Nicole Murphy is the author of the Dream of Asarlai urban fantasy trilogy, publisher and editor of In fabula-divinos, the author mentorship program and is the president of Conflux Incorporated and co-chair of Conflux 9. She still manages to fit in a good nine hours of sleep a night.
1. The third book in your ‘Dreams of Asarlai’ trilogy, ‘Rogue Gadda’, was published last year. How does it feel to have achieved what most writers aspire to, and how do you keep up momentum now that its complete?
Achieving the dream of having a trilogy published was fantastic. Amazing. Wonderful. The thing is that it’s been nearly twelve months since Rogue Gadda came out and once you’ve achieved a dream, what you find is that it becomes not as important as it was. So on the one hand, it’s a wonderful achievement. On the other hand, it’s done and I’ve moved on and so it feels very distant and small. It’s weird to feel that way about something that for years was my priority, the one thing I wanted to do with my life. I look at those books on my shelves now, and I smile, and I’m proud of them, but they don’t mean that much to me any more.
What means something to me now is the next book, the next contract, the next story. I’ve had no problems keeping up momentum because I’ve wanted to get the next books out as quickly as possible. In the nearly two years since I delivered Rogue Gadda to the publisher (and I’ve been writing full-time pretty much all that time), I’ve written five new novels, a novella, and re-written another novel and novella. And lots of short stories. Now I’ve just got to sell them, cause nowadays selling one trilogy does not guarantee any further sales. Hopefully within the next couple of years you’re going to see a whole lot more Nicole Murphy on the shelves.
2. In addition to your mainstream published works, you have recently self-published a number of short stories and novellas as e-books. Do you see these reaching a different audience to the ‘Dreams of Asarlai’ trilogy, and how does self-publishing compare to traditional publishing?
The self-publishing is achieving two aims for me – one is to build audience by continuing to get my work out there. Apart from the short story ‘Kenyon and Nami’ which was written specifically as a thank you to the fans of the ‘Dream of Asarlai’ books, the others are aimed at readers who may not have heard of me yet. Hence the reason why all the short stories are free (except on Amazon, which for some reason won’t let authors sell books for free except for special promotions or when Amazon chooses).
The novella, ‘The Right Connection’ fits in with both that aim and the second one, which was to create my own deadlines. I was starting to feel a bit aimless at the beginning of this year. I’d been doing all this writing, but getting the sales was taking longer, and I wasn’t sure what to do next or how to motivate myself. Then I thought – set myself deadlines to self-publish, while I’m polishing and selling everything else I’ve written. So ‘The Right Connection’ was the May deadline. I’ve set myself deadlines in July, September, November and January as well. These will be superseded by any publisher deadlines that arise.
I’m enjoying the process. I’m learning new skills, and I like being in control of the whole process and making decisions myself about what happens with these books. It can also be scary, from the point of view of these books not being vetted by a publisher so how can I be sure they’re really worth putting out there? Also, convincing myself not to check the sales figures every few days is hard.
I think that in the publishing future that’s coming to us, most authors will be using a mix of traditional and self publishing to reach as many readers as possible and grow our careers.
3. ‘In fabula-divinos’ is your initiative to help new writers who have not yet had a professional sale. Why was it important for you take on this initiative, and what do you hope to achieve from it? At $100 for a 2000 word story, your payment rate is equivalent to the SFWA qualifying rate of 5c/word. Why did you decided on a relatively high payment rate for unknown authors?
First, the payment question cause it comes up. I chose $100 for two reasons – a) cause it’s a nice round figure and I prefer to keep things simple and b) because I’m working these authors really hard and so they deserve to have a good payout at the end. The first story went through a structural edit, two copy-edits and a proof pass all in three weeks. You should get paid well for working like that.
‘In fabula-divinos’ came about because I wanted to return to editing, which I really enjoy. I also wanted to pay back all the help and support I’ve received over the years, and I gain a lot of satisfaction from seeing great writers achieve. The idea first came to me around the time of Aussiecon and I sat on it for a while, waiting for the next novel sale to fund it. Earlier this year I thought – blow that, I can’t wait, I want to do it now. I tried crowd-funding and got enough to start it, but not to sustain it for the full year. So now I’m going to chase the corporate dollars. And who knows – maybe there will be a novel sale in the next twelve months to keep it going.
I hope that eventually, the sales of the anthologies that will be published each twelve months will fund the continuation of the project.
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
I’ve not been reading as much as I would like to – I tend to not be able to read when I’m drafting so the reading’s been down the past year or so. But Kim Westwood’s ‘The Courier’s New Bicycle’ blew my frickin’ mind – incredible. And I’ve loved Glenda Larke’s Watergiver series. Glenda’s such a fabulous writer, I don’t know how she’s not a millionaire best seller. I was lucky enough to read Jason Fischer’s upcoming zombie novel (I got to blurb it) and it’s great fun. Also, I’ve been doing crit reading for the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild novel group and man – are there some fabulous writers ready to bust through. This really is an incredible industry.
5. Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think have been the biggest changes to the Australian SpecFic scene?
I don’t think there have been big changes. I think what’s happened is that Aussiecon came at a point when a lot of us were starting to get tired, and it’s spurred us all on with the realisation that we really do stand pretty tall in the world. So we’ve got publishing houses like Twelth Planet and Ticonderoga doing really cool things, and more and more writers coming up and having the guts to get out there and do stuff. I love our industry at the moment – the confidence, the interesting things that are being done. It’s inspiring to be a writer in Australia at the moment.