About Sylvia Murphy
The real stories are great material for fiction and
I have used many of these experiences in my books - for example
WAR WITHOUT MUMMY Born: 1937 - some of my earliest memories are of air raids (we arrived by ship in Liverpool the day before the Germans bombed Liverpool docks), ration books (e.g one sweet each per day) men in uniforms (my father was posted to the Middle East) family rows (our grandmother wanted to send us as refugees to the USA.)
Childhood: We were brought up by our grandmother during the war years because both parents joined the forces - mother became a WAAF. I don't know why - she didn't have to, but it must have been more fun than staying at home managing the ration books. After the war we lived near to, and then in London. Our parents never had a home together after the war and were divorced by 1947. Mother and her sister grasped the first opportunity to go back to the Middle East, which led to my experiences of living in Dubai, Bahrain and Baghdad.
The real stories are great material for fiction and
I have used many of these experiences in my books - for example
It's hard to understand what The War was like unless you were there. Those of us who were kids at the time thought the world was always going to be like that - bombs being dropped on us, ration books for our food and clothes, pig swill bins on the street corners, home made Christmas presents, parents suddenly disappearing. My sister and I were looked after by our grandmother while our father fought in the army in the Middle East, and our mother joined the WAAF. Our grandmother was Swiss and taught us to speak French even before we went to school. She looked after us very well, but she was often angry (I suppose I would be if I had the struggle she had to feed us every day). It wasn't the same as having Mummy at home.
MY FATHER'S STORY IN Candy's Children
My father represented his father's business in Palestine, buying and shipping oranges to Ireland and Liverpool. Because the couple were expecting their second child in 1939, they went back to Liverpool to stay with my father's family where the baby was born. They fully intended at the time to return to Palestine but when WW2 broke out it was deemed too dangerous - apart from the main thrust of the war in Turkey and Iraq, daily life in Palestine was increasingly punctuated by riots and more serious atrocities, as the Palestinian arabs tried to prevent the Jews from taking over their land.
So, with my sister and our mother, I stayed in England for the durataion of the war while our father joined the army. When his superiors discovered that he could speak fluent Arabic he was sent back to the Middle East to join a special unit in Syria. My father wrote about all his adventures when he was an old man with an unquiet spirit. For a long while after his death I didn't read it, then I realised that if I didn't read what he had written, and if I didn't find a way of writing my version, the knowledge of the past would soon fade away. So I have used his story, and what my mother and grandmother told me about Palestine, and what I remember about the war days, to write my latest book, CANDY'S CHILDREN.
I have heard from several readers that the Palestine I write about evokes for them the Palestine they knew when they were younger. Also that the parts of my story set in England remind them of how the war years were for them. It's good to know that many of you are enjoying my book (otherwise why would you bother to say so) but we could do with more of you spreading the word that it IS a good read. With the holidays coming on you might think of taking it with you to while away those frustrating hours spent sitting on your suitcase in some foreign airport (or even some non-foreign one, where, I hear, things don't always happen on time.)
In the meantime I have just finished the final draft of TRUST - another story about another family who can't get it together. I think the story works very well - evey time I read it through I feel more encouraged. If you go to my blogspot (http://sylviamurphyreadersandwriters.blogspot.com) you will be able to read the opening paragraph.
Two novels - THE COMPLETE KNOWLEDGE OF SALLY FRY
And - THE LIFE AND TIMES OF BARLY BEACH
Prize-winning play - THE WAY TO THE WEDDING
Non fiction - KEEPING NYALA IN STYLE
DEALING WITH A DEATH IN THE FAMILY
SURVIVING YOUR PARTNER
CANDY'S CHILDREN recently launched - has received some good reviews in local and national press, and from critical readers. Some fans have said it would make an excellent movie. Why not read it and see for yourself? Available on Amazon.
SHORT STORIES AND ARTICLES - I've written a lot of these over the years, for anything from "The Lady" to "Yachting Monthly", "Cat World", and dozens more.
Poetry - ECHOES is a small collection of my poetry which is proving popular, both as a gift and at sales. Now available on Amazon.
CROCODILES - my newest novel, based on a recent visit to Africa - is finished and has gone into the YouWriteOn experiment. It is now available through this website and also on Amazon. It so it should be available through www.YouWriteOn.com but I shouldn't bank on it.
I have just finished writing my first "memoir" (people are telling me I should do more of these). The reason It's come about is because I was reading some commentary in the newspaper about the growing popularity of the "animal memoir" as a genre - viz.Marley and Dewey. I looked down at my lap and it registered that the very elderly cat sitting there has lived with me for 19 years now and we have had many interersting adventures in that time. Even more encouraaging, I still have all the diaries and log-books I wrote during those years. Some concentrated research and reading showed he how many stories there are about animal/human relationships. That was all I needed and once I started, the story just flowed, and now I'm struggling with publishing and marketeing - not really a struggle - I've got people to help me now, with the editing and the print layout and so forth, and I'm making connections with the marketing people, and as I have a really good product on my hands it is beginning to sell well - helped on its way but a launch party a couple of weeks ago that was great fun for all.
