I'm pleased to welcome Bill Murphy to Michigander Monday!
Debbie: Bill, please tell us a little about yourself.
Bill: I am a Michigan native, originally from what were western Genesee County’s fertile farmlands (fields of my youth that I used to wander with joy that have now been largely replaced with poorly planned scattered exurbia development, with a few scattered farms optimistically still clinging to life.) Arriving at adulthood at the same point in time that the war in Vietnam was at its peak, I spent time in the Marine Corps and served as an infantryman in that distant land. Having survived the experience I returned to college and ultimately worked a career in a field that I’ve always felt passionate about – natural resources and environmental protection. I retired from the MDEQ in the late 1990s and spent the next decade working in the same profession as a private contractor.
I have a keen interest for other things in my life, including history, travel, and motorcycling. In fact for four decades I’ve combined my love of exploring the back roads of America on two wheels and searching out unique and historic places. I call it ‘exploratory wandering’ and it has been an important and fulfilling part of my life, having visited all fifty states.
Debbie: And, of course, we want to know all about your books.
Bill: In 2004 I decided to attempt to write a book about the wonders of Michigan’s back roads and small towns, calling it Motorcycling Across Michigan, (although the places and roads I recommend can be enjoyed equally well with any type of vehicle). The book sold surprisingly well (now in the third edition) and publisher Arbutus Press agreed to do a series. Thus Ohio, Indiana, and Wisconsin have been added to my inventory of books about exploring the beautiful Great Lakes region.
In 2007 I turned what started out as a diary of my Vietnam experience into a book called Souvenirs of War.
My latest literary effort began in late 2009. Over the years I had heard bits and pieces of some remarkable travel adventures attempted by daring and resourceful women in the 1915 time period. At the time, of course, cross country or around the world travel was a difficult and potentially dangerous proposition for anyone – let alone young women traveling alone – on motorcycles!
My latest book, published earlier this year, is called Grace and Grit: Motorcycle Dispatches From Early Twentieth Century Women Adventurers. The adventures described are all true and documented in detail for the first time in this book.
After six books I think it’s fair to say that this unexpected chapter in my life – that of being an author – is now part of who I am. I may be one of the rare folks out there who actually enjoy doing the research necessary for a book, and I suspect that there will be a number seven, though I don’t have a specific idea right now.
Debbie: Upcoming appearances?
Bill: I am scheduled to be at Horizon Bookstore in Traverse City on Saturday, June 9th for a sell & sign event.
Debbie: Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore? And/or a favorite Michigan library?
Bill: I can’t say that I have a single favorite Michigan bookstore or library. My wife and I enjoy browsing in these venues, but if I had to choose a favorite bookstore it would be one of those small independent stores that struggle to survive today, usually found in small towns or old neighborhoods.
Debbie: Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?
Bill: I have long been a proud and happy Michigander. I think Michigan, and the entire Great Lakes region, is a remarkably unique and wonderful place to live. In fact, the whole idea about writing a book extolling the beauties and charms of Michigan was born when a Wyoming cowboy badmouthed my home state when a friend and I were in that barren and hot part of the country on a motorcycle trip ten years ago. After his remarks I thought – someone ought to write a book bragging about our beautiful (and green!) part of the country. So I did.
Debbie: Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?
Bill: My advice to folks who don’t know Michigan is to get off the I-75 / I-94 & I-96 corridors and get on the side roads to see the real Michigan. Go through the pleasant small towns and countryside rather than only seeing the billboards and strip developments that line the X-Ways. If my only exposure to Michigan was I-75 between Toledo and Bay City I wouldn’t be impressed either. But there is so much more to see than that.
Debbie: How about a favorite place in Michigan?
Bill: I love the Lake Superior region of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and for years I thought I might move there if I could arrange work assignments to that effect. It never happened, however, and I’ve lived my entire life in various parts of the LP. I’ve vacationed in the UP many times, rationalizing that there was little reason to travel long distances when we had it all right here in our own backyard! Things often work out for the best despite our efforts to the contrary, and living and working in the places I did was for the best. I highly suspect that I would not be an author or done the things I’m glad I did had I moved to the UP earlier in my life. I am happy with my current situation and wouldn’t go back and change anything to cause a different life path.
Debbie: Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to
Bill: My two favorite Michigan events are called Spring and Fall. They aren’t numerous but those few perfect May and October days just can’t be beat! Yes, I’m a proud Michigander.
Debbie: Bill, I share your Michigander pride, and I thank you for being with us today for Michigander Monday!
To learn more about Bill and his books, stop by his web site, his blog, his Grace & Grit web site, and his publisher's site.