May 23, 2009

"Really Real" Love with Author J. J. Murray

The Writer

J. J. Murray is a product of the American melting pot. Born on October 16, 1963, in Abington, PA, J. J. has lived in New York (Huntington), New Jersey (Plainfield), Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh), Missouri (St. Louis), Indiana (West Lafayette and College Corners), and Ohio (Marietta).He graduated magna cum laude from Marietta College (OH) with a BA in English before settling in the Roanoke Valley of Virginia, just up the road from Virginia Tech. The son, grandson, and great-grandson of preachers and teachers, J. J. taught public high school English for twenty years to students who sometimes actually spoke it. J. J. is currently lead teacher in a wilderness residential school for at-risk young men. J. J. met his wife, Amy Renee, at a high school football game at Victory Stadium in Roanoke in the fall of 1989, and their four-year courtship forms the basis of J.J.'s first novel, Renee and Jay. The first ten years of their marriage forms the basis of its sequel, Renee and Jay 2.

You can learn more about J. J. and his works at his website.

The Book

Too Much of a Good Thing is a tender, witty, and sexy tale of two very different souls whose prayers are answered in surprising ways.

When recently widowed Joe Murphy "meets" Shawna Mitchell in an online forum, all he's seeking is advice on keeping his home and his family together. Shawna's compassionate e-mails become his lifeline, and as months pass their correspondence grows deep and warm. Discovering that Shawna lives only blocks away ... well, it feels like more than luck. It feels a lot like hope.

With three children to raise, Shawna has no interest in getting close to another man, let alone one who s got three kids of his own. And the fact that Joe's white can only complicate matters more. But now, as they navigate family dates and vacations and their own doubts and fears, Joe and Shawna find themselves moving toward a future that's bright, new, and totally unexpected. Because the only thing more difficult than uniting two stubborn families would be walking away from something that feels so right.

View an [EXCERPT] at!

Click the cover to order your copy of Too Much of a Good Thing today!

Interracial Romance

What moved you to write interracial romances?
My wife motivated me to do what I teach and write her a novel to make her laugh. In 1999, I wrote Renee and Jay, a thinly veiled story of our romance. She laughed, shared it with friends, and ordered me to get it published. I spent the next two years finding an agent, and now my agent and editor at Kensington do most of the "moving."

Is the difference of race between the main characters always a conflict within your books?
I've been steadily moving away from that sort of conflict since Something Real. Folks are folks (especially in the dark), and although race is sometimes an issue, it's never the only conflict in any relationship in real life, right? Folks fuss about hygiene, wardrobe, manners, bad habits, money, what to eat, how to raise the children ... It's a long list to explore.

Have you ever received negative comments about your work, and if so, what?
Readers have fussed over so many things ... (smile) My men are too laid back, my heroines are too ruthless, my settings are too country--these are the three main ones. I write mostly about whom I've married (a strong black woman), myself (I'm so laid back I'm almost horizontal), and the place I live (a countrified city called Roanoke, Virginia). My next book (The Real Thing) contains my first "alpha male" (a boxer) who will go toe-to-toe with a seriously strong magazine writer. I hope I don't disappoint readers expecting another "nice guy."

What has been the overall positive reception to your work?
Readers seem to like that I don't populate my novels with "the beautiful people," that my characters could live next door to them or bump into them at the grocery store, that my couples don't blindly rush into relationships without foundations. One reader said I wrote "really real" stories. That was the nicest compliment.

Here we are in 2009 - how open do you think people are to seeing...and reading about interracial love? Do you think there's still a stigma to these relationships?
A biracial man is president. My sons will one day rule the world--if they can only clean up their rooms regularly. Folks around here are so used to seeing us together, hardly anyone blinks anymore. I don't feel a stigma. My wife doesn't seem to feel a stigma. My kids just think I'm strange in general, not just for being the "freckled one." We attend a multicultural church, my kids attend multicultural schools ... Ah, life in the rainbow is good.

You are the lone man in my May IR group, and in actuality, there aren't many male IR writers out there, and definitely few that aren't African American. How have readers taken to your work and to you as a white male author of IR?
I may be the only one! People generally squint at me a lot at readings for some reason, as if I'm not quite in focus. I sometimes open readings with, "You were expecting someone else?" I have been told that I couldn't possibly be J. J. Murray at writer's conferences--I even had to show ID. I once stood up from a signing in North Carolina to stretch my legs, and my wife signed books for me as J. J. Murray without anyone being the wiser. (I'm such a ghost sometimes). So many readers write to me after reading my books to tell me they didn't know I was a white man, some (not all) of them adding that it didn't matter a bit. I just hope and pray that I can touch a few hearts, pull a few heartstrings, release a few tears, and unleash some laughter in reader's lives. I hope readers smile when they've read the last word.


Shelia said...

This was a very good interview. I look forward to reading the book too.

Melissa said...

Great interview! Were you already writing before you started writing IR romance? Did you self publish or wait until you got an agent? And how did you find an I've got tons of questions. But, your books look great and I'm definitely going to be ordering a few! ; )

Shonell Bacon said...

Hey there, ladies! Thanks for the comments...getting J.J. to come over and comment, :-)

J. J. Murray said...

I had written several bad novels (trust me) before I started writing IR. It took two years before I found an agent for RENEE AND JAY. The publisher wanted a two-book deal, so I added SOMETHING REAL. Then ... for another two years, the publisher rejected two other novels (IR action-adventure), so I self-pubbed RENEE AND JAY 2. As for finding an agent, I used a guide to literary agents that came with a CD-Rom that had a search engine. I plugged in my genres, and it spit out a list of possible agents. Three of the eight expressed interest, but only Evan Marshall took a chance on me.