Gary William Murning is the author of If I Never, a fast-paced debut novel leaving the reader wanting more. I am currently reading If I Never and getting to the end of it now I must admit it’s hard to put down. I was thrilled when Gary accepted an interview. The answers he has provided are very informative and engaging. So, I bring to you the interview with Gary William Murning:
If I Never Questions
Who is your favourite character in If I Never and why?
I like them all for very different reasons, of course. George for his sheer nastiness (wonderful to write), Price for the way he grows through the novel, Carla, again, because her selfishness was a delight to write, Richard for his innocent need to protect his mother… but, I suppose, ultimately, Tara is my favourite character. I like her particular blend of strength through vulnerability. Even though I wrote her myself, I sometimes reread the passages concerning her and get the feeling that there’s even more there, quietly buried between the lines. I like when a character does that to me.
Are any of the characters based on real life people?
The really boring but, I’m afraid, honest answer to that is, no. These characters exist only in my head and on the page (oh, and now in the heads of my readers, of course!) However, all writers are inevitably inspired by the things they see and experience themselves — so it’s probably safe to say that certain aspects of my characters exist in some of the people I’ve encountered over the years.
How did you come up with the cover for the book? Sometimes when I look at it I see a man hanging, is that the impression you wanted to create or do I have it completely wrong?
Actually, I didn’t come up with the cover — that’s not my job. How it works, with my publisher, at least, is that a meeting is held between my publisher and the designer and initial ideas are discussed. Three quite different mockup designs are produced and they are then shown to me. Most publishers don’t do this. By and large, the author is stuck with whatever cover the powers that be decide upon. With Legend, however, I was asked for my thoughts. I looked at the three designs and had a very clear favourite — and, thankfully, we were all in agreement!
I’d never actually thought of the young man on the cover as “hanging”, but now that you mention it I can certainly see what you mean. For me, it represents a young Price contemplating his life’s future landscape. The way the background bleeds through him, for me, suggests the inseparable nature of the two… the impact the world and those around him have upon Price.
Would you change anything in the novel now?
Apart from a few typographical corrections and a little editorial work, no. Most people, thankfully, have grasped that I quite deliberately broke a number of writing rules with If I Never. There is a structural roughness to it which, before publication, I was really tempted to tidy up — even though it was my intention. I wanted to suggest the unrelenting nature of life — the way it quite often piles problem upon problem, twist upon twist. I knew that some people just wouldn’t get this so… it was really tempting to chicken out. Now, however, I am really pleased that I didn’t. The vast majority of people can see very clearly what I’ve tried to achieve and seem to approve.
How did you come up with the name Price for the main character?
You know, I’m not sure! It just popped into my head, I believe, and seemed to fit. It’s really strange, now that I think of it, but I very rarely have to work that hard at finding names for my characters. They nearly always arrive with an appropriate moniker!
What made you inflict Price with anosmia?
Well, as you know, there’s another aspect to the story that I wanted to complement. We won’t mention any details, so as not to spoil it for future readers, but I wanted to find a new way of playing with the idea of two people being “made for each other”.
There is a bit of a moral issue surrounding Claudia, what would you do if you were Price?
Under his circumstances, probably just what he did. Price had to learn that there’s only so much we can do for other people — sometimes we need to hand over responsibility and focus on ourselves and those closest to us. This was meant to reflect that — and whilst it was very tempting to keep him on the front line with this particular part of the story (a part of me still thinks that there is much more going on with Claudia than meets the eye!), I knew he had to hand it over… he also had to trust a friend, too. Not something he, I think, found all that easy, in this instance!
Is the setting based on a real place; is there the Italian Gardens, Lovers’ Leap, et cetera?
It is based on a real place — an amalgam of real places, actually, with lots of fictional meddling! Redburn is actually based on a place in the north-east of England called Saltburn. The Italian Gardens, in a slightly different form, certainly exist, though Lovers’ Leap doesn’t.
Tara’s mother seems quite accommodating, is this a bit of wishful thinking of how a mother-in-law should be in your mind?
I don’t think so, no. I would never want to write a stereotypical representation of “the mother-in-law”, so it’s probably true that I’m inclined to shy away from anything bordering on that! However, Tara is someone who’s had some pretty difficult things to contend with over the years. Her mother, naturally, is well aware of this and when she sees how happy, relatively speaking, Price makes her, she wants it to work. There are enough obstacles without her adding more, I imagine her reasoning to be, and so she makes Price as welcome and comfortable as possible — to the point of overcompensating, at times! Plus I think she genuinely likes Price.
Will we be seeing any characters from If I Never in any future novels?
I very much doubt it. There are, quite deliberately, a number of sequel setups in If I Never, but my aim with these was to simply suggest the various paths their lives might take — the uncertainty of it all. A full-blown sequel would weaken the concept but… never say never, right? I suppose they might turn up again one day.
