Author Interview: G Murray Thomas

G. Murry Thomas Bio

I am a writer in the broadest sense. I write in whatever genre and form suits me at the moment. My preferred genre is fiction, but I’ve had the most success as a poet. I have published one full length collection of poetry, Cows on the Freeway (iUniverse), and I am regularly invited to read my poetry around Southern California.

At the moment, most of my writing is non-fiction, including musical commentary, literary criticism, and an occasional political editorial.

I have been very active in promoting poetry over the past twenty years. I tried my hand as a publisher, both of poetry books, as Orange Ocean Press, and a monthly magazine, Next… (more info below). I have produced and hosted numerous poetry readings. I currently host a monthly radio show focusing on poetry, on Kbeach.org. I am reviews editor for the poetry site Poetix.net, and also manage their monthly calendar of SoCal poetry events.

I have always been a writer, from early childhood. Sometime in my teens I decided it was the only career I really wanted to pursue. I have a B.A. in Creative Writing from Hampshire College (Amherst MA). I have dedicated my life since then to writing. Although I have yet to earn a living at it, I have no regrets.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: G. Murray Thomas

It’s rare today to find an author who does nothing but write for a living. Do you have a ‘real’ job other than writing, and if so, what is it? What are some other jobs you’ve had in your life?

G. Murray Thomas: I am currently on disability (kidney failure – on dialysis), which does give me time to write. I also work part-time at Barnes and Noble (which gives me access to plenty of reading material, as well as some knowledge of the book business).

For twenty years I worked in restaurants, primarily as a cook, but also as a waiter, busboy, prep cook, even dishwasher. Although it has always been a struggle to find the time to write, I found restaurant work as conducive as any, mostly because I could write during the day, and work at night. Besides, restaurants are actually fun places to work, esp. when you are young.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

G. Murray Thomas: Yes. Before I even knew how to write, I would dictate stories to my mother, who would write them down. I decided to pursue a “writing career” sometime in high school, only partially aware of the implications of that decision. It has been a struggle, and I still don’t have that career, but I don’t regret it for a minute.

Tell us a little bit about your book/s. What are their titles; which is your favorite if you have more than one, and briefly let us know what they are about. Pay particular attention to your most recent book and/or your first book:

G. Murray Thomas: I have two books which are available through Amazon and other sources.

Cows on the Freeway (1999, iUniverse) is a full length collection of my poetry. It contains my best poems, honed over ten years of performing them. My poetry has been described as humorous, although it is far from light verse. Victor Infante, in the O.C. Weekly, said, “Thomas’ great gift as a poet is his unusual ability to see and be bewildered by the thoroughly weird things that most of us take for granted.”

Paper Shredders (2005, iUniverse) is an anthology of poetry and short stories about surfing, which I edited with Gary Wright (owner of Killer Dana Surf Shop in Dana Point, CA). I originally published it on my own publishing company, Orange Ocean Press, in 1993. In 2005 I revised it and republished it with iUniverse. Including writings from everyone from pro surfers to landlubbers, Paper Shredders explores all aspects of surfing. Surfer’s Journal said, “There’s an honesty to the mix… with appeal for just about any surfer you might care to conjure.”
I also have five chapbooks of poetry, and a couple of CDs of me performing my poetry with various musicians, all available from the trunk of my car.

Are you currently working on any writing projects our readers should watch for release soon?

G. Murray Thomas: I am currently writing a monthly music column, called “The Aging Punk,” for Ground Control (www.groundcontrolmag.com), as well as a similar column for Poetic Diversity (www.poeticdiversity.org). Both columns are written to eventually be collected into book form. They attempt to describe the history of rock music from the perspective of the average fan, and combine memoir, music criticism, and cultural history. I also have completed a novel, for which I’m looking for an agent/publisher.

What type of music, if any, do you listen to while you write?

G. Murray Thomas: Mostly rock’n’roll. Some jazz. And I always listen to music while I write. Always have. Rather than a distraction, I find it an inspiration. And I am sure the various rhythms creep into my writing.

What inspires you and motivates you to write the very most?

G. Murray Thomas: I write to understand the world. I find the process of writing is the best way make sense of my life. They say that dreams are your mind’s way of organizing the events of your day. I find writing performs a similar function.

What one thing are you the most proud of in your life?

G. Murray Thomas: Between 1994 and 1998, I published Next… a monthly magazine covering the performance poetry scene in Southern California. It contained a calendar of poetry events, plus news, reviews, interviews and commentary on the scene. We distributed 10,000 copies free every month throughout SoCal. In the end, we provided an in-depth record of a very dynamic period in the growth of poetry, in California and nationwide. I am proud that I kept it alive that long, and never missed a single month. On the other hand, I’m still paying off the debts I built up.

