I am beyond excited to be joined today by the fantastic lady that is Elizabeth Rose Murray. I was very lucky to actually meet Elizabeth at the Irish Book Awards last year and was thrilled recently when she agreed to *drop* by for a chat.
ER Murray is the author of The Nine Lives Trilogy and Caramel Hearts and is also a Content and Social Media Specialist.
A fascinating interview folks, with a truly fascinating lady…..I hope you enjoy!!
Elizabeth I have had the pleasure of meeting you at the BGE Irish Book Awards and have crossed your path many times on Social Media. You always strike me as a very happy and free-spirited person. Would that be a correct assumption?
I’m naturally really positive and motivated and I spend as much time in environments and around people that I find inspiring, so that’s probably what’s coming across!
I had a really unhappy childhood and learned very young that we cannot depend on others for our own happiness.
It has stood me in good stead and makes me really appreciate of what I have and the opportunities that arise.
Living as you do in Schull, West Cork, a stunning part of the island of Ireland, what attracted you to settle there and make it a place you could call home?
I thought I’d only be here for a year or so. I’ve moved around a lot, so I find it easy to relocate. Change energises me and I need lots of it to stay motivated. I found Schull when I was leaving my full time job in online poker to concentrate on my books; I’d saved some money and set up some freelance work, so it was a calculated risk. I knew money would be tight, so there was no way I could stay in Dublin, and I had a yearning to be near the sea.
Vanessa O’Loughlin (author Sam Blake and the founder of Writing.ie ) suggested here and I fell in love with the place instantly.
Then I fell in love with a local man and, after he proposed with a treasure map and trowel, I married him – the rest is history!
The Nine Lives Trilogy is a collection of books that you have written of which two have been released ~ The Book of Learning and The Book of Shadows. What market and genre are they aimed at? When can we expect Book Three?
In bookshops and libraries, you’ll find the trilogy under Middle Grade (8-12 years) but it’s also popular with young teens.
I think all books are for anyone who likes a good story, and my oldest fan is a 96-year-old lady – she sent me a really sweet letter! It’s an urban fantasy series, set in Ireland with magical elements and a touch of the gothic.
It’s full of puzzles and adventure; a bit spooky with a feisty heroine, Ebony Smart I’ve just edited the epilogue of the final book, The Book of Revenge, and it’s out in February 2018.
Caramel Hearts was a departure for you, in that it’s dealing with the very serious topic of parental alcoholism and is targeted at the older teenager in the YA genre. Where did the inspiration for this book come from? It must have been quite a difficult issue to approach in writing.
Surprisingly, this was easier for me to write than the trilogy.
It’s loosely based on my own experience, but the characters and events are complete fiction; the autobiography lies in the emotions. I had to revisit some unpleasant memories, so that was difficult at times, but the cake recipes balanced the darker elements of the book with some light.
Hope is an important ingredient in my books, and so long as I know there is hope, I can write about dark topics and events. I write like I read – varied – so switching age group and genre felt natural. I also write short stories including historical, horror, science fiction, contemporary – it’s the emotion of a piece that draws me in.
(An aside: my own 13 year old daughter read, loved and recommends Caramel Hearts)
I recently read on your blog that ‘Belonging to a Tribe’ is very important to us all (which you can read HERE) yet some of us struggle with it. Have you been lucky enough to find your tribe and what advice would you give to others in their search?
I’ve definitely found my tribe through writing, and through writing in Ireland in particular.
The writing community is so supportive, and the children’s writing community is just awesome. I probably wouldn’t have followed my writing dream if I hadn’t moved to Ireland.
Writing is respected here, and it feels so accessible.
People encourage each other, and support the wobbles. It’s very special. I’ve also found my tribe in West Cork; the sense of community here is unlike anything I’ve witnessed before. It’s a wonderful place to live.
One of the many strings to your very busy literary bow is hosting writing workshops for both adults and children. We all know children have such incredible imaginations. Can you share any of your experiences from these workshops with us?
