Interview with Gary William Murning Part 1 of 2

Gary William Murning

Interview by Mike

Gary's debut book, If I Never, was published by Legend Press in August of this year. Gary is a writer from the northeast of England who enjoys literature, current affairs, music, the arts and sceptical enquiry. I caught up with him last month to see how he was getting on post book launch.

Hi Gary, thanks for agreeing to chat about your novel If I Never.

You're very welcome, Mike. Thanks for giving me the opportunity.

How did you get your publishing deal with Legend Press and how did that make you feel?

I actually approached Legend a few years ago with an earlier project -- a quite experimental (for me, at least!) "literary" ghost story called The Realm of the Hungry Ghosts. That particular novel didn't quite fit their list but further work was requested so I sent along If I Never. And, as is sometimes the way with publishing, the person I was dealing with at the time moved on to pastures new and I pretty much assumed that that was that. I knew from past experience with other publishers that when a sympathetic editor leaves the opportunity usually goes out the door with them -- so I pretty much forgot all about it. I got on with other projects and didn't even try submitting If I Never elsewhere (something I can't really explain... I usually submit pretty widely.) Then, out of the blue, about eighteen months later I heard from Tom Chalmers -- Mr Legend himself -- letting me know that he'd like to discuss If I Never with me. Naturally I replied pretty promptly!
How did it made me feel? Initially, extremely excited. The conversation I had with Tom went exactly how I would have wished. He made it very clear that everyone who had read If I Never had really enjoyed it and that they wanted to publish it. More to the point, he seemed to "get" what I was trying to do with my fiction. He saw that whilst I wanted to write work that would be extremely entertaining, and also wanted my work to have a little depth -- layers of meaning that the reader could explore if he or she wished.
It really was a wonderful feeling... but then came the short wait for the contract be signed and so on and so forth. That was hell -- not because of any contractual problems or difficulties with Legend, I hasten to add. That all went splendidly. No, the problem was that I managed to convince myself that everything was going to go pear-shaped! There was one week in particular when I was a complete pain to live with! All worth it, though!

Would you have considering self-publishing?

I briefly considered this option with Hungry Ghosts, but that was never really something I wanted to do... I suppose I wanted my work to be published because someone else wanted it to be published rather than just myself.

How does it feel now the book is published - is there a high then a come down?

I'm a writer so I should be able to do a little better than cliches but... the old reliable rollercoaster analogy actually fits very nicely. The week before publication was very weird. Friends were asking me how excited I was and, most of the time, I simply wasn't. The excitement came with acceptance and publication itself -- or the run-up to it, at least -- was actually quite scary! It didn't help that I'd opted for an online launch -- a week long "event" with a competition and various other bits and pieces. The closer I got to it, the more I realised that I could end up with egg on my face if no one took part. Thankfully, though, it was a huge success -- the book selling out on within hours on the first day -- and I've been able to enjoy it much more since then.
It's like I was saying to a friend recently, though; you simply can't maintain that level of excitement -- not without keeling over!

The chances are with a small indie publisher, that the book will not make a large number of sales or make the bestsellers list - does that frustrate you or are you just glad to see it in print?

Not make the bestseller list? Pish and tosh! I won't be happy until I've taken the world by storm, Mike. World domination one reader at a time!... Seriously, though, I do think, with time, a good independent like Legend can position itself to, to some degree at least, beat the big boys at their own game. It can't happen overnight, of course, and if If I Never manages to sell 3000 or 4000 (pretty optimistic) in its first year, I'll be extremely happy... but I do believe that with a lot of time and effort on the part of the author, novels from independent publishers can break through and achieve decent sales figures. For example, If I Never is currently stocked in about 140 Waterstone's stores alone around the country. I know of writers with big publishers who haven't got that kind of in-store presence -- and that was only achieved with my publisher's efforts and also my own (with help from my parents), approaching individual stores, sending out flyers, that kind of thing.
I think it's important to accentuate the positive, as the song says. Yes, the odds are stacked against If I Never being a bestseller, but that doesn't mean that it can't achieve a degree of success. Independent publishers, generally speaking, do something different. Difference, as I see it, is a huge selling point and can be used advantageously.

A lot of first novels are semi-autobiographical - how much is this true for If I Never?

None of If I Never is semi-autobiographical... thankfully! Yes, my characters no doubt have bits of me in them, but it's purely fictional (that's my story and I'm sticking to it!)

In your blurb it says that you are passionate about on-line publicity, how important is it for an author of an independent publisher to market their book and have you noticed a difference in attitude between on-line and more traditional routes of advertising?

I think it's important for any author to do as much marketing/promoting as possible. Independent publishers especially have a lot of work to deal with and are usually manned by a fairly small team. Legend Press, for example, is extremely proactive. They work for their authors, and they work hard. But they just can't to everything. That's why, when If I Never was accepted, I made a very conscious decision to do as much as I could myself. I have a fairly severe physical disability so certain avenues just weren't open to me -- but I figured that if I worked on really establishing an online presence this could only work in my favour.
To be honest, I haven't all that much experience of the more traditional route. I've found the local press to be fairly receptive but bigger publications, naturally, seem to be taking a little more persuading. I am finding that it is vital to follow-up, though. Pester and nag them into submission. That's the approach I am currently using. I'll let you know how it goes!

For part 2 of this interview here.
Visit Gary's site at

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