Interview with Cecil “Cec” Murphey
by Marley Gibson
(Co-authors of Christmas Miracles, from St. Martin’s Press)

I am extremely privileged to have the opportunity today to talk to my friend and co-author, Cecil “Cec” Murphey, and to chat about our upcoming book, Christmas Miracles.

Marley: Cec, thanks for spending some time with me today.

Cec: Marley, it's great that you could take time away from important things like making a living to spend a little time with me.

Marley: I’m so jazzed about our Christmas Miracles book that’s coming out soon. I’ve had a lot of questions from folks wanting to know how we met, what brought us together, etc. So, I thought we’d do a back and forth on how it all came to be. Of course, I have to give props to our amazing agent and friend, Deidre Knight, for bringing us together. For those of you who don’t know, Cec co-authored the runaway New York Times bestselling hit 90 Minutes in Heaven with Don Piper.

Cec: I have to say thanks to Deidre Knight as well. Between Deidre and my assistant, Twila Belk, I've been able to sell quite a few books. 90 Minutes in Heaven has been my big book. I'm also proud of a book I wrote in 1990 called Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story. The book has never been out of print and has hit close to four million in sales. Early this year, Cuba Gooding Jr. starred in the made-for-TV film version.

Marley: That’s amazing! You are truly prophetic and definitely “the man behind the words.” Now, people ask how we teamed up. Sadly, there was a personal tragedy that brought Cec and me together as friends.

Cec: True. In early 2007, our house burned and our son-in-law died. Aside from the grief over Alan, we lost everything. Deidre and Jan, my-then-assistant, sent the word out of our tragedy without telling me. I'm immensely grateful for every gift people sent, but I probably wouldn't have admitted I needed help and wouldn't have asked. They taught me how much we need other people.

Marley: Deidre put out a call to other clients of The Knight Agency, to help Cec and his family out in any way in their time of need. At the time, my company was moving and we were cleaning house. We had a ton of office supplies that we were either going to throw away or give to some of the charities the company worked with. I got my boss’ permission to send a large care package to Cec…full of office supplies for him to re-stock his writer’s office. You name it…post-its, staples, paper clips, pens, pencils, markers, white out, ruler, scissors, paper, notebooks, notepads, envelopes, a laptop case, tape, glue, folders, binder clips…etc. A veritable potpourri of office delights. I was hoping that it would help Cec have a sense of getting his office back so he could keep working.

Cec: Marley's gift was the most unexpected I received. We hadn't met, although Deidre Knight had spoken of her many times and kept telling me she was wonderful. I wonder if you can imagine what it was like for me to open that box from someone I didn't know. I saw all those practical things for my office and yelled for my wife. I felt as if I were reading a first-grade book. "Look! Look and see! Oh, look!" I was overwhelmed by the gift and even more to receive it from a stranger. Those supplies were the most practical gift anyone could have given me. I'm still using black paper clips and red folders from Marley.

Marley: Awww…thanks, Cec! I didn’t have to think twice about doing it. Writing is such a solitary “sport,” but the writing community always astounds me with how they help their own. Not long after that, over plates of spinach and Gouda omelets, Deidre introduced me to Cec in person and I was thrilled to finally meet the man behind the words. Deidre knew we needed to work on a project together and thus began our brainstorming. What did you think of that first meeting, Cec, and cooking up the idea to work together?

Cec: Deidre and I had already spoken about a Christmas book and I had some idea about what it should contain, but nothing had come together. One day Deidre told me that Marley was coming to visit her and she wanted us to work together on a Christmas project. Marley and I talked before we ate and again during the meal. Everything felt right to me. I knew my strengths and Marley knew hers (and Deidre knew both of us). Everything clicked. Marley, a far better networker than I am, immediately sent out the word for submissions. Within days she had almost four times more than we could use. (She read every one of them!)

Marley: I was truly impressed with the submissions we received and it was hard narrowing it down to the ones we chose for the book. We’re fortunate to have such a go-getter agent in Deidre Knight. Cec, can you share how the whole idea of Christmas Miracles came about and what you thought of the project originally?

Cec: For me, it actually started while I was on the rapid-rail train from the Atlanta airport when I listened to teens talk about Christmas and it was mostly about gifts. I had the idea then, but nothing really came together. Months later when Deidre I and had a meeting, she brought up the idea of a compilation and mentioned my working with Marley. I've been Deidre Knight's client since 1997 and I've learned to listen carefully when she comes up with an idea. I said yes before she gave me all the information.

Marley: That’s the truth about Deidre! Getting back to those submissions, I want to say we got more than two hundred submissions for Christmas Miracles. So many wonderful stories to read through and select for the book. It was a challenge to pick and choose which ones were right for the book, but I loved every minute of it. After I chose the entries that would go into the book, Cec toiled long hours editing the works for a unified voice. What was the biggest challenge you found in the editing process, Cec?

