I first became aware of Mur Lafferty via the podosphere. I ran across her I Should Be Writing and Geek-Fu Action Grip (sadly, now gone) podcasts on iTunes, and, like many thousands of other writers out there, enjoyed discovering that the worries, the angst, the ups and downs that go along with writing are all pretty much universal, along with the personal pleasure of encountering another writer who enjoys the same kind of geeky pastimes as me. I heard one of her short stories “City Talkers” on Escape Pod, a podcast for science fiction short stories, and thought it was a cool idea. She’s one of those writers with the drive to make it work as a career, willing to try new avenues, such as podcasting, while realizing that the old ways of the publishing industry still hold most of the cards. Fledgling writers everywhere would do well to listen to her podcasts.
TH: Can you tell me a little bit about your writing career? Credits, general work, accomplishments, etc.
ML: I’ve written for over fifteen role playing books, including Dark Ages: Mage, World of Warcraft, Vampire, Mage, and Everquest. I’ve also written freelance for magazines, including Knights of the Dinner Table, Scrye, and Anime Insider. Since 2005 I’ve been publishing my fiction in publications like Escape Pod, Hub, and Murky Depths. I’ve written one novel (Playing For Keeps) and four novellas (Heaven, Hell, Earth, and Wasteland) that have been released via podcast to over 16,000 people.
TH: What is The Story of Mur? Is it a novel? A short story? A poem? A limerick?
ML: It’s a comedy with a twist ending (I hope!)
TH: When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? How did you know?
ML: I know when i was 12 and started writing a dreadful novel about unicorns. I knew because it was something that came naturally.
TH: Do you have a stack of crap-writing stuck away somewhere? I’m talking about stuff that helped you learn and develop your craft, but will never see the light of day. Most established writers seem to have something like this, like the five novels he or she had to write before they could get to the good one. Describe yours.
ML: I have a bunch of short stories, and beginnings of short stories on my hard drive. I try not to think about them, they had their place as stepping stones to get me where I am today, but no, they don’t need to see the light of day.
TH: Of course, most writers want to have a bestseller or make some sort of artistic or literary impact, but do you have an immediate close-range goal? Is there some accomplishment that you’re striving for in the near future?
ML: Yup, I’m trying to catch the attention of an agent. That’s my immediate focus, along with writing my next novel.
TH: Are you actively pursuing any non-fiction work for magazines, or are you focused on your fiction?
ML: Focused on the fiction right now. I find that other work is good, but always makes me push fiction to the side.
TH: What are some of the things that most inspire you?
ML: Other writers. There’s nothing that inspires me more than good fiction. Someone else’s good story makes me want to excel, makes me want to write as good as they do. Not copy, necessarily, or write pastiche, but it just makes me want to write better than I currently am.
TH: What’s the best fiction (long or short) you’ve read recently?
ML: Android’s Dream by John Scalzi
TH: What are the most successful ways you have used to promote yourself and your work?
ML: Including the listeners and the community in the projects is by far the best thing. I let them know this is their sandbox too, they are encouraged to make art, use the art from the site, write fanfic to submit to me, etc. Being accessible and open to the community is key. They will be your champion so much harder if they like your work AND you.
TH: Do find that fans seem to know who you are at cons? How much name recognition do you feel you have?
ML: At cons? Yeah, I’m getting recognized more and more. How much? well, i’m not neil gaiman, that’s for sure, but most podcast fans that come to cons nowadays know me.
TH: What is are the secrets to a successful podcast?
ML: Be consistent, address feedback (like answering emails on time… not always my best feature), and talk about what makes you passionate.
TH: Do you have some promotional ideas or avenues in mind that you haven’t tried yet?
ML: I haven’t yet gotten into Second Life. There are also some web tricks I’d like to play with (fake sites for stuff in the novel, etc).
TH: Do you think Second Life is a viable way to promote a writing career?
ML: I honestly don’t know. I haven’t spent much time there. The allure is obvious on an academic standpoint, but I don’t feel the pull personally.
TH: Some say that professional writers have to look at themselves as a business, a branded commodity. Have you reached that point? How do you handle the financial side of writing?
ML: If you want to go pro with this, want to be a novelist, you have to see it as a business. You have to look at your work on a more objective manner like a project from work. You need to treat agents, editors, and your readers/listeners with professional respect. finances? Well, I haven’t had much of a chance to make a ton, but the biggest issue is to make sure I put aside at least 30% of every check to go into taxes, as freelancers don’t have taxes withdrawn.
TH: What can readers expect to see from you in the near future? What are you working on?
ML: I am working on a new novel right now, and after that, I’ll be working on Heaven Season 5, which is a novel-length work.
TH: What is the most memorable moment (good, bad, or other) you have had in your writing life?
ML: Good- the first sale. it felt unreal.
Bad- Playing For Keeps launched with 4000 listeners, as well as receiving attention from BoingBoing.net the same day. That afternoon, an agent contacted me, interested in my success. I sent him my novel, and he rejected me. Having the agents seek me out to reject me was a new feeling. 🙂