Man, I am excited for today’s guest.
Lee Murray is an award winning author, editor and simply put – one of the nicest and most encouraging people in all of the Horror Community! Lee is always willing to go above and beyond and displays that generosity in her answers!
Please do welcome, Lee!
Steve: What does your writing time look like? Do you try to write at the same time each day? Do you have a word count you attempt to hit?
Lee: I’m a full-time writer, so I work all hours, usually from around 8:00 AM (or earlier if I have meetings with US colleagues) and continuing into the wee small hours because when you work from home the boundary between work life and home life is blurry. Being a writer from downunder makes the hours worse. For example, I’m a regular guest on a UK show, and on those occasions, I’ll get up at 3:00 AM—not so bad in the summer but nightmarish in the dead of winter—and once the show is over, well, I figure I might as well stay up. This past year, I’ve been working to deadline on some secret projects, liaising with colleagues abroad, and since they could be game-changing projects, it’s meant a couple of all-nighters. I didn’t even do all-nighters when I was at university! I already look pretty awful even with my full complement of beauty sleep, so those sleepless days after the aforementioned sleepless nights are ugly. There’s no such thing as a day off either because my writing goes with me, or I’ll organize my holiday around some writing event or another. Like those not so halcyon student days, there’s always some assignment or another to complete. If only the pay was commensurate with the hours! I’m a painfully slow writer, especially when it comes to fiction. I’m not a natural writer. More of a hardworking plodder. I’m so in awe of those Jonathan Maberry sorts who can bang out 10,000 words of action-packed uncluttered flair-filled prose in a day, and with barely a typo. By contrast, my prose wordcount is Hemingwayesque, at around 500 words daily, and a single poem can take a whole day. Non-fiction is quicker: things like this, where I am mainly talking about myself (really, does anyone read this stuff?) and therefore require little or no research. Those research rabbit holes, though. They take time. And there are the social media interludes, because, you never know, while I’m slogging away, one of my friends might have announced some great news. The thing is though, even though I call myself a writer, most of my day isn’t spent writing. Instead, I spend it doing everything but writing: tasks like editing and critiquing other folks’ work, mentoring, teaching, curating anthologies, plotting anthologies I want to curate, judging literary competitions, reading my lovely colleagues’ work so I can write them blurbs (that’s my late-night bedtime reading), chatting with podcasters or contributing to panels, writing heart-filled online messages to Angela Yuriko Smith and Geneve Flynn, working on committees and with writing groups, writing more heart-filled online messages to Angela Yuriko Smith and Geneve Flynn, and all the other networking and community work that is essential to being a writer. [Except writing my newsletter because that can wait until next month. Or writing grant applications, because I’ve wasted the better part of a year doing that with nothing to show for the effort.] But even given the poor pay and the worse hours, my slow output, and all the distractions, writing is the best job, with the best colleagues, and I’m aware of my privilege, so I’m not complaining.
Steve: You win the lottery and the only condition is that you need to fund another author’s book to be made into a movie. What book would you choose to be filmed?
Lee: Just one? Really? What about two novellas?
I’d choose K.P. Kulski’s wonderful novella House of Pungsu, which is releasing in September from Bizarro Pulp Press. Since I’m producing it, the movie will be an arthouse horror piece with a sweepingly ominous musical score, delicate porcelain teacups spooling steam, exotic grounds, and shifting rice paper doors. Set in an ancient palace (built for purpose) and addressing the oppression of three generations of Korean women, the critics will describe the film as a masterpiece of Asian horror, delivering its power in the soft swirl of finest silk.
“As sharp as broken porcelain and delicate as a peony’s petals, House of Pungsu is the story my spirit hungered for. K.P. Kulski shifts rice paper doors to reveal the darkest truth.”—Lee Murray
At the other end of the scale, I’ll produce the gritty military horror, Lovecraft Iraq by David Rose, published earlier this year by my friends at Screaming Banshee Press. We’re going to need a CGI team for this one, as well as an on-site crew, and a hefty purse for those big-ticket actors. There will be dark airless interiors, expansive desert landscapes, and a pulsing ripper of a score that you feel before you hear.
