Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | March 16, 2011

Interview With Jacqui Murray, Author of “Building a Midshipman,” And Much More

T. Hello, welcome to the blog, Jacqui, please tell us about yourself.

J. Hi, Thomas. Thanks for inviting me to your blog. I’m the author of nine books on technology in education and one on my daughter’s journey to the USNA called Building a Midshipman. I’m the webmaster for five blogs, write two columns for, and am a contributor to Write Anything, and Technology in Education, I have a Bachelors in Economics, one in Russian and an MBA. I spent thirty years in the business world and then caught the writing bug. If you’re an author, you know what I mean. Writing is like bronchitis. Every time you think it’s through with you, it comes back. I finally ditched the day job and now I teach K-8 to pay the bills and write to satisfy my soul.

T. Wow! You’re a busy person. When did you start writing?

J. Unlike many other authors, I didn’t start until my children were grown and off to college. Only then did I allow myself a ‘hobby’ and I’ve never stopped. It’s far beyond a hobby at this point. Trying to convince myself to stop is like arguing with a forest fire—we all know who’s going to win.

T. Was there a favorite writing teacher or mentor? Tell us about him/her.

J. Not really. I didn’t go through a formal writing program, so my favorite teachers tended to be in history or economics.

T. Please tell us about your current book; genre and blurb.

J. My first book was Building a Midshipman. My daughter wanted to attend the Naval Academy and there were no how-to books out there. When she got in, I wrote about her experiences. Next, I wrote a technology curriculum for K-5 for the same reason. I had to teach tech and there was no structured approach on what to introduce and when, so I kept track of what worked for me and put it in a series of books.

After those experiences, I wanted to try my hand at fiction. Since I love technology and science, and am intrigued by man’s ability to solve problems, a techno thriller seemed the right choice and Twenty Four Days was born. It’s the story of terrorists who highjack a nuclear sub carrying America’s most advanced technology. My protagonist has twenty four days to get it back before it’s used for a deadly attack. My plot relies on a mixture of brains and brawn to solve the crisis. If all goes well, it’ll be ready this summer.

T. Great concept. I’m looking forward to reading it. Do you have a sequel or prequel in mind or in progress?

J. I wrote the prequel as a way to get to know my characters. I may go back and edit that into a novel when I’m done with Twenty Four Days.

I may pursue a sequel instead. One of the prominent secondary characters in the story is an automated intelligence. He serves as comic relief in the story as well as an investigation into how out-thinking the enemy contributes as much to solving problems as a shoot-em-up physical approach.

I also like using new scientific discoveries to advance my plot. Twenty Four Days deals with the ability of metamaterials to make the hijacked submarine invisible. Think Harry Potter’s cloak.

T. What are your writing habits? Are you an outliner or do you write “by the seat of your pants?

J. I write voluminous outlines in Excel (check out my post on plotting with Excel. JK Rowlings plots like I do, but on paper. Amazing, huh?) I have columns for characters, time, action, follow-up items, then add detail and move the rows around as required to make the story work. My outline for Twenty Four Days became seventy-five pages when transferred to a Word document.

Even with such a detailed outline, the writing isn’t easy—who was it that said writing is like opening a vein? So true, especially in the editing phase. Thriller writers must make eighty percent of the novel action—that means a whole lot of show not tell. Invariably, narrative slips in when I least expect it. That’s the hard part of editing.

T. What are your ideas about the future of digital publishing?

J. I love self-publishing, e-books, Kindle, Scribd documents. All these new outlets for authors transfer power from agents and publishers to the creators of the work. There’s a reason Kindle and Nook are the biggest selling items for both Amazon and Barnes and Noble in their history. People are reading more than ever, just not what agents and publishers think they should. There’s a niche for everyone and that’s the world opened by digital publishing.

T. Anything else to share?

J. I invite everyone to follow me on Twitter, @WordDreams and  subscribe to my  writer’s blog, Come see what’s up on the Scribd community– join the conversation. If I’m not teaching tech, I’m on the computer. Come say hi!

T. Thank you for an engaging visit.


  1. Thanks for hosting me, Thomas. It’s good to get to know you and your readers.

  2. I’m a big fan of Jacqui and her WordDreams blog. I have put so much of her good advice to use a recent (and finally) finished memoir.

    • Excellent information in her blogs for any writer.

  3. Thanks for visiting, Catherine, and for the kind comments! What’s your next step on your memoir?

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