Author Spotlight: Paul McMurrough

So, this week on all my social media platforms, I’m featuring a fellow friend and author named Paul McMurrough. Paul is the author of a dystopian novel called Reliance.

About the Book

I did a full review on Reliance before (which can be found here). It is literally the best book I’ve read this year. Well written and an absolute page-turner, this book.

Because I loved it so much, I asked Paul if he would be willing to answer some questions about his career, life, writing habits, and reading habits. He was more than happy to oblige. I’ll drop lots of social media links below, but now, without further ado, my interview with the lovely Paul McMurrough!

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from?

I am a native of Belfast, N.Ireland. I lived briefly in the US and have travelled extensively throughout Europe and America, mostly through my work as a business and management consultant. My educational background was more Maths and Science focused rather than the Arts or Literature due to a struggle with dyslexia in my early years.

What does a normal day look like for you?

I mostly work from home (more so now in this Covid era). My home office is a small room with french doors out onto a balcony. A typical day will see me nose deep in project plans and spreadsheets. I try to make time in the evenings for writing (either research, outlining or the actual good stuff of writing itself).

Do you still have a “day job,” or have you promoted yourself to full-time writer?

Unfortunately yes. As much as I would love to, I have no illusions of ever being able to give up my day job to pursue writing full time. For now writing is a hobby. The process is cathartic and the feeling I get from seeing my words printed in an actual book is amazing.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

It was only in the past couple of years that I seriously considered writing. Until the age of fifteen I could barely read and so the thought of being able to write something of my own would have been shut down very quickly. In my earlier days, before I learned to manage and work around my dyslexia, my inner critic would have been more like an inner bully who knew my darkest secrets, fears and weaknesses – he would never have let me even consider that I could have the ability to write a book.

What does your family think of your writing?

I worked on my first book for about 12 months and didn’t tell any of my family until I held the physical copy in my hand. To say they were surprised would be an understatement. Since then, they have been nothing but supportive and are now quizzing me about the timeline for the next book in the series.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Writing definitely energizes me, when I get into a flow hours can pass like minutes. Reading on the other hand is exhausting for me as it takes total concentration.

What inspired you to write Reliance?

I have always liked posing the question “What if…?” usually related to a slight variation on reality. In the case of Reliance that “What if” concerned the sudden loss of power and what the immediate impact would be on society. For example what would YOU do if the power went off with no warning and was off for say a day, a week or even a month? The more research I did the more alarming were the answers – there are no aliens or zombies involved but it is frightening how quickly the mundane everyday things which we take for granted, can cause serious issues when they are no longer available.

How long did it take you to write Reliance?

When I first made the decision that I was going to commit my daydreams to paper, it was important to me that everything in the book would be realistic and believable (as much as possible). With that in mind I think I spent about six months researching a myriad of topics; everything from Space Weather, electricity grid infrastructure, the mechanics of gas and water supply, right down to how petrol stations work. I was a little nervous though (particularly living in Northern Ireland) when I started Googling things like – “How many active soldiers are present in N.Ireland?” or “What kind of weapons do prisons have and where are they kept?”  – I wouldn’t have been overly surprised to hear a size 10 boot kick my door in and uniformed men haul me away in the middle of the night. Thankfully that didn’t happen and after about 6 months of research and planning it took another 6 months to get it written and published.

I know that Reliance is the first book in the “Powerless Earth Series.” How many more books will there be in the series?

Book 2 of the series has been researched and outlined however, I have paused work on it to do a short novelette based on two of the characters from Reliance. The working title is “Dr Death”. It’s turning out to be much darker than Reliance. I am aiming for a release at the end of November. The second full novel should be published in the Spring of 2021. There will likely be a third novel in the series and possibly one or two more novelettes.

What is your favorite part of Reliance? No spoilers, of course!

There was a scene involving Martin (the Physics Professor), writing the scene took a lot of me, I found myself getting very emotional and actually had to take a break after writing it. 

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

An eagle.

What does literary success look like to you?

Success for me is keeping the self-doubt monster at bay long enough to get the book finished, once it is out there I know that not many people will ever hear about it but as long as those who do, find it entertaining, then that’s enough for me.

What advice would you give a fledgling writer?

Learn the technical skills required and the rules that should be followed. You don’t always have to follow the rules but, to knowingly break the rules for a reason is one thing, to break the rules because you didn’t know them is something else.

What sort of books do you read?

A wide range – mostly thrillers, dystopian and post-apocalyptic.

