Phillip Murrell is an active duty army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) officer who is currently earning an MBA. He has been married for eleven years and has three children who are eleven, eight, and six years old. Phillip loves stories in all mediums, including books, comics, movies, and television. He also enjoys high adrenaline activities, such as skydiving, whitewater rafting, and roller coasters.
1.Why storytelling? What made you yearn to tell a good story, and how long was this story within you before it came out?
I’ve always loved stories. It doesn’t matter the medium. I like jokes, plays, movies, television, comics. I noticed that I would get annoyed by seeing the same thing play out over and over again from the main stream. I decided I should try and change this by writing my own stuff. I was on my second deployment to Iraq when I decided to just get some software and begin writing. That was seven years ago, and I’ve had fun ever since. Bystanders was in my imagination for about two years before I wrote out my first treatment. Once I typed my first character, it took an additional two years until it was finally available as a book.
2.What is it about your genre that speaks to you?
I love that fantasy, sci-fi, superheroes can’t take place in the real world. There are plenty of books about down on their luck addicts, or happy families that are disrupted, but these things happen daily in the real world. We will never see an undead ice dragon battle an army of elves. We will never have a person use magic to battle criminals. If you want these stories, you must get them from an artist of some type.
3.Without giving any spoilers, what is your favorite thing about this book?
Besides the fact it’s my own creation? I guess I like that I circumvent a lot of superhero tropes. This isn’t a story about good guys resisting the urge to kill. It’s more about how people will respond after a near-death experience when a superhero saved them. Some of my characters have to deal with PTSD after the fact. This is rarely explored in superhero stories. When it is, it’s just to give a back story to a new villain or hero. Not everyone gets to fight through their demons over the course of a week.
4.What character from your book fills you with hope?
Definitely Benji. He’s a police detective, but he is an all around good man. He is competent in his job, but he’s also a good friend. If everyone in the world was like Benji, we wouldn’t have a need for superheroes in the first place.
5.What character from your work frightens you, makes you feel dirty to write?
I have a serial killer of rude people introduced in book 3. He’s my worst character, but if I limit myself to the first book, then I would have to say it’s Julie. She’s a crime boss who cares about profit over everything else. She’s sadistic and competent, which is a dangerous combination. She also happens to be my favorite character in the series. What’s that say about me?
6.Your main character walks into a bar. What happens?
I think of this like an ensemble cast, but if Votary is my main character, then the bar is obliterated. The only reason he/she would go into a bar is to kill or horribly maim that criminals partying inside.
7.Everyone has at least one specific challenge that holds them back. What is that challenge in your work and how do you overcome it?
My challenge is to actually begin writing. I have a million ideas swirling in my head. Once I start typing, I can usually bang out 9,000 words a day. If I dedicate myself fully to the process, a 90,000-word book, like Bystanders, can be completed in under two weeks. However, it takes a lot of motivation to start because I know I will ignore my family in the process. With a wife and three kids, I try not to do that at inopportune times.
8.If you could change any one thing about your work, what would it be?
Besides getting more people to know it exists? I don’t know. I really like what I’ve written. Every time I reread my books(dozens of times at this point) I realize that I still like my work. I just wish I could force myself to like marketing as much as writing.
9.If you could change any one thing about the writing industry, what would it be?
I would change the purist attitudes that many have. I like a good story. I never thought about shifting POV, or writing in present tense, or swearing as issues. Some people seemed really annoyed by this. I would much rather read a book filled with typos and a great story, than have perfect prose about wilting foliage.
10.What piece of art, that is not writing, moves you?
I’m a fan of film and television. In fact, when I began writing, I used screenplay software. Bystanders was a ten-episode series. I then realized each episode could be a chapter. After I wrote the first book, I decided that I would write out what future seasons could have been. I find now that writing novels is just as much fun. I’m likely to start more stand-alone stories once all four Bystanders books are published.
11.If we wanted a good story—book, show or movie—one that you didn’t write, where would you send us?
Right now I’m one of the many fans of Game of Thrones. I recommend the books and the TV series.
12.You have a chance to hang out with any literary character for one day. Who would it be and what would you do?
I read more Star Wars than anything else. I feel I would like to speak with Grand Admiral Thrawn. As a military man myself, I feel it would be a stimulating conversation on battle strategies.
13.A publishing house gets ahold of you and wants you to take over writing an established character. For instance, DC Comics calls you and tells you they want you to take over writing Batman. What is the dream? What established character would you love to write?
I would want to write G. I. Joe comics. I grew up with them. They contributed to me joining the military and becoming Explosive Ordnance Disposal, just like Tunnel Rat. I would give Tunnel Rat far more page time than he typically gets.
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