An Interview with Murray Lee Eiland Jr.: Grand Prize Winner in the 2016 SPR Book Awards

Murray Lee Eiland Jr.As a day job I was a forensic psychiatrist, and I also have an interest in Islamic art, particularly carpets. With my brother (who is still in the business) I opened a rug store. I wrote several books on oriental rugs, most recently with my son, who is an archaeologist.

I grew up in Southern California and it is no surprise that I have a fondness for LA-based Private Eyes. In my books I like to play with the image of a “hard boiled” character.  Some aspects of my PI are hard boiled, but other aspects of my character are the opposite of what one might expect. I have prided myself on my skill as a writer and I am happy to have finally written some novels that I can share with others.

The Ishtar Cup (The Bart Northcote Series Book 1) was the Grand Prize Winner in the 2016 SPR Book Awards.

Why did you choose to self-publish?

It is very difficult to break into fiction writing. Established publishers do not even bother reading manuscripts (or at least they did not seem to read any of mine!). Self-publishing allows someone to take a bold step and bear the risk themselves. In fact the financial risks are small, but the threat of a failed book still keeps many people from self-publishing.

What did you learn on your journey as an author?

Having a manuscript is different than having something ready to publish. I found that I could not rely upon myself to self-edit. I could also not trust friends, who did not take it seriously. I had to get a team of editors to go over my work. When an editor has a problem with something, I tend to fix it. I also found myself re-writing sentences and passages that did not seem right. Even after I self-publish, the process continues. I do not think I will ever be fully satisfied with my writing. I suppose that is a good thing.

The Ishtar Cup (Bart Northcote #1) Tell us about your book.

I am a huge fan of the private detective genre of the 1940s. At the same time I understand that some of the “hard-boiled” characters are rather overblown looking back at them with modern sensibilities. My main character is set in the hard-boiled mold, but also poke fun at the genre in general and Los Angeles in particular. All the books in the series have a different style, but in the first book the character is rather green. He trusts too much. The good thing is that he surrounds himself with staff who help him along. This plot line comes out clearly in later novels.
Would you self-publish again?

At first I thought that self-publishing was something less than getting a “real” publisher to take a book. I had a huge amount of soul searching to do before I took that step. Looking back I should have done it much sooner. I really like the control I have over the final product. I think the future of novels is self-publishing and not with established publishers. “We are living history” and phrases like that are over used. However, maybe we really are living at a turning point as far as novels go.

What do you think are the main pitfalls for indie writers?

I read indie novels all the time. I am really impressed with what is out there. There is so much creativity. New ideas abound. The sad part is not the skill of the writer, but the level of editing. It is important to read feedback from reviews and incorporate that at regular intervals. I speak from experience. In a few cases some reviews pointed out that what a character did was in fact out of character. I thought about it and changed it. The author might not be 100% correct about their own character. I think that a big publishing house has readers and editors who go through everything. As an indie author you do not have that support network. You have to actively reach out and get people to critique you work.

WINNER SPR AWARDS 2016As a writer, what is your schedule? How do you get the job done?

I am a narcissist. I wish I could say that differently. I am a psychiatrist and I cannot lie to myself. I apologize to friends and family. I explain why I need to be alone to write. I am not simply ignoring people. I like people, but I have things to do with my time. If I were younger perhaps I would be more social, but now, I try to get hours of writing in per day. It is so easy to lose momentum I keep track of how much I write per day. If necessary, I will sit and write into the night to get the required number of words on the page for the day.

What tips can you give other authors looking to self-publish?

There is now a huge amount of knowledge out there about self-publishing. There are more and more tools available all the time. I try to keep up by reading blogs about what others have experienced. I contact people for advice (particularly about advertising) all the time. I never assume I know something for sure, because this is a rapidly changing field.

What was your steepest learning curve during the publishing process?

I look back at the early book blurbs I wrote and shudder. They were so constipated that I cannot imagine anyone buying the book after reading it. In fact very few people bought the book then. My sales figures for the first weeks showed that I needed to change, and I did. The blurb has to convey what the book is about. It cannot convey too much. I tended to convey far too little about the book to be interesting. I think my blurbs are better, but I can imagine that this is an area I will continue to work on in the future.

The Bart Northcote Series (4 Book Series)

Why did you want to write a book?

Ever since I was young I idolized authors. There is something about a fictional world that is intoxicating. I think that being a successful novelist would be the greatest job in the world. Even at my level I get a thrill in having someone say they enjoyed my novel. If they say that they would like to read another I am flattered. I just imagine what it would be like to know that thousands of people like your work. That must be wonderful. There are few things that I hate to admit I envy. Successful writers are in that category.

Tell us about the genre you wrote in, and why you chose to write this sort of book.

My mother read hundreds of mystery stories. I started reading them then and I read so many I can be considered an addict. I mean that literally. I spent hour after hour reading private eye novels. When books on tape came out I even listened to them in the car. I started writing mystery stories in my mind many years before I started writing in fact. It has been a great ride.

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