Jan 26, 2023 | Historical, Mystery |
Boston native STEPHEN M. MURPHY graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, and the University of San Francisco School of Law. After graduating from law school in 1981, he served as a law clerk to the justices of the New Hampshire Superior Court. While in New Hampshire, he worked on a murder trial that inspired his first Dutch Francis novel, Alibi. For over 34 years, he represented plaintiffs in personal injury and employment litigation. He is Past President of the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association, which voted him Trial Lawyer of the Year in 2008. SuperLawyers have also named him as one of the Top 100 lawyers in Northern California. He is the author of several books and is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and Sisters-in-Crime.
ABIDING CONVICTION: Lawyer Dutch Francis defends a high-profile murder case in which a judge is accused of killing his wife, when his own wife, TV news broadcaster Ginnie Turner, goes missing. As he confronts an ineffectual police department, suspicious that he is involved in his wife’s disappearance, he decides to take matters into his own hands. Exhausted by the murder trial, he struggles to balance both responsibilities, pushing him to the brink of losing everything he holds dear. At first, he thinks Ginnie was kidnapped in retaliation for her recent stories about sex scandals. But after receiving bits of her in the mail—fingernails, hair—he realizes the kidnapper may actually want to punish him. Could his defense of the judge be the reason?
Do you write in more than one genre? Yes. I write mysteries, legal thrillers, and historical fiction set in Ireland. I am still trying to get the latter published.
Where do you write? I generally write at a local café called Simple Pleasures.
What, if any, distractions do you allow? I like to listen to music, preferably jazz, blues, or classic rock and roll while writing.
What are you currently working on? I am writing a mystery featuring a San Francisco judge whose father and son are charged with the murder of a high-tech executive in the Tenderloin.
How long did it take you to write your first book? It took me nearly ten years to write ALIBI, a legal thriller/murder mystery set in New Hampshire, based on my experience as a law clerk to the superior court.
How long to get it published? About five years.
What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? I confess to having great difficulty figuring out how women think, which I’m sure is a character defect on my part.
Do you have subplots? Yes.
If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? I tend to link my subplots by theme rather than plot. For example, in ABIDING CONVICTION, my latest Dutch Francis novel, the protagonist’s lawyer has to search for his missing wife while trying a high-profile murder case in which a judge is accused of killing his own wife.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Both. I tend to write a rough outline at first, start writing, and when I have a first draft, go back and outline in more detail. I’ve tried outlining an entire book at the beginning but just couldn’t do it.
What kind of research do you do? For my Dutch Francis legal thriller series, I research the geography of the various towns in New Hampshire that are mentioned. Since I lived in New Hampshire for only one year –forty years ago – I find Google Maps and Google Earth invaluable to reacquaint me with the area.
What obstacles do you face when writing about historical figures? The biggest obstacle is creating realistic characters rather than just ones known to history. That means delving into their personal lives, other things they did that did not make them famous and personal relationships. For my Irish historical series, I include many historical figures and have to avoid getting caught up in the history and ignoring the stories I’m trying to tell.
What is the best book you have ever read? It’s tough to single out one book, so I’ll give you two. PRINCE OF TIDES by Pat Conroy and SHANTARAM by Gregory David Roberts. I’ve re-read both and found them just as enjoyable the second time around.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I plan on writing novels in both the Dutch Francis and the Irish history series.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Learn to love the process. The publishing business is a rough one: full of rejection both by agents and publishers. Don’t write just to get published because that may never happen. If you love writing, write for yourself or to share with family and friends. Publication is an added bonus.
How do our readers contact you? steve@stephenMmurphy.com or www.stephenMmurphy.com. My website has a link to various booksellers for my books.
May 13, 2021 | Thriller |
Teresa Burrel, a country girl from a small farm town in north western Minnesota.
I came to sunny California when I was very young, but not too early to have forgotten the cold winter months we left behind. I taught school for 12 years, practiced law for 12 years, owned and operated a business for 12 years, and am on my 12th year as an author. I think this is my final career and my longest since I still have a lot of books in my head.
My first book, The Advocate, a legal suspense mystery novel, was published in 2009. I have since written 11 more books in that series and three whodunnit mysteries in a spin-off series. The Advocate’s Labyrinth (#12 in The Advocate Series) was released in December. My most recent work is the third book in The Super Mystery Series, Recovering Rita. It launched a few days ago on May 11.
Recovering Rita – When a young girl goes missing from a Hutterite colony, the case is personal for Tuper. So his tech-loving sidekick, Lana, goes undercover. She quickly learns that Rita has a love interest on the outside, but as they start to think she eloped, another Hutterite girl disappears.
As Tuper seeks help from old friends, Lana hacks into their suspects’ backgrounds, but their leads hit a dead-end. Instead, she discovers a disturbing conversation about sex trafficking on the dark web.
Out of leads, Lana makes the ultimate sacrifice and sets herself up as bait. But their plan goes sideways, and Lana’s life is soon on the line.
