Today, I’m pleased to post this interview with Michael Murphy, the author of Goodbye Emily, a novel and love story that begins at Woodstock.
The 43rd anniversary of Woodstock takes place August 15th through August 18th.
Everything went wrong for the festival organizers. They wanted an event in Woodstock, New York where Bob Dylan and other musicians lived. Their idea was a two day event for 50,000 to raise enough money to build a permanent studio in Woodstock. They secured a location in an industrial park in nearby Wallkill, New York, printed tickets and began to get the word out.
With just weeks to go, local residents, fearing a deluge of hippies, withdrew the permit. Organizers searched for a replacement location and found one outside Bethel, New York at a farm owned by Max Yasgur. The rest, as they say is history, Woodstock history.
Michael Murphy lives in Arizona with his wife of forty years. He is a full time writer and part time urban chicken rancher. Goodbye Emily is his eighth novel.
Pat: Michael, let’s start with the question most readers will want to know up front. Were you at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in 1969? If not, tell us where you were instead and why you didn’t attend.
Michael: Being a west coast guy, I didn’t go to Woodstock, but I did attend the Monterey Pop Festival in ‘69. Janice Joplin, Mamas and the Papas. Very cool. The 1967 Monterey Pop Festival which spanned a great documentary, inspired the Woodstock organizers.
Pat: Then you must have spent many hours researching the event and performers. Tell us how you organized your investigation and if you were able to get any interviews that helped.
Michael: Woodstock always inspired me, it wasn’t just the music, it was the communal spirit of the event, and the peace and love message that defined the generation. Over the years, I talked to many people who attended the festival. Woodstock came up more frequently than any other event. As a writer, it became inevitable that I would write about it.
Pat: Where did you get the idea for this particular story?
Michael: A charter member of Woodstock Nation named Louise Castro. I’d worked with Louise for more than ten years and didn’t know she’d ever attended Woodstock. Four years ago, she came down with cancer. She quit work as the disease spread. On her last day I learned she had been to Woodstock. She passed away a couple of years ago. It was then that I decided to write Goodbye Emily.
Pat: Goodbye Emily is scheduled for release in January 2013, but you have an Arizona-based thriller available now called Scorpion Bay? Are most of your previous books thrillers?
Michael: Ironically my first novel, Class of ’68, also dealt with the sixties. After that I concentrated on writing the type of novels I liked to read, Nelson DeMille-like thrillers with action and humor. I just finished a novel, The Yankee Club that’s the first in a mystery series set in 1930s New York. It’s inspired by The Thin Man series of movies. I’ve read the Dashiell Hammett novel, but the movie series, wish a dashing Ronald Coleman and beautiful, funny Myrna Loy provided the real inspiration.
Pat: Goodbye Emily is your eighth novel. How long have you been writing and how did you get started?
Michael: I’m a former journalism major and have written all my life, but I became serious about my writing in 1999 when I started Class of ’68. In 2010, I retired and became a full time writer. I’m having such a good time, I wish I’d taken the step years ago!
Pat: Where do you write (home office, coffee shop?) and what does your writing schedule look like?
Michael: I used to write exclusively in my home office, but a year ago I purchased a tablet and a wireless keyboard. Both provide far more portability than a traditional laptop. So now I write by our pool, in our gazebo, Starbucks, or anywhere there’s wi-fi. Quite liberating. I don’t have a schedule. When I’m writing, I try to relax my mind and tap into my subconscious while focusing on my work in progress. I do this through exercise or meditation. The subconscious develops the scene and the rest is just mechanically putting it down on paper.
Pat: One of your writing-related activities is teaching “You Too Can Write a Novel” workshops at libraries and bookstores in Arizona. What is the most important piece of advice you give your students about the craft/mechanics of writing?
Michael: I stress creating a first draft and avoid agonizing about making characters, scene or plot perfect. Rewriting is the most important step in creating a publishable novel, so I emphasize rewrite, rewrite…polish, polish, polish.
Pat: What do you prefer to do in the way of book promotion, and what “opportunities” do you plan to avoid?
Michael: I try to keep up with technology and social media trends. I’m active on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn. I’ve also been successful obtaining media coverage. I’ve been interviewed on television, radio and two daily newspapers.
Pat: What’s next, Michael? Are you writing another mystery, or trying something different?
Michael: I’m returning to the mystery genre with my series set in the 1930s about a husband and wife who get seem to avoid getting involved in murder investigations. It’s funny, romantic and suspenseful. The first in the series is The Yankee Club. I’m working on the second in the series now.
Pat: What would you like your readers to know about you that doesn’t appear on your website or blog?
Michael: Just how much I appreciate readers who enjoy my novels. It is a constant source of pride and amazement really that people have taken to my books and look forward to the next one. I can never thank them enough.