the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other authors

Happy publication day, Joe Siple

on January 21, 2021

I’m delighted to welcome Joe Siple to The Writer is a Lonely Hunter. Joe is an established author published by Black Rose Writing, an independent press based in Texas. I was so impressed with Joe’s debut novel The Five Wishes of Mr. Murray McBride, I decided to submit my second novel to Black Rose Writing and this has now been accepted for publication. In the meantime, Joe’s sequel The Final Wish of Mr. Murray McBride will be published today, 21 January 2021. I was fortunate to be an early reader of this splendid sequel and I’m thrilled Joe has agreed to join me for an interview. 

About The Final Wish of Mr. Murray McBride

Jason Cashman has reached the goal he spent the last twenty years seeking, but instead of feeling content, he feels empty. When he meets Alexandra Lopez, a ten-year-old America-loving girl facing deportation, he is inspired by his old friend, Murray McBride, to give her five wishes before she must leave.

They set out to check off as many wishes as possible, but when Jason’s transplanted heart begins to fail, he must choose between his obligations to the past and his hope for a future.

The interview

 Q. I’m fascinated by the relationships between characters in your novels and particularly the strength of intergenerational friendships. What inspired you to write about this?

A. I’ve always been intrigued by how similar most people are, at their core. Yet people of all kinds–young and old, black and white, religious and atheist–seem so different on the surface. I find it fun to explore relationships where the characters find a way to get beyond their superficial differences, to the closeness we all crave.  

Q. In The Final Wish of Mr. Murray McBride, your young protagonist faces an uncertain future in America due to ill health and her family’s immigration status. Why write about such a contentious issue?

A. There are two reasons. The first is a result of a family trip to Guatemala. During this “volunteer vacation” we saw the difference between people who were receiving money from a relative in the U.S.–some in the U.S. illegally– and those who weren’t. And I realized that if I were in their situation, I would also do whatever it took to provide for my family’s well-being. We also met many kind, gentle people there and I realized just how human they are, which is easy to lose sight of in the debate over immigration in this country. 

The second reason was the result of the change in U.S. immigration policy that separated young children from their parents as a way to scare others from trying to cross the border illegally, as well as the “Remain in Mexico” policy that forced innocent families into territory run by Mexican drug lords. I knew that writing about these things could anger some readers and potentially hurt my career, but it was important that the people I reach with my book see the humanity in these people. I also think it’s important to note that I don’t believe we should have “open borders” and let anyone in. But I do think we need an immigration policy that treats people as human beings. That is the point I try to make with this book, and I believe making that point is worth the risk. 

Q. There’s a three-year gap between publication of your debut novel and its sequel The Final Wish of Mr. Murray McBride. When and why did you decide to write a sequel?

A. I had been working on some other projects for a while after “The Five Wishes of Mr. Murray McBride” (although not the two books that were released during that time–those were written before “Five Wishes”). One day my publisher asked me, “What’s Jason Cashman up to now?” It was the first time I had even thought of writing a sequel. My first reaction was, “I have no idea.” I didn’t think there was a story there. But the more I thought about it, the more the new idea came together and I realized it could work. Turns out, it was one of the most enjoyable things to write. 

Q. I notice you’ve written a middle grade book for children The Last Dogs. What are the differences in writing for adult and young readers?

A. I try not to think about my audience when I write, and simply tell the best story I can. But that being said, there’s definitely a different feel. For me, writing for young readers means either writing about lighter themes or burying those themes just a little deeper in the text than in adult fiction. Although I think my styles for adult and middle grade are very similar, which is something that developed over time. 

Q. Your books have earnt many accolades and have a worldwide readership. What is it about your writing that appeals so broadly?

A. I think that can vary from reader to reader, but if I had to guess, I think it comes down to two things: authenticity and an ability to create an emotional experience for the reader. Authenticity in stories like mine is important because readers can see right through a writer who’s faking it. I think the advice, “Write what you know” is as true for voice as it is for subject matter. As for creating an emotional experience, I’ve improved at that as I’ve learned to really inhabit my characters. I’m certainly not the best writer around from a craft standpoint, but I have stumbled upon a way of making my characters real, and making (most of) my readers care about what happens to them. 

Q. From your bio, I understand it took seventeen years to bring your first writing project to publication. What words of advice do you have for new writers? 

A. Enjoy the process. Get lost in your stories. Writing should be fun! But also, don’t rush into publication. Wait until you’re good enough. It’s extremely rare that someone sits at their computer for the first time and writes an amazing story. Writing well takes time and practice and mistakes. It can be slow and frustrating. Some days you’ll feel like you’re the best writer on the planet and others you’ll be sure there’s never been a worse writer in the history of mankind. But when you finally write something that’s “good enough,” you’ll know. Maybe it will take seventeen years, like it did for me, or maybe it will take six months. But you’ll know. Then–and only then–should you make your move. Because you only get one debut, and it can affect the rest of your career.  

Thank you for joining me, Joe. Wishing you the success you deserve with The Final Wish of Mr. Murray McBride.

My review of The Final Wish of Mr. Murray McBride

In The Final Wish of Mr. Murray McBride, Joe Siple takes readers on a remarkable and compassionate journey. We enter the lives of the young and the not so young, the healthy and those suffering from chronic illness. For Jason it’s about coping with a failing heart transplant and the complicated feelings he holds for the donor. Young Alexandra shows how it’s possible (given the right treatment) to manage disease effectively. Here we have fiction that extends the legacy of an earlier friendship with Mr. Murray McBride and continues the pattern of intergenerational relationships. It’s positive to see those suffering illness and disease given a platform. In a totally appropriate novel for our time, readers begin to understand the experiences of characters who seek a safer yet illegal life in America and who want nothing more than the opportunity to contribute to the community where appropriate help is offered. In this outstanding story, full of twists and turns, Joe Siple’s characters are courageous in the face of challenges but totally human with regrets, weaknesses, feelings of guilt, fears and hopes. This is a wonderfully affirming read which offers powerful messages about acceptance and belonging.

Purchase links

Amazon, Black Rose Writing, Bookshop

Joe’s social media links

Twitter, Facebook, author website


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