Cec: I've been a ghostwriter and collaborator for twenty-plus years and this was a switch to give the book a unified voice—which was mine. It would have been easier to stay with each writer's voice, but the book—like many compilations—would have been uneven in tone and quality. When I discussed this via email with our delightful editor, Rose Hilliard, she was (to my surprise) familiar with my work. She told me she liked the warm tone of my writing and that I don't waste words. "That's the voice we want," she said. It still wasn't easy, but it was an exciting challenge. After Marley and I agreed on the stories and gave them that unified voice, our editor pulled six contributions. Although different, Rose felt they were too similar to other stories.

Marley: Can you give our readers a preview of the book? A favorite story perhaps…or one that moved you to tears? (I have to say the little boy who wished for nothing but to be able to read a book all the way through because of his stutter had me bawling when I read the submission.)

Cec: That's not fair! I liked them all. The one that touched me most, however, is the last story in the book, "Sean's Question." We had almost finished the book and I was teaching at a conference in Florida. I felt we needed one strong story at the end. Despite all the good ones, I didn't feel fully satisfied to conclude the book. On the last day of the conference, I met a conferee named Sara Zinn for a consultation. As we talked, I mentioned Christmas Miracles and that I still needed one more story. "I have a Christmas story," she said and told me about Sean. As I listened, tears filled my eyes—but, being the macho type I am, I was sure it was an allergy. Sara wrote the story, and it became the one I sought.

Marley: Oh yes…that one is an emotional one all right. It was meant to be in the book because of how you met at the conference. Now, you and I have both had challenges in our lives that others might have found too much to take, but we are both very strong in our faith and our relationship with God. How do you think Christmas Miracles is going to help others feel closer to God and experience His miracles in their own lives?

Cec: Awareness and appreciation are the two things I want readers to grasp. Awareness means for them to realize that they're never totally alone in life. Those unexpected, out-of-the-ordinary events remind us of that. Appreciation means to be thankful for what we already have. Too often, and especially at Christmas, we focus on what we'd like or what is supposed to make us happy. Christmas Miracles gently reminds readers of both.

Marley: In this day and age when our country is fighting two wars, unemployment is high, and a lot of people have a lack of hope and faith for their future, what do you want readers of the book to take away from Christmas Miracles and how can the stories in our book help provide comfort to those struggling?

Cec: I want readers to see that miracles do happen—sometimes simple, unexpected blessings or those that involve the supernatural (as in one of Marley's stories). I call myself a serious Christian. For me, the world's greatest miracle began with the birth of Jesus. Regardless of a person's religion, this book encourages readers to think about life during the Christmas season and see that life as more than gifts and celebrations. It's also a reminder that God loves us and hears our needy cries.

Marley: Beautifully put, Cec, and I couldn’t agree with you more. Can we share what’s next after Christmas Miracles?

Cec: Why it's the Cec and Marley show, of course. Because of our go-getter agent and our enthusiastic editor, we've already received thumbs up for The Christmas Spirit. This will be stories of people who express the true spirit of Christmas by acts of love and kindness, for release in the fall of 2011.

Marley: And I can’t wait to start working on that project! Thank you so much for your time, Cec, and answering my questions. It was a privilege and honor to work with you and I look forward to our future projects together. You’ve helped me along during a trying time and I appreciate your friendship and support.

Cec: I liked this project because Marley had to send out the word, collect submissions, read them, and discard the weaker ones. I get to see only the better-written stories. (Don't tell her that I have the better job.) Although I mentioned only one story, all of those in the book touched me because of the poignancy of their situations and the miraculous answers. I won't say the stories increased my faith, but they increased my appreciation for the delightful mix of human need and divine intervention.

Marley: Thanks again, Cec! God Bless! And to our readers, please be sure to pick up a copy of CHRISTMAS MIRACLES, out October 13, 2009 from St. Martin’s Press. It’s a great stocking stuffer or gift basket filler. We hope you, too, will discover your own Christmas Miracles in your life.

GIVE AWAY - Wouldn’t you love to take home this amazing basket filled with Christmas goodies galore? This amazing gift basket contains everything you’ll need to make your Christmas holiday a success. Inside you’ll find a stocking stuffed with hard candies, kitchen towels and oven mitts, seasonal potpourri, holiday-colored candles, stuffed animals that talk, snowman candle, nutcrackers, Christmas ornaments, gift bags, gift tags, gift bows, ornament hangers, Christmas cookie cutters, a Merry Christmas doorstopper, a picture frame, Christmas cards, Santa ear muffs, and not just one, but two copies of Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson’s Christmas Miracles – one to keep and one to give away to someone special.

WINNER OF THIS DRAWING will be put into the pool to win the GRAND PRIZE OF THIS BASKET

CONGRADULATIONS TO MARTHA ROGERS -- YOU HAVE BEEN ENTERED IN THE THE FINAL DRAWING for your chance to win the grand prize of this basket. All the best to you and yours.