How long did it take you to write If I Never?
The actual writing process took about ten months, but this one had a pretty long and drawn out gestation period. I lived with Price and Tara in my head for quite a while before knuckling down.
Was it a scary process to get your first book published?
Actually, yes, it was! It was extremely exciting, too, of course — I’ve been submitting work for years with many close calls, so this was a dream realised, you know? — but I never expected it to be quite so nerve wracking! It’s the whole thing of having your work out there, of having complete strangers reading and commenting on it. As it’s turned out, I’ve had very few negative comments/reviews, but waiting for those first reactions… yes, very scary indeed!
Where is your favourite place to write?
I always write in the same place these days — in my office/bedroom, looking out on the road on which I live and the hills in the distance… all of which is today, incidentally, covered in about 14 inches of snow! (We’re having a record-breaking snowy/icy spell here in the UK this year… makes me glad I work from home!)
Are there any future books currently in the making?
My second novel, Children of the Resolution, is finished and has been delivered to my publisher. No firm publication date on that one, yet, but August/September this year has been mooted. I’m also halfway through a fairly epic piece called As Morning Shows the Day which will hopefully hit the shelves towards the back end of 2011. As well as this, I have another novel (tentatively titled Out Of Season) in the early stages of development (i.e. I’m thinking about it!)
When did you start to write?
I’ve written from a very early age, though way back then I rarely completed anything. I’ve been writing novels for… something like 23 years! Sounds terrible, I know, my only just having had my first novel published after all that time but, sadly, that’s all too often the way. You write, you get helpful, encouraging comments, and you keep writing. You make friends along the way, they guide and inspire you, you come close numerous times always believing that it’s never going to happen and then, one day, you get an e-mail out of the blue that results in a publishing contract! Incredible, really! I just don’t know where those years have gone but I can certainly say that all the hard work was worth it.
What are you reading now, how are you liking it?
I’m currently reading Jack Maggs by the (Australian!) author, Peter Carey. I read Oscar and Lucinda many years ago and quite enjoyed it but was put off by The Tax Inspector. Consequently, I hadn’t tried any of Carey’s other work until I spotted this one and thought it sounded interesting. And I have to say I’m really glad I did buy it. A thoroughly enjoyable and wonderfully written novel.
How many books would you read in a year?
Not as many, now, as I once did. Somewhere in the region of thirty, on average, I’d say.
What do you do in your spare time when you’re not writing?
When I’m not doing anything writing-related, I like to read, naturally, watch a good movie, annoy friends and eat.
Who would you most like to meet and why?
If this is the “ultimate fantasy” kind of question, where I can meet dead people, I’d probably have to say Elvis Presley. Not too long ago I had the opportunity to interview Marty Lacker, one of Elvis’s bodyguards and his best man, and I find the whole story of how someone could be so talented and, yet, live such a strange, self-destructive private life quite fascinating.
Any new year’s resolutions this year? Name one.
I never do New Year’s resolutions.
Who/what is your favourite:
Author? — I have many but if I have to name one I’d probably say John Irving.
Book? — Again, I have many but… either Ken Kesey’s One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Or The Catcher in the Rye! (Sorry, I’m a dreadful cheat!)
Character in a book? — Easy. Owen Meany from John Irving’s novel A Prayer for Owen Meany. Or Melony from Irving’s The Cider House Rules.
Genre to read? — I usually lean towards literary fiction but like anything that’s good. Can’t beat a good thriller. Tom Rob Smith’s Child 44 is a recent favourite.
Quote? — “It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking Thirteen…”
Movie? — The Deer Hunter.
Film star? — Al Pacino.
TV show? — QI.
Holiday destination? — Currently, anywhere that doesn’t have snow!
Animal? — Mountain gorilla.
Band? — Probably Soft Cell.
Song? — Early Morning Rain — the Presley version.
Meal to cook? — If I’m cooking it, I ain’t eatin’ it!
Drink? — Tea.
And last but not least, what one question would you ask yourself in an interview and what would the answer be?
That’s really tough! I suppose I’d ask myself something profound and incredibly analytical like “what did you have for your tea today?” That’s why I’m a writer and I leave the interviewing to far more able people like you! (The answer, incidentally, would be minced beef and dumpling followed by chocolate cake — neither of which, of course, I cooked/baked!)
Thank you again, Gary, for this great opportunity.
No, thank you, Mandy — it really was my pleasure and I always appreciate being invited on to other people’s blogs. It’s extremely generous. I really appreciate it.
Click here to go to Gary’s profile on my website where you will find links to the blurb of If I Never, my review of If I Never, his website, his Goodreads profile and a link to purchase If I Never