I have been incredibly lucky on #IrishWritersWed to be in the position of hosting the most incredible, insightful, informative and wonderful people. As the weeks have passed I have been very excited to introduce you all to new writers, possibly in genres you would not normally gravitate toward.
Well today I have a lady who is no stranger to Swirl and Thread, the fabulous West Cork based writer, ER Murray. Elizabeth got so caught up in writing her post for you all today that she just kept on writing. The result? Your Top 10 Writing FAQs Answered…you can thank her later 🙂
Today I feature the first five FAQs (Part 1) here on #IrishWritersWed and Elizabeth will feature Part 2 next week over on her blog (See details below)
So without further ado….
Your Top 10 Writing FAQS Answered (Part 1)
by E.R. Murray
I do hundreds of events year… at festivals, in schools, libraries and theatres; with children, teens and adults. Whether it’s a reading, event, panel discussion or workshop, I always leave time for a Q&A session because I believe it’s important that the audience get what they need from the event, as well as a chance to engage with you.
During these Q&As, and also via email/social media, I get some in-depth book related questions and a few surprises, but certain questions pop up time and again. Whatever I’m asked, I always try and answer as honestly as I can – I would have loved to meet an author as a child and so I take every event seriously, whether there’s an audience of one or a thousand.
But I’m also aware that not everyone can get to an event, and so, I decided to gather the ten questions that I get asked most frequently and answer them online. As there’s a lot of information, I’m delighted to have part one hosted on here by the wonderful Mairead, and part two will be posted on my own website next week. Here goes…
1) Where do you get your ideas from?
In truth, everywhere. I’m attacked by ideas of all the time. This might sound wonderful (in many ways it is) but having an idea is very different to writing something decent and so I have to sift through lots of bad ideas to find my gems. I get ideas from travel, history, memory, nature, objects, paintings, films, my surroundings, music, real life… the list is endless. If it exists, there’s an idea to be found.
For instance, my Nine Lives Trilogy is based on an apartment I lived in, a ghost sighting and the enchanting landscapes of Dublin and West Cork. Caramel Hearts is based on growing up with an alcoholic mother and a love of food. I wrote a short story, Storm Witch, for the Reading the Future collection (celebrating 250 years of Hodges Figgis bookshop) during a residency in Iceland; that was inspired by the air vents in the roof of a natural sauna and a storm.
I believe that to write well, to create great stories, we have to participate in life to the full. So whatever you enjoy doing, get out and do it. I love travel, film, outdoors, animals, theatre, walking, food, music, art, new experiences – so I fill my life with them. And they inevitably come out in my stories. I rarely come up with my best ideas when I’m staring at a computer screen and although I can write to prescription (someone giving me a theme or a title) I prefer to come up with my own. Especially since I have so many!
2) What’s the secret to getting an agent/securing a book deal?
Hard work and dedication. It’s that simple. Everyone wants a quick fix, a magic formula, a short cut, but I’m afraid there isn’t one. It takes time and I completely understand the hunger, the drive, the frustration of not yet being published. But only by writing, editing and then writing some more, will we ever improve.
And I believe that’s true every step of the way, from the moment you start writing to the moment you start thinking about publication to when you’re actually published. Even when you’re published there are no guarantees you’ll get another book deal. So you need to cultivate these traits to last you the lifespan of your career.
3) Do you have another job?
Yes. I freelance (travel writing, technical writing and social media) and I teach/facilitate events. People sometimes look disappointed when they find out I’m not writing full time, as though that’s the holy grail, but I look at it like this; I like being busy so I would only fill the time anyway. Anyway, it’s all part of it. The books enable me to do events in schools, libraries and festivals, they bring commissions and workshops, and opportunities I’d never have dreamed of such as writing residencies in Iceland, France, and Australia.
I need about four solid hours of writing time in a standard day to get through big chunks of wordcount and edits. But even just ten minutes at a time can move something along nicely and it all adds up. I’m good at using what time I have and I’m extremely organised. Also, working removes the stress of having to create for money. There’s a lot of freedom in knowing that even if a book doesn’t sell, you’re not going to be homeless.
4) What books inspired you when you were a child?
I can’t remember not being able to read. It’s always something that I’ve done, something that’s always been part of my life. And I always adored reading – I’d devour anything from the info on the back of cornflake boxes to encyclopaedias to poetry and fiction. But some standout books for me were:
- Roald Dahl’s The Witches – I loved the gruesomeness of it.
- Brothers Grimm fairytales – I always found Hans Christian Anderson a bit twee
- The Secret Garden and The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett: both full of adventure and exotic characters/places
- Elegy Written in a Country Graveyard by Thomas Gray – I loved this poem so much I could recite it by heart.
- Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines – it was the first time I read a book with a character I could truly identify with
- Bleak House by Charles Dickens – I first read Dickens when I was ten years old and the characters, the setting, the language, I loved it all.
- Myth and legend – other cultures have always fascinated me, as have epic tales and adventures.
You’ll notice they’re all male writers but that’s more a reflection of what was available to me when I was a child, than anything else. Thank goodness this has changed and is continuing to change with more diverse books and writers.
5) How do you find the time to write?
Like anything, if you want to write you’ll make time. I still work full time and find the space to write and promote and attend events and present events. I was working full time when I had each of my novels published – just the nature of my work changed as I chose to switch from being employed to freelance for more flexibility (but much less pay). There are always sacrifices – it’s the choices we make about our time that matter. Much of my first novel was written at 5am before work, during my lunch hour and also while commuting. Dedication and commitment are key. If you want to write badly enough, you’ll do it.
You can read part two over on ER Murray’s Blog HERE
Elizabeth Rose Murray writes fiction for children and young adults.
She lives in West Cork where she fishes, grows her own vegetables and enjoys plenty of outdoor adventures.
Her novels include the Nine Lives Trilogy and Caramel Hearts.
Website ~ https://ermurray.com/
Twitter ~ @ERMurray