Duncan Murrell

Duncan Murrell - Editor

Raleigh, NC, USA

Editor of NYT bestsellers published by Grand Central, Algonquin, Warner, Nelson. I am also a contributing editor at Harper's Magazine.

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Overview


"I was fortunate to find an extraordinary freelance editor in Duncan Murrell, without whose creativity and vision this idea would not have gone very far, and without whose hard work and insight this book would never have been finished. What he does is an art, and as I and many other authors will attest, he is one of that art's finest practitioners. He gave me the confidence that I really could be a writer." -- Robert Hicks, New York Times bestselling author of THE WIDOW OF THE SOUTH, A SEPARATE COUNTRY, and THE ORPHAN MOTHER.

I love helping people tell their stories!

I began in editing as a newspaper journalist, but quickly moved to book publishing and work I had long dreamed of doing. For five years I was an acquisitions editor at Algonquin Books and edited some of the company's most successful, bestselling books in both fiction and nonfiction. I began freelance editing (and writing) in 2002, and during the ensuing decade I edited many books of fiction and nonfiction for trade publishers, academic publishers, agents, and individual authors. I edited New York Times bestselling novels published by Warner, Grand Central, and Thomas Nelson. In addition to fiction, I've worked with authors and publishers on books of journalism, history, science, art, and music. For five years I was the director of the writing program at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, where I taught editing, publishing, and writing for undergraduates and graduate students. I've been a visiting professor in creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and I continue to teach and host writing workshops.

Freelance writing has been a sideline to my editing work. I'm now a contributing writer and editor at Harper's Magazine and The Oxford American magazine, and a writer for the Huffington Post Highline, the Virginia Quarterly Review, Men's Health, and Our State magazines. Writing has complemented my editing career by giving me an intimate experience of the writer's publishing struggles. As an editor, this experience has forced me to develop empathy and patience to go with clear-eyed, exacting editing.

I'm the sort of editor who dives deep into manuscripts and ignores nothing. I don't skim, I don't take shortcuts, and every mark or comment I make on a manuscript has been carefully written for _that_ book and _that_ author. My first priority always is to help the author make their book into the best version of what they meant to write. Tnot the author; I think the author's own intentions for a book are the most important criteria for me, the book's editor.

I think grammar and usage are just as important as plot and characterization. Each of those elements requires a different kind of attention from the editor, but all are really important. I give attention to even the finest, smallest detail if I think working on it will help the writer to say what they want to say, the way they want to say it.

I work quickly. I respond to messages promptly. I do what I say I'm going to do and I'm always on time. I love to hear from my authors and will always make time to talk. I think that being an editor also means having a sympathetic ear and a willingness to help authors navigate the publishing world without losing their minds.


Languages
English (UK)
English (US)
Non-Fiction
Biographies & Memoirs
History
Sports & Outdoors
Fiction
Historical Fiction
Literary Fiction

Certifications

  • Master of Science in Journalism, Northwestern University
  • Master of Fine Arts, fiction, Bennington College
  • Bachelor of Arts, history, Cornell University

Work experience

Executive Editor, Editorial Consultant, and Chief Storyteller

Self-employed
July, 2002 – Present (over 18 years)

• More than 1 million books in print. New York Times bestsellers: The Widow of the South, A Separate Country, The Orphan Mother
• I work with authors to develop their ideas into publishable books and manuscripts, often through many drafts.
• As a developmental editor, I edit manuscripts and proposals for structure, clarity, style, mechanics, and flow. I am also a line editor and copy editor. (Often all the kinds of editing come into play on the same project.)
• I help authors and would-be authors through the process of publication, from book/article proposal through publication and beyond, and into content marketing, book trailers, and networking. My editing specialities include fiction (literary, historical, crime), American history, 18th-20th century world literature, literary criticism, true crime, religions, political science, sports performance, biological sciences and natural history.

Contributing Editor

Harper's Magazine
July, 2005 – Present (over 15 years)

• Reported and wrote longform works of narrative nonfiction on a variety of emerging regional and global issues, including the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, termites, and Latinx immigration into the American South.

