Author Spotlight – D.M. Murray
D.M. Murray was raised in Northern Ireland, and is now resident in Scotland. He is a writer of fantasy fiction. His debut novel, Red Season Rising, was published in September 2016, and is the first instalment of the ‘Red Season’ series. Book two, Too Cold to Bleed, was published in 2018. His fantasy writing is influenced by Celtic and Nordic myths and legends. His favourite writers are David Eddings, Raymond E. Feist, Anthony Ryan, Joe Abercrombie, and Scott Lynch. When not writing, D.M. enjoys spending time in the beautiful Scottish countryside, preferably in a canoe or kayak.
Thanks for joining us today, Dominick. Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
Reading time is very much at a premium at the moment, so I’m not reading as much as I would like. Mount TBR is frankly terrifying in scale! The last book I read which I really enjoyed was Liath Luachra: The Grey One, by Brian O’Sullivan. It’s a tale set in ancient Ireland, with a tight story, and excellent character work. I grew up on in the Emerald Isle, and was fed a diet of Irish Myths and Legends, so this was a real pleasure for me, and a book I would recommend heartily.
Sounds excellent! Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
Shit! I knew this day would come. I hope I’m not about to be ostracised from the fantasy community, but I’m not overly familiar with the make-up of a D&D style party! I’ve never been a gamer, table top or computer. When I was younger and started writing, I sometimes felt that not having played D&D left me somewhat at a disadvantage – no intense world building CV a la Raymond E. Feist – but then I realised I was just looking for excuse to hold off on writing! Anyway, to answer the question…if I was guessing (thank you Google), I would say I was a Ranger because I love the outdoors, and my weapon of choice would be my weaponised lute. That’s right, isn’t it?!
I’ll let myself out.
A Ranger sounds like a good choice for you! When you’re not trawling through dungeons (or serenading wildlife), do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Why?
I love the idea of writing long-hand. There’s something quite romantic about the idea of scratching a novel down by hand. I tried hand-writing the first draft of my story for The Art of War Charity Anthology (Rendered Chaos – near the back – lots of swearing). I spent a few hours sat hunched over my notebook while on holiday in Italy. By the time I was finished my hand was cramped up tighter than an otter’s arsehole, not to mention having achieved a nice even burn across the left side of my body.
Reckon I’ll stick with typing.
And how do you like to work – in silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps?
A bit of both, actually. Music is so important when writing emotionally charged scenes – it helps to complete the immersion. A lot of Too Cold To Bleed was written to the soundtrack of Last of the Mohicans playing on repeat! You want tension, emotion, fear? That soundtrack has it all. It’s also awesome to hum when you go canoeing.
Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit? Tell us something unusual about your writing method!
A bit of both. I tend to start with an image – for Too Cold To Bleed the sun rising behind a ridgeline of trees near my house struck me. That image nagged at me until it became the start of Ruah’s arc. In general, I tend to have the ending squared away in my mind, and then outline the main points in getting there – a lot of the rest of it just happens as I go along.
Not an awful lot of my ‘method’ is unusual – I try and write as religiously as possible, though with a busy full-time job this can be a bit of a challenge. With Too Cold To Bleed, I wrote the vast majority of it on location in the wild and beautiful west coast of Scotland – that meant my method saw me immerse myself in some stunning scenery and taking in many beach walks with my wife and dog in between morning, afternoon and evening writing sessions. Now with a shiny new baby in the house, I feel my method will evolve into something entirely different, likely seeing me steal writing time when everyone else has gone to bed, or from the wee hours of 05:00-07:00…or whenever the little boss allows…
…or never again.
What are your most significant non-book fantasy influences?
Landscape. I love the outdoors and my mind tends to wander off when I get out into the mountains.
It’s in the land about me that I take influence and find inspiration. Take the drumlins that roll through the central stretches of Scotland: these little pockets of glacial deposits are long overgrown with tall, rank heather, and as I drive past them each week, in all seasons, they mesmerise me. They are but simple little undulating hillocks, unassuming, and with no doubt arbitrary stories to tell: a deer here, a hare there, grouse by the droves, and perhaps the occasional ghostly memory of a Jacobite boot. Take that nature, and that history, and turn it to fantasy. Then let your imagination run riot. Then write it down. And get an editor. A good one.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it?
