INtroducing... Sean Murphy and Peder Hill
By Diego X. Jesus and Mark London
Every issue, IN presents INside Authors, a look at authors from around the world who have significantly caught our attention and deserve a little space and recognition.
The following two authors are this month's choices. Our hope is to provide a glimpse, a snapshot, an overview of some of the finest writers of our time making waves both tidal and ripple.
Sean Murphy, novelist/teacher
Background INfo: I won the Hemingway Award for a first novel for The Hope Valley Hubcap King, which also featured on the BookSense 76 list of recommended titles for 2003. My second novel, The Finished Man, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize by my publisher, Bantam Dell. A third novel, The Time of New Weather, which imagines what might follow if the American government was acquired in a corporate buyout and operated as a profit-making entity, was just released this year. Have also written thenon-fiction One Bird, One Stone (Renaissance/St. Martin's 2002), a chronicle of Zen practice in America. I taught for five years with Natalie Goldberg (author of Writing Down the Bones), and currently teach an extensive series of writing seminars for my own Big Sky Writing Workshops (see my website info below) as well as for the University of New Mexico - Taos. My articles have appeared or will appear in Writers Market (2004, 2005, 2007) the Guide To Literary Agents (2007), The Sun, Yoga Journal, Tricycle Magazine, and others. I'm an MFA Writing graduate of The Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. I've been a formal student of Zen practice for nearly 20 years.
INfluences: Marquez' One Hundred Years of Solitude, Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Italo Calvino, Nabokov, Vonnegut, Kafka, absurdist playwrights such as Eugene Ionesco, and various Zen Masters. For my most recent book, The Time Of New Weather, I was greatly influenced by Orwell, Huxley, and H.G. Wells. Recent favorites: The Shipping News, White Teeth, The God Of Small Things, and Pilgrim At Tinker Creek. Favorite classic: Madame Bovary. My Zen meditation practice, however, is the foundation of everything I do.
Advice: Building a life, as a writer isn't just about writing Ė the creative work doesn't stop at completing your novel, memoir, or story collection. You need to bring your creative powers to bear on all stages of the process. This means not only finishing your project, but also polishing it to perfection, then you have to place it, market it, and do everything you can to ensure its success. Give it everything you've got at each stage, because each is an equally valid part of the creative act. No one else will give your project the kind of attention you can give it. Enter every contest and award for which you are eligible. Even if you place in the finals or semi-finals, this will give you a solid credit you can use in approaching a publisher or agent. Don't be afraid to seek help in editing or revising Ė seek out further study and guidance when you need it. Believe in your dreams and never give up!
Internet Presence: Crucial for writers. See my website at www.murphyzen.com . To hear a recent audio on my latest novel The Time Of New Weather, as well as how to write a novel and anecdotes on the writer's life, go to The Writing Show: http://writingshow.com/?p=21 Also there's a brief blurb on my recent appearance at the North Carolina Writers Network conference at http://thepaperjourney.com/news/
The Future: Right now I'm working on a screenplay and germinating and developing several new novel ideas, as well as finishing a collection of short stories. I'm also planning my writing workshops for 2006 in the U.S. and Europe, and continuing my series of entirely on-line/e-mail workshops. The Internet is a brilliant opportunity to bring writers together, and I love working with people I wouldn't communicate with otherwise. In my online groups, people can receive personal feedback and attention wherever they are, without the expenses and logistics of travel etc. I enjoy the meeting of minds with many writing students in cyberspace, from New York to Berlin, Vancouver to Australia.
Novels: The Time Of New Weather Bantam/Dell ISBN: 0553382454 The Finished Man Bantam/Dell ISBN: 0553382446 The Hope Valley Hubcap King Bantam/Dell ISBN: 0385337825 One Bird, One Stone: 108 American Zen Stories Renaissance Books ISBN: 1-58063-221-1
Peder Hill, novelist/teacher
Background INfo: Born in Arkansas, from there I've lived in many parts of the world including Germany, Korea, America, Taiwan and Brazil, passing through dozens of others in Asia, Central America, Europe and the South Pacific. Currently I live in Austria with my wife and two children.
INfluences: I was first taken in by what seems to be a common spell over humanity: the collective misconception that writing is glamorous. For me that bubble popped when I sat down in an empty room in search of the words and magic. I sat and sat, but no words came, definitely no magic. When I finally figured out how to write a novel I discovered why I might want to endlessly sit in a room. I discovered deep satisfaction from hovering in the act of creating and at the same moment exploring questions about life in the dim corners of my own identity. Writing is the only art form that allows this to occur for me.
Advice: First make sure you really understand the elements of storytelling and the craft of writing. Without those tools I think youíre lost. I would have been. Then, when you get to sitting in that chair and writing your book, forget any preconceptions you might have about how to do it. If you're like me, youíll have no idea how to actually write your first novel until you do. So be experimental. Be loose. Donít constrain yourself to a tense or person or point of view. Write wildly with the spirit of your story in mind. Youíll spill out a lot of junk at first, but after a while youíll find your way and finally figure out how people write books. But if you don't bravely wade through the swamp, you'll never find land
Internet Presence: The initial spark for the website was the daydream of finding the site Iíd always been looking for: one that included just the concise elements of novel writing and offered real examples of how to do it so I am developing my book online, live for all to follow. Iíve written for years and read loads of writing books and my website offers a no nonsense version of everything Iíve personally found useful. The book excerpts I post and the blog seemed like a natural extension of the site, but have also given me an important opportunity to connect with readers and build a list of people interested in reading Dreaming Underwater once itís published. The excerpts are just tasters, giving readers glimpses of the story but never including important plot points. The premise for Dreaming Underwater is what if a traditional African religion sent missionaries to America? From this jumping off point the novel explores the beauty and sometimes madness of religious devotion and the ultimate mystery behind it. Stop by and take a look at my book while it develops.
The Future: Iíve already written down the bones of my next novel, The Renaissance Man. Itís the story of an extraordinarily gifted individual whoís on track to become one of the worldís greatest men. It follows his grappling with the idea of greatness and what heíll have to give up to achieve it. I plan to write it both as a dialogue driven novel and a screenplay; it seems like one of those rare stories that fit to both. Beyond that Iíve always had a non-fiction book whistling in my head. Maybe Iíll call it The Myth of Wealth and Happiness. Full of stories about both happy rich people and happy poor people as well as the saddness on both sides of the fence. The stories will be buttressed with ellipses of hard data from Happiness research and social psychology. I picture it a cool coffee table book: Rolling Stone meets Carl Jung. Iíve just always been saddened by all those people running so fast after the empty promise of money. I thought maybe a book like that would help.
Diego X. Jesus is a Dominican-born American freelance journalist and associate editor of IN who makes Toronto his home approximately half the time. Otherwise, we don't know where he might be. E-mail Jesus
Mark London is a Toronto based freelance writer and associate editor of IN who has been with the FWO-Int'l from the early years volunteering much of his time in assisting young writers' careers. E-mail London: email@example.com