Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Author Interview: Nicole Murphy

Nicole Murphy has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, and has been writing them down since primary school. Having worked as a teacher and journalist, Nicole Murphy has honed her skills in writing and storytelling and now focuses full-time on her career in fiction. She has had more than a dozen short stories published, and worked in the speculative fiction industry as an editor. Nicole lives in Queanbeyan with her husband, Tim. She is the author of Secret Ones and Power Unbound with a third book, Rogue        Gadda, due later in 2011

Welcome to the brand new Shearer’s Bookshop blog and thanks for taking the time to answer our questions! Can you start by telling us about your new book, Power Unbound?

Thanks for inviting me along. Always glad to support people who love books :) Power Unbound is the story of Ione Gorton and Stephen O’Malley and how they fall in love. It’s also the story of Asarlai, who’s stolen the most dangerous books ever created and who is determined to use them to reveal the secret magical race of the gadda to the world. It’s also about giant monsters, terrorism, obsession and just how fabulous eight-year-old boys can be.

Power Unbound is the second in a trilogy that began with Secret Ones and the third book, Rogue Gadda, is due in July. Did you always plan this story as a trilogy? And how difficult is it to organise a large work like this?

It was always three books, although not a trilogy per say. I’d describe it initially as a series – the books related to each other, but didn’t tell the same story. Instead, they were three romances, set within the world of the gadda. But then I decided to beef up the fantasy aspect of it (compared to the romance storylines) and developed the overarching plot of Asarlai and her plans for world domination.

Because the books existed initially as three separate books, and then I added the storyline, organising them was quite a challenge. Particularly when the characters I’d set up to have the romances didn’t necessarily have anything to do with the problems Asarlai was causing. So I planned the romances, and also planned the individual books as whole plots, and then planned the plot of the whole trilogy. A lot of extra documents helped keep track of everything.

Books like Power Unbound often have created words and names in them, how do you come to create a word?

There’s a few things I used in these books. The main one was when I wanted a particular word, I’d borrow from bits of Irish words. Take the guardian’s titles. The ‘mir’ at the end of each comes from ‘coimirceoir’, one of the Irish words for guardian. Then I took the Irish for each of their roles – ‘sabhail’ for protector, ‘muintcoir’ for teacher, ‘leigheas’ for healer, ‘ceangal’ for liaison, ‘firinne’ for truth and ‘garradoir’ for gardener. Then I combined part of the role word with the ‘mir’ and got – Sabhamir for the protector, Coiremir for the teacher, Heasimir for the healer, Ceamir for the liaison, Firimir for the truth-sayer and Garramir for the gardener.

I did the same thing for most the other words in the books except one – Asarlai, which is Irish for sorcerer. Then there were some I just made up, cause they sounded good J

Your work crosses several genre boundaries and ranges from paranormal romance to urban fantasy. Do you see yourself as a writer within a particular genre?

If I had to classify myself, I’d say I straddle fantasy and romance and I’d be happy with either of those classifications. In terms of writing these books, they are more romance than anything in terms of how I approached them and it’s the romance tropes that I’m particularly interested in playing with. Not everything I write is this strongly romance (although they all have romantic subplots in them) and it will be interesting to see what the reader reaction would be should I get any of them published.

Writers often claim that they write books that they themselves would like to read. Is this true of your work?

Oh, absolutely. When I started writing this series, it was because I recognised everything I was writing had strong romance elements in it and I told myself that I wasn’t fooling anyone and I should just get on with it and write romance. I love reading romance. I grew up reading fantasy and science fiction and still adore it, but romance for a long time offered me more as a reader and right now offers me the most as a writer as well. But that’s not to say I won’t write pure science fiction or fantasy – most of my short stories have little in the way of romance.

What’s the most challenging thing you face in your work as a writer and what’s the best perk?

