Hello, and welcome to the last third of June!
Can you believe it's almost officially summer?
No, neither can I.
Here's an interview for you to take your mind off the passing of the season. We have novelist Trace Murillo today. Trace Murillo is the author of The Patient in Room 432 (2018), A Girl Named Carmen Winstead (2021), The Wicked Witch of Monroe (2022), and the upcoming psychological thriller Whispering Creek (2022). Born in Tampa in 1968, Ms. Murillo lived in Florida until 2015. Since then, she has traveled to many places, seen amazing things, and finally settled down with her husband in North Carolina.
When she is not writing she loves cooking, hiking, taking semi-horrible pictures, and watching classic cult films. She is currently working on a forthcoming series featuring Poppy Pembrooke under her pseudonyms Rylee North, scheduled to be out by the fall of 2022.
Visit her online www.tracemurillo.com OR
Visit her Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/tracemurillo
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I was an awkward child. Never really fit in anywhere. Almost to the point that I was bullied every day of my young life. Then around the age of eleven, my brother gave me a book to read called The Jade Unicorn, by Jay Halpern. Not the most conventional book for an eleven-year-old but the violent crimes and the amount of conflict, I was hooked. By the time my twelfth birthday came, I was writing shorts and poetry, and really dark stuff, I knew then I was branded different because I was different and threw myself into writing. It was a great escape, a way for me to create art because that is what it is really. The ability to create a fictional world that people can relate too. I am just grateful that I have the ability and the resources to do that. Believe me I am not the only introvert in this world, and I hope people can at least escape for a short time with my writing and be happy.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
My first book was hell. Looking back, I realized it is that one book that I should have waited to write until I was more experienced in manuscript writing. I started the book when I was 23 years old. I shelved it for years due to lack of confidence. I had someone around me that was not so encouraging, and I believed him. I finally got rid of him and kept my writing, I was stronger, and it took me another four years to complete the first draft, but I kept going, I was determined and in 2019, it was independently published. In July of 2020, it was picked up by Dark Water Press, re-branded, re-released and the rest is history.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Well, I write every day except for Sundays. I am on a tight schedule, but I enjoy cooking for my family, (I am good at it) hiking, and spending time with my animals. But I am an avid reader and book collector. I love curling up with a great scary book or a romance. My love for books never stays within the same genre, I enjoy all literary writings. From history to Sci-Fi to romance and even Goosebumps. I enjoy them all. I read about six books a month.
What does your family think of your writing?
Family is the darndest thing, isn’t it? My immediate family, my husband, my children, all support my career. I talk about a current idea or my current work in progress so much, I think it drives them batty. But for me, they take it strive and listen, ask questions, and sometimes give great insights and ideas. They support me by buying all my books (I do not give away free books. At all.) My youngest son actually read one of them, he really enjoyed it. So, I was happy about that. My middle daughter refuses to read them. She claims as she is reading, she hears my voice, and it is weird. I am not sure what that means. But the support in my career is greatly appreciated and highly needed.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Some of my ideas come from broken dreams. I will jot down as much as I can remember. Others from places I visit or tour. Other places, other countryside’s. I do a lot of traveling research and I just get this feeling or ideas that stick to me. Some become novels, others are waiting in the wind, some will make the cut, others do not right away. But the most important thing for me is research. If I cannot find what I need, I travel to places, settings, areas, for inspiration, information, and more ideas. I remember when I was writing, The Patient in Room 432, my first novel, I traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana and traveled the swamps, ate the food (great food, by the way) dug into their culture, interviewed locals, photographed the French Quarter, etc. I wanted a clear and concise image of what the voodooism was like for the people of the state. Then, I talked to a Mambo, a voodoo queen about specifics for the book and their true beliefs. It is important to me when I write about subjects, I get it right and not trash the people of a state, place, religion, or any orientation. It was a great experience for me, and I try to travel as much as possible when needed for any type of research, information, or ideas that I need. Before I even attempt to start writing I do hours of research on any subject matter that I need.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
Off Season by Jack Ketchum. Ketchum is probably one of the most controversial writers in the horror genre and that is why I adored him so much. He wrote what he wanted, about topics that sometimes did not sit well with the literary world, and this spoke volumes to me. I always wanted to adapt that sense of barbaric writing he adapted in his novels, he was a great mentor, and therefore he is one of my favorites. He never got the recognition he deserved. His books are examples of edge of the seat reading with to the point story-telling that people need. He was an amazing writer and unfortunately, we lost him in 2018. I have read every book he had ever released but Off Season is a classic. Honestly, for me, he is the King of horror.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
This is a funny question. A question only writers can understand. I have as we speak 3 books in the final editing phase, 12 in progress, and I have seven shelved for me to revisit later (finished manuscripts). The world is just not ready for them yet or I am not ready for them to be seen yet, I am not sure which. I have a ledger of ideas, my brain never rests, I am always coming up with new ideas, new plots, and new characters that are waiting to be born.
