Saturday 10 December 2016

Interview: Emily Murdoch

Last Updated: 16 May 2024

This Christmas, I'm participating in the #WYChristmasReadathon (check out the badge in the sidebar!) and I will also be taking part in the blog tour for Emily Murdoch's festive novella A Christmas Surprise (paid link; commission earned). Don't miss my review of the book, coming soon!

To start getting us all in the Christmas spirit, Emily has kindly agreed to answer a few questions.

"Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells..." Still too early?

Hi, Emily! Please introduce yourself!

Hey, I’m Emily! I’m a Brit and I live on the south coast of England. After studying for my BA in History and English, and my MA in Medieval Studies at the University of York, I now write for a living, and write creatively in my spare time.

How did you first become interested in writing?

As much as I don’t want to play up to the cliché, I really have wanted to be a writer since before I can remember! The power of the written word, the incredible images that you can weave just by putting twenty-six letters into different variations – it’s something that I’m fascinated by, and I love.

What draws you to writing historical fiction?

Being a historian means to learn how to live in a different time, with different people, different social morals and political constructs. I can’t think of a better way to become a writer! When I was studying the Norman Conquest at university I lost myself in the possibilities: what if a woman lost her whole family in that conflict? What if men came over from Normandy in the hope that they could return, but then couldn’t? What if the people who were stuck in that medley of cultures realised they couldn’t leave? That was when I realised there was a story there.

Do you prefer to write medieval or Regency fiction?

Medieval fiction is my comfort zone, and it’s where I started. My academic background hands me the complex world on a plate to play in, and so I find it easier to write medieval fiction. Regency, on the other hand, is a challenge! I have to do so much more research, and that keeps me sharp. I guess my answer is both!

A Christmas Surprise by Emily Murdoch book cover

Tell me about your books.

I have a medieval series and a Regency series. Conquests: Hearts Rule Kingdoms starts off the medieval series and follows Avis, a young Anglo-Saxon woman who is forced to marry a Norman man. The sequel, Captives: Kingdoms Rule Hearts, follows an Anglo-Saxon woman, Catheryn, in search of her daughter after the chaos of the Norman invasion. There’s also a bridge novella called Love Letters that ties to two together, and all three books are published together as Conquered Hearts.

My Regency series of novellas follow the seasons, and are A Christmas Surprise, A Valentine Secret, A June Wedding, and A Harvest Passion. I’ve always loved the Regency era, and I was able to push the boundaries a little bit! I had a lot of fun with these, introducing a secondary character in one that becomes the central character in the next. They are also published all together as Seasons of Love.

How do you get inspiration?

I think great stories are within the ‘what if’. What if that person died before they got to their wedding? What if a battle that should have easily been won was lost? What if a message got lost before a key financial decision? Sometimes those what ifs strike me through an overheard conversation on a train or in the lives of friends of a friend – and sometimes it’s just random.

What’s your writing process?

Before I start writing a new project, I try to plan out the main characters and plot in ten sections. Sometimes they end up being chapters, sometimes longer. I always work better in the morning so I’ll try and get a few hours in before I head out to work, and I just write – no editing as I go, no restructuring. I just have to get everything down on paper! After I’ve finished a draft, I leave it alone for a week or two to get some space. I then go back and do round and round of edits until I’m happy.

What’s the hardest thing about writing?

Pushing through unlikeable characters! I know you have to have them, I know that they propel a narrative forward, but I just find them so loathsome to write – which I guess is the idea of it. If the author doesn’t like them, then hopefully the reader won’t too!

What do you love most about writing?

Losing myself completely in a world of (at least partially) my own creation. And then, when it’s all completed, inviting people into that world.

Which authors inspire you?

All the classics: Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling. All the modern classics: Lemony Snickett, C. S. Lewis, J. K. Rowling. And some of those that you don’t hear about that often, more independent authors: Robert Winder, Peter Dickinson, Sandy Raven. They all write in completely different genres, but what they all have in common is that they completely unleash a new world onto their reader.

Emily Murdoch author photo

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Write. Write when it’s bad, write when you have no idea when you’re going, write when you just don’t want to. Write stuff you know that you’ll never actually use. Write what you know, and what you don’t, and what doesn’t even exist. Just like any muscle, your writing will only get better the more that you use it.

What’s your all-time favourite book?

I can’t choose! But I will choose two favourite authors, two that I always go back to whenever I want to comfort read: anything by Enid Blyton, and the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. The first book that I can ever remember owning, not just reading at school or borrowing from a library, was the first Famous Five book by Enid Blyton, and she opened up the world of reading for me.

Where’s your favourite place to write?

Somewhere close to a kettle – hot fruity drinks are what fuel me!

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Goodness, so many, but not in the typical ‘sell x thousand number of books’ sort of way. I’d love to be able to walk into a library and see my name on the shelf. I’d love to see someone reading a book of mine on a train. I’d love to have my books translated into multiple languages. I’d love to watch a TV series based on a book series of mine! How realistic those dreams are . . . well, I’m 25. I’ve got time!

If you weren’t a writer, what do you think you’d be doing?

Ugh, I don’t know! I write full time for a living, within a marketing department, and being able to live by my pen is absolutely fabulous. If I couldn’t write, I’d love to work within the heritage sector; I’ve previous volunteered with Jorvik in York, designed an exhibition for the Yorkshire Museum, and interned for the National Trust.

What are you currently working on?

A completely new project! Slightly new time zone, completely different country, new politics, different language, an even bigger challenge than the Regency era. I’m currently in a rut so I’m leaving it to settle for a week, but I’ll have to get back to it soon!

Do you prefer e-books or traditional books?

Both. Experimenting with new books, authors, and genres is much easier to do with e-books because they are cheaper and easy to carry around. Once I find a book I love, then I buy it in paperback so that I can keep it forever.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m re-reading The Final Act of Mr Shakespeare by Robert Winder (again), and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. No one frightens me as much as Mrs Danvers!

Emily always loves to hear from her readers - you can get in touch with her via Twitter or Instagram. To find out more about her books, visit her Amazon author page

Have you read any of Emily's books? Let me know in the comments below!