****DISCLAIMER: Entering the give away is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws. Void where prohibited; open only to U.S. residents, odds of winning depend on number of entrants *****


  1. I just love reading Christmas stories and this sounds so interesting. Just love the cover of the book. Please enter me in the drawing.


  2. Hey, Cec (Waving at Cec. I was in your Tulsa clinic). This sounds like an inspiring book, and I really like the cover. It's neat to hear how this book came together.



  3. This sounds like a touching Christmas book. I really like the cover and hearing how the book came together.

    Waving at Cec from Tulsa.


  4. Wonderful and touching interview! And, the cover of this book is just beautiful.
    Please enter my name in the drawing. Thanks!


  5. I absolutely love books like this If Canadians can be entered into the giveaway than please put me into the draw thanks
    God bless

  6. Cec is one of my most favorite people in the world. I love his writing. Pairing up with Marley is another example of his willingness to work with and help other writers. I love Christmas stories and know this one will be good. Thanks for the interview and chance to win the beautiful basket.
    marthalrogers at sbcglobal dot net

  7. it's so fun to read a Christmas story to get you in the Christmas mood! please enter me :)

  8. Please enter me in your giveaway. Would love to win this set and read this book. Thanks!

  9. Sounds like a great book!! Please enter me. Lori L.

  10. This is definitely a delightful giveaway. Lots of Christmas goodies! Please enter me.

    desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

  11. The auhtor is so right that with two wars, unemployment and all we need lovely Christmas miracles to give us hope.

    On Thanksgiving Day, until Jan 1, I read nothing but holiday and Christian reads. This keeps my heart in the place it belongs and I would love to add this book to my collection.

    Thank-you kindly;

    Gayla Collins

  12. what a wonderful interview...i loved it...and what a generous giveaway...please add my name to this fabulous drawing...thanks

    karen k

  13. It sounds like a great collection of christmas stories!!! martha(at)lclink(dot)com

  14. I love Christmas and Christmas stories! I thought it was interesting that Cec had been a ghostwriter for so many years and now making his debut. I would love to win sign me up please.
    Deborah M.

  15. great interview! loved the back-and-forth between the two authors. the book sounds terrific. they've inspired me to pray for my own christmas miracle!

    angela r.

  16. Cec said: Appreciation means to be thankful for what we already have.

    So true. It seems like we're always looking for what we don't have, or what we think we need. And like you said, during the Christmas season we need to see that life is more than just gifts and celebrations. For those of us who can't afford gifts, it's important to focus on the true meaning. I know I tend to forget because I'm ashamed to say that I get caught up in the whole gift giving, cheerful atmosphere, lights thing, and when Christmas comes and there aren't any gifts, I get depressed. Not because I didn't get any, but because I couldn't afford to give any.

    Please add my name to the drawing. I would love to read it. It sounds like just what I need to get me focused on the true meaning. Thank you.

    Debra Ullrick

    christianromancewriter [at] gmail [dot] com

  17. This book is going on my wish list! After reading the interview, I believe this book is exactly what I need during the busyness of this season.

    cjarvis [at] bellsouth [dot] net

  18. Wonderful interview! I loved the information behind the book!

    Gail Mundy
    johngailm at bellsouth dot net

  19. Entry taken from Facebook
    November 14 at 3:19pm

    I started crying reading the interview with Cecil Murphy and Marley Gibson. Wow!!!! What an interview!!!!!!! Great, Marvelous!!!!!!


    Betsy Hoffman Schaknowski

  20. I'm glad another book - The Christmas Spirit - is in the works - it looks like this duo works well!

    We posted about this at Winning Readings:

    janemaritz at yahoo dot com

  21. I love that you guys met from a something bad a house fire and it turned out good like all the storys in the book. I love books about Christmas hope

  22. Wow, parts of the interview brought tears to my eyes. I will have the tissues handy when I read this book!

  23. I forgot to add my email, though I can be contacted through my blog. Sorry.

    derekannette at gmail dot com

  24. Great interview. Sounds like your collaboration is something of a miracle in itself. Please enter me.

  25. This book sounds so awesome & inspiring..after reading the part about Sean's question, well I really want to read just sounds like something I will love & something that will bring the holiday into perspective. Thanks for the chance to win. Blessings on your day,

  26. I believe in Christmas Miracles & love reading books that back up my belief. Sounds like an incredible collection of stories. Please accept my entry into this amazing giveaway. Thanks!


  27. I love the interview. It was touching . I can't wait to read the book.Betsy

  28. The interview was great. I was very sorry to hear of the tragedy Cec faced with his son-in-law, but am glad to see that something good came from it that can be a blessing to others.

  29. Great interview. CHRISTMAS MIRACLES sounds wonderful.Please enter me in the Christmas Miracles gift basket giveaway.augustlily06(at)aim(dot)com.Thank you.

  30. The interview was very good. I like how Cec wants readers to know that miracles can happen. Who doesn't need hope?

    nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net