The Booktopia Book Guru asks
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born and raised in Western Australia, spending most of my childhood in the Southwest town of Collie. I spent my last two years of schooling at boarding school in Perth, which I hated at the time, because I was terribly homesick, but where I had some wonderful moments in the library, which was my salvation.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be an author. When I was twelve, my plan was to write kids’ books. How wonderful it would be to write books that other people loved as much as the one I was reading. In the school holidays I wrote novels, stories and poems on an old typewriter, some of which I still have.
By the time I was 18 I’d realised that I might need another job apart from being an author, though that was still my dream. So I thought I’d become a journalist, because that would enable to me to make a living from writing.
When I was 30 I was a full time mum also pursuing my writing dreams. By then I’d had my first educational books published, but I was yet to have my first trade title published, so was desperately trying to figure out how and why.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
I am ashamed to admit that I remember proudly proclaiming that I was not a feminist. I had been fed the crock that feminism was a dirty word and not the same thing as believing women had the right to be equal. Instead, feminists were radical, man-hating and doing women a disservice.
Gosh how naïve I was, and how sad I am that there are still women who think feminism is something negative.
4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
While I love music and art, for me the biggest impact by far has been from books. Not surprisingly, because I write for children, the biggest impact has come from books for young people. There was a book called Mandy, by Julie Andrews Edwards (who, I later realised, was THE Julie Andrews), which I read when I was quite young and absolutely adored. It’s the first novel I remember reading and loving so much that I wished I’d written it. So, as a 7 year old, I wrote my own version of this story, which I called Tereasa. I still have my own version, and a few years ago tracked down a copy of Mandy.
Even before Mandy, I absolutely adored Horton Hatches an Egg, a Dr Seuss story, and knew it by heart. Later it was one of the first books I tracked down for my first child. I loved the playfulness and rhythm, but I think the sense of justice also appealed to me. As a writer, I want children and adults alike to smile when they read my work, even when I’m addressing really serious issues.
Like many many readers To Kill a Mockingbird is a book which moved me incredibly. Again, there is that sense of justice and wisdom as well as wonderful character development and weaving of a powerful story. The fact that it also gets better on rereading is also a testament to the quality of the writing. I studied it several times at school, taught it as a teacher, and yet have never tired of it. As a writer I want to create books which do those things: entertain and move people, stay with them, and also inspire them to read and reread.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
Writing is my thing. The other arts have never captured me in the same way as writing, which I’ve been doing since before I could actually form legible words.
6. Please tell us about your latest novel…
Roses are Blue is a verse novel about a young girl coping with the fallout of her mother’s terrible car accident. Everything in Amber’s life has changed, but nothing so much as her mother, who has been left badly disabled. Whilst this sounds pretty grim, the aim of the story is to show that even in such a terrible set of circumstances there can be hope, and means of coping.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
Hope. I want readers, of whatever age, to see that although life can throw pretty big curveballs, there is always hope. My verse novels often move people to tears, but I want them to smile, too.
Glenda Millard. She is an Australian writer of the most amazingly moving and uplifting children’s books. Her talent is amazing, and she’s a lovely person, warm and generous. When I grow up, I want to be Glenda.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
Gosh. Ambitious goals? Now the pressure’s on! I just want to always keep improving. I want to make my writing better and better and keep surprising myself with new things to try. Of course, stemming from this, I want to keep finding readers enjoy my work.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Love what you do. Write the stuff you love to read, be true to yourself and have fun. Also, though, don’t expect it to be easy. You will be rejected and, when you’re accepted, editors will make you change stuff, reviewers won’t always like your work and your sales are never as much as you’d like them to be. Take these things as a challenge to keep working, keep improving, rather than a sign of some terrible plot against you. Because, when you love what you are doing, and you keep doing it, then you stick at it until the magic day when you are both published AND read.
Sally, thank you for playing.
by Sally Murphy
From the award-winning author of Pearl Verses the World and Toppling comes a story about resilience and the importance of family.
“I have not got used to my new mum, even though I love her (I absolutely love her), I miss my happy, painting, dancing, gardening, smiling mum.” Amber Rose and her family are dealing with tragedy and change. But sometimes hope suddenly blooms
About the Author
Sally Murphy is a mother, wife, teacher, speaker, website manager, reviewer, and, of course, author. She was born in Perth and now lives in Dalyellup, Western Australia. Her first illustrated verse novel with Walker Books Australia, Pearl Verses the World (illustrated by Heather Potter) won the children’s book category for the Indie Book of the Year awards, 2009; was awarded Honour Book in the Younger Readers category, Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards, 2010; and won the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards, 2010, Best Book for Language Development, Upper Primary (8-12 years). Toppling (illustrated by Rhian Nest James) has won the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards, Children’s Book – Mary Ryan’s Award, 2010 and the Children’s Book for the 2010 Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards.
About the Contributor
While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.