Do you write in more than one genre? The majority of my books are mysteries. The Tuper Series is made up of whodunnits. The Advocate Series are legal suspense novels. But I have also written a marketing book for authors and three children’s books. They were fun to write, but my heart is primarily in the mystery genre.
What brought you to writing? When I was young, we only had two books in our house, the Bible and a book my Godparents gave me about a little girl who had a doll named Teresa. I was in awe that the book had my name in it. My older sister would bring books home from the library, and she taught me to read. I loved books and soon learned to lose myself in them. I would take the most wonderful adventures through books. I could go anywhere and be anything as long as I could read. I would sit and dream that someday I would write my own book and have my name on the outside. Back then, it was just a dream. I eventually made it a reality and discovered “To Write is to be anything you want.”
Tell us about your writing process: I use the Raymond Chandler method. He was known to have said, “I only write when I’m motivated, and I’m motivated every morning at 9:00.”
Writing is a business, and I happen to like my business. I start a little earlier than Raymond Chandler. I get up in the morning around six and walk into my office and start to write. I do that every day when I’m not on the road. I travel a lot doing book events, so I don’t write every day. I write until eleven, and then I stop. My goal (on writing days) is to complete 2000 words per day. I make it most days. During Covid, I’ve been able to write far more days because I wasn’t traveling. Pre-Covid, the length of time it took me to write a book ranged from four to eleven months. My last book was done in seven weeks—the only good thing for me that came out of this pandemic.
What are you currently working on? I’ve written twelve books in my Advocate Series, and they are written in alphabetical order. My next project will be the “M” word, The Advocate’s M______. I don’t know what the title is yet. I also have three books in a spin-off series, A Tuper Mystery Series. My latest book was from that series, Recovering Rita. It released May 11, 2021. But right now, I’m co-writing a book with a colleague. She’s an excellent writer and a lot of fun to write with. However, our writing process is very different. She’s a plotter, and I’m a pantser, so it has been a bit of a challenge for both of us. I’m really enjoying the process, though. It’s a nice break from working alone.
How do you come up with character names? I use a lot of character names of family and friends. I also enlist my street team to help me pick names for characters. They come up with some great ones. One of my characters is named Tuper. He’s an older man who lives in Montana and likes guns, gambling, and women. He’s loosely based on my brother. I used the name Tuper for him because that’s what I called him when I was young. (That’s a photo of him on the cover.)
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? When I started writing, I did it just to see if I could. I wasn’t writing to get published but to fulfill a childhood dream. I enjoyed the process so much I decided to go for it. I named my first book The Advocate, and my second The Advocate’s Betrayal. When I wrote the third book, my publisher told me I had to pick a word that started with C and that started the alphabetical order. It wasn’t intentional until the third book. I have twelve books in the series now, which means I have fourteen more to go—I hope I can last that long. I don’t see myself retiring any time soon, so I will keep at that goal as long as I can.
I’m looking forward to getting back to in-person events. I miss being on the road and meeting my readers. That’s one of the highlights of this profession for me.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Just do it! If you want to write, then write. Don’t let anything hold you back. And don’t say you don’t have time. I wrote my first book while I was practicing law in juvenile court. I was working 12-14 hours a day, seven days a week. When I decided I wanted to write it, I set my alarm an hour and a half early each morning, and I would write until it was time to get ready for work. Six months later, I had my first novel. Twelve edits later, I had my first marketable book.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? I just want to thank all my wonderful readers for their loyalty and support and for making my dream come true.
How do our readers contact you?
Thanks for this post, Stephen (and George).
Ten years to write the first book is long, but from what I’ve seen, not all that uncommon. I figure you wrote it while ALSO working full-time representing plaintiffs. Then five years to get the book published. For all of us yet to be published, you are indeed an inspiring model for what Winston Churchill encouraged about perseverance in the darkest of times– “Never, never, never give up.” ( In truth, he said about TEN ‘nevers,’ I believe).
I’m wondering, did you acquire an agent? If so, how long did that take? I’d love to hear that story. And if you got your first book published without an agent, that piques my interest too. Did you find the journey a lonely one? Did you have much support along the way? Inquiring minds want to know. Thanks again,
Pamela: Thanks for your post. Yes, perseverance is an important attribute for any writer. I did have an agent for my first novel. It took years to find one, but once I did the book sold fairly quickly. However, my agent was unable to sell the second book in the Dutch Francis series, ABOUT POWER, so I self-published it on Amazon. For my latest book, ABIDING CONVICTION, I did not have an agent since my agent retired, but was able to sell it on my own to Oceanview.
As you can tell, it’s been a long journey, which fortunately has been made easier by my writers’ group, which has been most supportive.
Sounds like some sound advice, counselor. Best of luck on your new one.
Thanks, Michael. You may not remember but you read the first chapter of ABIDING CONVICTION through the MWA. You inspired me to keep going.
Damn, now that you mention it, I thought there was something familiar about your summary. Well, congratulations on your success. I’m flattered that you remember me.
“If you love writing, write for yourself or to share with family and friends. Publication is an added bonus.”