Author Interview

Author Interview with Iseult Murphy


Iseult Murphy lives on the east coast of Ireland and is owned by five dogs, two cats, and a tiny parrot. When she isn’t tending to her furry (and feathery) overlords, she is usually scribbling something horrible into the walls, and occassionally her laptop. Magic and science are usually involved too. Her short stories have been published in over two dozen venues.

Zoo of the Dead

Hungry for some horror? Ever wonder where Death takes his dates, what kind of person goes to a zombie private detective, or why dinner with the in-laws is never a good idea? All these questions and more are answered in ‘Zoo of the Dead and other horrific tales’; 9 horrors from Iseult Murphy, including 3 new short stories.

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What inspired you to start writing? Is your motivation to write now different or the same as before?

I am the youngest of ten children, and I grew up surrounded by people who loved to read and write. I wanted to get in on the action from a very young age; dictating stories before I could even read or write, and then moving on to writing novels and a family newspaper by the time I was seven. I loved writing because I was sick a lot as a child, and it provided me with an escape into worlds where i had control over what was happening. I still like that aspect of writing, but I’m more motivated by writing stories that i hope will connect with other people and help them, the way books have helped me throughout my life.

Writers are projected as loners or introverts. Is this true for you?

Oh yeah! Big time. I was sick for most of my childhood and adolescence, so I didn’t realize I was an introvert until I was in my twenties and started mixing with people outside my family.

What genre do you like to write in? Why?

I write speculative fiction. I love horror, because I think it is the best genre to explore the realities of the hardship of life and the darkness that lives within us all. I love fantasy, because it lets my imagination soar, and I love science fiction because it is playing with what is possible. I like to mix elements of each genre in my writing, because I don’t think I can write a story without some horror; and I like my fantasy worlds to have natural laws like our own world.

How often do you write and what schedule to you like to keep?

I try to write every day. At the moment that isn’t happening, because of mental and physical illness. I take it one day at a time. I have lots of stories planned and ready to go, once I have the health to write them.

What is the easiest part of writing to you?

Coming up with the ideas and structuring plots. I put a lot of work into outlining, and I really enjoy that. I find actually writing the hardest part, because all the characters are so bright and shiny in my head, and they seem so dull when I get them down on paper.

Can you share any tips on inspiring other writers to pursue their dreams?

I know everyone says this, but read a lot and write a lot. Write every day, even if it is only a journal entry or a short sentence. I have also found it very useful to get feedback on my work from other writers. There are loads of internet writing groups, or you can set up your own with some friends. It is very helpful to find out from readers whether your story is coming across the way you want it to.

What is your favorite thing about being a writer? Why?

I love telling stories. If I finish a piece and it is somewhat close to the idea in my head, that is the best feeling in the world.

Who would you compare your work to? What differences set you apart?

It is very difficult to answer that. Some people have compared me to Garth Nix, which is a huge compliment. I think it is because I usually have female protagonists and more naturalistic magic systems. I think I have a lot more humor in my work than he does, and I write for adults rather than young adults (although he does have work aimed at adults too).

Does a bad review affect your writing?

When I get negative reviews, I like to see what it is that the person didn’t like, so that I can work on it to become a better person. Sometimes they don’t get my style, and that’s ok, there’s not much I can do about that.

What did you want to be when you grew up as a child?

I wanted to be a nun! Then I wanted to be a veterinary surgeon who painted and wrote novels in her spare time .

What book have you read that has been the most life changing?

‘Jurassic Park’ by Michael Crichton. I read it when I was 12. It was one of the first ‘modern’ books that I read, as I grew up reading classics. When I read the disemboweling scene, I couldn’t believe that writing could be like that. It was so much fun.

Are you working on anything right now? If so, what can you share?

I’m working on a few things, but unfortunately, ill health has delayed my plans so I’m not ready to share anything at the moment.

Who is in your support system? How do they keep you motivated?

I am so blessed to have lots of wonderful, loving, supportive people in my life and I am very grateful to all of them. Apart from family, I am a part of several awesome writing groups, including one on twitter, where I met the wonderful Ruth Anne Garcia.

Do you keep a blog or a journal? How does it help you as a writer?

I have a blog. I post about writing, as well as author interviews and book reviews. I hope people find it interesting.

Do you have any daily mantra’s? What do you tell yourself to keep your inspiration alive?

I often think of the Winston Churchill quote – ‘When you’re going through hell, keep going’.

What is the biggest success as a writer? What have you learned?

I’ve won short story competitions and had my work published and I’ve learned two things. One is that winning a competition or getting something accepted is great, but I’m already on to the next story. Two is that being published is not the same as having loads of people read your work and know who you are.

Has your writing taken you to other cities, states, or countries? If so, where?

I won The RDS Young Science Writer competition several times in my teens, and I had to travel to Dublin, Ireland’s capitol city, for the prize giving. That was pretty cool.

How will you handle fame if/when you reach that level? How do you think it will change your writing?

Hopefully by becoming even more introverted than I currently am and paying other people to do the housework so I can sit and write all day.

What advice would you give your younger self about writing?

Don’t give up. Keep writing. You know that story you gave up on half way through? Finish it. Send out your work. You know that editor who rejected your work and wanted to see more? Send them more!

Have you slipped personal places, people, or animals into your writing? What is the best thing you’ve mentioned? Have people noticed?

Where I live and the places I’ve visited influence where I set my work and the personalities of people and animals I’ve encountered do help flesh out my characters. Sometimes my family will recognize a setting, but usually they don’t.

How did you celebrate the launch of your book?

There was no big fanfare, it was just another writing day.

If given the chance, what author would you interview? What is the most important question you would ask?

I would love to have interviewed Tolkien. I would ask him to give me an elven name.

Have you experienced writer’s block? How do you handle it?

Unfortunately, I have. For me, it isn’t wondering what to write or how to finish a story, it is pouring your heart out onto a page and it reading back like a bucket full of ash. It is writing and writing and not getting anywhere. It is losing the ability to know what works and what doesn’t. It is truly horrible, but I just keep writing.

What would you tell others who are considering traditional/self-publishing? Any advice?

Whether you are considering traditional or self-publishing, make sure your book is the best it can be. Self-publishing is so easy now, but it takes a lot of work to produce a quality product and then you have to do marketing. Even traditionally published works require the author to do marketing. Getting people to read your book is the hard part. There are so many books being published at the moment. Unless you have a real drive to go one path, you might as well try for traditional publishing first. You can always self-publish later. Be prepared, either way, to not sell many books.

What do you want to be remembered for as a writer? A person?

I would like to be remember for writing fun, magical, horrifying books that helped readers through hard times in their life. As a person, I would like to be remembered as someone who was selfless, generous and kind and who wrote wonderful books.

Thank you, Iseult!

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