Friday 20 January 2017

Interview: John Murray and Abby Jones

Last Updated: 20 May 2024

I am very pleased to welcome John Murray and Abby Jones to the blog to talk about their new book Code Name: Papa, the thriller/biography of John's life. Read on to find out all about the pair and the extraordinary tale that inspired the book.

Welcome to the blog! John - tell me about yourself.

I was a fairly ordinary kid. I got average grades in school, first became a police officer and then an enlisted soldier during the War in Vietnam. I’ve always had very strong feelings about helping people, my country and the world. I met two friends in boot camp who immediately felt like my brothers - which they were for the rest of their lives. One of them had a very powerful father in New York, the original Papa. I was chosen by Papa to take over his position before he died. As your readers will see in the book, beyond that time, I never had a normal life. In the book, your readers will see the many sacrifices my team and I made on behalf of world safety.

How did you first become interested in writing?

Abby: I’m the working writer in the group. This is my fifth book and I write for magazines as well. John is the storyteller - and what a story he has to tell of his amazing life! But, this book would not have been possible without the encouragement from John’s wife and my long-time friend, Sharon, who finally convinced John that his story needed to be told. Sadly, along with many family members and friends, we lost Sharon this summer to a rare form of cancer. It’s still very hard to believe that she’s gone and we all miss her so much.

Tell me about the book.

Abby: The book is getting great reviews and we are truly happy to hear from our readers. The book quickly reviews John’s (Papa’s) early life, then moves on to his association with a secretive international group and their work on behalf of world order with the blessings of their countries (mostly in Europe, plus Canada and the US). In 43 chapters, Papa talks about their training and many of their missions. The book is truly a wild ride… and all true. Only names and some places have been changed to protect the families of those involved (most of whom are now gone). One of the aspects that our readers seem to enjoy is the fact that the book also looks at the personal lives of several agents, including Papa. Their home lives were almost non-existent at times and their marriages and families suffered, as the agents did, by the requirements of their jobs. 

What inspired you to write it?

John: I used to wake up from nightmares in a panic with night sweats. Finally, Sharon, who I married just a few years ago, encouraged me to tell her my story. She was fascinated and suggested she take notes and we then put it away. However, she soon felt that the story was one that people needed to know. Transparency is important in today’s world. We contacted Sharon’s friend, Abby, to advise us. She agreed to work with us and we worked hard for eighteen months to put my story together. It was Abby’s goal to never loose my distinct voice or any of the facts in the book through the long process. Luckily she was able to accomplish that.

Is the story fictional or based on real events?

All true, except the names and a few of the places. Readers in the UK will likely be fascinated with the chapter,“Out of This World” about what thousands in southern England thought was a UFO sighting. Now, decades later, the facts are laid plain.

How do you plan for the book to educate readers?

John: There is so much secrecy in all governments. This book takes a look at some interesting and often gruesome things that take place to fix bad situations and sometimes eliminate bad people both within and outside of governments.

What’s your writing process and where’s your favourite place to write?

Abby: Luckily, where and how you choose to write is very adaptable. I write at all times of the day and sometimes night at my home in California. I have two desks and move back and forth between them. However, part of the book was written when I lived in New York. I’ve also written parts of this story in a quiet library and in my home garden. So, like Papa in our book, the writing of Code Name: Papa moved around a lot, too!

Code Name Papa by John Murray book cover

What do you love most about writing?

Abby: There is real satisfaction in putting a story together to truly convey the intended meaning. I never really know how the words will tumble out and if they need to be adjusted. This is especially true with this book because it’s non-fiction. John, Sharon and I worked very closely - in different states via the Internet, phone, and messaging - and truly made this book a team effort. By the way, John and I have never met... yet. Perhaps we will finally meet sometime soon because we are now working on book two of this planned trilogy. Stay tuned...

Which authors inspire you and what’s your all-time favourite book?

John: My favourite book is Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. I enjoy reading many types of fiction and non-fiction. 

Abby: My favourite book is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. As a child, I accidently picked up Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca at the library, thinking I was bringing home Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. It was a fascinating read for my young, na├»ve mind. I believe she truly inspired me to write.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Abby: Yes - Go for it and write what inspires you! However, don’t turn down boring projects offered to you when you first start, because each project helps you develop your focus and skills. You don’t really need a backup plan, just a second source of income to help support your passion for writing. Oh, and you’re never too young or too old to become a writer. 

John: Amen to all of that!

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Abby: I’m blessed to be able at this point, after slightly more than twenty years, to be able to write what I like - both books and magazine articles. For new writers, I would suggest picking two to five topics that interest you the most and work on developing those through research and your writing skills. However, your career may surprise you with detours and even complete changes in direction. I started by writing about food and home trends. I still love that, but my career has moved far away from both.

If you weren’t a writer, what do you think you’d be doing?

John: Well, I’m an accidental writer who is now working on book two about my life with a likely third one planned. I’d hoped to be doing a lot more fishing at this point. And I love spending time with my children and grandchildren. 

Abby: I have a true entrepreneurial spirit, so I’d likely be creating a style and design website and running with that.

What are you currently working on?

John: Our second book is about the many interesting, intelligent women who passed through my life and career. Their crucial roles and sacrifices need to be honoured - and that is our goal with this book. Younger readers may not fully understand that in covert operations, female agents were almost unheard of in the 1960s and ‘70s. They were trailblazers for women in many related fields, including police work. I think our readers will find these brave women fascinating!

Self-publishing or traditional publishing?

Abby: I prefer traditional publishing, but I’m very excited about what is happening online, which is allowing many more voices to be readily heard. This is my third book that is offered in traditional format and as an e-book. The others were all traditional. I’ve always worked with traditional publishers before. But, for security reasons, this book needed a lot of control over John’s privacy, Sharon’s and mine, as well. (We are using pseudonyms.) Subsequently, we used Simon & Schuster’s self-publishing imprint for book one. But, self-publishing requires wearing a lot of extra hats and much more time.

What are you reading at the moment?

Abby: I always have two or three books I’m reading at a time. Currently, they are On the Shoulder of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (basketball great and fascinating writer), and Exodus: A Memoir by Deborah Feldman. I’ve got about twenty others I’ll be so excited to read, but writing takes up a lot of my reading time! 

John: I’ve been so involved with book two recently that - sadly - I’m too busy to read right now. I look forward to sitting down with a good read soon.

Code Name: Papa is available to buy now (paid link; commission earned).

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!

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