No two workshops are the same and the key to a successful event is practice, practice, practice. I use lots of props, images, sound clips, smell pots etc in my workshops to bring them alive. We usually laugh a lot, and that’s very important.
Writing should be personal and accessible, whatever a person’s background, experience and education, and laughter always brings people together. My events are very interactive and I think they should encourage and enthuse, so people not only produce in the workshop itself, but go away and continue on.
That’s where the real magic happens.
I love the contact you receive afterwards; a kid asking questions or sharing a piece of work. Sometimes, a poem that was started in your workshop will get published or a parent will email to say what an impact the workshop had.
That’s very special.
Not alone are you a writer, you are also a Content and Social Media Specialist. Sounds fascinating!! Social Media is in constant flux. How do you keep up to date with it and what exactly does it entail for you?
Social media is Darwinian and you only really get out what you put in. I enjoy social media because I’m a social person, living a reclusive life as a writer; it helps to bridge the gap. I’m also living far away from most friends and family, and it keeps me in touch with those close to me.
Social media should be a pleasure to use. I think where social media goes wrong is when people think of it as a sales or advertising tool or as a place to vent. This is not only boring, it can also be damaging and hurtful. Sure, you might get a sale or two through your twitter or facebook, but it’s the human connection that’s important.
As for working in social media, I maintain the twitter account for writing.ie, Ireland’s biggest online writing resource (20K+ followers), as well as providing personal/in-house training on how to use social media effectively for those who are new to the concept and wary.
I like removing barriers, taking the fear away.
Elizabeth you appear to have travelled to so many different places in the world. Have you a favourite and how did travelling influence your writing?
Along with books and food, travel is my favourite thing and I travel as much as I can. It influences my writing in terms of setting, but also headspace. I treat writing like work, so I don’t need inspiration. I get up and I write, no matter how I’m feeling.
But I do enjoy a change of scenery; new places invigorate me. So if I’m tiring or getting overly stressed, I’ll often take myself off somewhere new to write. This could be the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Monaghan; I go there regularly for a week or ten days when I really need some focused writing time but also a bit of TLC. Or it might be Cambodia, where I volunteer my services for a month in a rural school, in return for immersing myself in village life.
Learning new things, hearing people’s stories, experiencing different hardships, really makes you appreciate what you have.
Sometimes, I travel for focus; I’m just back from a month’s writing residency in Australia in the Blue Mountains. I basically wrote for ten hours and hiked for three to four hours in the national park, every day, for the whole month. I managed to edit my entire manuscript in three weeks; the setting provided the intensity I needed and couldn’t achieve at home.
And my next adventure is a month in Iceland; this will be researching my next novel and it will be less hours at the desk and more hours exploring the landscape and allowing myself to fall down rabbit warrens on documentary, myths, poetry, diaries etc.
I can’t wait to see what happens to my book as a result.
I love on your site that you have not one, but two ‘About Me’ pages, both targeting different age groups. Your site is very inclusive and it is very obvious from reading through it that you thoroughly enjoy all that you do. What’s next for Elizabeth Rose Murray?
Well, once this last part of the trilogy is published, I’m out of contract, so I’ll be back to square one. I’ll have to write something that a publisher likes and wants to invest in; but I’m not in a hurry. I have two novels calling me – one YA, one adult – as well as a younger series. I usually work on multiple projects, but it’s been a hectic few years, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to maintain that right away. In fact, I aim to take my time.
One thing I’ve learned over the last few years is that time is the most precious commodity and once you sign a deal, the deadlines etc can be tough. I’ll still be doing lots of events in schools, libraries, and festivals, and I have the next launch to look forward to.
I’m half excited and half terrified, but that’s what writing usually feels like for me, so I’m going to try and enjoy the ride.
Elizabeth thank you so so much for this inspiring, intriguing and enchanting interview. You are truly an inspirational person with the most amazing attitude that I think many of us, me included, would love to emulate.
You can find out lots more about ER Murray by checking out the following
Website ~ https://ermurray.com/
Twitter ~ @ERMurray