Debut novel combines tech, comic worlds

Drew Murray, BA’97, MBA’06, can credit his storied career partly to technology’s triumph over the curse of cursive.

Even at a young age, he enjoyed putting words to paper.

But I was left-handed and my penmanship was always terrible,” he said with a laugh.

That would all change in the mid-80s when the then enthusiastic 10-year-old celebrated the arrival of his new Commodore 64 computer.

“Once I got that computer … I had a word processor and I could type,” he said. “This just made things so much easier for me and it really took off from there.”

Almost four decades later, that passion for storytelling has borne fruit with Murray’s recently released debut novel, Broken Genius . This mystery thriller, which sees FBI agent Will Parker investigate a murder at a Comic-Con event, has everything from a radioactive quantum computer being auctioned on the dark web to a Chinese hacker and some Russian criminals.

While early reviews have termed it ‘nail biting,’ ‘compelling’ and ‘a dynamite read,’ this is second-hand knowledge to Murray.

“I try not to look at it much, my agent tells me not to, which is regular advice for a lot of writers. My wife does all that for me,” he laughed.

His love for writing was almost extinguished in high school. Murray recalled a writing teacher who told the class nobody was going to be a writer.

“I was disheartened, that’s for sure,” he said. “But at the end of the year I had written a murder mystery story for the class and the teacher pulled me aside and said, “You know, I really hope you consider a career in writing.’ That was awesome.”

Growing up in London, Murray completed his undergrad in Political Science at Western, while also trying his hand at journalism working for The Gazette. He quickly learned that wasn’t for him and soon began a corporate career as a computer programmer with Canada Trust.

But the writing bug remained.

He wrote evenings and on weekends – whenever he could find some spare time. When his son was born he took parental leave and wrote while the baby slept. Two years later, he did the same thing when he daughter was born.

“At that point it was starting to get better and I was really happy with what I was putting out and wanted to get serious with it,” said Murray, who while working at London Life saw the opportunity to make the transition to full-time writer. He made the leap.

“It was really exciting. But at that point, being an MBA grad, a hard driver in business and really ambitious, I had a wildly optimistic idea of how long it would take to publish,” he said.

Drew Murray“As a business person, you think you can make anything happen in no time, but that’s just not how publishing works. But the writing was working. I just had to keep at it.”

Murray knocked off a few books, did some soft pitches to agents, attended a number of writing conferences for feedback and moved on to his next writing project.

“Learning to write is an iterative process, like anything you’re learning,” he said. “Those early books I got some great feedback, I had some interest as well as some good constructive criticism that I could then incorporate in my next attempt. Broken Genius, though, was the first one I felt strongly about and was pushing hard on.”

Murray methodically plans his plotlines and schedules his writing time.

“You have to put the time towards it. Whenever the mood strikes me? Not a lot of writers are going to be successful that way.”

A follow-up to Broken Genius in the works. He’s been thrilled with the early response to his work and will use that as motivation to let the story of FBI agent Will Parker expand even further.

“When I was a kid I was also very heavily involved in theatre, because I enjoyed telling a story, and I love that interactive experience with an audience when you hear them laugh and you know a joke landed,” he said. “So I love to know that people have been entertained by a story I’m involved with, be it as an actor or as a writer telling the story.”