Gary Murning is an new author based in the North East of England. His work covers universal themes such as love, death, loss and aspiration but Gary presents these themes in a ‘quirky and highly readable’ way. Gary’s debut novel, If I Never, is out now and is available to pick up or reserve at a library near you. The novel focuses on the love between two social misfits who are threatened to be pulled apart by the ‘complicated lives of friends, consumed by unfolding mysteries and dangers’ (Amazon).
Gary kindly answers our questions about his work below. You can find out more about Gary on his blog.
What inspired you to be an author?
I suppose the short answer would be, other authors. As soon as I discovered books, the seed was planted — even though it would take years to propagate and grow!
There is, however, a longer answer.
My relationship with books, since my teens, and especially into my twenties, was in some ways predicated by the fact that I have a fairly severe physical disability. I was never isolated by this — I always had friends and, blessedly, wonderful parents who saw to it that I had the same options, where possible, as my able-bodied peers. But, naturally, there were times when I had time to fill alone. This became especially true when, in my late teens, I had to leave my education due to illness. I spent a lot of time reading, then, and gradually I started to see that this was something I could imagine myself doing. I fell in love with the idea of being a writer, I guess. And I think I also, on some level, relished the idea of creating landscapes and characters that were completely my own, that I controlled.
Which authors do you admire?
Many! I love large canvas fiction — writers who connect us to individuals by large-scale stories. Tolstoy is the obvious example, but it also applies to writers like John Irving, who has also influenced me.
Lately, however, I’ve been rediscovering Michael Ondaatje — the Sri Lankan-born Canadian novelist and poet. I read The English Patient and Anil’s Ghost when they were both originally published and then, as is so often the way, lost him for a while. At the moment, I’m reading Divisadero, and I’m overwhelmed, again, by the beautiful economy of his writing. I heard him say in an interview recently that, for him, writing is about deciding what can be left out rather than put in, and this together with this wonderful novel is making me reassess my own way of working. A good author always makes you, as a writer, want to improve on what you do, find new ways of thinking about the familiar narrative problems.
How do you approach writing a book?
These days, very differently to how I used to. If I Never was written quite deliberately in a very unplanned way. I wanted to break rules and create something that was reflective of life’s unrelenting unpredictability — something that was almost organic. But it was a nerve wracking way of working! And not one I’d like to try every time.
So, with my next novel to be published and the one I’m currently writing, I planned thoroughly before starting the writing itself. I research, if I need to, and then start work on a chapter outline. This is usually somewhere in the region of twenty to forty single spaced pages of A4. This can take up to three months — three months during which I concentrate on plot structure and basic facts of plot, theme and character. I usually have quite a lot of this in my head beforehand, however. I often carry characters around with me for a few months before actually committing to putting anything “on paper”. If they survive that period, they deserve to be written!
Was it hard to get If I Never published?
Actually, no, it wasn’t! Which was a huge surprise. I’d been writing for twenty years by this point, submitting, suffering rejection, getting close numerous times — the usual story — and because If I Never was such… well, in many ways it’s such a strange novel and a part of me really believed that there wasn’t a publisher out there who would “get it”. So, I sent it off to Legend Press (who’d read some of my early work) and actually forgot all about it! The recession had come along and, frankly, in that climate it really didn’t seem worthwhile sending it out anywhere else, anyway. And, then, I get an e-mail out of the blue from Tom Chalmers, the MD of Legend Press, telling me that he would like to discuss If I Never.
The book has been well received, with 5 stars on Amazon, are you pleased by the response?
Over the moon, yes. As I have already mentioned, the form that If I Never takes isn’t exactly orthodox. And, yes, I was a little concerned that it wouldn’t work. Those first couple of months after publication were rather tense — but then the feedback started to come in and, thankfully, it’s been overwhelmingly positive. One or two comments here and there have suggested that some haven’t quite grasped what it was I was trying to do, but that’s to be expected, and is thankfully in the minority.
My next novel, Children of the Resolution, is approaching the end of the editorial process. A few small tweaks may be required here and there, but I think it’s close to completion and, whilst I haven’t a publication date, as yet, I’m hoping it’ll be hitting the shops towards the back end of this year.
After that, it’s As Morning Shows the Day, my current work in progress, the first draft of which is close to completion.
So, hopefully plenty to look forward to for those who enjoy my work!
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