Author Interview: Emily Murdoch

 

Ladies and Gents, I’m thrilled to be conducting my first author interview with Emily Murdoch.  I am lucky to call this great woman a friend, and honored to be her beta reader.

Ms. Murdoch’s first novel, If You Find Me (formerly:  The Patron Saint of Beans) will be published on April 2, 2013 by St Martin’s Griffin.  It has also sold overseas to Germany and the Netherlands.  More overseas sales are in the works.

A portion of the proceeds will benefit Taylor Hendrix’s Christmas Project. Seventeen-year-old Taylor, battling osteosarcoma, gathers gifts in backpacks to brighten the spirits of cancer teens in hospital during the Christmas holidays.  

For more information about Ms. Murdoch, her writing, and her charity project, please visit her blog at:  http://emilymurdoch.wordpress.com

Also, Ms. Murdoch will be giving away a free, signed ARC.  Entrants for the drawing only have to tweet this post link and mention so in the comments.  The winner of the free advanced reader copy will be selected by random drawing in one week.

Now, without further ado, let’s hear from Ms. Murdoch, herself.

1. If You Find Me is a realistic YA novel with adult crossover appeal.   Could you please tell my blog readers a little about it?

Sure! Here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:

A broken-down camper at the Obed Scenic and Wild River National Park – dubbed the Hundred Acre Wood – is the only home fifteen-year-old Carey has ever known.

Sure, coping with a bipolar mother on meth is no picnic, but beneath the sun-dazzled canopies of Hickory and Walnut, Carey’s violin transports her from their bare-bones existence in the same way her little sister, Jenessa, finds comfort in her stash of second-hand Pooh books.

Life is dependable that way, until Mama goes into town for supplies and vanishes off the face of Tennessee, sending social services in her wake with a one-way ticket back to their father – a stranger in an even stranger world.

2. What inspired you, or drew you to writing this novel?

I happened to watch two news magazine stories back-to-back on parental abduction and alienation, one being the story of Sean Goldman, abducted by his mother at age four and taken to Brazil, leading to an international custody battle.

I remember aching for his father, David, left behind in America and fighting to get his son back. He did — five years later — but neither of them would ever be able to recapture the time they’d lost.

The level of betrayal, in my mind, was stunning. Not to mention the constant worry about that child’s welfare, and how it couldn’t help but impact *everything*. Life freezes; time stops, or, in the case of the children, resumes, built on lies and deceit.

I couldn’t shake the stories from my mind or heart.

3. How would you describe the main character, Carey?

Strong, resilient, loving, earnest. Fiercely protective of her younger sister, Jenessa … while also flawed, damaged, confused.

What I love about Carey is how she knows when to fight, and when to let life just wash over her, like a pebble in a stream. She’s determined to find light in the darkness, and always holds on to the hope that her life will get better.

She’s magnificently human.

4. Readers sometimes mistake characters, especially those written in first person, with the author.  How does Carey differ from you?  And in what ways are you similar?

Great question, and so true!

I was not abducted as a child, nor did I grow up in the woods. But I did experience a tougher childhood than some, and spent a lifetime overcoming my experiences.

Like Carey, I always searched for the light in the darkness. I always believed that the hard times contained lessons meant to stretch us, to grow our hearts, to teach us things we could pass on to those who needed them the most — those people in the places we used to be.

If not us, than who?

5. Did Carey come to you fully-formed, or did she emerge slowly throughout the writing of the novel?   Without spoilers, in what ways did she end up surprising you?

 

I guess you could say she did come to me fully formed. I’d liken it to a sculptor finding the image in the blob of clay, or chunk of marble. Wasn’t it there already, just waiting to be found?

Carey surprised me, by being that pebble in the stream. By not running away. At one point I thought she would. She decided otherwise.

 

 

6. If you could cast anyone as Carey (current actress or from days past, who would it be?

 

I LOVE this question!

I think Dakota Fanning would make a wonderful Carey. She has the talent and emotional depth to bring all facets of Carey to life, including the said and unsaid.

She’s an amazing actress; truly gifted. I knew since first seeing her in Taken and I Am Sam that she had God-given talent.

 

7. Did Carey or the story come to you first?

 

Carey. I knew she was a fighter with emotional depth and a wealth of wisdom learned the hard way.

Right from the start, I admired her heart and the fight in her and felt she chose me to tell her story.

8. Now let’s chat more about you and writing in general.   The writing process is fascinating, and I’m sure many would love to know about how you go about it.  First, are you a plotter or a pantser?

 

Pantser all the way! When I begin a novel, even I don’t know the full story or what’s going to happen. I find it out just like my readers will — paragraph by paragraph, page by page.

