I think there’s been far too much about me on here recently (though, that said, I would point you towards today’s Flash Clash) so it’s a pleasure to be able to welcome novelist Gary William Murning to the blog, to talk to us about him and his debut novel, If I Never.
So, let’s get to it, shall we…?
Welcome, Gary! It’s great to have you here. So – your novel, ‘If I Never’ – who’s it for? What’s it about?
Thanks for inviting me along, Nik! Great to be here.
Primarily, it was for me. That’s my starting point with everything I write. What would I like to read today. When I first started thinking about If I Never, I wanted to write something that was actually quite self-indulgent. More so than usual, I mean! I wanted to really have fun, play with form and, basically, do everything I’d been told not to do. So I suppose If I Never would appeal to readers who want something a little different — readers who like to be entertained, but who also like to be surprised and challenged.
It’s actually a pretty difficult novel to sum up — but, at heart, it’s a love story centred around the developing relationship between two “social misfits”. There are, also, what appear to be — initially — satellite stories, all of which explore various aspects of “power” in relationships. It has a fairly strong thriller element to it. It’s pretty dark and threatening but, as one magazine reviewer so kindly put it, it has heart.
Why did you write it? Where did the idea come from?
As I mentioned, my usual starting point is a response to a question about what I’d like to read. I always feel as if I’m somehow exploring the world around me when I’m writing, so writing is something I just have to do. This novel in particular, though, developed over a period of time… to such a degree, to be honest, that I can’t exactly remember where it came from. I do remember half-joking about it on one of my old blogs. There are certain medical conditions involved and one or two people, given the nature of these conditions, didn’t think I’d be able to pull off what I aimed to pull off. So I suppose that was quite a big part of it. You know what it’s like. Someone says “you’ll never get away with that” and you’ve just got to prove them wrong, right?
Is there anything about being published or the industry that you think might surprise readers?
You really do get invited to lots of launch parties! I haven’t actually attended any, yet, but it does leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling knowing you’re on the guest list with lots of other literary types.
So, who is Gary William Murning? And why does he write?
I suppose that depends upon which Gary William Murning you’re talking about! The writer me… well, he’s pretty friendly, enjoys socialising, has a bit of a reputation (probably undeserved) of being something of a wit (though they may have said “twit”), can be very outspoken, bites if provoked (though considerable provocation is required) and probably talks about himself rather too much (I blame people like you, of course, forever asking me questions!)
The other me, however, is probably a lot quieter than many would imagine. I’m not exactly riddled with self-doubt but I have my moments.
Building on what I said earlier, writing for me is a very personal thing. I write to explore, to create something that I’d find interesting and challenging to read. I think I’m actually happier when I’m in the middle of a project. It’s not that I find writing cathartic. That isn’t it at all. It’s not “therapy” — but it does have real personal value. I think I’m a better person because I write.
Who’s your favourite writer and why?
This changes quite frequently but at the moment I’d probably go for Michael Ondaatje. His work has a wonderful lyrical quality to it — something that clearly stems from his starting out as a poet — that I find so soothing. The language of his work… whether you like his often unconventional narrative structures or not (I do), the language of his work is quite wonderful.
What do you think a story needs to have for it to be great?
Any tips for any aspiring writers out there?
Two of the best pieces of advice I was ever given were: 1) Try to write at least a little every day and 2) Read your work aloud and listen to it, using a tape recorder, if necessary. This second piece of advice has really helped me develop the tone of my work. I swear by it.
What’s next for you?
My second novel, Children of the Resolution (which may be changing to Child of the Resolution — discussing this, at the moment), is currently on the editorial shuttle, passing back and forth between my editor at Legend and myself. This is on hold for a few weeks, though, as I’m now working on the final chapter of what should hopefully be my third published novel, As Morning Shows the Day.
Anything you’d like to add?
Yes, I’d like to thank you again for the opportunity, Nik. I don’t need to tell you how tough it can be getting the word out about one’s work, I’m sure, and “blog appearances” like this really do make a considerable difference. So cheers, it’s appreciated.
Gary is a novelist living in the northeast of England. His work, largely mainstream fiction, focuses on themes that touch us all — love, death, loss and aspiration — but always with an eye to finding an unusual angle or viewpoint. Quirky and highly readable, his writing aims to entertain first and foremost. If he can also offer a previously unfamiliar perspective or insight, all the better.
Gary was born with a form of Spinal Muscular Atrophy, and whilst he has never thought of himself as a “disabled writer” it is nevertheless fair to say that his disability has in many ways contributed to his fairly unique perspective. If you’d like to know more about SMA, please click here