FAQ's and Other General information
I've been giving some talks and workshops lately (Community College, Library) about "putting a book together". I have had pleasant and appreciative audiences and I always enjoy telking to upcoming writers and giving them the benefit of my experience ( which is considerable, though I only realise this when I'm asked questions by other people who are just starrting out).
Did you always want to be a writer?
Yes - from the moment I knew what a book was for. Age 6 I was illustrating stories for my own pleasure. Age 10 I found a little portable typewriter in our attic and learned to use that. Age 10 I found a little portable typewriter in our attic and learned to use that. Age 11 I was producing a monthly magazine to circulate amongst the family.
What did you read as a child?
Everything. I lived in a home full of book cases and we all had subscriptions to Harrods library. My mother did draw the line when she found me reading Hemingway at age 10, and directed me to Zane Grey instead. I still read everything, though some things are more satisfying than others these days, and I find myself more and more likely to leave unsatisfying books unfinished.
How do you get an idea for a book?
Usually the idea comes from the characters and then the situations they find themselves in and how they deal with those situations. The initial characters are always real people though they get changed (hopefully beyond recognition) as the work progresses.
Do you plan out the whole book before you write it?
Not as such. I plan out the whole idea for a story that I think will work but stories have a habit of doing their own thing so often it doesn't come together very well and that's why I have a large filing cabinet full of first drafts that have been abandoned.
Describe a typical writing day.
Open my emails. Play a game or two of solitaire to limber up my brain and warm up the computer (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it). Unplug the telephone. Open file of yesterday's writing and resist doing any re-writing or editing of work already done. Sit for 3 or 4 hours making new words - during that time I expect to produce about 1000 - 2000 words. That's the limit - after that the work becomes very stale. By then it should be about lunchtime so I plug in the telephone and either go out or sit and watch Neighbours on the TV. The rest of the day is for me - I don't write well in the afternoon. Editing and rewriting is all done later, after the first draft has been finished. If I tried to do it as I go along the book would never get finished.
What are you working on now?
I've been working hard on my new family novel TRUST. Finished the first draft last week, but still a lot of work to do. I think it will come out well. The title will have to be changed, I think, because the Trust Fund it was based on now takes up less of the story than it did at first. At the moment I favour THIS FAMILY BUSINESS which is a bit of a play on words, as the story is about rivalries in a family business, and a very disfunctional family.
Also, my story about my ship's cat, Tyfoon - see above.
I still have a lot of work to do marketing CANDY'S CHILDREN - It is selling at a trickle but I wold like to turn that into a flow again.
I have just published my Africa book - CROCODILES - through the You Write On POD scheme. The book is proving more popular than I imagined it would be, but again, more marketing is needed.
With both the above I'm trawling literary and related websites to spread the word - hope it works.
I've also been writing a lot of inspirational poetry - it does tend to go in phases - most of it is coming along nicely.
What do you do when you have writer's block?
Anything except try to write. In fact, I don't often suffer from WB. I like to get on with putting the words in their place. And it's much easier now we have computers. The first book I wrote was on a typewriter, and each draft had to be retyped, so I was a lot more careful about how I constructed each sentence right from the start. Now it doesn't matter - the words flow on and off the page like honey.
How do you balance writing and being a mother?
Its not difficult - a child is someone you live with and they are the richest source of material I know. Sometimes its a problem finding time for everything but I'm afraid its the laundry and washing up that loses out. In the early days I gave my son his own book and pencil so he could write his own stories. Now my children are grown up the only thing that worries me occasionally is to think "Do I want my children to know I know all about - whatever?"
Are your books or characters autobiographical?
I don't know. I do use scenes and events that I have experienced - for example the start of a big sailing race, the birth of a baby, but the people come out differently, according to the needs of the story.
What kind of research do you do for your books?
Enjoy life. But I also check the details. For example, I had to go up to London to Canary Wharf recently because I didn't know how it had been laid out after the IRA bomb. I would never try to write about a place I had never been to.
Which is your favorite of your books?
The last one is always the favourite because I'm absorbed in the characters, as though they are a bunch of friends I'm on holiday with.
What advice can you give to writers starting out?
Grow a very thick skin because you will experience more rejection and brush-offs than you would believe possible. Learn to listen to criticism and use it to improve your work. Remember that nobody is going to pay you for writing to please yourself - you only get paid for writing what other people ask you for. Believe in your ability. If you can deliver what is required there is nothing so satisfying as seeing your work in print.
How do you go about getting a book published?
Many books have been written on this subject. Remember that every one of them has been written by someone who is trying to sell their own work, not yours. If I was starting again I would join a creative writing course at my local university because apart from learning how to write you will build up contacts that way. When you are ready , buy the Writer's and Artist's Yearbook, find an agent, then be prepared to grow old while you wait for a response from the industry. In fact, things are changing with the development of the internet, and the old-fashioned way of getting published may not be relevant by the time you have finished your first book.
