Friday, November 2, 2012

Jim Murdoch - Blogger Interview

1. What three words best describe you?

Serious. Thoughtful. Orderly.

2. What three words best describe your blog?

Well-researched. Comprehensive. Literary.

3. What inspires you?

I don't subscribe to any romantic notion of inspiration. I don't think I've ever had a muse although I've wished I had. Inspiration is a good idea; if you don't have a good idea then any ol' idea can usually be pressganged into service. I write mostly about people. I can wander around in the natural world all day long and come up blank but stick a guy on a park bench then there's something worth watching.

4. What is the name of your blog?

The Truth About Lies. It comes from my poem 'Old Flames in the Rain' which reads, in part:

      I think pain’s like water
             like the chill of the moment
             like the birth pangs of poems

             and the truth about lies
             is we can’t live without them.
      Not even the white ones.

I believe strongly in the efficacy of lies. Truth is a nice ideal. It's one of those words like 'infinity' that is great as a concept but not really much use in the real world. We try to tell the truth but never quite get it right. Something is always lost in the translation even when both people think they're speaking the same language. This poem expresses what I think writing is all about:

      Reader Please Supply Meaning

      Writers are all liars. We all are.
      But at least they are honest liars.

      They write down those necessary lies,
      the kind that move men to leaps of faith
      or excuse us when we fail to jump.

      In the end it doesn't matter that
      they let us down in the cruellest ways.

      August 18, 1996

5. How many visitors and/or members does your blog have?

Currently per month: Visits: 9,572 – Unique Visitors: 8,696 – Page Views: 11,781. If you believe Google Analytics.

6. Are you searching for new books to review? If so, what genre do you prefer?

I review three books per month and as I am always being sent ARCs from traditional publishers I don't have much room for anything else but I do try to squeeze the odd independently-published book in if it piques my interest. My preference is for literary fiction or at least general fiction. I'm interested in authors who sit down to say something and not specifically to write a paranormal romance or to document the forthcoming zombie apocalypse. My first novel has been described as "not 'hard' enough to be spec fic, not 'weird' enough to be fantasy, too realistic for the humour section and yet too humorous to shelve easily with the lit fic." Now if I saw a book described like that I'd simply have to read it.

7. What is your favourite website and why?

A hard question to answer. By "website" I'm going to assume you're including blogs and not simply static sites. If that's the case I would nominate Sixth in Line, the blog of the Australian writer Elisabeth Hanscombe. This is how she describes herself and her blog's aims:

I am a writer with an interest in the underpinnings of all things autobiographical. I’m keen to explore ideas about what drives the impulse to write, unconscious connections and the like. I’m interested in the text behind the text, embedded in the text and in readable theory in the area of so-called ‘life writing’ with its weave of fact and fiction. My blog’s a great place to start. Instantly I can see how hard it is to describe myself, when there are so many different selves to describe. So I settle in the first instance, for the easy one, the professional, the vaguely academic one, and then worry that I’ll put you all off.

There are one or two blogs that I genuinely look forward to reading each week and never miss and Lis's is one of them. We're very different writers but her posts always make one think and lengthy comments frequently follow.

8. What made you start a blog?

To promote my fiction. I did a lot of research before I wrote that first post. The first few are a bit rough but I developed my style quite quickly. The key elements everyone was talking about were: quality content, regular posts, stick to your theme, and don't spend all your time selling yourself. For a long time I posted twice a week but as the posts became longer and more involved it seemed sensible to cut back and so now I post once a week which is enough for me to maintain standards and not so often that I burden my readers.

9. When did you start your first blog?

August 6th, 2007

10. Have you ever deleted post? Why?

No. I suppose if, like some people, I posted something without fully thinking it through I might but I write all my posts weeks, if not months, in advance  plus my wife edits all my articles before they go live so if ever I do say anything that she thinks I might regret then she suggests an alternative approach.

11. Has a comment ever made you cry?

No. But I have been moved by a few.

12. Do you make the same points in every book review (other type of post) or just start writing?

I just start writing. I'm not against templates for reviews but I've never found the need for one. Every book is different and so I vary my approach to suit the material. I always do a lot of research prior to beginning. I wrote three articles recently on poets who've been online for a while and it's amazing what you can glean from simply sitting and reading through their blogs; I like to use authors' own words when I can. I take my reviews very seriously. Too many so-called reviews are little more than announcements. And that's no help to anyone. At the same time my articles are not full-blown critiques because even given the 3500 words I usually devote to a review that's not a lot of space if you're going to do your job properly.  What I don't do is reduce a book to a star rating. I've never found them helpful unless the reviewer explains why the bad review and if they've written a bad review why do we need a star rating; the review will say it all. What I am fond of doing is giving contrasting points of view because some books really polarise opinions. The Road was like that and so I presented the fors and the againsts—because they both had valid points to make—and left my own readers to make their own minds up.


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