Today here at Lizzyland, we have the extreme pleasure of sharing both a interview and amazing giveaway with a legendary author by the name of Warren Murphy.
So sit back, relax and enjoy the insight and humor that only Warren can provide.
Warren Murphy was born in Jersey City, where he worked as a reporter and editor. After the Korean war, he drifted into politics, “but when everybody I worked for went to jail, I thought God was sending me a message to find a new line of work.” The first Destroyer novel followed soon after.
Murphy says he has “the usual passel of snot-nosed kids, Deirdre, Megan, Brian, Ardath and Devin, some of whom now have their own snot-nosed kids.”
He has been an adjunct professor at Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA, and has also run workshops and lectured at many other schools and universities. His hobbies are golf, mathematics, opera and investing.
He has served on the board of the Mystery Writers of America, and also has been a member of the Private Eye Writers of America, the International Association of Crime Writers, the American Crime Writers League, and the Screenwriters Guild.
Murphy is also a member of the Adams Roundtable, a New York writers’ social group, among whose members are Mary Higgins Clark, Peter Straub, Susan Isaacs, Lawrence Block, Harlan Coben, Judith Kelman, Mickey Friedman, Dorothy Salisbury Davis, Justin Scott, Stanley Cohen and Whitley Strieber, and who occasionally produce mystery anthologies.
He lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
On to the interview!!!!
How did you get your start in the publishing industry and how long did it take you to get published?
In 1962, I was a politician in Jersey City and Dick Sapir was a city hall reporter and we decided to collaborate on an adventure novel. We finished it in 1963, didn’t know what to do next, so we sent it off to one of those wacko “agents” who advertised then in Writers Digest. We paid our fee and we got his advice: “forget about writing this as a novel. Series novels don’t sell. Change this into a one-time short story and kill off your character at the end.” Well, Dick and I looked at each other and knew that we were dumber than a pair of doorknobs but compared to this dope we were Newton and Einstein. So we eventually found a real agent, who put our manuscript in a file cabinet for seven years. Finally, Dick’s father, a dentist, was working on a secretary from Pinnacle Books and said his son had written a book. The secretary said — (what else are you going to say to a guy who’s got a drill in your mouth?) — “send it to me and I’ll see that somebody reads it.” So we did and Pinnacle immediately bought “Created the Destroyer” and after only eight years we were overnight successes and the series went on to sell 50 million books.
What are your thoughts on how the publishing industry has changed?
The publishing industry has always been mostly moronic. Its business model was stupid but when you are the only game in town, almost anything can seem sensible. But then came e-publishing and self-publishing and now the “legacy” publishers are totally clueless about how to respond. Most self-published books are junk; mainstream publishers now seem determined to publish even worse junk. The whole industry is pitiful and now you even have reviewing services whoring it up, charging for reviews. And no one in the business seems to think that this is a disgrace, but they’ve all had their hands in each other’s pockets for so long they don’t know what else to do.
How did you feel when your novels were going to be turned into movies?
Generally, I felt raw murderous anger because most of the time, our books and our ideas and our plots and our characters were simply stolen without us being paid. Dick Sapir once tried to put an ad in the Hollywood Reporter announcing our new Destroyer: “Be the first to buy it today so you can be the first to steal it tomorrow.” He was disappointed that the ad never appeared. Later on, when the Destroyer series became a film, “Remo Williams: the Adventure Begins,” Dick and I were disappointed because the producers didn’t seem to realize and wouldn’t listen to us that for there to be a great hero, there has to be a great villain. James Bond had Dr. No and Goldfinger; we had a guy who was selling cheap rifles to the government. So the movie was, sadly, a near miss.
How different was it from writing a novel to writing a movie script?
Film scripts are much easier to write than novels, assuming one has the ability to visualize people and events. But I was kind of spoiled for Hollywood because my first screen job was “The Eiger Sanction” for Clint Eastwood, and Clint was smart, talented, funny and not afraid to make a decision. I soon found out that he was the exception in la-la-land and not the rule and I went back to books. Books are for individuals to write; screenwriting is a collaborative enterprise and someone once said that wanting to be a screenwriter is like wanting to grow up and become a co-pilot.
How did you feel when you received your first Edgar award?
I wondered why they waited so long. No, that’s a joke. The first winning book was a collaboration between me and what’s-her-name and I had promised her that the book would be published and would be a best-seller and I was thrilled that I kept my word. About my motivation to keep writing after “all these years,” it’s either that or sleep in a cardboard box under a bridge. Truth though is I still have a couple of stories I want to tell and writers don’t really retire; they just become unable to balance their writing time with their drinking requirements. Demon rum is both the curse and the pleasure of the profession.
What’s been your motivation to keep writing all these years?