Which living author do you most admire and why?
That is a hard one. I think I must say Doris Lessing because she had so much to say about the world we women grew up in, during the seventies and eighties, and now that 'Feminism' seems to have gone out of fashion, she still writes the most vivid and moving tales set in the future. I've never been disappointed with a book she's written - and now she has won the Nobel Prize, it seems other people feel the same. Sadly, Doris has now said that since she won her Nobel prize she has lost the ability to write. I'm sure that is not entirely true, but I really didn't enjoy her latest book, THE CLEFT
What writers do you like to read?
Anyone who delivers a well constructed, well written story - Bernard Cornwell, Wilbur Smith, John le Carre.
Also, writers like Robert Fisk who documents with outstanding honesty the events leading up to the turn of the century. (The 21st Century, that is) Good biographers like Clare Tomalin.
What I'm reading?
Look on my blog SylviaMurphyReadersand Writers.blogspot.com where I have space to write more about the books I am reading, and you can tell me what you are reading.
I'll tell you a funny story - a few weeks ago was in London on a business trip and I had to wait about an hour at Victoria coach Station for my bus home. I had nothing with me to read except a copy of Candy's Children in my briefcase so I got it out and began to read. Believe it or not I became so absorbed that I VERY NEARLY MISSED MY BUS!
AND JUST TO FINISH OFF THIS SECTION, TO MAKE SURE THAT PEOPLE KNOW THAT I HAVE WRITTEN QUITE A LOT IN MY TIME, HERE IS A LIST OF MY PUBLICATIONS. I SHALL TRY TO KEEP IT UP TO DATE:
PUBLICATION LIST - SYLVIA MURPHY
The Complete Knowledge of Sally Fry Novel Gollancz and Black Swan 1983
The Life and Times of Barly Beach Novel Gollancz and Corgi 1987
Keeping Nyala in Style Practical Boat Maintenance
Dealing with a Death in the Family How to Books 1997
Surviving Your Partner How to Books 1998
Candy’s Children Novel S.A.Greenland Imprint 2007
Echoes Poetry Collection S.A. Greenland Imprint 2008
Crocodiles Novel Legend Press 2008
Tyfoon’s Tale Memoir S.A. Greenland Imprint 2009
Big Ginger Memoir S.A. Greenland Imprint 2009
Trust Novel S.A. Greenland Imprint 2010
PUBLICATION TITLE DATE
Classic Boat All Brass and Bowsprit June 1989
Wooden Boat Refit - Part 1 Oct 1989
- Part 2 Feb 1990
- Part 3 March 1990
- Part 4 July 1990
Installing a New Engine Dec 1990
Steering Clear Oct 1991
Keeping Warm Jan 1992
A New Lead March 1992
Made to Order Nov 1993
Takata - One of the Family Dec 1993
Ibizan Jewel April 1994
Insurance Conundrum June 1994
Matters of Detail March 1995
Yard Focus March 1996
Under Lock and Quai May 1999
Yachting Monthly Hurricane Force in Cornwall January 1991
Wintering on the Truro River March 1992
When the Dream Comes to an End Dec 1994
Practical Boat Owner Looking After Your Diesel May 1989
Cable Clips & Junction Boxes August 1990
Tape Tidy April 1990
Once Around Ibiza pril 1995
Jury-Rigged Torque Wrench July 1996
Who Needs Insurance March 1998
The Boatman Insurance for Small Boats June 1995
Choice A Long Stay Away July 1992
Writing A Living Will June 1997
Acting as an Executor in Scotland Jan 1998
Going to the Studio Feb 1998
Surviving Your Partner, Dealing with Finances April 1998
Surviving Your Partner, Making Ends Meet Feb 1999
Acting as an Executor and Power of Attorney March 2000
Cat World Cats that Live in the Castle March 1994
Tyfoon's Tail August 1994
Cats Dont Really Walk Alone Nov 1996
Cats at Sea Oct 1996
Your Cat Special Delivery – True Cat Tales Mar 1998
Cat Spotting in St Ives Aug 1999
All About Cats The Cats of the Alhambra Sept 1996
Myslexia First Person Oct 2000
JENNINGS MAGAZINE The Man Who Loved His Trumpet Sept 1985
WOMAN'S WEEKLY The Pen Portraits May 1990
WOMAN'S OWN Learning from the Future 1991
MY WEEKLY Birthday Magic May 1997
The Tide is a Little Late Today 2007
YOUR CAT Heaven Can Wait Aug 1998
The Stray Oct 2000
THE LADY The Cartier Brooch June 2006
YOURS FICTION A Mini Romance 2006
MY Weekly The Tide is a Little Late Today (World’s Apart) 2009
NEW BOOKS for readers and reading groups - “FREE FOR ALL” book review Dec 2009