What about your family? Do you have children, married, siblings, parents? Has your family been supportive of your writing?

G. Murray Thomas: I am single, no kids. My family has always been incredibly supportive of my writing. My parents are both artistic, and always understood and appreciated what I was trying to do. When my father retired from Kodak after 30 years, they went into business for themselves making travel movies.

When growing up, did you have a favorite author, book series, or book?

G. Murray Thomas: F. Scott Fitzgerald was the first writer to directly influence and inspire me. I fell in love with The Great Gatsby in high school; it made me want to write novels. I loved Fitzgerald’s writing style, but what I really wanted to emulate was how he captured the culture and feel of an era in his writing.

Although I have since come to recognize many other purposes for fiction, I still enjoy its ability to function as cultural history.

Location and life experience can sprinkle their influence in your writing. Tell us about where you grew up and a little about where you live now – city? Suburb? Country? Farm? If you could live anywhere you want to live, where would that be?

G. Murray Thomas: I grew up in Rochester, NY. Went to college at Hampshire College, in Amherst, MA. After that I lived for six years in Ketchum, ID (near the Sun Valley ski resort). Moved to Southern California in 1987, first in the Dana Point/San Clemente area, for the past 14 years in Long Beach. When I first moved to SoCal, I wrote a lot of poetry about two topics: the ocean and the freeways. I tend to set my stories and poems in places I have lived, because I like to include realistic physical descriptions of the environment. Also, Southern California has been a huge influence on my writing because there is thriving poetry community here. My poetry style is a direct result of hearing other poets perform. Although I’m not writing much poetry now, I still attend poetry readings at least once a week, and still get inspired by what I hear there.

How long did it take you to write your most recent (or first) book? When you started writing, did you think it would take that long (or short)?

G. Murray Thomas: My novel (which, as I said, I am looking for an agent and/or publisher for) took over 20 years from initial conception to final manuscript. It took me about seven years to write the first draft. I was working full time, and had a hard time finding the time to write. Once I had a first draft, I took it to a local workshop, where I realized that, although the basic idea and characters were sound, I had significant structural problems. Which meant I need to go back to page one and start again. I wasn’t ready to do that. Also, by that time I had moved to SoCal, and discovered the poetry scene here. And I discovered that, although I couldn’t seem to finish the novel, I could finish a poem. So I dedicated the next ten years to poetry, first writing my own, and then through publishing Next… (see above). After the magazine folded, and I collected my best poetry in Cows on the Freeway, I finally returned to the novel. This time it only took me about three years to complete a final draft.

Anything else you want your readers to know? How can a reader learn more about you and writing?

I think I’ve covered most everything here. I have a lot writing irons in the fire right now. Here’s a list:

You can order both of my books, Cows on the Freeway (my poetry) and Paper Shredders, (a surf anthology) through Amazon.com, or directly from iUnverse.com.

You can read my music columns at www.groundcontrolmag.com and www.poeticdiversity.org. You can read my poetry criticism at www.poetix.net. I publish occasional political commentary at www.associatedcontent.com.

I host a monthly poetry show on The Prime Spot Radio, which broadcasts on www.Kbeach.org. My show, The Poetry Show, airs the first Friday of every month, at 10 pm PT. I interview SoCal poets, and occasionally play poetry CDs.

I host a monthly open poetry reading at the Long Beach Barnes & Noble (Marina Pacifica Mall, 6326 E. PCH, Long Beach, CA 90803). It’s the second Tuesday of every month, at 7 pm.

You can also find me reading my poetry throughout Southern California. I attend, on average, at least one poetry reading every week. My favorite readings (besides my own reading) are the Ugly Mug, in Orange (every Wednesday), Redondo Poets in Redondo Beach (every Tuesday), Creative Sessions at Viento y Agua, Long Beach (2nd & 4th Tuesday), and Shout at Ambrose Pizzeria in Whittier (2nd & 4th Thursday). But I don’t limit myself to those readings by any means. I also feature regularly through SoCal. For complete information on these and other readings in SoCal, including an extensive poetry calendar and complete venue addresses, check out www.poetix.net. That is definitely the best place to find out where I might be reading, if you are interested in hearing/meeting me in person.

More information, pictures, and samples of my writing can be found at www.myspace.com/gmurraythomas.

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One comment to Author Interview: G Murray Thomas

  • KaRi  says:

    Great interview!

    Thanks for bringing Poets and Poetry onto TPSradio – You bring class to kbeach programming!

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