Noah Murphy may not have forgiven me for my review of his book Ethereal Girls, but that didn’t stop him from meeting me early Saturday for an interview to discuss writing, publishing, feminism, and why he’s giving up. Or not.
Me: Thanks for coming
Noah Murphy: no problem
Me: So I wanted to talk to you about your book
Noah Murphy: You’re actually the first person who wants to. I actually have a book coming out next tuesday and why I’m done with novels
Me: yeah I saw that: This Book Will Fail
Ethereal Girls was your first novel, right?
Noah Murphy: no, Ethereal Girls was actually the rewrite of a much worse novella called barbarian girl
you though Barbarian girl was bad
Me: I was thinking. Your book actually had a lot of really good qualities and I can’t figure out why you’re ready to abandon fiction.
Noah Murphy: It’s editing. Editing is expensive. Good editing costs 1000 or more.
Me: When I started writing fiction,the stuff I wrote was super artful and crafty and so on, but boring as all fuck. Ethereal Girls was not boring. I got through it in a few hours because it was interesting. You’re not perfect yet but that’s a talent, you know? Just like – develop it.
Noah Murphy: and I’m abandoning fiction just novels. Well, Deltan Skies is considered a good book, except the editing kills it dead
Me: how’s that?
Noah Murphy: That same guy who edited Ethereal Girls edited Deltan Skies, except he edited the wrong version and edited half of that in an afternoon.
Me: Did you have a contract with this guy? You can sue him you know.
Noah Murphy: I was forced to edit it myself over two months and it shows.
It’s just not worth it.
Me: Well, you spent a thousand bucks and he didn’t do his job. Sounds like it’s worth it to me.
Noah Murphy: His was 450. Professional level fiction editing costs 1500+
Me: Oh, ok
Noah Murphy: For an 88k book
Me: So what’s Deltan Skies about? Is it a sequel?
Noah Murphy: Completely different universe. It’s a reboot itself of a fantasy thriller novellas series called k23 detectives.
Me: Hence your blog’s url, I suppose.
Noah Murphy: If fantasy and scifi had come together and had a bastard child.
Me: Why a bastard child?
Like as opposed to a wedlock child…
Noah Murphy: Semantics.
A young elven mage named Quintanelle Fillion flees from her totalitarian homeland to New Delta, a dense metropolis made up of hundreds of mile-high towers. She finds employment working for New Delta’s top private detective, a human named Alfonso Deegan, and his red dragon associate Mordridakon. Quintanelle’s first case thrusts her in the middle of New Delta’s own problems.
That’s the first paragraph of the book blurb.
Should give you an idea of what I mean.
Me: Yeah sounds good. I’ll def. buy it.
Noah Murphy: Like I said, editing killed it dead.
Me: How so? Like can you give me an idea of what sorts of mistakes the editor made?
Noah Murphy: Once the reviews started pouring in that editing was an issue, I demarketed it.
Typos and stuff. Lots and lots of typos.
Me: So he removed not typos and replaced them with typos or he just left all the typos in?
Noah Murphy: He left all the typos in and since I can’t edit worth shit (i have poor visual acuity) I never got them out.
Me: Okay, so basically you wrote two books that are super imaginative and have some editing needs and you got shafted by an editor.
Noah Murphy: Indeed. That’s in a nutshell. Ethereal wasn’t my first release it was my sixth.
Me: Sixth novel?
Noah Murphy: He was actually the fifth editor I have had.
Three k23 novellas, the compilation, a short story collection and Barbarian Girl
Me: You have the worst luck of anyone I know.
Noah Murphy: So my seventh actually
Noah Murphy: The problem is, I’m far from alone in the self published world. Bad editing is the norm.
I’m sure you’ve noticed this. I definitely have.
Me: Yeah, every book I’ve read so far has needed at least a little editing.
Noah Murphy: That’s why I’m slimming down to smaller sizes. I did announce an Ethereal Girls sequel, I’m thinking it’ll be smaller episodes. They were in k23 detectives but I moved them over to Ethereal Girls cause I need aliens.
Me: So tell me about the Brac’Tai (I hope I remembered that right). They were my favorite part. What gave you that idea?
Noah Murphy: As for them being intergalactic nerds. I made them that way as a twist on the usual aliens, who are either evil or all powerful in relation to humans.
Me: I loved the Brac’Tai. Especially the part about the Event Horizon ship being the ultimate haunted house and the Speak and Says.
Noah Murphy: Yeah, well in the sequel they’re going to use the event horizon to get to Hell.
Me: And they got a TARDIS too I guess.
Noah Murphy: So lets talk about what you didn’t like. Maybe I can illuminate.