I figured early on that I’d need co-writers, ghosts and partners if I was going to do all the work I wanted to do, there not being more than 24 hours in a day. That said, I have always been very selective about writers that I work with; they have to be good and they have to be reliable. I have never been disappointed; I’ve never worked with a dud. And now I’m working with a new gang, namely Donna Courtois and Jerry Welch, and they’re so inventive and clever they keep me young. Along the way, there’ll be more writers that I work with, and don’t forget, I’ve got five kids and not a dumb one in the carload and every one of them can write. You’re never going to hear the end of me.
Where do your stories come from?
That’s the question most asked and the hardest one to answer satisfactorily. But all joke answers aside, the truth is one’s stories come from reading the newspaper, watching television, reading other books, swearing at the news reports, wondering if politicians can get any dumber…in short, story ideas come from being alive and keeping your eyes open. (I talk some about this at my website, www.warrenmurphy.com where I’m presenting a free full online course on how to write a novel that works).
Which book was your favorite to write?
Favorite book? One is supposed to say the last one…or the next one…but my favorite book wasn’t a book at all…it was a short story called “Another Day, Another Dollar.” I’ll take my chances with that one.
Do you dream in stories?
I don’t really dream. Or at least I don’t remember them. Or maybe they’ve all come true already.
If you could have a drink with one of your characters, which one and why?
Anyone who has spent any time with me would know that the answer to that would be “all of the above.” But in truth, if I picked one, it would probably be Devlin Tracy from my “Trace” series. Having been in a ginmill or two himself, he would clearly know how to act. (And if he wasn’t available, his girlfriend Chico could help pass the time).
If you could take over the world, how would you do it?
I’m still trying to balance my checkbook so taking over the world is tough. But let’s see. To take over the world? I think I’d start out right now by buying me a white horse. Because after this current mess in Washington plays out, it’s going to take a man on a white horse to try to rescue the United States and if one can do that, the rest of the world is simply the remaining piece of cake.
What’s one question you wish people would ask but never do and how would you answer?
Answer: only one damned thing. I would have quit smoking while I still had the use of my lungs. This playing golf while dragging around an iron lung really sux eggs.
Any advice to aspiring authors?
Never surrender. Never give up. Keep going. As the old jazz musician once said, “If you hang around long enough, sooner or later they get to you.”
Thank you so much, Mr. Murphy for not only taking the time to visit us today but to also offer up 2 signed books!
Warren has been generous enough to give away one set of The Assassins Handbook 1 and 2.
All you need to do is enter in your information into the rafflecopter below.
This week we will also be interviewing his two co authors and giving away signed books of theirs as well, so please stay tuned!
Visit Warren on his website.
Murphy was one of the authors of the screenplay for The Eiger Sanction in 1975, and he also wrote the screenplay for Lethal Weapon 2. He is the author of the Trace and Digger series. With Molly Cochran, he has completed two books of a planned trilogy revolving around the character The Grandmaster, The Grandmaster (1984) and High Priest (1989). Murphy also shares writing credits with Cochran on The Forever King and several novels under the name Dev Stryker.
Some of his solo novels include Jericho Day, The Red Moon, The Ceiling of Hell, The Sure Thing and Honor Among Thieves. Over his career, Murphy has sold over 60 million books.
A few years ago, he started his own publishing house, Ballybunion, to have a vehicle to start The Destroyer spin-off books. Ballybunion has reprinted The Assassin’s Handbook, as well as the original works Assassin’s Handbook 2, The Movie That Never Was (a screenplay he and Richard Sapir wrote for a Destroyer movie that was never optioned), The Way of the Assassin (the wisdom of Chiun), and New Blood, a collection of short stories written by fans of the series.
He has served on the board of the Mystery Writers of America, and also has been a member of the Private Eye Writers of America, the International Association of Crime Writers, the American Crime Writers League and the Screenwriters Guild.
In April 2007, Warren returned to co-authoring The Destroyer, which is now published by Tor Books.
Awards and acclaim
The novels The New Destroyer: Guardian Angel and The New Destroyer: Choke Hold were both identified as Bruce Grossman of Bookgasm’s “10 best crime novels of 2007″
Murphy has received a number of awards and nominations for his work. Ceiling of Hell won the 1985 Shamus Award in the “Best Original Private Eye Paperback” category.
Additionally, his 1999 short story, “Another Day, Another Dollar”, won the “Best Short Story” Shamus award. His novel Grandmaster won the 1985 Edgar Award for “Best Paperback Original Mystery Novel”.
His novel Trace: Too Old a Cat was nominated for “Best Paperback Original” at the 1987 Anthony Awards and the Shamus Awards of the same year.
Also Smoked Out was nominated in this category in 1983,Trace in 1984 (along with a 1983 Edgar Award nomination), Trace and 47 Miles of Rope in 1985, Trace: Pigs Get Fat in 1986 (along with a 1986 Edgar Award nomination); and Trace: Too Old a Cat in 1987.