Thursday, May 30, 2013

Interview with Mur Lafferty, author of The Shambling Guide to New York City - May 30, 2013

Please welcome Mur Lafferty to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Shambling Guide to New York City (The Shambling Guides 1) was published on May 28, 2013. You may read Mur's Guest Blog - Happy Accident - here.

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery.

Mur:  Thanks very much for the invite!

TQ:  When and why did you start writing?

Mur:  I started writing when I was around 11 or 12, when I read some fantasy by Robin McKinley and Madeline L'Engle and wanted to write stories like that. My first fanfic was continuing Fred Saberhagen's Lost Swords books.

TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Mur:  Oh gosh. I have no idea. I guess I fear edits so very much because I am sure they're going to say THIS IS DRIVEL, START OVER. And they never do; they always suggest things to make the story better. And I tell myself, like I'm four or something, "Now you see, making the story better is a GOOD thing, so the next time you get edits, you should look forward to them, right?" And I never do.

I guess that's not a quirk though. I noticed in my last book that I wrote like Terry Pratchett, all thrown onto the page with no chapter breaks. It works for him, of course, for me it's laziness, and I was very angry with myself on edits that I had to do this extra work.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Mur:  Total pantser. Trying to get better about it, though, as more editors are asking me for outlines.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Finding confidence about my voice. I had an epiphany recently: I wrote an outline for an editor and thought it sucked, and then I realized that listening (metaphorically) to your own writing voice is like looking in the mirror every day. Even if you're gorgeous and you know it, you're not going to look at your face and gasp at your beauty, because it's the same damn face you see every day. I don't see my writing as anything special because it's the words that came out of my head, just like they always do. Of course I'm going to think my writing is plain and ordinary. So I cut myself some slack for the first time and waited for the editor's comments, and he said he loved the outline.

TQ:  Describe The Shambling Guide to New York City in 140 characters or less.

Mur:  HHGG meets Neverwhere. Or: human writes a NYC travel guide for monsters.

TQ:  What inspired you to write The Shambling Guide to New York City?

Mur:  In 2005, I wrote a piece of RPG material to benefit the Red Cross after Katrina. I wrote about a zombie travel guide in New Orleans who wanted to keep doing her job, so she would show visiting monsters the city. The idea stayed with me and I wanted to take the idea to New York.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Shambling Guide to New York City?

Mur:  I visited the city, did a lot of reading, and perused a lot of travel guides. I also have friends in the city who could answer a variety of questions just in how to move around the city. (ie, length of a train ride from one area to another, the kind of detail that readers will crucify you for, second only to getting bullet information wrong when talking about guns.)

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Mur:  Morgen the Water Sprite is the easiest. She is fun, bouncy, easy to get along with, and matter of fact enough to point out when Zoe, the hero, is being stupid. Phil, the vampire boss, was probably the hardest. I wanted to make a vampire as a person of power, but I specifically wanted him to not be chiseled and sexy and the obvious love interest. he was a slightly heavier 30-something when he died, and I wanted to strike a balance between easygoing dude and ruthless killer and not have it be a Jekyll and Hyde thing.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in The Shambling Guide to New York City?

Mur:  The climax. So I really can't give anything away. Sorry. :)

TQ:  What's next?

Mur:  I am working on a novella for the Torment video game, and then my thesis for my MFA this fall. I finished The Ghost Train to New Orleans (sequel to Shambling Guide) last month, and that should be out next March.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Mur:  Thanks for having me!

About The Shambling Guides

The Shambling Guide to New York City
Series:  The Shambling Guides
Publisher:  Orbit Books, May 28, 2013
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages
Price:  $15.00 (print)
ISBN: 9780316221177 (print)

A travel writer takes a job with a shady publishing company in New York, only to find that she must write a guide to the city - for the undead!

Because of the disaster that was her last job, Zoe is searching for a fresh start as a travel book editor in the tourist-centric New York City. After stumbling across a seemingly perfect position though, Zoe is blocked at every turn because of the one thing she can't take off her resume --- human.

Not to be put off by anything -- especially not her blood drinking boss or death goddess coworker -- Zoe delves deep into the monster world. But her job turns deadly when the careful balance between human and monsters starts to crumble -- with Zoe right in the middle.

The cover for The Shambling Guides 2 - The Ghost Train to New Orleans

About Mur

Photo by JR Blackwell
2012 Nominee for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

Mur Lafferty is an author, podcaster, and editor. She lives in Durham, NC, with her husband and 10 year old daughter.

  • Podcasts: She has been podcasting since 2004 when she started her essay-focused show, Geek Fu Action Grip. Then she started the award-winning I Should Be Writing in 2005, which is still going today. In 2010 she took over as the editor of Escape Pod, and she also runs the Angry Robot Books podcast.
  • Books: Starting with podcast-only titles, Mur has written several books and novellas. Her first professionally published book, The Shambling Guide to New York City, will be out in May, 2013. She writes urban fantasy, superhero satire, afterlife mythology, and Christmas stories.
  • Nonfiction: Mur has written for several magazines including Knights of the Dinner Table, Anime Insider, and The Escapist.

Mur is studying for her MFA in Popular Fiction at the Stonecoast program at the University of Southern Maine.


  1. Aaah! I was at Balticon. Saw this on the table, but when I was going to go back for it, it was gone! I should have got at first sight. :) Thank you for the great interview.