Me: Okay, well, to give you a little background, I was a queer/feminist blogger for years. My partner is a trans activist and feminist as well. Most of my readers come from either that past or my girlfriend’s present. So when they come to my blog for reviews, one of their primary questions is whether the book is queer/woman positive.
I can see that Ethereal Girls made an effort, but there are some things that were quite problematic beginning with Liza crying in the plus size dressing room.
Noah Murphy: Ethereal Girls was an experiment. My intent was a response to the lack of good women in comics, who are all cookie cutter, big breasted bimbos.
Me: Okay, so that’s why Liza gets big and muscly and Jonola is half-snake and Phoenix just looks like a mess.
I’ll admit, that did add character to the story.
Noah Murphy: More or less yes.
Me: And that’s a good start. I mean like I said it was obvious an effort was made.
But the problem is that some of the people reading the book might be big or overweight or muscly or kind of skinny and waif-like, and seeing people like them described that way might be upsetting. For example “eating lard directly out a bucket” orr the way Macie got huge at the end and suddenly turned into a “he.”
Noah Murphy: You’re wrong on that one, I checked. Wendigod is an IT almost all the time except for Colocath’s line
I have the book
Me: Do you know any trans people?
Noah Murphy: Yes, actually.
Me: That’s awesome. It’s just, that kind of thing can be…
…trying to think of a good word here…
…aggressive or triggering to somebody who’s struggled with body image.
Noah Murphy: Misconstrued.
Me: So I understand that the intent was to show different bodies and have them be featured and that’s a good start, it really is. I mean I’m not just saying this. That’s a really good place to begin. But at the same time, you have to sort of imagine that you know, they were reading this about themselves like that Liza was watching this on TV and those words were said, cause people like that really exist in your audience. I mean if you write a book about a group of female superheroes and have them on the cover, you’re going to attract feminists. That’s why I read it
Noah Murphy: I know
Me: So you know, we’re your audience.
Noah Murphy: I’m actually a feminist BTW.
Me: I sort of gathered that. Like I said, that’s why I read it.
Noah Murphy: The problem with Ethereal Girls was I was walking a fine line and in uncharted fiction territory. I had to balance the feminism with plot. Ethereal Girls’ biggest issue is that because its a clockwork plot, I couldn’t stop and spend time diving deep into the issues
Me: Well, there are ways to get around that, though. Like I was going to suggest that since you’re going to be writing sequels or novellas or whatever, instead of talking about how unattractive they are it could be like “Liza’s tree-trunk like leg barrelled through 10 enemy heads” or something. You know? Show the bodies themselves being awesome.
Noah Murphy: That’s the sequel.
Me: Like I could see with some of Meadow’s lectures that some of the right ideas are there.
Noah Murphy: Where I deal with the effects of violence and revenge
Me: It just might be fun to see it in action. “Phoenix dissolves into the ether and awesomely reconstitutes” or something. Show it being fucking awesome
Noah Murphy: I understand
However, to sell the sequel they have to get beyond the first book.
Me: Yes and no. I’m guessing you never read Sweet Valley Twins when you were a kid but there were like 100 books and each of them had an introduction of all the characters, more or less so that anyone could start on any one of them.
Noah Murphy: The problem is, DC gets destroyed, I just cannot reset
Me: Well, no you can’t reset in DC. But, whatever you were going to do with the sequelsjust do like JK Rowling did.
“Things have been weird since DC got destroyed.”
“in an epic battle wherein Liza did some awesome stuff”
“Also there is Wendigod carcass *everywhere*”
…and that way people know what happened even if they didn’t read and they can start there if they like. There are ways of making sequels that work on their own.
Noah Murphy: That’s what I was going to kind of do, but honestly I’ve been writing it the K23 and Ethereal Universes enough
I want to do fresh fiction.
Me: Well, do it then!
Noah Murphy: I will
Me: No reason to give up. You have a great imagination.
There is a lot of promise here, you just need some practice.
Noah Murphy: Oh, I’m not. Just downsizing to affordable book sizes.
Me: Makes sense.
Okay I have to get going, but is there anything you wanted to say about your books or about writing to my audience?
Noah Murphy: Considering your audience thinks I’m an idiot(I banned like five of them..)
Me: Sorry about them. I heard some of them bought copies, though.
Noah Murphy: Two. And now you know why I don’t mind bad reviews.
Me: Don’t worry about the ones who don’t like you. I have a ton of people blocked myself. To the ones who want to see what you can do with a bunch of characters and feminist intent at least. What do you want to say to them?
Noah Murphy: Read Deltan Skies. Honestly in Deltan Skies I fix a lot of the issues in Ethereal Girls, the pacing, even the sexism problems.
Me: Awesome. Thanks for coming
Noah Murphy: Thanks for having me