Romance readers will recognize Southwest Florida resident Tina Murray from her published work Dead Palm Trees in Jackie Hofer’s anthology Tree Magic and from her essays in the USF literary journal Palm Prints.
A recluse at heart, Tina has ventured her way into the publishing world after years spent in a wide range of pursuits. Insight gained, especially as an actress and artist, subsequently enhanced by degrees in art education, education, art and drama from the the Florida State University and the University of Miami, has fed her imagination for her debut romance novel A Chance to Say Yes. Now she enjoys the sunny shores of paradise as she prepares the sequel in her movie-star dynasty.
Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Tina. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?
A: I am multi-published. My published works include essays, a short story, and an article. A Chance to Say Yes is my first published novel.
Q: What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?
A: The very first novel I conceived—years ago, when I didn’t know you could work to have novels published–was Lace and Glory. I wrote only parts of it. It was my foray into writing, my first experiment. I used the title and concept in my first published novel A Chance to Say Yes. Lace and Glory: The Movie appears on my leading man Heston Demming’s list of movie credits. In Lace and Glory, Heston portrayed a Civil War general. He was filming in New Orleans when he met his second wife, top model Maude Winston.
Q: For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?
A: I experienced no rejection of A Chance to Say Yes. I met my publisher before submitting a manuscript to him. His traditional, but innovative publishing house, ArcheBooks, was brand new then. I knew he was looking for certain qualities in a manuscript. I incorporated those qualities into my submission. While finding my way as a new writer, however, I experienced my share of rejection letters.
Q: How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?
A: Rejection letters are never fun to receive. It helps to know that they are commonplace—you know, just part of the process. So, to overcome the blows, I remind myself of that fact. I never let one deter me from pursuing my ultimate goal. The best thing to do is to keep writing and submitting–and smiling and laughing and papering your walls with them, or whatever else it takes to help you put them to rest and move on.
Yes, it is possible to learn from rejection letters, under certain circumstances, but sometimes you don’t grasp their meaning until you’ve grown as a writer. Sometimes there is no meaning. Sometimes it’s not about you. It’s about them. They didn’t need your material.
Q: When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?
A: ArcheBooks Publishing, Inc., published A Chance to Say Yes. I didn’t choose them. They chose me—and I’m so glad they did.
Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
A: I felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment. Over the years, I have learned how to set and achieve goals. Few goals I have reached, however, have given me as much satisfaction. I was profoundly elated. The only celebration I recall was a lunch meeting with my publisher and friends. That was good, too! I was so excited I spelled his name incorrectly when I signed his copy of A Chance to Say Yes, the first copy in print. That was bad!
Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?
A: I bought a ton of expensive bookmarks and postcards. After addressing, stamping, and posting hundreds of postcards, I decided there must be a better way.
Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?
A: No. I learned what I needed to learn from this experience.
Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?
A: My second novel, A Wild Dream of Love, is in the works. It is the sequel to A Chance to Say Yes. I have been spending my energy on writing it. In addition, I expect to have articles published online in the coming months.
A Wild Dream of Love will be my second published novel. Writing a sequel presents new challenges. The process has helped me to grow as an author. Also, I have grown as a human being–and, therefore, as an author–because I’ve just lived through a very difficult time in my life.
Q: Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?
A: Now that I know how long it takes some publishers and agents to respond to submissions, I would have sent out more submissions. When I first started submitting, I plodded along at my leisure. As a result, I lost some time.
Q: What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?
A: On a professional level? I’ve learned how to function as a published author. You think it’s hard to publish? Just wait you until start promoting your book.
Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?
A: Lately, I’ve been wishing I had become an astronomer. I signed up to receive emails from NASA because I am awed by the pictures coming from space telescopes. Seriously, my talents fall elsewhere–artist, actor, film-maker, songwriter, or mystic. Notice I have listed no practical fields. In a way, I’m an airhead, but the air is filled with ideas, images and sounds. I’m winding my way towards nothingness.
Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?
A: Right now, I wouldn’t trade being an author for any profession. I like it.
Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?
A: I see myself as the author of several published books. Naturally, bestselling books, critically acclaimed books are what I would prefer, but I can’t control these aspects of the process. I can only do my part—writing and promoting—and leave the rest to unseen forces.
Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
A: I would suggest that writers aim as close to the power source as possible, and I would take to heart the advice hugely successful author Pat Conroy gave me several years ago at the Miami International Festival of Books. I allude to the conversation I had with him in the acknowledgments of my novel A Chance to Say Yes. He told me not to let anyone—with the emphasis on anyone—tell me I could not succeed as a writer, no matter what. I will be eternally grateful for his kind, insightful, and totally unexpected advice. No doubt, he is often generous to fledglings.