Donna Huston Murray interview with David Alan Binder

posted Nov 8, 2018, 5:27 PM by David Alan Binder

Donna Huston Murray interview with David Alan Binder

Her bio from her website:

Both novels in Donna Huston Murray’s new mystery/crime series were awarded Honorable Mention in genre fiction by Writer’s Digest, and her eighth cozy mystery FOR BETTER OR WORSE is shortlisted for the Chanticleer International Mystery & Mayhem Book Award. FINAL ARRANGEMENTS, set at Philadelphia’s world famous flower show, achieved #1 on the Kindle-store list for Mysteries and Female Sleuths.







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1. How would you describe the types of books you write?

My mysteries are meant to be a vacation from whatever is going on in your life. The Ginger Barnes Cozy mysteries are lighter, the new Lauren Beck mystery/crime novels more complex. Both of my main characters take crime seriously, but never themselves. 

2. I actually live on Philadelphia’s “Main Line,” which refers to the branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad once used by executives to travel to their estates after work. The long strip of real estate still has lots of beautiful old homes, but now there are lots of modest ones, too. Just like my first series’ character Ginger Barnes, we moved here when my husband became head of a small private school. Gin’s first cozy mystery is called, THE MAIN LINE IS MURDER.

3. Stubbornness is a virtue. 

4. My sense of humor must be very much my own. This is both good, and bad, and neither. Early on I experimented with a few funny articles but quickly realized humor is like pepper. A sprinkling now and then adds interest, but it doesn’t substitute for steak. I decided to let my characters be themselves, which is to say ME, but the main focus of each book is always a solid mystery. I dare you to guess the ending, and if you laugh a little along the way, that’s a bonus.

5. FINAL ARRANGEMENTS attracted an agent, and he secured my first contract with St. Martin’s Press. After 7 books with them, I took a break to “write a bigger book,” which one of my editors had suggested. Turns out, I don’t change voices very easily, so that experiment took years, with a couple of easier books slipped in between. The agent I had when WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU was finally ready wasn’t a good match, so rather than delay any longer, I published the book myself. Fast-forward: I love being an Indie author, and I’m happy to report that WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU won Honorable Mention in the 23rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards. Just recently (2018), the second in the series, GUILT TRIP, won the same award.

6. For an Indie writing genre fiction, eBooks are the way to go. My mysteries are meant to be pleasant distractions, so the less trouble it is for the reader to access them the better. Fewer people insist on paperbacks each year, and fewer still require hardbacks. Even the Big 5 publishers are catching on. When I do a paperback version of my books, it’s mainly to gift reviewers, sell at book signings, or use as contest prizes. I also kinda like having them around. 

As for conventional publishing vs. independent, authors do the heavy lifting in the publicity department either way, so why not go for the bigger royalties we deserve? The drawbacks? The competition is tough, the workload endless, the learning curve steep, and you need to invest in yourself up front. Yet that’s what being in business for yourself is like, and no corporation could possibly care about my work as much as I do.

7. Advice for getting a book published? Learn your craft, then learn to self-edit. Writing groups are helpful in the beginning because you’re forced to figure out which comments are accurate and which are just bad guesses. 

8. Research to find agents who sell what you write. Then follow their submission instructions perfectly. Be professional. Don’t brag. Wait a reasonable amount of time before you follow up, and follow up politely. 

9. Listen to your own thoughts. If you pay attention to what you’re actually thinking, you’ll have access to no end of material. Readers—and editors—want to hear your voice, to learn what makes you unique. Sharing yourself (selectively) is probably the best reason to write in the first place. Nobody else will see the world through your eyes or have identical experiences. Why not make the most of it?

10. Even when I was “pre-published,” writing enriched my life every day. I’ve always been curious about other people’s passions—horseracing, rock climbing, the Philadelphia Flower Show, lure coursing (dogs), NFL Films, Oriental rugs. Research gives me the perfect excuse to find out what fun I’ve been missing. Or, put another way, it’s the grown-up version of asking why, as in, “Why would anybody want to do that?”

Also, (this is no surprise), practicing how to express yourself accurately helps you with everything from ordering lunch to finding the words to tell your son the sad news about his hamster.

11. I’ve published 11 books. There are a few more in the garage.

13. Speaking at a conference, Stephen Cannell pointed out that when you don’t know what your main character should do next, ask yourself what the antagonist is doing in response to whatever is going on. Since I write first person, being reminded to come at the plot from another direction helped me a lot.

14. Voice again. Personal perspective. The more you sound like you, the better your work will be received. Also, if you’re an independent author/publisher, be sure your books look and read as if they came out of New York. 

16. I think if my editors at St. Martin’s Press had been harder on me when they had the chance, it would have shortened my education. But then again, readiness is everything.