INTERVIEW: Nev Murray
– By Dave Dubrow
(In the interest of full disclosure, I must point out that Nev Murray, proprietor of Confessions of a Reviewer and Confessions Publicity, is a friend of mine, and I’ve been a satisfied customer of his publicity business since he began it. I hope that the reader will not hold it against Mr Murray that I referred to him as a friend.)
Tell us about the first horror novel that got you hooked into the genre. How old were you when you read it? How did it affect you?
Firstly, I would like to thank The Slaughtered Bird for doing this interview with me. This is the first time I have been on this side of the fence so I hope I do it justice. Secondly, thank you to my friend, Dirty Dave Dubrow for asking the questions. I pray he goes easy on me!
There is a very simple answer to this first question; The Rats by James Herbert.
I was brought up in a very religious household so things like horror books and the like were not allowed. I saw this one when I was at the library one Saturday, when I was eleven years old. I sneaked it into my mum’s pile of books to try and get it home and it worked. I had to read it under my covers at night using a torch so as no one caught me reading it.
How did it affect me? It scared the crap clean out of me, but I read it three times in two weeks before it had to go back to the library. It was so brutal and dark. I had never read anything like this before and it left me with a huge desire to read as much of this horror stuff that I could. The rest, as they say, is history.
Tell us about the early days of Confessions of a Reviewer. When did you start writing book reviews? Is your reviewing style different now from when you first began?
I started to write the reviews when I got my Kindle. It always prompted me when I finished a book so I would always do the minimum twenty words. Then I wrote a longer one for Kealan Patrick Burke’s The Turtle Boy and loads of people told me they thought it was really good. That started it all off. The Kindle then became a pain when I started to do the longer reviews so I started to use the computer for it.
More and more people started to “like” my reviews so I started to write more and more. Then people started to tell me I should have a blog and that’s when Confessions of a Reviewer started. The title of the blog came from an article I had written for another site. I honestly never expected it to turn out so successful. Then it snowballed to where I am today.
You also go to horror conventions in the UK. Tell us about your experiences meeting the people you’ve previously known only through fiction.
The conventions are a brilliant way to get up close and personal with some of your favourite authors. I have met many wonderful people over this past couple of years. Some of them have become very firm friends.
It’s strange in a way because I always consider authors who have written some of my favourite books to be untouchable in a way. I always look up to them and respect them so much. I’m almost like a fanboy at the cons until I get to know them properly. Most times, you soon discover they are just normal people. I think that is especially true amongst the indie world. These guys and girls are working their asses off just to try and get their work out there and to be seen by as many people as they can get. Their books are their life in some ways and they just love to see people reading them.
A lot of them drink a lot as well! I have had many a beer with them at the cons!
It is also a way to meet some of your literary heroes. I was lucky enough to meet Shaun Hutson last year and that was fantastic.
Several months ago you broadened your site to include marketing and social media management for authors. Why did you make that change? How’s that been going?
I have always wanted to do something work related with books. I spent too many years stuck in a dead-end job, working for the corporate machine in a job that I never got any satisfaction from. When I had an opportunity to leave that job after twenty-eight years, I jumped at the chance. It gave me the time to concentrate on the website that Confessions had now become. I also noticed a gap in the market for someone to act as a reliable publicist for the plethora of indie authors out there and formed Confessions Publicity.
I wanted to do something to help indie authors to promote their works. I know it is something that many of them just don’t have the time to do. I did, so I wanted to take some of their pain away and do it for them. I wanted to do it slightly differently though, so instead of just offering book tours, I offer everything from proofreading to pre-launch promotion to long term promotion.
One thing that no one else seemed to be offering was daily promotion across social media and websites. This is something I thought long and hard about and came up with the idea of offering monthly subscription packages. Basically, I have developed packages that authors can take on so that I look after daily promotion for them on social media or anywhere else they would like me to utilise. I have three different packages to suit all budgets because I know all too well that many newbies just don’t have the spare cash to pay someone to do this work for them.
As with starting any business, it was slow to begin with but things have been picking up really well and I am grateful that some of the bigger names in the indie world are starting to notice what I can do.
Yes, I want to make money at what I do but the greatest satisfaction I get from it is seeing an author happy at the fact their work is getting seen by more eyes than it was before they came to me.
What’s your favorite type of horror? Do you have a least favorite?
What I really like depends on my mood a lot of the time. With reading so many books, it can get a bit monotonous if the plot seems to be more or less the same as one I have recently read so I tend to vary the type a lot. I don’t like extreme horror, the ones with the black covers especially. I don’t think it takes a lot of writing skill to create something that is so extreme it is perverse. I think it is more beneficial, and scary, for the reader to be teased to a point where their own imagination takes over and fills in the blanks. I also despise sex in horror books. If I was in a position where I knew there was something outside my house that was coming for me, the last thing I would think of is getting jiggy with my wife. I’d be running for the hills.
My favourite? Easy. I am a sucker for Victorian and Edwardian horror. William Hope Hodgson is a hero of mine. His Carnacki stories are just amazing. He was a writer that was way before his time. If he were about today, he would be a bestseller all over the world.