 

9. When did you first begin writing, and when did you begin serious attempts at being published?  Could you tell us about your journey?

 

I wrote short stories and poetry from Kindergarten on. I was obsessed with books, both reading and owning them, and loved those tiny little books you used to get in bubble gum machines as prizes. I even used to cut construction paper into small pages, staple the middle, and make my own “books”.

I wrote my first real book (all 265 passionate pages!) at eleven-years-old. I used loose notebook pages held together with a binder clip. One afternoon in sixth grade, I left the manuscript behind in the school library. Our librarian, Mrs. Mills, found it and read it in full. The next morning, I made a mad dash to the library, hoping it was still there, and she held it up, raving. “Would you mind if I typed it up and sent it to a few publishers?” I remember nodding my consent, because I was speechless!

It took Mrs. Mills about a week to type it up, and we sent it off. It went out to three children’s publishers, along with a cover letter. I don’t remember who the other publishers were, but an editor at Random House, the signature illegible, wrote: “She’s got something. Tell her to try us again in ten or twenty years.”

 

Flash forward to now, and I’ve written five manuscripts. If You Find Me was my third queried manuscript. I do believe I’m here today because of all the effort that went before. However, I began writing with an eye toward publication in May of 2008.

 

 

10.    What authors inspired your dreams of being a writer?  Favorite books?

The answer is those favorite books: Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery; Little Women by Louisa May Alcott; any novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, but especially A Little Princess and The Secret Garden; The Diddakoi by Rumer Godden; and A Wrinkle in Time By Madeleine L’Engle.

11.    Besides other books, what feeds your creative muse?

It’s always art; books, movies, paintings. I like to be moved, and I aspire to move others through my writing.

We live in a fast society, often steely and hard. Anything that brings us back to our hearts, is golden.

12.    Do you prefer writing in long spurts or during short periods throughout the day?  Are your creative juices better at certain hours?

 

I like to write at night, but I write throughout the day, also, whenever I can, and whether I feel like it or not.

I sit down and enter a state of “flow”, where hours fly by, I forget my physical self, and the words stream through me, oftentimes faster than I can type. I’ve always had a knack for this almost dissociative state I can’t quite explain, even to myself.

I feel like a conduit for the stories. All I have to do is sit down, let go, and believe.

13.   Do you listen to music whilst writing?  If so, what was this novel’s soundtrack?  Do your characters have different theme songs?

 

I always listen to music. I either listen to zen or classical. I write better with music, but it has to be music without words, and something that loops in the background.

For me, that is our satellite television’s classical and zen/new age music channels. I wouldn’t be surprised to get a call from the company one day telling me it’s on so much, I broke their stations!

 

 

14.    Do you have any writing rituals to help you get into the mood?

When I was younger, I would’ve said I wrote best by candlelight or by the fireplace. I wrote in notebooks, with a specific pen, (still the pen I prefer — Pilot Precise V5 rolling ball, extra fine point, black ink) and always with coffee nearby.

While some of those things could still be true, (the candlelight, to get my Louisa May Alcott on, the certain pen and the coffee, although now I write on my laptop) the whimsy of having writing rituals has taken a back seat to the reality of writing, especially for publication, where deadlines and paychecks are involved.

15.     Do you visualize the story as you write it, or do you hear it?

 

Wow. I never thought about that.

 

I’d say both. When writing in scene-mode, I visualize the scene. When writing dialogue, I hear it.

 

 

16.    While you are writing,  would you compare yourself to a Method actor who uses their own experiences and emotions to become the characters, or are you more akin to the external and objective methods of a classically trained actor?

 

God you’re good!  Awesome questions!

Since I write in flow, it’s almost like I’m taking dictation, of sorts. However, when I read back over material I wrote and it makes *me* cry, that’s when I know I nailed it.

To quote Beethoven, “What comes from the heart, goes to the heart.”

 

17.   The process of getting a novel published can be a very long one filled with incredible ups and downs.   What helped you stay grounded throughout?

 

YOU! Huge hugs! And all my writing friends. Without people who really, REALLY understand, I’d be in a straightjacket — and everyone knows how impossible it is to type in a straightjacket!

 

18.   Favorite quote from another author?

Does Beethoven count?

19.   What is your life motto?

Believe. Believe!

It’s the seed of all that could be.

20.    What stories are in the works for you?

I’m currently finishing up revisions for my next novel, D22go (dah-go).  I’m a week or two away from turning it in, and hopefully it will become my option book, and next crossover novel!

Thank you so much, Emily!

 

Thank you, Tasha, for hosting my cover reveal, for being such an amazing friend, beta reader and supporter.

One day soon I’ll be hosting your cover reveal. I can’t wait!