Senior Editor

Algonquin Books
December, 1997 – July, 2002 (over 4 years)

• Nearly 1 million books in print under the Algonquin imprint. Acquired, developed, and edited works of fiction, nonfiction, and photography, including national bestsellers (Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv; Gap Creek and Brave Enemies, by Robert Morgan; Godforsaken Sea by Derek Lundy).
• Built working relationships around the country with agencies, academic institutions, and publications in the search for new authors
• Developed expertise in developmental editing, long-term project development, line editing, copy editing, and book promotion

Portfolio (24 selected works)

Gap Creek

Robert Morgan

The National Bestseller. A New York Times Notable Book. There is a most unusual woman living in Gap Creek. Julie Marmon works hard, "hard as a man" they say, so hard that at times she's not sure she can stop. People depend on her. She is just a teenager when her brother dies in her arms. The following year, she marries Hank and moves down into the valley. Julie and Hank discover that the moder... read more

The National Bestseller. A New York Times Notable Book. There is a most unusual woman living in Gap Creek. Julie Marmon works hard, "hard as a man" they say, so hard that at times she's not sure she can stop. People depend on her. She is just a teenager when her brother dies in her arms. The following year, she marries Hank and moves down into the valley. Julie and Hank discover that the moder... read more

The Widow of the South

Robert Hicks

Carnton Plantation, 1894: Carrie McGavock is an old woman who tends the graves of the almost 1,500 soldiers buried there. As she walks among the dead, an elderly man appears--the same soldier she met that fateful day long ago. Today, he asks if the cemetery has room for one more.Based on an extraordinary true story, this brilliant, meticulously researched novel flashes back to 1864 and the aft... read more

Carnton Plantation, 1894: Carrie McGavock is an old woman who tends the graves of the almost 1,500 soldiers buried there. As she walks among the dead, an elderly man appears--the same soldier she met that fateful day long ago. Today, he asks if the cemetery has room for one more.Based on an extraordinary true story, this brilliant, meticulously researched novel flashes back to 1864 and the aft... read more

A Separate Country

Robert Hicks

Set in New Orleans in the years after the Civil War, A Separate Country is based on the incredible life of John Bell Hood, arguably one of the most controversial generals of the Confederate Army--and one of its most tragic figures. Robert E. Lee promoted him to major general after the Battle of Antietam. But the Civil War would mark him forever. At Gettysburg, he lost the use of his left arm. ... read more

Set in New Orleans in the years after the Civil War, A Separate Country is based on the incredible life of John Bell Hood, arguably one of the most controversial generals of the Confederate Army--and one of its most tragic figures. Robert E. Lee promoted him to major general after the Battle of Antietam. But the Civil War would mark him forever. At Gettysburg, he lost the use of his left arm. ... read more

The Orphan Mother: A Novel

Robert Hicks

An epic account of one remarkable woman's quest for justice for her son after the Civil War from the New York Times bestselling author and "master storyteller" of The Widow of the South (San Francisco Chronicle). In the years following the Civil War, Mariah Reddick, former slave to Carrie McGavock--the "Widow of the South"--has quietly built a new life for herself as a midwife to the women of ... read more

An epic account of one remarkable woman's quest for justice for her son after the Civil War from the New York Times bestselling author and "master storyteller" of The Widow of the South (San Francisco Chronicle). In the years following the Civil War, Mariah Reddick, former slave to Carrie McGavock--the "Widow of the South"--has quietly built a new life for herself as a midwife to the women of ... read more

Godforsaken Sea: The True Story of a Race Through the World's Most Dangerous Waters

Derek Lundy

"The best book ever written about the terrifying business of single-handed sailing--. Lundy tells a harrowing tale, as tight and gripping as The Perfect Storm or Into Thin Air."--San Francisco ChronicleA chilling account of the world's most dangerous sailing race, the Vendée Globe, Godforsaken Sea is at once a hair-raising adventure story, a graceful evocation of the sailing life, and a though... read more

"The best book ever written about the terrifying business of single-handed sailing--. Lundy tells a harrowing tale, as tight and gripping as The Perfect Storm or Into Thin Air."--San Francisco ChronicleA chilling account of the world's most dangerous sailing race, the Vendée Globe, Godforsaken Sea is at once a hair-raising adventure story, a graceful evocation of the sailing life, and a though... read more

Notorious Victoria: The Life of Victoria Woodhull, Uncensored

Mary Gabriel

She was the first woman to address the U.S. Congress, the first to operate a brokerage firm on Wall Street, and the first to run for president. She's the woman Gloria Steinem called "the most controversial suffragist of them all." In this extensively researched biography, journalist Mary Gabriel has written a comprehensive account of one of American history's most unusual and fascinating women... read more

She was the first woman to address the U.S. Congress, the first to operate a brokerage firm on Wall Street, and the first to run for president. She's the woman Gloria Steinem called "the most controversial suffragist of them all." In this extensively researched biography, journalist Mary Gabriel has written a comprehensive account of one of American history's most unusual and fascinating women... read more