The most challenging thing is to challenge myself. It can be quite easy to find a formula and a style that works and stick with it, but I believe that you have to test yourself in order to develop more skills and become a better writer. Yet at the same time, you want to keep giving the readers the things they love about your books. Can mess with your head sometimes.

The best perk? Every day, I get to wake up, sit at my computer and lose myself in telling stories. It’s great fun!

Many readers find it interesting to hear about the methods that writers use to work. Can you tell us about your writing method?

My method is evolving with every book I write. Initially I was totally what is called a panster – no planning, just sit and write. The problem with that is that you require a LOT of revisions to then pull the story together. Now, I’m becoming more a mix of a plotter and a planner. With the new work I’m doing, I’ve sat down and written a synopsis of the trilogy – three or four pages on what the whole story is about and what each book is about. I’ll also write a biography for each character, considering their personality, their motivations, their dreams and desires. Then I sit and write.

Once I’ve done the draft, I use some tools I’ve developed to plot out the book and from those I can see where it’s lagging, where I’m not giving the reader time to breathe and so on. Then I revise, at least two times. The book then goes to some readers that I trust to give me honest feedback, and from their responses there will be another revision pass. Then I give it to the publisher and hope they love it :)

Is your method for writing fiction different to the method you employed as a journalist?

They’re both very similar methods – as a journalist, you’d research the topic, interview relevant authorities or the people affected by the story and gather as much information as you could. Then you’d write – I had to have the first line clear in my mind before I could keep going, so some stories were easier to write than others. It then gets revised, then sent to the editor and it gets revised some more, then proofread and revised some more before it appears in the paper, hopefully accurate and error-free.

As a writer, you research (for example with the Dream of Asarlai trilogy, I’ve had to look up things like aromatherapy, physics, native plants of Ireland, whether olives can grow in the New England region of NSW…), you interview authorities and people in the story by creating the characters and imagining their world and then you write, edit, revise, proof and (hopefully) publish!

Which authors and genres would you classify as influences?

I grew up reading fantasy – Tolkien, Moorcock, Brooks – and that epic fantasy tradition is one that’s still strong with me. Then in my late teens and early twenties I was introduced to romance and writers like Amanda Quick, Johanna Lindsey and Julia Quinn. Nowadays I’m reading a lot of paranormal romance and urban fantasy and loving writers like Keri Arthur, Erica Hayes, Tracey O’Hara, Charlaine Harris and Patricia Briggs.

But my reading has been wide and that shows up in my writing. For example, I’ve done a couple of murder mysteries set within fantasy or science fiction worlds due to a couple of years where I was inhaling Patricia Cornwell and Johnathan Kellerman. In fact, I’d love to write a crime novel one day.

Creative writing can be inspired by other mediums such as film, music or art. Has this been true for you as a writer?

Generally, no – I don’t find myself responding creatively through my writing to something that I’ve seen or heard and loved. That said, however, I do have a giant monster in Power Unbound that is directly influenced by Godzilla – a friend of mine is a big fan and I’ve come to love daikaiju too.

What are you reading right now?

Right now – nothing. I’ve discovered that when I’m revising (as I am at the moment), I can’t read. Not a problem when drafting, but I think when I’m revising, I don’t want anything in my head but the book.

Recently, I read a Jonathan Kellerman and a James Patterson for research (I’ve got a serial killer in one of my new books) and I overdosed on Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series. Can’t wait for the new book – I’ll be drafting again in March, so perfect timing :)

What’s next for you after the publication of Rogue Gadda?

Ah, that’s the million dollar question. Rogue Gadda is almost ready to go – I’m just waiting on notes from the proof readers to check the manuscript. In the meantime, I’m writing away madly with the aim of putting a new proposal before the publisher around May. So hopefully after the publication and promotion of Rogue Gadda it will be back to work on getting the next trilogy ready for publication.

Thanks so much for talking with us!

My pleasure :)

Buy Power Unbound and Secret Ones online at Shearer's Bookshop

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