What’s your favorite book?

More the series than any one book out of it – The Remaining Series by D.J. Molles.

Book that made you cry?

Don’t think I have ever cried while reading a book but I’ve certainly been close to it a couple of times when writing.

Book that really inspired you?

The Creative Writer’s Toolbelt Handbook by Andrew Chamberlain helped me when I first embarked on my writing journey (and his podcast of the same name). As well as teaching the techniques and skills he also interviewed many guests from across the industry.

A book you didn’t like at all? (Maybe one you felt like you were supposed to like.)

The Stand by Stephen King (How dare I?) – Because reading is so exhausting for me, I prefer shorter books and at near 2 million pages The Stand is not a short book. It just seemed needlessly long winded to me.

What’s your perfect reading environment?

By a pool in the sun but I don’t have a pool and I live in Ireland so I don’t have the sun – so sitting on the balcony or in the back garden on a good day, or in front of the fire on a bad day.

Do you listen to music while you read/write, or do you prefer silence?

Have tried listening to music while writing, just doesn’t seem to work for me. I need total silence when reading so music would not be an option there.

Author Page: Reliance.fyi/Home

Amazon: Reliance.fyi/AmazonUS

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pmcmurrough

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pmcmurroughAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/pmcmurrough

I seriously cannot recommend this book enough. You will not regret picking up a copy! Good news: It’s free today and tomorrow!!

Book Review #6: Awoken by Billie Kermack

I’m really enjoying reading while I work on Caged’s sequel! It’s coming, I promise. Nano’s approaching; I can feel the slight chill in the air from all the dread it brings with it. That’s when I plan on working on Idyllic Series #2. Next week holds some sneak peaks, though! So look forward to that.

But today, I have another book review for you! This week is a paranormal romance by author Billie Jade Kermack.

Grace O’Callaghan has a seemingly normal life. Dealing with her father’s unfortunate death, she goes to school and tries to stay under the radar. 

That is until Beau walks into her life. 

Beau Milner is anything but normal. Strikingly handsome and frustratingly anti-social, Grace is instantly drawn to Beau. She’s not the only one though… Shadows wait for the sweet couple, and if they can’t fight them off, both will have to pay.

As always, taken from Amazon.

Style:

Kermack’s style is very descriptive. I don’t mind a good description in my stories! I want to be able to visualize how everything’s laid out and really see myself in the story. That’s completely possible while reading Awoken. Grace’s pain, love, and frustration is all so well laid out that it’s quite breath-taking at times. 


That being said, there were moments where my entire screen was just wall-to-wall text. That might be a Kindle issue, because the text is laid out so much differently. This could be off-putting for some readers. Even I found myself skipping forward because I was slightly overwhelmed. 

Length: 

This really goes hand in hand with what I said earlier about Kermack’s style. It is a very wordy book, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It took me about a week to finish, but as I’ve said before, I have a life and sometimes it takes me a while to finish. 

I found that the beginning of the book was slower than the rest, making it take much longer for me. After about 40%, things seemed to fly by. Even I found myself wishing the 400 pages weren’t over!

Character Development: 

Okay, so, I’ll talk about this in-depth more when we come to plot, in my opinion, Awoken is very similar to Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. The book, not that crappy movie. And I know that not everyone likes the books, but I’ve been a fan since I was in high school. So, I say everything from here on out as a compliment. 

Grace is a fantastic female lead. She’s independent while knowing when it’s okay to ask for help. She’s funny and strong but so weak at times. It’s extremely relatable. I found myself laughing out loud at some of her inner ramblings. Certain events unfold at the end, and I really expected her to fold— quite like Bella from Twilight— but she didn’t. That was the true moment that I knew these two characters were stark different. 

Beau is a dreamboat. Let’s get that off the table. He’s tall, dark, handsome, mysterious, protective— all the things we wished for in a boyfriend when we were in high school. Beau has a fantastic sense of humor as well, and he uses his gift for seeing the dead to do fantastic, great things. Yet, I have one complaint. He’s too much like Edward. He constantly blames himself for things, and he just… Let’s say I’m trying really hard not to spoil it for you. Not read this next part if you don’t want a mild spoiler in your head….

Dear Beau: It wasn’t all your fault, and you need to get your butt back before the next book starts. OR ELSE. 

Plot:

Now, when I finished reading this book, I messaged the author, Billie Jade Kermack, to ask if it was inspired by Twilight. 

