A big welcome to Canadian crime novelist Luke Murphy. Luke’s debut novel, Dead Man’s Hand, is soaring up the charts and it’s a pleasure to have him join me today.
Here’s what others are saying about Dead Man’s Hand:
“You may want to give it the whole night, just to see how it turns out.”
—William Martin, New York Times bestselling author of The Lincoln Letter
“Part police procedural, part crime fiction, Dead Man’s Hand is a fast, gritty ride.”
—Anne Frasier, USA Today bestselling author of Hush
Wow! I can’t wait for the interview so let’s get started.
What do you do when you are not writing?
I always say I write because I can’t sing or dance (LOL). 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 (three young children, all girls, 5, 3 and 2 months…ouch!!). So as you can see, I only write when I find time.
When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
Actually it 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 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.
I made the decision to write a book with the intention of publication in 2005. I enjoyed writing so much as a hobby, I decided I wanted to take my interest one step further – write a story with the intention of being published and making it available for friends, family, and readers around the world to enjoy.
I`m not one to take things lightly or jump in half way. I took a full year off from writing to study the craft. I constantly read, from novels in my favorite genres to books written by experts in the writing field. I continually researched on the internet, reading up on the industry and process. I made friends (published and unpublished authors), bombarding them with questions, learning what it took to become successful.
Feeling that I was finally prepared, in the winter of 2006, with an idea in mind and an outline on paper, I started to write DEAD MAN`S HAND. It took me two years (working around full time jobs) to complete the first draft of the novel.
I then worked with editors and joined a critique group, doing anything I could to learn, to improve my writing and my novel to point where I could create the best possible work.
My years of hard work finally paid off. With my dream still in mind and my manuscript ready, I hired the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency to represent DEAD MAN`S HAND.
I signed a publishing deal with Imajin Books in May, 2012.
How did you choose the genre you write in?
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/thriller novels. “Kiss the Girls” by James Patterson was the first adult crime-book I ever read, and I fell in love with the genres. DEAD MAN`S HAND has been compared to Patterson books, which to me is an honour. Maybe in style (short chapters, a quick read), as I have read many of his books.
Where do you get your ideas?
Plot: I get my ideas from stories I hear about, whether through reading (newspapers, magazines, etc.), what I hear (radio) or what I see (TV, movies, internet, etc.). The plot is completely fictional. I wouldn`t say that one thing or person influences my writing, but a variety of my life experiences all have led to my passion in the written word. There is not a single moment in time when this idea came to be, but circumstances over the years that led to this story: my hockey injuries, frequent visits to Las Vegas, my love of football, crime books and movies. Dead Man’s Hand became real from mixing these events, taking advantage of experts in their field, and adding my wild imagination. The internet also provides a wealth of information, available at our fingertips with a click of the mouse.
Setting: I usually set my stories in cities I`ve visited and fell in love with. Las Vegas was the perfect backdrop for this story, glitz and glamour as well as an untapped underground.
Characters: I have never been involved in a homicide investigation, LOL. 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 were drawn 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.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
I have never suffered from writers block, or I should say that I have never been affected by it. Since writing is not my full time job (I’m a teacher, tutor, husband and father), it’s more of a hobby for me. If I’m ever sitting at the computer and drawing a blank, I just get up, shut off the computer, and walk away…live to fight another day. If the next day the same thing happens, then I walk away again. For this reason, I never give myself deadlines or WIP challenges.
Can you tell us about your challenges as a writer?
For me, the most difficult thing about writing has nothing to do with actual writing (ideas, flow, writer`s block, etc.), but it`s finding the time.
Between teaching and tutoring, with three small children and a wife at home, finding the time to sit down at a computer and have serious, quality writing time is almost impossible.
But I love my girls and spending quality time for 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 behind a bit.
Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
DEAD MAN’S HAND is my only published work to date, and I have been getting exceptional reviews. It took me over six years from writing the first word to seeing it in print, so I spent a lot of time with it.
But my first manuscript is my baby. It was what drew me to writing, what ignited the passionate fire in me to write. It also brought my wife and I closer together (we were just dating at the time and she helped me a little).
I never intended to publish my first manuscript, it was part of practicing to hone my craft. But since my first novel has been getting such good reviews, for book #2, I’ve pulled my first manuscript out of the drawer and am currently revising it for possible publication.
Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
Definitely the protagonist from DEAD MAN’S HAND, Calvin Watters.
Many people have asked if 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 were drawn 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.
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. Although it is a work of fiction, my goal was to create a character who readers could make a real connection 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 elite. 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, but trying hard to work his way back up.
He has weaknesses and he has made poor choices. He has regrets, but Watters has the opportunity to redeem himself. Not everyone gets a second chance in life, and he realizes how fortunate he is.
Calvin Watters is definitely worth rooting for.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
I’ve been very fortunate so far to have mainly only positive reviews of DEAD MAN’S HAND. There have only been a handful of 2 or 3 star reviews, and even those were more positive than negative.
As for “best compliment”, the review blurbs I’ve received from other authors, especially bestselling authors, has been thrilling. My favorites, because of who they are from, were the reviews I received from NY Times Bestselling authors Thomas Perry and William Martin:
“Luke Murphy’s Dead Man’s Hand is a pleasure, a debut novel that doesn’t read like one, but still presents original characters and a fresh new voice.” —Thomas Perry, New York Times bestselling author of Poison Flower
“It’s always a pleasure to welcome a new voice to the ranks of mystery-thriller authors. So welcome Luke Murphy, who delivers plenty of both in his debut novel, Dead Man’s Hand. Give it an evening and you may want to give it the whole night, just to see how it turns out.” —William Martin, New York Times bestselling author of The Lincoln Letter
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Get a part-time job to pay the bills (haha). Just kidding. Honestly, for anyone who wants to be a writer, you need to have three things: patience, determination and thick skin. You can`t let anyone or anything get in the way of your ultimate goal. 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.
That’s some great advice, Luke. Thanks for dropping by today.
More about Luke: Luke Murphy lives in Shawville, Quebec with his wife, three daughters and pug. He played six years of professional hockey before retiring in 2006. Since then, he’s held a number of jobs, from sports columnist to radio journalist, before earning his Bachelor of Education degree (Magna Cum Laude).
More about Dead Man’s Hand:
What happens when the deck is stacked against you…
From NFL rising-star prospect to wanted fugitive, Calvin Watters is a sadistic African-American Las Vegas debt-collector framed by a murderer who, like the Vegas Police, finds him to be the perfect fall-guy.
…and the cards don’t fall your way?
When the brutal slaying of a prominent casino owner is followed by the murder of a well-known bookie, Detective Dale Dayton is thrown into the middle of a highly political case and leads the largest homicide investigation in Vegas in the last twelve years.
What if you’re dealt a Dead Man’s Hand?
Against his superiors and better judgement, Dayton is willing to give Calvin one last chance. To redeem himself, Calvin must prove his innocence by finding the real killer, while avoiding the LVMPD, as well as protect the woman he loves from a professional assassin hired to silence them.