What do you think makes a good story?
Characterization. I believe a character driven story can save a bad idea. In some circumstances, many times I might add a character can become so beloved that readers will forgive you for all fallacies that could be seen as a disastrous to the book. Red-herrings, twists and turns are always great for a story, but if the characters can not develop them correctly, show the abilities to unfold the story in a timely fashion, be believable, be normal, there is no way the story will unfold correctly. So, I think characterization is key to a good story.
What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?
I believe it is pay to play. Untrustworthy publishers scamming young writers into the dark web of lies and industry terms just to get their money. They prey upon Indie authors to submit their work for a fee with promises of being on the NY bestsellers lists. First off, none of these publishing houses can guarantee anyone how many books they will sell. Secondly, they can not guarantee the royalty amounts of the sells, and lastly, everything a new writer is paying them to do, they could do themselves. I also believe these types of entities are a flow over from the Big 5 houses in publishing. Simon and Schuster have one called Archway Publishing. They promise new artist that IF their book does well, Simon and Schuster will pick it up. That is not actually true. The Big 5 has made so hard to attain representation to the literary world that young, inspiring writers like many of you will do anything to obtain that success and to be that is the most disgusting unethical practice in the industry.
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
Big ego’s have no place in the writing industry. It will hurt a new writer. You must wake up each morning, take criticism with stride, take a deep breath, and keep moving forward. Wake up the next day, put on your big persons’ pants and repeat. I remember when I wrote my first novel, The Patient in Room 432, I had worked on it for so long, I knew it was the best book to ever hit the horror market. That ego even convinced me I was just as good as Stephen King, because it was my sweat, my tears, my baby. Well, it wasn’t that good. I learned a hard lesson because I was an unknown, a no body in the world of publishing. If you have such a big ego and hate criticism or help from others in the industry, maybe you should go buy an island in the middle of the Pacific because here, in this industry it can get brutal and wearing your heart on your sleeve is not going to mesh well. I learned a huge lesson quick out of the gate and I am so grateful for that.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I do write under a pseudonym. I enjoy writing across genres. I write romance and fantasy. Horror/Thrillers are my first love but who doesn’t enjoy a great romance, right? I use the pseudonym Rylee North because I do not think my horror readers would appreciate a fantasy book about a teenage fairy or a middle-aged woman looking for that one true love. I have not released any of these new series yet but hoping to be on schedule later this year.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
When you have this great idea, plot down all your ideas out, even down to the ending, the characters are developed the research on the setting, everything is in place then in a blink of an eye, everything changes. The book takes on a life of its own and suddenly you have this great story that you never intended to write. I never knew what this meant until my first book. It was amazing to see how the characters developed and took on a life of their own.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I have written 14 books, three are published. I am scheduled to release 9 of them within a year starting this month. To date, my favorite book that I wrote is A Girl Named Carmen Winstead. It was part of the Urban Legend Collection and was released in May of 2021. It was based around a young girl that was being bullied by her classmates and I believe that is why I related so much to the main character, Carmen Winstead.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Believe it or not, it’s my phone. It interrupts me at every corner. I do not research as I am writing, most peoples kryptonite or editing as you go, no, I do not have that issue but that damn phone is driving me crazy. Some say, turn it off, ignore it. I worry something might happen and I will be needed for an emergency. If anyone has advice on this, I will surely listen.
What do you have coming next?
I have a new book coming July 14, The Witch of Monroe. Based loosely on the Urban Legend of Hannah Crannah, the Wicked Witch of Monroe is part of the Urban Legend Series. It will be available on amazon, audible, and anywhere books are sold.
“See … I told you, there are no devils.”