Today, I’m delighted to have fellow Irish historical fiction author, Derville Murphy, in the library. She has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into her life as an author.
You are very welcome, Derville, please introduce yourself:
Hi everyone, delighted to talk to you all! I am a newbie author. But you know, I feel that it was inevitable I would end up writing novels. I started out as an architect – left the profession to study art history – fell in love with academia – and got hooked on writing. Now I am fortunate enough to be able to do what I really enjoy – I paint, and I write novels. I live in Dublin, I am married with two children and two adorable twin grandchildren.
Which genre do you write in and what draws you to it?
My first novel, The Art Collector’s Daughter, was described as an historical psychological thriller. It moved forwards and backwards in time between World War 2 and the present day. It looks at Nazi stolen art and owning art objects – and what happens when this becomes an obsession. My second novel, If Only She Knew, was described as an historical drama. It was inspired by research I did into a Victorian artist written out of history because she dared to voice nationalist sympathies.
I was drawn to writing the book about the artist out of a compelling need to tell her story. History fascinates me, and I feel there is a need to look beyond the cold hard facts, and to try and really understand historical figures. But if I was to classify my genre, it would be art-related and not necessarily historical fiction.
Are you an avid reader? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others?
I read widely. I really like psychological thrillers, mysteries, crime anything that has a good plot and convincing characters. I particularly like novels that are centred on art. I don’t tend to read pure romance. I am currently reading, White Ivy, by Susie Wang about a Chinese girl whose dream is to assimilate into wealthy American society. It is written with a sharp wit and a keen eye on the insecurities of both cultures. On audible, I am listening to Shuggy Bain by Douglas Stuart, it is bleak, and desperately sad – a tale of poverty and addiction. Although it is wonderfully written, right now I feel like I need to immerse myself into something more uplifting. I am not sure I will finish it.
Are you a self-published/traditional or hybrid author?
I currently have a three-book deal with Poolbeg Press for books distributed by Amazon as eBook and paperback. I suppose that is hybrid.
Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?
Douglas Kennedy, Jessie Burton and Kristin Hannah.
Has your country of origin/culture influenced your writing?
I lived in England till I was thirteen, then moved home to Ireland. Being Irish in England, then being the English girl in Ireland has meant I am invested in both cultures. Although my novel, If Only She Knew is predominantly from an historic Nationalist perspective, it also sees those times through English eyes.
What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? How do you overcome it?
Starting off – thinking that I am going to spend the next year or so doing this. I suppose, I find it hard to commit to a story. I try to get over this by focusing on subjects that I am interested in, that I want to learn more about. In that way, hopefully, the book is also a journey for me as well as for the reader.
What was the best piece of writing advice you received when starting out?
When you think you have finished your novel, you have only started. Leave your book for three months and then come back to it – then edit, edit and edit again.
Do you have a favourite time of day to write?
Yes, six o’clock in the morning. My mind is crystal clear then. By lunchtime, the fog starts to drift in!
If you weren’t an author, what would you be up to?
I was working as an art consultant before my first novel was published, and I enjoyed that very much. But I don’t have time for it at the moment. If I wasn’t writing novels I would probably be painting. I work in oils mostly and usually have an art project on the go while I am writing. For, If Only She Knew, I did a series of paintings investigating different aspects of the artist’s life.
If a movie was made of one of your books, who would you like to play the lead roles?
I always thought that The Art Collector’s Daughter would make a great Netflix thriller. I would suggest Nicole Kidman as the artist Sylvie Vasseur, and Ralph Fiennes would make a brilliant bad guy, Nicholas Courtney.
If you could live the life of an historical figure for one day, who would you choose and what would you get up to?
I would be Leonardo da Vinci’s studio assistant, and spend the day talking to him to understand his extraordinary vision as an artist and inventor.
If you could travel back in time, what era would you go to? What draws you to this particular time?
I would certainly enjoy being alive at the end of the Victorian era. it was a time of rapid change, industrially, intellectually, and artistically. Provided of course, that I was born into a wealthy, liberal family and I didn’t have to wear corsets. [Pam: Ha-ha; I don’t think the corsets were optional, unfortunately!]
You have been chosen as a member of the crew on the first one-way flight to Mars – you are allowed to bring 5 books with you. What would they be?
They would be James Joyce’s Ulysses, (at least I might get to finish it); The Complete Works of Shakespeare; Seamus Heaney’s New Selected Poems; Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and E.H. Gombrich’s, The Story of Art.
Please tell us about your latest published work.
If Only She Knew described as, ‘Peaky Blinders meets Pride and Prejudice’, is an historical drama set between the art and criminal worlds of Dublin and Manchester. Wilful and spirited, Julia Benson, is disinherited by her father – and forced to be financially dependent on her sister’s controlling husband. When Julia’s Fenian lover goes missing, she tries to find him and unwittingly becomes involved in a plot so dangerous that it could destroy her life, and any chances of Irish Home Rule forever.