Midnight Assassin: A Murder in America's Heartland (Bur Oak Book)

Patricia L. Bryan, Thomas Wolf

On the night of December 1,1900, Iowa farmer John Hossack was attacked and killed while he slept at home beside his wife, Margaret. On April 11, 1901, after five days of testimony before an all-male jury, Margaret Hossack was found guilty of his murder and sentenced to life in prison. One year later, she was released on bail to await a retrial; jurors at this second trial could not reach a dec... read more

On the night of December 1,1900, Iowa farmer John Hossack was attacked and killed while he slept at home beside his wife, Margaret. On April 11, 1901, after five days of testimony before an all-male jury, Margaret Hossack was found guilty of his murder and sentenced to life in prison. One year later, she was released on bail to await a retrial; jurors at this second trial could not reach a dec... read more

Wrapped in Rain

Charles Martin

From the author of The Mountain Between Us and the New York Times bestseller Where the River Ends.“Martin spins an engaging story about healing and the triumph of love . . . Filled with delightful local color.” —Publishers Weekly"Tucker, I want to tell you a secret." Miss Ella curled my hand into a fist and showed it to me."Life is a battle, but you can't fight it with your fists. You got to f... read more

From the author of The Mountain Between Us and the New York Times bestseller Where the River Ends.“Martin spins an engaging story about healing and the triumph of love . . . Filled with delightful local color.” —Publishers Weekly"Tucker, I want to tell you a secret." Miss Ella curled my hand into a fist and showed it to me."Life is a battle, but you can't fight it with your fists. You got to f... read more

The Essential Klezmer

Seth Rogovoy

You can hear it in the hottest clubs in New York, the hippest rooms in New Orleans, Chicago, and San Francisco, and in top concert halls around the world. It's a joyous sound that echoes the past. It's Old World meets New World. It's secular and sacred. It's traditional and experimental. It's played by classical violinist Itzhak Perlman (his all-klezmer album in his all-time best-seller!), the... read more

You can hear it in the hottest clubs in New York, the hippest rooms in New Orleans, Chicago, and San Francisco, and in top concert halls around the world. It's a joyous sound that echoes the past. It's Old World meets New World. It's secular and sacred. It's traditional and experimental. It's played by classical violinist Itzhak Perlman (his all-klezmer album in his all-time best-seller!), the... read more

The Truest Pleasure

Robert Morgan

A “wondrous” novel of a marriage in the Appalachian Mountains, from the New York Times–bestselling author of Gap Creek (San Antonio Express-News). Ginny and Tom have a lot in common—a love of the land, and fathers who fought in the Civil War. Tom’s father died, but Ginny’s father came back to western North Carolina to hold on to the farm and turn a profit. Ginny’s was a childhood of relative s... read more

A “wondrous” novel of a marriage in the Appalachian Mountains, from the New York Times–bestselling author of Gap Creek (San Antonio Express-News). Ginny and Tom have a lot in common—a love of the land, and fathers who fought in the Civil War. Tom’s father died, but Ginny’s father came back to western North Carolina to hold on to the farm and turn a profit. Ginny’s was a childhood of relative s... read more

This Rock

Robert Morgan

From the author of Gap Creek-an international best-seller and winner of the Southern Book Critics Circle Award-comes the gripping story of two brothers struggling against each other and the confines of their mountain world in 1920s Appalachia. The Powell brothers-Muir and Moody-are as different as Cain and Abel. Muir is an innocent, a shy young man with big dreams. Moody, the older and wilder ... read more

From the author of Gap Creek-an international best-seller and winner of the Southern Book Critics Circle Award-comes the gripping story of two brothers struggling against each other and the confines of their mountain world in 1920s Appalachia. The Powell brothers-Muir and Moody-are as different as Cain and Abel. Muir is an innocent, a shy young man with big dreams. Moody, the older and wilder ... read more

Brave Enemies

Robert Morgan

As the War for Independence wore on into the 1780s, unrest ruled the Carolinas. Settlers who had cleared the land after the Cherokees withdrew were being mustered for battle as British forces pillaged their hard-won farms. Robert Morgan's stunning novel tells a story of two people caught in the chaos raging in the wilderness.After sixteen-year-old Josie Summers murders her abusive stepfather, ... read more

As the War for Independence wore on into the 1780s, unrest ruled the Carolinas. Settlers who had cleared the land after the Cherokees withdrew were being mustered for battle as British forces pillaged their hard-won farms. Robert Morgan's stunning novel tells a story of two people caught in the chaos raging in the wilderness.After sixteen-year-old Josie Summers murders her abusive stepfather, ... read more

