Book People: Sally Murphy
I love adding each ‘Book People’ post; some people swoon over movie stars, I swoon over the talented creators of literature for young people. I have swooned over the work of Sally Murphy for some years now, ever since crying and smiling my way through ‘Pearl Verses the World’. Sally Murphy is the incredibly talented author behind 36 books and I am super honoured today to be featuring her today.
Ten Things you Need to Know About Sally Murphy
1. Tell us about your latest book.
It’s called Roses are Blue and it’s a verse novel about a girl who is challenged by the fact that she has a different mum. All mums can be different, and Amber’s mum has always been a bit different – but now the tough thing is that she is very different from the mum she used to be, because she has had a terrible accident. The story is enriched by gorgeous illustrations by a talented young man called Gabriel Evans.
When my mum handed me a rainbow notepad and a pen when I was three or four and encouraged me to write in it, while she got some work done. I started writing and I’ve never stopped.
My first publications were in school publications, and my first book was a book of educational resources (drawing on my experience as a teacher). I had been trying to get published for years before that happened – and found an advertisement in a newspaper for teachers to write resources. That publication inspired me to keep going till I had my first trade title published, and then another and another. Roses are Blue is, I think, my thirty-sixth book.
3. What does a typical day look like for you?
Typical? What is typical? My life is a bit crazy. But I guess, on a weekday, it starts with getting my youngest two children off to school (they’re in highschool, so this mostly involves coaxing one of them out of bed). I also use this time to check email, and social media and so on, and I read while I eat breakfast. Then I do the bare minimum of housework before I start my writing work for the day. This can involve actually writing my latest story, but it can also include research, promoting my books online, blogging, reading, reviewing, editing, proofreading. Sometimes I have to juggle all those things, but I like variety. I try to work for the whole school day, but when I need breaks from the desk I might hang out washing, play with my dogs, talk to my other children (if they’re home) or walk. I like going for at least one good walk a day, and often do shorter ones to wake myself up. In the afternoons and evenings in between family times, driving kids places, cooking dinner, folding washing and so on, I usually read some more, or snatch more time to write, review and so on.
4. Can you describe your workspace for us?
One word: messy. Though I do keep trying to make it more organised. I don’t have an office of my own, just a corner of the loungeroom, with a desk, two bookshelves and a cupboard for the printer and my files. But I usually move my laptop a couple of times a day – out to the dining table, or outside if it’s nice, or even onto my lap on my recliner in the evenings. This change of location helps keep me fresh. I can work pretty much anywhere. I take my ipad and notebook to footy training for example, and work in the car while I wait for the boys to finish. (interrupt from Megan: read this poem! I love it!)
5. Any words of advice for young readers and writers?
Read a lot and write a lot. Reading makes you a better person: smarter, wiser, funnier. And if you want to be a writer, reading helps. If you want to be a writer, write whenever you can. Don’t worry how good it is, just write, A lot. And then a lot more. Your writing gets better the more you write. But if you want to get published you also need to learn to rewrite. Your story/poem/play can always be improved. Finish a whole draft and then work on making it better until it is brilliant.
6. Do you have a favourite book or character (your own or somebody else’s)?
My favourite book changes. My favourite of my own is usually the newest one, because it’s all shiny new and I love showing it to people and talking about it. Roses are Blue is, obviously, my newest, and it’s been a long time in the works, so I am really pleased to be sharing it with the world at last.
One of my favourite books by other people is actually a series – the Kingdom of Silk series, by Glenda Millard. It is a perfect series. Whimsical, clever, warm hearted and a cast of characters you just adore. (interrupt from Megan AGAIN…this is one of mine too! Read more about them here).
7. If you were not a creator of books for young people what would you be?
Or a librarian. I used to a highschool English teacher, but I don’t think I was great at it. I started training as a librarian, but got busy with writing. Maybe one day I’ll fifish that qualification because sharing books with the world is my passion. And librarians are amongst my favourite people, so if I became one I would be part of that wonderful group
8. What is your favourite food to eat and/or your favourite music to listen to whilst you are working on your books?
I don’t listen to a lot of music when I’m writing. I think because it’s so rare for my house to be quiet, that I revel in it when I’m home alone. But I do have a special food: chocolate. Dark chocolate. Sometimes I bribe myself: if I write 500 words I can have a chocolate break. Except sometimes I have the chocolate without having written the words, because, well, it’s chocolate, and it’s there.
9. How much of yourself or people you know is in your books?
I try not to write about people I know too closely, because I might offend or embarrass them. Still, I think bits of their personalities do creep in sometimes, As for me, I thought I didn’t write about myself but one day I realised there’s a bit of me in every one of my books – my experiences, my emotions, my insecurities. It was actually my husband – a very wise man – who one day patted me on the arm and said “You do realise Pearl is you, don’t you?” I hadn’t until that moment, but I think he’s right in a way – not that Pearl’s story is my story, but her voice and her reactions and insecurities, I think they are very me.
10. If you could have one wish for the world what would it be?
More books. I think if every child – and every adult – had more books to read, and the ability to read them – then the world would be more peaceful, more empathetic, smarter, and we could solve big problems like world hunger, war, pollution – the list goes on.
Thank you so much for having me visit, Megan, and for questions which really made me think.
Thank YOU Sally!