The following was published in The Brookville Democrat newspaper in April 2014.
By Melanie Padgett Powers, Special Contributor
Ever wondered what lurks at the bottom of Brookville Lake? Jim Murphy has, and he wrote a horror book about it.
In June 2013, Murphy’s first novel, “Dead Lake,” was published by Severed Press Publishing. This month, the book’s sequel, “Snapped,” will be available. He has already started working on his third book, “Carrion.”
Murphy, who writes under the name Murphy Edwards, was born and raised in Franklin County and lives in Brookville. He graduated from Brookville High School in 1974.
How did this Brookville resident with a full-time day job became a supernatural horror writer? It all started as a kid with reading and horror flicks.
“I’ve always loved a good story, and I’ve always loved to read—anything I could get my hands on,” Murphy said.
He was also a fan of horror B movies, the kind where you don’t see the monster but you know it’s there. Then, as a high school freshman, Murphy had the urge to write and began to put his imaginative stories down on paper. But he never tried to get anything published.
“I put [my writing] in a lot of drawers and cabinets and forgot about it,” he said.
As an adult, about 15 years ago, he felt the yearning to write again, so he dug out some of his old stories and began to rework them. He bought a “Writer’s Digest” book, which provided information on how and where freelance writers could get their work published. But Murphy didn’t have much success.
“I submitted 150 submissions through the ‘Writer’s Digest’ and never got a single hit,” he said.
But then the Internet took off, and editors took advantage of it, asking for specific types of writing online. Murphy began to submit his writing to editors who were putting together book collections of short stories. His work was accepted again and again, and dozens of his short stories—tales of horror, the supernatural and crime—have been published in the last 10 years. He also wrote a novella, “Stone Cold,” which was published as part of a collection called “Four Ghosts.”
After awhile, editors began to contact him directly to ask for a specific kind of story. One of the editors who bought several of Murphy’s short stories worked for Severed Press Publishing, a medium press headquartered in Australia that publishes worldwide. One day, that editor emailed Murphy to ask if he had ever considered writing a novel.
“I let that email sit for about a month and kept looking at it,” Murphy said.
At first, he wasn’t confident he’d be able to tackle a novel. “To take the leap from 6,000 words to 60,000, I didn’t know if I had enough stamina,” he said. “The more I thought about it, I thought it was just more space to tell your story.”
The publisher wanted a horror story with a water theme, so Murphy wrote an eight-page synopsis, which the publisher approved. From Thanksgiving 2012 through May 2013, Murphy wrote “Dead Lake.”
The influence of Brookville Lake is easy to spot in the book, which is about a Department of Natural Resources officer in charge of the fictional Vivid Valley Lake and whose nemesis is a local game poacher who is always causing problems.
But the two men discover that when Vivid Valley Lake was created not all of the graves from the cemeteries were moved from what would become the bottom of the lake.
The supernatural tale stems from Murphy’s middle school memories when his older brother applied for a job to move the cemeteries in Old Fairfield so Brookville Lake could be created. But, unlike in real life, in Murphy’s fictional story, not all of the graves were moved.
The publisher “bought it on the spot and sent me a contract for a follow-up,” Murphy said. The soon-to-be-published “Snapped” is a sequel about one of the characters from “Dead Lake.” The title refers to a snapping turtle, and Murphy’s granddaughter, Adrianna, age 14, used Photoshop to design the book’s cover of a scary-looking turtle.
“Dead Lake” has an average four-star rating on both Amazon.com and the Severed Press website. Next month marks the one-year anniversary of the book’s publication, and Murphy is eager to receive an annual report that will show how well the book is selling worldwide. Every quarter he receives sales reports and a royalty check.
Like his other books, Murphy’s third book, “Carrion,” takes a true story and re-imagines it as a fictional horror story. This time, Murphy was inspired by the old Fernald factory in Ohio that was a uranium processing facility during the Cold War. The Superfund site was one of the largest environmental cleanups in United States history after radioactive contamination was discovered in the 1980s
The Fernald site is now a large wildlife preserve, and in 2013 endangered American burying beetles were released there. In Murphy’s fictional story, “Mother Nature goes awry,” he explained, when carrion beetles burrow into the soil of a nuclear waste site.
Nowadays, Murphy doesn’t know if he wants to return to writing short stories. Though he wasn’t sure at first if he could finish a novel, the pressure of committing to a contract kept him writing. It’s advice he offered to budding writers: “You just have to keep writing through it and keep going and shut the editor in yourself off.”
Murphy likes to write in the morning and tries to shoot for at least 1,000 words a day on his writing days (about the length of this article). “It’s surprising how fast you can get to a well-edited 60,000-word piece,” he said.
Until recently he didn’t write on a computer. “I’m an old school guy. Virtually everything I’ve written to date has been handwritten on paper,” he said.
After he finishes writing, he then turns to a computer and types the stories. But for his third book, he’s going to try to “write” on the computer first, which is a different mental process than handwriting.
Sometimes when Murphy begins writing, he only knows the tale’s basic outline; other times he has the entire story mapped out.
“Other times I just write and have no idea where it is going,” he said. “I usually start with a series of character sketches. … Those five or six base characters usually form the synopsis of where the story’s going, and other characters will pop up.”
In March, Murphy attended his first book signing. He was invited to join a handful of other Indiana horror writers at Bookmamas in Indianapolis.
“It turned out really well. It’s a beautiful old bookshop,” he said. “I was totally nervous but so glad I did it.”
Murphy read a chapter from “Snapped,” answered audience questions and sold and signed copies of “Dead Lake.”
Murphy has received several awards for his short stories. In 2011, he was awarded the Midwest Writers Workshop Writers Retreat Fellowship Award for Fiction. His short story “Mister Checkers” was selected to be among the best in science fiction, fantasy and horror of 2009 for the Leucrota Press Anthology “Abaculus III.”
Recently, Murphy has enjoyed recognition a little closer to home, as Franklin County friends have become his latest fans.
“I’ve had a lot of support locally. A lot of people have found me on Facebook and supported me—a lot of old classmates I haven’t heard from in years.”
For more information on Murphy, visit http://murphyedwards.wordpress.com or search “Murphy Edwards” on Facebook.