Smartbomb

Heather Chaplin, Aaron Ruby

"A history of video games, presented through sharp profiles of their creators." —The New York Times Book Review What started as a game of Pong, with little blips dancing across a computer screen, has evolved into a multi-billion-dollar industry that is changing the future, making inroads into virtually all aspects of our culture.Who are the minds behind this revolution? How did it happen? Wher... read more

"A history of video games, presented through sharp profiles of their creators." —The New York Times Book Review What started as a game of Pong, with little blips dancing across a computer screen, has evolved into a multi-billion-dollar industry that is changing the future, making inroads into virtually all aspects of our culture.Who are the minds behind this revolution? How did it happen? Wher... read more

Spirits of Just Men

Charles D. Thompson Jr.

Spirits of Just Men tells the story of moonshine in 1930s America, as seen through the remarkable location of Franklin County, Virginia, a place that many still refer to as the "moonshine capital of the world." Charles D. Thompson Jr. chronicles the Great Moonshine Conspiracy Trial of 1935, which made national news and exposed the far-reaching and pervasive tendrils of Appalachia's local moons... read more

Spirits of Just Men tells the story of moonshine in 1930s America, as seen through the remarkable location of Franklin County, Virginia, a place that many still refer to as the "moonshine capital of the world." Charles D. Thompson Jr. chronicles the Great Moonshine Conspiracy Trial of 1935, which made national news and exposed the far-reaching and pervasive tendrils of Appalachia's local moons... read more

At Sea in the City

William Kornblum

New York is a city of few boundaries, a city of well-known streets and blocks that ramble on and on, into our literature, dreams, and nightmares. We know the city by the byways that split it, streets like Broadway and Madison and Flatbush and Delancey. From those streets, peering down the blocks and up at the top floors, the city seems immense and endless. And though the land itself may end at... read more

New York is a city of few boundaries, a city of well-known streets and blocks that ramble on and on, into our literature, dreams, and nightmares. We know the city by the byways that split it, streets like Broadway and Madison and Flatbush and Delancey. From those streets, peering down the blocks and up at the top floors, the city seems immense and endless. And though the land itself may end at... read more

Running North

Ann Mariah Cook

“This remarkable chronicle of the grueling Yukon Quest remains a vivid illustration of the soaring potential of both human and canine character” (Booklist).What happens when a woman and her husband move their family from New Hampshire to Alaska to train a team of purebred Siberian Huskies for the world’s toughest dogsled race, the Yukon Quest? They endure thousands of miles of lonely training ... read more

“This remarkable chronicle of the grueling Yukon Quest remains a vivid illustration of the soaring potential of both human and canine character” (Booklist).What happens when a woman and her husband move their family from New Hampshire to Alaska to train a team of purebred Siberian Huskies for the world’s toughest dogsled race, the Yukon Quest? They endure thousands of miles of lonely training ... read more

A Dark Place in the Jungle: Science, Orangutans, and Human Nature

Linda Spalding

In A Dark Place in the Jungle, writer Linda Spalding travels to Borneo's threatened jungles on the trail of orangutan researcher Birute galdikas. What she finds is an unholy mix of foreign scientists, government workers, tourists, loggers, descendants of Dayak headhunters, Javanese gold miners, and half-tame orangutans. Galdikas, along with Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall. Formed the famed trio o... read more

In A Dark Place in the Jungle, writer Linda Spalding travels to Borneo's threatened jungles on the trail of orangutan researcher Birute galdikas. What she finds is an unholy mix of foreign scientists, government workers, tourists, loggers, descendants of Dayak headhunters, Javanese gold miners, and half-tame orangutans. Galdikas, along with Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall. Formed the famed trio o... read more

Southern Dogs and Their People

Roberta Gamble

There's nothing more cherished by Southerners than their dogs. Dogs, and their Southern keepers, know when it's time to eat and when it's time to be quiet. Both know when to move slow and when to bare teeth. In Southern literature, dogs have taken prominent roles as muses and characters, confessors and conspirators. Southerners love their dogs almost as much as their mammas, and Southern Dogs ... read more

There's nothing more cherished by Southerners than their dogs. Dogs, and their Southern keepers, know when it's time to eat and when it's time to be quiet. Both know when to move slow and when to bare teeth. In Southern literature, dogs have taken prominent roles as muses and characters, confessors and conspirators. Southerners love their dogs almost as much as their mammas, and Southern Dogs ... read more

