish I had used a pseudonym, such as “James Patterson.”

What are you working on now?
The second book in the Algonquin Round Table Mystery Series. In this one, a second-rate painter commits suicide, and Dorothy Parker enlists the aid of Harry Houdini to find out why. Shenanigans and séances ensue. Should be lots of fun.

Now for the big question, how do you find to write with two young, twin girls and a full-time job?
With great difficulty.

More can be found about John and MURDER YOUR DARLINGS on his website.

Once again, congratulations, John!


Janet Johnson said...

Congratulations John! And great advice. Keep trucking, despite the difficulty and rejections. That's all we can say sometimes. :)

Great interview Stina!

Cindy said...

The James Patterson pseudonym might have worked to your advantage for a few sales, but I'm sure your book will be very successful under J.J. Murphy (plus, using only initials are naturally mysterious, so mystery readers might be drawn to that).

It sounds like a very clever book. Best of luck to you.

Anne Gallagher said...

Great interview Stina.

And thanks, John for sharing your perilous path to publication. I wish you continued success in your career.