This week’s Interview In Confidence is with Author Gary Murning. I met Mr. Murning on Twitter about two weeks ago. He graciously answered my questions via e-mail. I hope you are as encouraged and inspired as I was.
1. Did you ever have a time in your life that you thought, “oh, I could never be a writer”? How did you go from that place to your current one?
I think there was probably a time when it hadn’t occurred to me that I could be a writer, but I don’t think I ever consciously thought that it was something I could never be. As a child, I always dabbled with “stories” that
never got finished — but the real turning point came when I had to finish Sixth Form College (I was about 18) through illness related to my disability. I found myself with time to fill, read lots of really trashyhorror novels and one day half-joked to myself that I could do better and thus made the final great leap.
2. The path of a writer is filled with rejection letters. How have you handled the pain of rejection?
Pretty well, I think — but, then, I’ve had plenty of practice! The first rejection letters were expected, to be honest. I was still learning my craft and understood they were simply par for the course. The later ones, I suppose, were the hardest. Once I reached the point where I knew my work had
something to offer and the rejections came to be more about
publishers’/agents’ unwillingness to take a risk or, even worse, an inability to see what I was trying to do — then it became hard. Extremely frustrating.
3. Sometimes I read a book and get miffed that it is so poorly written. I find it difficult not to be resentful of their success. How do you handle the inward battle of comparing yourself to others– or am I the only one who feels this way?
No, you’re definitely not the only one. As I’ve already mentioned, this was in part one of the driving forces behind my seriously knuckling down to write a novel. Comparing oneself to other writers — both good and bad — is
a fundamental part of what we do, especially when we are just starting out. We learn from other writers and, yes, it’s inevitable that we should on occasion find ourselves resentful of their in some cases undeserved success.
For me, the big moan has always been celebrity authors who don’t actually author their books. I’ve ranted about this on my blog numerous times!
4. Where have you gone to find encouragement in your writing? Or, how do you know that it’s good?
Encouragement… I found encouragement as soon as I started getting positive responses from agents. This was back in the late 1980s. The comments on my
first three novels were very direct and critical — but by the fourth phrases like “well written” were being used and I saw that I was improving. I could see that myself, actually, and I realised that it was simply a matter of working hard at building on these improvements. I found that
Over recent years, I’ve always had people around me who understand what I’m trying to achieve. Their comments keep me going — even the critical ones –but, yes, I have also developed a degree of faith in my own assessment of my
work. If someone says something critical it usually only confirms what I already knew. If they praise my work, I already know why.
5. Have you experience unfavorable public criticism of your work. How did you take it? What did you do to move beyond it?
This is an arena I’m pretty much on the verge of stepping into — my first novel being published in August. Naturally, I’ve done the occasional workshop etc and had to face criticism there but that’s rather different to
reader/magazine reviews and I expect I may still have a few things to learn about myself. I’m hoping I’ll deal with any negativity pretty well.
6. Have you ever attended a conference and met an agent, editor or publisher face to face? How did you handle your nerves?
Other than chatting on the phone with my publisher, no. (He’s in London and I’m in the North of England so we haven’t actually met face-to-face, yet,
oddly enough.) My first telephone conversation with him was rather nerve-racking, however. Lovely guy and very easy to talk to, but I knew it was one of those make or break conversations. He liked my work and wanted to publish
but I was still scared that I might say something stupid and blow the whole deal. I’m not naturally a telephone person, either, but once we got chatting everything was fine.
7. What advice would you give to the talented writer who is
struggling in the area of confidence?
Writing fiction is smoke and mirrors. For the reader to be convinced by the illusions we create, we in turn have to be convinced by our ability to create them. We need to learn that we can develop our ability, that every writer grows with every novel he/she writes. It doesn’t just happen. Writers
aren’t born naturally talented (apart from possibly one or two exceptions here and there.) We all start from the same place, more or less, and confidence… initially, you’ve got to just throw caution to the wind. Accept that people are going to criticise, to snigger behind your back or even, sometimes, to your face. But look for the improvement in your work.
You’ll know it when you see it. Look at the way you shape a sentence, a paragraph, and watch as, over time, it becomes more natural and graceful. See the improvement and hold on to it. Find your confidence there and don’t let anyone take it away from you. It’s hard work. Never doubt that. But that
hard work gives you the right to hold your head up and say “Yes, I’m a writer. I may not be the best writer in the world, yet, but I’m doing it and improving.”
Gary is a novelist living in the northeast of England. His work
focuses on themes that touch us all – love, death, loss and aspiration. Quirky and highly readable, his literary fiction aims to entertain first and foremost. If he can also offer a previously unfamiliar perspective or insight, all the better.
His first novel, If I Never, is due to be published August 29, 2009 by Legend Press. Gary William Murning Online: www.garymurning.com ”