Wooden Churches: A Celebration

Though usually plain, sometimes humble, wooden churches are something special. With no fancy accoutrements - the flying buttresses, the mountains of organ pipe, the marble floors, the windows of stained glass - wooden churches distinguish themselves through the people who built them, the people who preach in them, and the place they assume in the civic, moral, and spiritual life of the communi... read more

Though usually plain, sometimes humble, wooden churches are something special. With no fancy accoutrements - the flying buttresses, the mountains of organ pipe, the marble floors, the windows of stained glass - wooden churches distinguish themselves through the people who built them, the people who preach in them, and the place they assume in the civic, moral, and spiritual life of the communi... read more

The Jew Store

Stella Suberman

This debut memoir about a Jewish family pursuing the American Dream in the early twentieth century South is “vividly told and captivating in its humanity” (Kirkus Reviews).In small town America, in 1920, the ubiquitous dry goods store—selling suits and coats, shoes and hats, work clothes and school clothes, yard goods and notions—was usually owned by Jews and often referred to as “the Jew stor... read more

This debut memoir about a Jewish family pursuing the American Dream in the early twentieth century South is “vividly told and captivating in its humanity” (Kirkus Reviews).In small town America, in 1920, the ubiquitous dry goods store—selling suits and coats, shoes and hats, work clothes and school clothes, yard goods and notions—was usually owned by Jews and often referred to as “the Jew stor... read more

Food-Borne Parasitic Zoonoses: Fish and Plant-Borne Parasites (World Class Parasites)

Humans suffer from numerous parasitic foodborne zoonoses, many of which are caused by helminths. The helminth zoonoses of concern in this book were once limited to diseases of animals, but have now become transmissible to humans. This book reviews not only the prevalence and distribution of these zoonoses, including available health and economic impact data, but highlights gaps in our knowledg... read more

Humans suffer from numerous parasitic foodborne zoonoses, many of which are caused by helminths. The helminth zoonoses of concern in this book were once limited to diseases of animals, but have now become transmissible to humans. This book reviews not only the prevalence and distribution of these zoonoses, including available health and economic impact data, but highlights gaps in our knowledg... read more

A Golfer's Education

Darren Kilfara

Darren Kilfara's scheme to study abroad at St. Andrews University in Scotland-allegedly, to write a thesis on the history of golf-was foolproof. He would enroll at the school, go to a couple of classes, earn a year's worth of university credit, and become eligible for a year-long student pass to the famed golf courses of St. Andrews, the birthplace of the game, for the low, low price of $150. ... read more

Darren Kilfara's scheme to study abroad at St. Andrews University in Scotland-allegedly, to write a thesis on the history of golf-was foolproof. He would enroll at the school, go to a couple of classes, earn a year's worth of university credit, and become eligible for a year-long student pass to the famed golf courses of St. Andrews, the birthplace of the game, for the low, low price of $150. ... read more

See How She Runs: Marion Jones and the Making Of a Champion

Ron Rapoport

She has been called "the next great sports superstar." She's a world-champion sprinter and a national-champion basketball player. She has been considered the next great hope for American track and field since she was fourteen. At sixteen, she made the U.S. Olympic team. Nike has created a shoe for her, Annie Leibovitz has photographed her, and the world is watching to see if she'll be the firs... read more

She has been called "the next great sports superstar." She's a world-champion sprinter and a national-champion basketball player. She has been considered the next great hope for American track and field since she was fourteen. At sixteen, she made the U.S. Olympic team. Nike has created a shoe for her, Annie Leibovitz has photographed her, and the world is watching to see if she'll be the firs... read more

Duncan has 11 reviews

Professionalism
Professionalism
Quality
Quality
Value
Value
Communication & Punctuality
Communication & Punctuality

Janice Bellucci
Duncan did a great job of editing more than 200 pages of manuscript in a timely manner. In addition, he helped identify the necessary next step for publication of my book. I will be sure to look up Duncan after I write my next book.

Janice Bellucci, October 2020


Steve McGrane
This was my third collaboration with Duncan. I highly recommend him and hope to work with him again.

Steve McGrane, September 2020


Jun Xu
Thank you Duncan, I love your frank and great suggestions. You are so professional, I am so lucky to have you for my editorial assessment. I learned so much from you! Thank you!!!

Jun Xu, July 2020


Steve McGrane
Duncan is a five-star editor! I enjoyed working with him and his work was excellent.

Steve McGrane, July 2020


Ryburn Dobbs
Duncan was very professional and patient. My book will be substantially better for having his expert touch.

Ryburn Dobbs, June 2020

Read more reviews

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