How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your book?
I’ve always been a fan of classic mysteries, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. I’m also a big fan of The Thin Man movies series. I love the wit and sophistication of William Powell and Myrna Loy. It seemed natural that I’d write about the era, so I created Jake and Laura
What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
Wings in the Dark is the third book in the series. I wanted to continue the relationship of Jake and Laura that began with The Yankee Club and continued with All That Glitters. Wings in the Dark begins with Jake and Laura’s honeymoon in Hawaii, which soon gets disrupted by their involvement in a murder mystery involving Amelia Earhart.
Can you share some stories about people you met while researching this book?
I have a dear friend, a former actress and model, Jane Johnson. She has a great sense of humor and is gorgeous, the inspiration for Laura.
Research is crucial in writing historical fiction and since I include actual historical figures, it’s important to get them right. Since Laura is a famous actress and Jake a successful writer, they rub shoulders with some important historical figures in each of the books; Cole Porter, Joseph Kennedy, Ethel Merman William Powell, Carole Lombard to name a few.
The plot of Wings in the Dark cents around Amelia Earhart’s historical trans-Pacific flight from Hawaii to the west coast of the U. S. I spent a lot of time researching Amelia Earhart, reading books and articles about her and her famous husband, George Putnam and spending considerable time on the internet. She was a very talented woman who had her own clothing line and, although she didn’t consider herself a woman’s right’s figure, she was an inspiration for women throughout the world.
What do you think most characterizes your writing?
I strive for four things, a distinctive literary voice, humor, historical accuracy, and an entertaining mystery. I also try to capture the feel of novels written during the 1930’s. For example, I use chapter headings which were common back then. They bring an additional fun element to the story one doesn’t see today.
What is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about your subject/genre, that isn’t so?
People know about The Great Depression, but like The Thin Man, Jake and Laura are living the good life. They both deal with guilt seeing the gap between the have and have-nots and that’ s a common theme in the books.
What is the most important thing that people DON’T know about your subject/genre, that they need to know?
People need to know there are a lot of parallels between America today and America during the 1930’s. There’s that gap between people with money and the gap between them and the middle class. Unemployment and homelessness is a major problem today and back then. There’s also a raging debate on the role of government on how best to deal with social services and the economy during both decades.
What did you find most useful in learning to write?
What was least useful or most destructive? I’ve long since discarded destructive writing habits. The most useful is remembering that first, second and third drafts don’t have to be perfect. I write the first draft as quickly as possible and fill in the details of characterization, setting and voice, etc. Another useful lesson was learning the essential component of fiction is the scene and a novel is a collection of scene. When I finished my 4th Jake and Laura mystery, The Big Brush-Off, I ended up with six or seven deleted scenes, much as film-makers end up with when construction movies.
What inspires you?
Historical figures such as Amelia Earhart, the Kennedys, Franklin Roosevelt, although he’s yet to make an appearance.
What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has?
I’d like someone to ask about how I incorporate humor into murder mysteries. Humor is similar to drama, both are inspired by conflict. Humor can enhance characterization, diffuse tension and, in mysteries, create red herrings leading the reader to anticipate something dreadful happening when something humorous takes place instead.
•Published July 14th 2015 by Alibi
Michael Murphy is a full-time writer and part-time urban chicken rancher. He lives in Arizona with his wife of more than forty years and the four children they adopted this past year. He’s active in several local writers’ groups and conducts novel-writing workshops at bookstores and libraries.