Finn Murphy is the author of forthcoming “Rocky Mountain High” (W.W. Norton, June 2023) and “The Long Haul,” the national bestseller about his many years as a long-haul trucker that was named a finalist for the Indies Choice and the Colorado Book Awards. Murphy grew up in Connecticut and now lives in Colorado on a small ranch with 40 cows, two miniature horses, six chickens, his partner Deb, and a Blue Heeler named Charley. In addition to his writing, Murphy is a certified adaptive ski instructor, an active member of the local Grange, and advises small business owners on best practices.
SunLit: Tell us this book’s backstory. What inspired you to write it? Where did the story/theme originate?
Finn Murphy: The book is set in Boulder County, Colorado, during the hemp boom/bust years 2019-2021. I was deeply involved in the growing and processing of hemp plants and was on the ground for the entire debacle. I was inspired to write about it because it’s a subject of deep interest to businessfolk, farmers, and government but nobody was telling the unvarnished inside story.
SunLit: Place this excerpt in context. How does it fit into the book as a whole? Why did you select it?
Murphy: The excerpt serves as an introduction to Colorado and the Western USA from an Easterner’s viewpoint. It also foreshadows the boom/bust cycle of the Colorado economy. In addition, it provides key background as to why Colorado became a vortex of hemp innovation.
SunLit: Tell us about creating this book. What influences and/or experiences informed the project before you sat down to write? And once you did begin to write, did the work take you in any unexpected directions?
Murphy: The book is in the first person and is clearly my own experience. When I sat down to write it gradually occurred to me that there were many comic aspects in what was essentially a business failure. Once I saw the humor in it, it became fun to write.
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One unexpected direction was all the wacky characters I encountered.
SunLit: Are there lessons you take away from each experience of writing a book? And if so, what did the process of writing this book add to your knowledge and understanding of your craft and/or the subject matter?
Murphy: To develop the point above, although the hemp boom in Colorado failed in all its respects I decided to focus on the tragic-comedic aspects of the experience and not so much on disappointment.
SunLit: What were the biggest challenges you faced in writing this book?
Murphy: Getting people to talk to me. Nobody likes to talk about failure.
SunLit: If you could pick just one thing – a theme, lesson, emotion or realization — that readers would take from this book, what would that be?
Murphy: Enjoy the ride wherever life takes you. Don’t believe everything you read. Do your sums.
SunLit: In a highly politicized atmosphere where books, and people’s access to them, has become increasingly contentious, what would you add to the conversation about books, libraries and generally the availability of literature in the public sphere?
Murphy: I’m a big fan of George Orwell, especially his writings on free speech. Free speech means that I get to say what I want and so do you. If your views are odious to me that doesn’t take away your right to express them. In other words, no speech police. We’re all capable of discernment, and anyway, who would anoint the speech policeman? That’s a chilling thought.
SunLit: Walk us through your writing process: Where and how do you write?
Murphy: I always start with a table of contents. That gives me some structure. After that I put a bunch of junk on the page and just keep going.
“Rocky Mountain High”
Where to find it:
- Prospector: Search the combined catalogs of 23 Colorado libraries
- Libby: E-books and audio books
- NewPages Guide: List of Colorado independent bookstores
- Bookshop.org: Searchable database of bookstores nationwide
SunLit present new excerpts from some of the best Colorado authors that not only spin engaging narratives but also illuminate who we are as a community. Read more.
My publisher wanted about 75,000 words or 220 pages in a final MS. A first draft might have 150,000 words and then it’s time to pare it down. During that process other things will come up and get inserted.
SunLit: Why does the US have so many booms and busts in its economic cycle?
Murphy: I think there’s a mythical American story about making your own fortune that attracts discontented or creative or ambitious people. Nothing wrong with that, except that the failure rate doesn’t get the headlines, the successes do. There’s a lot of failure out there.
SunLit: Tell us about your next project.
Murphy: I have a contract with W.W. Norton for a third book. Wait and see.
Quick hits: A quirky collection of questions
SunLit: Do you look forward to the actual work of writing or is it a chore that you dread but must do to achieve good things?
SunLit: What’s the first piece of writing – at any age – that you remember being proud of?
Murphy: A school report on the 1965 bombing of Nelson’s Pillar in Dublin, Ireland.
SunLit: When you look back at your early professional writing, how do you feel about it? Impressed? Embarrassed? Satisfied? Wish you could have a do-over?
Murphy: I’m pretty satisfied. I’ve never found writing to be intimidating. My first book was published when I was 58 years old and I’d been writing for my businesses over decades.
SunLit: What three writers, from any era, can you imagine having over for a great discussion about literature and writing? And why?
Murphy: George Orwell for his opinions, John LeCarre for his plots, and Jane Austen for her characters.
SunLit: Do you have a favorite quote about writing?
Murphy: Stephen King from his book “On Writing”: “Get to work.”
SunLit: What does the current collection of books on your home shelves tell visitors about you?
Murphy: I’m not afraid to read pulp thrillers, there are too many books on Colorado history, and what’s with all the German books?
SunLit: Soundtrack or silence? What’s the audio background that helps you write?
SunLit: What event, and at what age, convinced you that you wanted to be a writer?
Murphy: Always, but it took a half century to get to work. See Stephen King quote above.
SunLit: As an author, what do you most fear?
Murphy: That it will all dry up.
SunLit: Also as an author, what brings you the greatest satisfaction?
Murphy: Laughing out loud all by myself over something I just wrote.