A cookery show (River Cottage) – I love to cook, and find it really relaxes me. I’m not really getting much time to watch TV at the moment, what with the baby and all the research I’m doing for my new series. When I do get the chance, I love to binge on box sets, or catch a good movie.
Speaking of free time: the world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write or otherwise do any work. How do you choose to spend the day?
Hiking and kayaking around the beautiful west coast of Scotland in the morning, and hanging out with my wife, daughter and dog in the sun with some nice seafood and a cheeky wee beer. And maybe a cigar at sunset.
If you could choose one punctuation mark to be made illegal, which would it be and why?
All of them screw grammar its for nerds and anyone who says otherwise can go and get it round them there I said it and I feel better for it god that felt good right wheres the wine buy my books
In no more than three sentences, tell us a little something about your current work in progress!
- Book 3 in the Red Season Series, taking place several years after the events of Too Cold To Bleed.
- Book 1 of a new series focusing on a fantastical spin on the Thirty Years War in Europe.
- A stand alone (so far) about an opportunistic wee arsehole’s global power grab.
If you could co-write or co-create a series (like The Expanse, or the Malazan Book of the Fallen), who would you choose to work with and why?
The books of The First Law Universe are awesome – Abercrombie’s work has so much depth, fine detail, great dialogue, and without fail, there’s always something in there to give me a laugh.
What’s the best (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
‘You can’t start writing in fantasy until you’ve built your world in full and complete detail.’ A load of old bollocks. When I was starting out writing the Red Season series, many years ago, a pontificating arsehole advised me that I should not, and indeed could not write until I had built a world so fine in minute detail, that the very chemical composition of the soil was known to me (see my earlier point about feeling at a disadvantage at having no D&D background). I smiled politely (more than likely not) and filed it under ‘Good Stiff Ignoring’. Write, and build the world as you go, if that is what you want. If you want to work out the life history of giant, man-eating parrots in some far-reaches of an as yet undiscovered continent of your world, then go nuts. Do you.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
Just one choice? Damn, that’s tough. Provided I can keep my vaccination history, I’m going to say early modern Europe- just plonk me down in any one of the endless conflicts – for the purposes of research only! Or failing that, I’d love to see Iceland before people arrived, cut down all the trees and ate all the native creatures!
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
I rarely have days were I don’t want to write. I do have plenty of days where I’m just to drained to write (I have a fairly hectic career outside of writing). I’ve learned to just let it go when this happens. I’m not a machine, and some days I just need to say ‘not today’. When I have intense periods at work and am tired in the evenings, I tend to bottle up the writing for a few weeks and then take some time off and just write feverishly.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
There are so many! I’m proud to be part of a rich, and vibrant community of quality indie authors. I think there are a great many excellent books that go without the attention and plaudits they deserve. I’ve really enjoyed Ben Galley’s Heart of Stone – he gave me the feels for a Golem! No mean feat.
A non-fantasy entry for me also has to be Night Falls on Ardnamurchan – a beautiful, humorous and melancholy little memoire about the twilight of an old, simpler way of life on the west coast of Scotland. Best read with a wee dram of whisky (and with a dog at your feet).
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with what we like to call a ‘shark elevator pitch’? (It’s exactly the same as an elevator pitch, but with sharks.) (Well, one shark. Which, by the way, is currently picking between its rows of teeth to try and dislodge the remains of the last author who stepped onto its elevator.)
Ahem. So: why should readers check out your work? A shark elevator pitch of your own book(s) in no more than three sentences – go!
I’m not that bothered by sharks, actually. Rats, on the other hand, would really motivate me. So, a rat elevator pitch.
The Red Season series is epic, dark, and brooding fantasy full of rich characters and battle so chaotic and visceral it will leave your mouth flooded with the tang of metal and your fingers trembling like mine at the thought of these fucking shark-rats eating me from the bastarding ankles up.
Brilliant! Thanks so much for joining us, Dominick, and good luck with the WIP (and the baby!)!
D.M. Murray is the author of the Red Season series. Books one and two, Red Season Rising and Too Cold to Bleed, are available now.