Many have tried to copy his style and many have failed. Those that nail it would be the likes of William Meikle and Jack Rollins. When it is written right, it is immense. It’s the whole idea of not having technological advances to defeat the evil that gets me. I love it.
You’ve been a great champion of independently-published books. Do you have any advice for writers who are first starting out?
Well, not being a writer myself, I don’t really think I am in a position to dish out advice. Having said that, from a reviewer’s point of view, I would say get yourself a decent editor and always have your work proofread.
There is nothing more frustrating than picking up a book that you can tell straight away hasn’t been edited and when you notice typo after typo, it just makes you put the book down. A reader putting a book down because it has been poorly edited and proofread would be a reader you stand very little chance of getting back and they will move on to someone else. That nit of editing or proofreading could convince them to keep reading your work and turn them into one of the greatest advertisers of your work.
How do you think the horror genre is doing, on the whole? Is there anything holding readers or writers back? Any trends you’re seeing?
It’s funny but I think, on the whole, it is doing OK. I come across fantastic new authors every single day. I also come across absolute rubbish every day but that is par for the course. The invention of the eBook has made it all too easy for your granny’s aunt to write something and self-publish. I am all for people having a go but then some people need to be told when to stop.
On the other hand, from what I am hearing with discussions with authors, horror books aren’t selling that well at the minute. This is a worldwide thing too. I have no idea why. Maybe it’s because the market is a bit flooded at the minute but I do believe it will pick up again. I made a prediction that the more extreme black cover books wouldn’t last long and I haven’t seen too many of those being released recently.
It will take a lot of the small presses to think carefully about what they are putting out there for people. All too often we see presses folding because of the competition so the quality can only get better. Right?
Do you read in genres other than horror? What about hobbies or pastimes?
I do like a good thriller be it psychological or mystery. I also tend to go with books that have a historical feel to them. Something that has a plot that stems back in time to some mystical or magical event from hundreds of years ago that is affecting people in modern times.
I also like a book which has historical religious undertones, like an ancient artefact that is causing the destruction of the current world. Religion is not something I embrace but for some reason I enjoy it in a story, if it is told right.
You yourself often interview writers, and in those interviews you’ve included the dreaded Ten Confessions, a series of questions so grueling that only the toughest writers can get through them in one piece. For this final part of the interview, I will demand that you answer only Five Confessions, because I’m only half as evil as you are, Mr Murray. Please respond candidly.
I knew this would happen. What have I done!!
- Who would you view as your main competitor in the reviewing and marketing worlds?
In the long-established fashion of the answers I normally get to this question – I don’t believe I have one. Let’s face it, there are millions of books out there, why should any review sites be at each other’s throats? There is room for everyone and if someone can’t see that then they really are not worth the time or effort stressing over. In terms of the marketing world, again I don’t believe I have one. That could also be down to the fact there are more than enough authors around to keep everyone happy, but it is also down to the fact that I don’t believe there is anyone offering some of the services I do.
- Have you ever read a book so terrible that you couldn’t review it? If so, how many? Tell us about the rejects.
Hundreds. Literally hundreds. Most of them come down to terrible editing and a lack of proofreading. I have picked up many a book where I have read the author before and can’t believe they have written the current one. Most of the time I will contact the author to tell them I’m just not gelling with the book and can’t continue with it.
If it is really that bad and I can’t finish it, I won’t review it. So therefore, if I won’t review it, I feel it would be unfair of me to name them. Do you buy that?
- Which scene in any book affected you the most, and why?
Blimey, there have been dozens. To name a few; the rebirth scene in Kin by Kealan Patrick Burke. The scene where the medical examiner is reading her statement in the courtroom in John Connolly’s Every Dead Thing. The scene with Henry in Upon Waking by JR Park. Probably the one I remember the most is the scene in The Rats where the schoolkid looks out of the classroom window and sees the rats swarming over the playground. They are all ones that come to mind off the top of my head. The reason they affected me the most is easy; the writing was so good I will always remember them.
- Who is the writer you’d most like to have dinner with, living or dead? Why? And what would you serve?
It would have to be James Herbert. I get insanely jealous when I see someone post a picture of themselves meeting him. He would be the one man that I would regret never meeting. I would have so many questions for him that I would have no idea where to start. Plus, he would be busy for quite a while signing all of his books that I have. I own them all and multiple copies in some cases.
I don’t think there would be much food served but I would make sure there was plenty of vodka in the house. Did you know that he always made it a rule to finish work by 6 o’clock so that he could sit down with a large vodka and watch The Simpsons?
- If you had to choose between swearing off turkey dinosaurs for life or chopping off a finger joint, which would you choose?
Well, let’s face it. I have eight fingers and the pinkies don’t really do much so I would lose both of them if I could still eat turkey dinosaurs. In fact, I would lose a hand if necessary. As long as I had the other to still use a fork!
Thank you very much for your time, Nev.
You can find Nev Murray’s site Confessions of a Reviewer here.