Until then, I’ll just keep counting my blessings, with you being one of the biggest ones!

Thank you So much, Emily!  

Besides the website above, one may also find out more about Ms. Murdoch and If You Find Me at these links:

On Goodreads:

http://goodreads.com/book/show/13411689-the-patron-saint-of-beans

on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/#!/LeftyWritey

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Writing Meme: Day 4- First Stories/Characters

4.Tell us about one of your first stories/characters!

Egads!   My first novels (penned in a lined notebook while scrawled on my bed) involved four sisters : a ladylike one, a tomboyish bookwarm, a shy sweet thing, and a slightly full-of-herself artist.  They were rather poor (no presents for Christmas), but their loving mother tried to make up for that while their father was away fighting in the Civil War. 

*cough cough*

Really.  They weren’t influenced by Little Women at all.  Really.

Err…

Oh, what can I say?  I was about ten years-old.  And shameless copier or not,  the writing obsession, the desire to create characters who’d come alive on the pages and take me along with them on their journey, had begun.

What were some of your first stories?

Published in: on September 26, 2010 at 9:35 am  Comments (8)  
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Jo March: An Inspiration for Writers

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“I will do something by and by. Don’t care what, teach, sew, act, write, anything to help the family; and I’ll be rich and famous and happy before I die, see if I won’t!”- fifteen-year-old Louisa May Alcott

She succeeded.   One of her novels, Little Women, first published in 1868, was almost immediately deemed a classic.  Since then, there have been numerous film versions, plays, musicals, and even an anime based on the book about four poor girls growing up during the Civil War. 

Colt-like, tomboyish,  hot-tempered yet sensible Jo March, has been an inspiration for female writers (and perhaps more males than care  to admit) for over 140 years.    The image of Jo,  upstairs in the garret, using an old tin kitchen as a desk, pen at hand, is at once old-fashioned and romantic. 

While methods may have changed since then,  the passions and tribulations of writers forever remain the same.

Quotes  from Litttle Women

1.  “Jo’s book was the pride of her heart, and was regarded by her family as a literary sprout of great promise.  It was only half a dozen little fairy tales, but Jo had worked over them patiently, putting her whole heart into her work, hoping to make something good enough to print.”

2.  “Quite absorbed in her work, Jo scribbled away till the last page was filled, when she signed her name with a flourish, and threw down the pen. ‘There, I’ve done my best!  If this doesn’t suit, I shall have to wait till I can do better.’  Lying back on the sofa, she read the manuscript carefully through, making dashes here and there and putting in many exclamation points; then she tied it up with a smart red ribbon, and sat a minute looking at it with a sober, wistful expression, which plainly showed how earnest her work had been.”

3. “Jo’s breath gave out here; and, wrapping her head in the paper, she bedewed her little story with a few natural tears; for to be independent and earn the praise of those she loved were the dearest wishes of her heart.”

4.  “Six weeks is a long time to wait, and a still longer time for a girl to keep a secret; but Jo did both, and was just beginning to give up all hope of ever seeing her manuscript again, when a letter arrived which almost took her breath away.”

5. “Having copied her novel for the fourth time and submitted it with fear and trembling to three publishers, she disposed of it on condition that she cut it down one-third and omit all the parts which she particularly admired.  So with Spartan firmness, the young authoress laid her firstborn on her table and chopped it up as ruthlessly as any ogre.  It was printed, and she got three hundred dollars for it, likewise plenty of praise and blame.”

6.  “I don’t know whether I have written a promising book or broken all the Ten Commandments. “- Jo

7.  “I’ve got the joke on my side, after all.  For the parts that were taken straight out of real life are denounced as impossible and absurd, and the scenes which I made up out of my own silly head are pronounced charmingly natural, tender, and true.  So I’ll comfort myself with that, and when I’m ready, I’ll up and take another. ” – Jo

8. “Jo wrote no more sensational stories, deciding that the money did not pay for her share of the sensation.  She produced an intensely moral tale, but found no purchaser for it.  She tried a child’s story, but found that no editor paid for juvenile literature.”

9.  “I’ve no heart for it, and if I had, nobody cares for the things I write.”- Jo 

“We do.  Write something for us, and never mind the rest of the world…”  -Marmee

Jo never knew how it happened, but something got into her next story that went straight to the hearts of those who read it…

“There is truth in it, Jo- that’s the secret.  Humor and pathos make it alive, and you have found your style at last,” said her father.  “You put your heart into it, my daughter.  Do your best and grow as happy as we are in your success.”

Published in: on July 19, 2009 at 4:13 pm  Comments (30)  
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Favorite Children’s Books

Here are my top 10 favorite books from childhood.  They’re not presented in order- just how they came to me.