Her answer shocked me. 

“No, it wasn’t.”

Well, you must be on the same freakin’ wavelength as Stephanie Meyer, then, because man, these books are similar! I’m not complaining. It reads like a typical teen romance, made better by the paranormal, spooky twist of ghosts. Grace wants Beau; he seems like her very presence is annoying. Finally, he breaks down, and voila! LOVE! 

That said, it really did make the plot a little bit predictable for me. I knew what was coming after the last event. I felt it deep in my soul, and I kept hoping I was wrong. 

I wasn’t. Let’s leave it at that. 

If you’re a fan of Twilight but wish it was darker— read Awoken by Billie Jade Kermack. Here’s the buy link. I’m giving it a solid 8/10. Pick it up.

Book Review #5: Challenge of the Gods by Michael Siddall

Another day, another book! I had a nice day off work today, and my husband and I raided two different bookstores. So, hopefully, I’ll get to actually dive into my seemingly bottomless bookshelves here soon!

Today’s review though is for an action-adventure fantasy novel rooted in Norse mythology and an epic journey for immortality.

Every hundred years, the greatest warriors across the land gather for the chance to compete in The Quest—a grueling set of tasks dreamed up by the gods.

Fafnir is one of five warriors embarking on this century’s Quest. If he wants a chance at immortality and fame, he’ll have to face challenges he never dreamed of.

The gods are fickle beings, though, and they won’t always be on his side. With Loki lurking in the shadows, a deathly entity awaits Fafnir. Can he survive, or will the challenge prove too much for even him?

Style:
Siddall’s style is surprisingly descriptive. The world he’s built is rich and vivid, leaving very little room for the imagination when it comes to landscapes. I prefer these long, beautifully written descriptions. It’s laid out so wonderfully that it makes it easy to picture where the challengers are traveling through their journey.

Landscapes aren’t the only well-described part of Siddall’s writing. He also does a wonderful job of painting scenes—whether it be a fight, a new creature appearing, or a character enjoying his or her triumph (or paying greatly for their loss). I was able to visualize every character as we went, along with the many creatures that I’ll admit I was unfamiliar with. I don’t know a lot about Norse mythology and the creatures/places in that world. But surprisingly, that didn’t matter. Even I could follow along.

Length:
Challenge of the Gods is an average length novel. At about 200 pages in my Kindle, it took me four days to finish.

I’ve talked before about how long it takes me to finish books. Michael contacted me Saturday and asked when I might be finished. When I said, “Give me a week.” He proceeded to tease that it was good he hadn’t asked me to read War and Peace. I honestly can’t imagine how long that book would take me to read. 😂 I say all this to get here: I finished in under a week, because, regardless of the length, it was a fantastic read. Action from start to finish! I never wanted to put it down.

Character development:
So, this story follows an omniscient narrator and all six POVs— Fafnir, Iona, Danzigfeld, Brung, Yolaf, Griswold, and Loki (with the occasional Thor and Odin himself). Because of this, there’s not a whole lot of room for individual development. Not all characters live through the Quest, though, if that counts.

Fafnir and Iona really get the main focus throughout the Quest, and I believe that Fafnir really does develop slightly. In the beginning, he really hungers for wealth and immortality. All the challengers do. But once he faces the death of someone close to him, he learns that it’s not worth it. I appreciated the decisions he made towards the end.

My favorite character was Danzigfeld, a wise, puzzle solving dwarf who rhymes almost every other sentence. His wit made me laugh out loud at times, and I was genuinely scared that we’d lost him at one point. Resurrection of a character never felt so good. Haha.

Another character I have some qualms about is Iona. I love that we have a female challenger. But… eh… she uses her femininity at one point to trick someone, then she really just acts kind of cringey at times. I still liked her strong, willful personality. There were just some iffy moments about her. I’d give her a solid 6/10, a low high.

Plot:
As far as adventure/action/fantasy stories go, this one has it all. Huge, monstrous beasts, fairies, dragons, a Sphinx, giants, odd creatures that I honestly don’t know the name of. The Blackhawks (the Quest challengers) face literally everything, even Loki himself. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again— PAGE-TURNER. I didn’t want to put this down. The fights, the struggles, the wins! It was back to back plot points.

And this is all from someone who gets her Norse-knowledge from binge watching Marvel movies.

If you’re a fan of action, adventure, or fantasy, pick this book up. You won’t regret it.

Definitely a 10/10. You can purchase it at the link below.

Purchase Link