Risingshadow has had the honour of interviewing J. L. Murray.

J. L. Murray likes adventure.

Raised in a tiny mill town in Northwestern Montana, J. L. had every intention of being anything but ordinary. After a shortlived marriage at the age of 19, J.L. decided to explore every facet life had to offer. She hitchhiked with friends. She went to Rainbow Gatherings all across the U.S. She lived on a farm. She explored the punk scene, fell in love, laughed loudly, and cried deeply.

When she met her husband, her adventurous spirit didn't dry up. If anything, J. L.'s husband exacerbates her desire to explore. They have traveled to Europe together, with their two children in tow. They have lived in beautiful, ugly and ordinary places. These days they live in Hawaii, and spend their weekends exploring the islands.

J. L. has recently published book five of the bestselling Niki Slobodian series, The Devil's Backbone. She likes spicy food and the smell of the ocean. And she loves getting email.

Click here to visit the author's official website.


- Could you tell us something about yourself in your own words?

I've always been a little odd. It often puts people off when they meet me and I say something strange. Now I've made a career out of it.

- Do you have any favourite authors or books?

My favorite author is Neil Gaiman. I've stuck with him since I read the Sandman graphic novels. I met him once and almost wet my pants I was so excited. I also love Clive Barker, Margaret Atwood, Ray Bradbury, and Kurt Vonnegut. They are all amazing and if I could write even slightly as well as any one of them, I would be happy.

- How did you become an author? What inspired you to write your first book?

When I was little, my mom used to help me bind stories that I wrote with yarn. And then I'd sell them from my porch. Mostly the sweet guy that owned the mechanic shop next door would buy them. I know everyone says that they've been writing since they were very young, but there's an old retired mechanic somewhere that paid me a quarter a book. Luckily, my profits have improved since then.

Later, when I was twelve, I took my babysitting money to an auction they held at my school. I bought a typewriter and a swivel chair for eleven dollars. I wrote a detective novel that summer, but I spilled Kool Aid on it and had to throw it away. I'm not sure how many books I had to write before I learned to write a good one. Probably five or six. But then, in 2011, I dropped out of college to write Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. I handed it to my husband and he read it in one sitting, then just sat there staring at me.

"You can write," he said.

Ever since, it's all I've done. I've written seven books and I'm still going strong. So I guess it was more like a calling for me than a choice.

- You've written the Niki Slobodian urban fantasy series and recently published the fifth book, The Devil's Backbone. Have you always been interested in urban fantasy?

I love Urban Fantasy, but I got very disenchanted with it for a long time. It seemed like 99% of the UF with female protagonists was almost entirely romance. That really bothered me. It was irritating that women couldn't be at the center of the really gritty, hard-hitting stories. So I decided I would write one.

- What kind of a protagonist is Niki?

Niki started as a typical noir detective, but even in the first book, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, she became so much more. She has a very dark side to her and has the tendency to shoot people if she feels they have it coming. She's very intense, and though she constantly tries to repress her feelings, she feels her emotions more than average people. For that reason it's sort of all-encompassing to write her. When I get into to Niki's head, that's all I'm doing until the book is finished. I don't even notice the squalor my house falls into because Niki's world just sort of takes up residence in my head.

- What can readers and fans of the series expect from The Devil's Backbone?

Closure. The Devil's Backbone is, sadly, the last book in the Niki Slobodian series. There is blood and heartache and violence and love. It's a pretty wild ride and fans of the series have told me that it is the perfect ending. That's a pretty good feeling to know you've done a character justice.

- Will you write more books about Niki?

Unfortunately there's really nowhere else to go in Niki's story. I've played with the idea of doing a prequel about other characters in the series, but I'm pretty satisfied with the way I've left it.

- You've also written Jenny Undead, which is the first book of The Thirteen series. What kind of a book is it?

Jenny Undead is hard to explain. It's a zombie book, but it's also a high-tech sci-fi book, and it's a mystery about a serial killer. It's incredibly violent with foul language and an unforgiving world, but there is also love and friendship and trust. It's a zombie book written like an Urban Fantasy. It was A LOT of fun to write.

- Your new book, Blood Day, will be published soon. Could you tell us something about it?

Blood Day is a strange book. It's about the Revenants, vampires, who take over the world and become addicted to science. Humans are forced to donate blood and are basically treated like slightly more intelligent cattle. There are disappearing children, drug addiction, underground newspapers, revolutionaries, and, plotting the downfall of the new order of Revenants, an old-school vampire that is killing off his own kind.

I think it's going to be fun.

- You have travelled a lot. Have your travels been a source of inspiration to you when you've written books?

Of course. Though not really directly. Seeing new people and sights is always good for the imagination, and serves to really refill the well of inspiration. I have based several books in an alternate version of Philadelphia (including Blood Day), and I used my experiences in the UK and Ireland when I wrote After the Fire, even though it's not exactly based there. I think travel is good for writers because it takes you out of your comfort zone, which is what you need to do as a writer. It's pretty much our job to be out of our comfort zones.

- If the Niki Slobodian series were to be filmed, who would you like to see play Niki?

Tatiana Maslany. Maybe Jennifer Lawrence. Definitely a younger Rachel Weisz. Naomi Watts might be able to pull it off, too, ala Eastern Promises. Niki is fierce, but she also has a very vulnerable side, so if someone were to play her, she would have to be able to pull that off.

- What are you currently working on?

I'm finishing Blood Day, and then I'm planning on writing the sequel to Jenny Undead. After that, I'm hoping to work on something I've been planning that involves noir time travel.

- Is there anything you'd like to add?

If you want to be writer, how you get there is unimportant. Fifteen years ago, it seemed like an impossible dream. I was a party girl that went to punk rock shows and drank too much. I didn't have a college education, and I had no career prospects. But life has a way of making things happen if you want something badly enough. And a lot can happen in just a few years. I went to college, I was on the Dean's List, I had children, got married, and now I'm writing my eighth novel. If you have a dream, don't let go of it no matter what. You will get there. But you have to have faith in yourself and be willing to work. Do that, and anything can happen.

And that's all the pretentious advice I have.

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