Q&A: Local author Victoria Christopher Murray

Meet a local author whose recent page-turner is about to be turned into a film.

A pioneer in contemporary African-American fiction, Victoria Christopher Murray comes from an unlikely business and health studies background.

A native of Queens, she first left New York to attend Hampton University where she majored in communication disorders. After graduating, Victoria attended New York University where she received her MBA.

Through it all her writing aspirations were always alive and kicking and soon after her second graduation in 2000, Victoria wrote and self-published her first novel, Temptation: a steamy story about the shortcomings of a romantic relationship that is compromised by faith and religious belief. 

Ever since Temptation, Victoria has been caught on a wave of perpetual success. With a wide variety of faith-driven and inspirational adult and teen novels, including JOY, Grown Folks Business, and The Ex Files, Victoria was recognized with the Golden Pen Award for Best Inspirational Fiction and the Phyllis Wheatley Trailblazer Award for being a pioneer in African American Fiction. 

Murray is currently touring with Forever an Ex, a novel that follows the incredibly popular book, The Ex Files (2007). The sequel delves into the lives of three Los Angeles women — Asia, Sheridan, and Kendall— whom once again find themselves torn over their romantic lives as their ex's come back to hunt them.  With the help of Pastor Ford they find comfort, support and courage to help each other survive. 

With writing that "has the kind of momentum that prompts you to elbow disbelief aside and flip the pages in horrified enjoyment" (The Washington Post), Forever an Ex is probably Murray's best novel yet.

You started a writing career right after you obtained a MBA from New York University. What made you change your mind about careers?

It's not that I changed my mind. I received my MBA from Stern in 1979 and didn't start writing professionally until 1997. But that entire time, actually since I was a child, I wanted to write. And I knew that if I didn't do it, one day, I'd be 80 years old, sitting on someone’s porch, sitting in someone’s rocking chair, saying, “Wow. I never did it.” It was that fear that got me moving to what I know I was put on this earth to do.

Temptation, your first book, was self-published in 2000. How was that process like, and why was it important, at that point in time, to do this on your own?

I self-published Temptation in 1997. I didn't even submit it to publishers. I had my MBA, my husband had his MBA and we thought that we could just self publish. But self-publishing was much harder than I ever thought. I was doing so much marketing that I wasn't writing. And though I loved the marketing part of the business, I really wanted to write. So, in 2000 I was picked up by a major publisher. But, I'm glad that I did self publish because even with one of the best publishers in the business I've maintained a self-publishing mentality. I work as if my novels now are self-published because no one will care about your book more than you do.

You’ve written more than 15 adult and teen novels in the past decade. Which of these books has had the most impact in your career?

That's a question that I get asked a lot and it's so hard to decide. This new book is my 22nd novel and I love each book for different reasons. If I had to choose, I guess I would have to say that Temptation is the book that started it all. Without Temptation, I wouldn't be here.

Writing fiction can be very therapeutic. Do you find that, through your novels’ themes and characters, you are somehow exploring your own personal obstacles and possible resolutions?

Interesting ... I don't find writing therapeutic per se ... I write because I have to. I write so that I can breathe. I have all of these stories inside of me and characters in my head screaming to get out. I write so they'll be quiet.  But really, I write because I have too. Very little of myself do I put into these novels. I do everything I can to make these stories up.

Faith plays an important role in most of your novels, especially The Ex-Files and Forever an Ex, the book that you are currently touring with. Is the Christian faith a big part of your life? Why do you choose to include this factor into some of your novels?

The book I'm currently touring with is Forever an Ex and faith plays an important part in writing my novels because it's the center of who I am. I always say that being a Christian should be a verb, not an adjective. It shouldn't just describe me, it should be what I do. I live my faith and if I weren't a writer, everyone would still know that Christ is an important part of my life. My faith goes with me and so it shows up in the pages of my novels.

Any piece of advice to aspiring young writers?

The best piece of advice I would give would be to not only write daily, but to also read daily. You can't be a writer if you don't write and you can't be a writer if you don't read. If you're a writer — writing and reading is your job. And if you want writing to become your "job" treat it that way now!

You can catch Murray's talk and signing event on Thursday, June 26, 7-8:30 p.m., at Barnes & Noble, 11802 N. Dale Mabry, Tampa. 

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