A big thank you to all the wonderful authors who filled my hours with wonder.

1. Bunnicula– by James Howe :  Harold the dog narrates with wry humor his life with the Monroes.  His best friend is Chester, the cat. (named after G. K. Chesterton).  Chester loves to read.  Harold loves books.  One day their owners bring home an abandoned bunny they found at the movie theater.  The film they’d been watching just happened to be…Dracula! Detective-in-the-making Chester is certain the cute little bunny is really a vampire.  He does sleep all day…

and Howliday Inn- by James Howe :  In this fantastic sequal, Harold and Chester are banished to horror-of-all-horrors…an animal kennel while the Monroes go on vacation.  Flirtatious French poodles, love triangles, and animals that go missing during the night…

note: yes, I know that’s two books.   It’s my own blog.  I’ll cheat if I want to.

2.  The Secret Garden- by Frances Hodgson Burnett:  After the death of her parents, Mary goes to live with her uncle in a mysterious manor on the Yorkshire Moors.

3.  Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield: Paulina, Petrova, and Posy are adopted by an eccentric rich older man who leaves them under the care of his servants.  Paulina dreams of being an actress, Posy lives to dance, and Petrova just wants to fix cars and learn how to fly…

4. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: Tomboyish, would-be-writer Jo (inspiration for many female authors to this day),  smart Meg, sweet Beth, artistic Amy.   Four sisters growing up during the Civil War with their mother.

5.  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis : Lucy discovers a magical closet in her uncle’s home that leads into the world of Narnia.  I’ll admit it.  As a kid,  I tried this.  I really did.  Never did find the correct closet.  Darn it!

6.  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl : Charlie Bucket is one of five lucky children who win the chance to visit Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory.  Filled with bizarre characters,  delicious sweets, tons of humor, and a dab of sentiment- no film adaption has ever captured the heart of this novel.

7.  The Nancy Drew Mystery Series by Carolyn Keene: before I embarked on Agatha Christie- the titian haired sleuth kicked off my love of mysteries

8. The Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder :Her true-life account of growing up on the Western prarie during the 19th century.

9.  Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren :  I wanted to be Pippi.  Enough said.

10.  I wanted to put Judy Blume here, but decided she will go in my “Favorite Young Adult Books” Post.  So, that leaves me room for one more book.   Charlotte’s Web?  Wind in the Willows?

Nope.  As wonderful as those are, it just came to me:  Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.  A young boy and his two coonhound pups.  (SOB!)

What were your favorite books as a child?

Childhood Toys and Writing

Years ago, my parents woke every weekend morning to a thundering crash.  They remained calmly tucked in bed for they knew it was only their short, scrawny, pig-tailed little kid.  Me.

The sun rising was my cue to hop out of bed, open my closet, drag out my large bin of Lincoln Logs and Little People figurines and dump them all over the floor.   I had a long-going saga which involved two families who lived in a small prairie town.   One family was rich and resided in a Fisher-Price house.  The other family was poor and lived in a log cabin.  The poor family included the father who was currently away at war, a kindly mother, and four sisters.  (No, this part wasn’t at all inspired by Little Women.  gee-why would you think so?)  The shy, yet strong-willed, tomboyish, bookworm youngest daughter (not me-  geesh!) was madly in love with one of the sons of the rich family.  He reciprocated.  Alas, his snobby parents forbade the romance.  Oh, the drama!  The heartbreak!  The passion of desperate lovers secretly meeting and engaging in activities which at that point I’d only seen on TV.

Yes, it was all very torrid.  (sniffles)

After a couple hours, I’d abandon my gang to watch the Smurfs while eating Cookie Crisp cereal.

Well, as Stevie Nicks sang, “even children get older”- so one day the Lincoln Logs and Little People were passed on to younger relatives.  My stories went from being played out with toys to pen and paper, then to a child typewriter, an adult typewriter, and now, of course, a computer.

As I continue working on my novel, I’m trying to regain the pure joy I had with creating stories when I was a kid.   I’m tired of stressing over every word, every comma, every paragraph.  I want to have fun again!

Every writer knows they must shut off the inner-editor while writing the story.   But knowing, and being able to do so, are two very different things.

Here’s my own plan: for the rest of this draft, I’m going to pretend I am not trying to be published.  I’m just writing for fun.  No one else will ever see this except family and friends.  Surely, with my vibrant imagination- I can pretend this.

So, yeah.  There it is.  This story is just for me.  Just like when I was a kid playing with Lincoln Logs or a teen sprawled on her bed.

It’s time to have fun again.

Come Monday, maybe I’ll pick up some Cookie Crisp.  🙂

Published in: on October 18, 2008 at 6:22 pm  Comments (4)  
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