“Military hell from a veteran who’s lived it, Rose’s Lovecraft’s Iraq is slick, cinematic, and surreal. An action adventure of the heroes who give their all, even when there is no winning.” —Lee Murray
Or, since making films based on horror books is a criteria of the Lotto win, maybe I’ll hand the whole sum off to the HWA fundraising committee to seed an even bigger contestable fund that works hand-in-hand with Hollywood to support horror films. Spread the love, right? First up, we’ll invest in Dana Fredsti’s Hollywood Monsters to generate some monstrous groundswell, since as a book-to-film that one is bound to be a hit. Viewers will be drooling for Fredsti’s kick-ass female protagonist as she fights her way through a smorgasbord of monsters, while solving crime and saving little girls. Don’t even start me on the merchandising.
“Sumptuous, cinematic, irreverent, and creepy as hell, Hollywood Monsters is a rip-roaring blockbuster of a tale and a compelling addition to Fredsti’s supernatural Lilith series. Lovers of fast-paced beastly fun should snap this up and devour it.”—Lee Murray
Steve: Tell me about your newest release (novel/story/poem/novella) and why someone should read it!
Thanks so much for asking, Steve!
Lee: In July 2022, I have “Hothouse Crush”, an epistolatory story releasing appearing in Chris Sequiera’s Dracula Unfanged (IFWG). This story was plucked from my high school years where I was a day girl at a boarding school, and is full of secret notes, overripe tomatoes, and gothic late-night excursions, with hints of Lady Chatterley’s Lover thrown in. The premise for the anthology was that Dracula had to be resuscitated into a new form, something other than a vampire. I had a heap of fun writing it.
“Mooncakes” was also released this week in Doug Murano’s The Hideous Book of Hidden Monsters (Bad Hand Books). This story was set in the Newtown council flat where my Chinese grandmother lived before she died. My Por Por left me a few things, but nothing like the grandmother in “Mooncakes”, a story which explores themes of cultural tension. Filial duty, and loss. If you’re a voyeur of hoarding TV programs, this one is for you.
And Dan Rabarts and I have a Path of Ra collaborative sibling sleuth story releasing this week in Dark Deeds Downunder edited by Craig Sisterson (Clan Destine Press). Called “Rock-a-Bye”, it’s a supernatural mystery, a kind of weird ‘Luke, I am Your Father’ tale, which has Matiu and Penny Yee racing all over Auckland solving a murder while also searching for Matiu’s girlfriend’s niece. Family. It’s complicated.
And while it’s not a new release of mine, can I also give a shout-out to the HWA Wellness Committee for Of Horror and Hope, a unique collection of 70 poems, stories, and personal reflections on mental health and horror by our HWA colleagues, including a powerful and insightful piece from you, Steve. I’ve had the immense privilege of curating the volume with Angela Yuriko Smith on behalf of the Wellness Committee, and we’ve been humbled by the courage and the honesty of the work. The volume includes gorgeous cover art by Greg Chapman and a compelling foreword by my Wellness Committee co-chair Dave Jeffery. It’s our hope the collection will raise awareness of this important topic, encourage more meaningful representations of mental illness in horror, and perhaps also offer solace to anyone who might be suffering. Of Horror and Hope is free to download from the HWA site:
Steve: Bonus Question! If you could be an extra on any TV show, which one would it have been and why?
Lee: Firefly. Give me a Browncoat and the instant ability to speak Chinese, please. (My mother speaks two dialects, yet I speak barely two words). My family are all huge fans, so they’ll be chuffed. Plus, who doesn’t want to be a leaf on the wind? (Although preferably without the ignominious ending.)
Awesome! Thank you so much, Lee for doing this!
To discover more of Lee’s work;