Aussie interview with speculative fiction and romance author, Nicole Murphy. She joins us during Aussie August month on the Australian Bookshelf to answer my questions about her Dream of Asarlai series. Check out the Giveaway at the end to win one of two copies of Rogue Gadda (Dream of Asarlai #3).
Hi Nicole, I am so pleased to have you on The Australian Bookshelf. Please tell us a bit about yourself:
Hi Jayne. Hello, Bookshelfers 🙂 I live near Canberra with my husband and my computer (I feel weird just saying husband – everyone else has children or cats or something). I’ve been writing fiction since I was a little girl and started focussing on publication in 2000. Since then I’ve had brief careers as a bookstore owner, journalist and checkout chick. I’ve had more than twenty short stories published and of course the Dream of Asarlai trilogy, the third book of which Rogue Gadda has just come out.
I would love to own a bookstore, I would want to work 24/7! What inspired you to write the Dream of Asarlai series? How did you come up with the very unique idea of the ‘Gadda?’
It all started with a dream – a girl, working in a university, having a hot affair with a spunky guy and hiding from him the fact she could do magic (I get a lot of ideas from dreams actually). I started building the world and I needed a reason for why I had a secret magical race – in my own reading, I require a definite trigger to fully suspend by disbelief and it was vital to have that in my writing as well. So I came up with the idea of a race that looked human but came from different ancestors and so had access to the energy of the world around them. I wanted them to be Australian-based but it was hard to fit that in against Indigenous mythology so I took a step back. Humans arose in Africa, right? What place is the opposite of Africa? The answer was immediate – Ireland. And then I realised what a great idea it was – Ireland is a land renowned for a connection with magic and the other, so it’s the perfect place for a secret magical race to be living. And so off it went.
I love the unique storyline and how you created such an interesting and magical race. When I read the second book in the series I was surprised that the story continues off where the first ended, only there were new protagonists introduced (which I must say I grew to love). This seems an unusual way to write a series, what were your thoughts about this?
That happened because at first, the series was strictly romance. You see it a lot with writers like Johanna Lindsey – she wrote one of my favourite romances, Warrior’s Woman. Then she wrote two more books in the series – featuring the children of the original. Same world, shared characters, different stories. So that’s what Dream of Asarlai was originally. But then in 2007 it went through a novel critique group here in Canberra and the suggestion was made to give it an overarching storyline. I really liked that idea, and so Asarlai and her vision of a new future for the gadda was born. I then overlaid and interweaved it and turned the three separate books into a continuous story, told from three different couples POV. It was a challenge, particularly by the end I was cursing that I did it, but then I’m doing it again in the new trilogy so I guess it’s like childbirth – you forget the pain when you’ve got the baby to love 🙂
That sounds like a huge task, but it definitely worked in the end. I think the most exciting part of a romance story is when the characters are falling in love and so what’s fun about the trilogy is that we get to experience it threefold! Why did you choose to base most of the story in Ireland rather than Australia?
As I said before, I really did want the gadda to be Australian. But when I started trying to interweave it within Australian history and Indigenous culture, it got too hard. I worked for three years in an Aboriginal community in Western Australia, so I have a great deal of respect for the awe in which our Indigenous peoples hold their culture. I wasn’t going to stamp on it, or appropriate it – I didn’t feel I had the right too. However, I was able to wind the gadda into Ireland without stamping on or appropriating their culture, so that’s the way it went. I do hope one day to write a fully-Australian set urban fantasy or paranormal romance – it is a dream.
That makes a lot of sense. Is there a character you relate to the most or just really enjoyed writing?
The most fun characters to write were Ione and Jack Gorton. I didn’t think I could write humour – until the two of them jumped off the page. When it comes to future books, and I want to bring an old character in, Jack in particular is a favourite to call on. Unfortunately, I give poor Jack a hard time in Rogue Gadda (but don’t worry – he pulls through).
The character I most relate to I think is Hampton. He’s trying so hard to do the right thing, to achieve everything that people expect of him, and so sure that he can’t do it. Both Hampton and I have learnt we’re more than we thought we were.
The Dream of Asarlai series has a big romance element to the story. What do you think makes a great love story?
Friendship. Respect. A similar view of the world and similar ideals of what makes for a happy life. It’s something I’ve tried to give all my characters and something I’m lucky to have found with my husband.
It certainly shows in your writing. Tell us what it was like to get a publishing contract in Australia. What were some of the challenges?
This is where I admit that when I had the right story, it was reasonably easy. I went from submitting to signing a contract in less than a year. My story is the story of taking chances – I didn’t get an agent and just sent queries to publishers myself – and also must be told with caution because it can make it seem getting published is really easy, when it’s not.
Unfortunately, one of the elements of getting published is luck. Getting your book in front of an editor who loves it, who hasn’t already signed a book just like it, who has room in their schedule for it and who can convince the rest of the company to take a punt on it involves a whole lot of things going in your favour that you have no control over.
In the end, the most important thing is to write the best book you can. Publishers are looking for good books so I really do believe it can happen.
Wow, you were very lucky to get a publishing deal without an agent! What is it like to be a successful female in the male dominated scifi genre?
This is an interesting question – of course I know that all the stats and figures point to a male-dominated industry, but it’s not something I’ve experienced. Here in Australia of course, we’ve got a lot of women in the industry – most of the editors and publishers are female, at the moment I think the majority of writers are as well. And when it comes to my fellow writers, we don’t see each other as male or female and are supportive of each other no matter what. So I’ve not myself experienced a sensation of believing I can’t achieve because I am a woman.
That said, I am aware of the fact that because I identify as a romance author (as well as science fiction and fantasy) that means there are readers more than anyone else that will look down upon me. It’s funny – science fiction and fantasy have often been denigrated (I was at a stall in a market in Canberra once, selling our books, and a woman came and asked when we’d write REAL books) and so you’d expect them to be supportive of things like paranormal romance but there are a large number who aren’t. Almost as if they’re pleased to have the opportunity to be the kicker instead of the kickee for a change.
Yes, I write romance. I’m proud of that. I think romance is a very important art form in terms of presenting positive female role models for women. I also think science fiction and fantasy hold important roles, particularly in the way they have us consider society and how it really works.
What are some things that you must have in order to write?
Computer, keyboard, comfy chair. Pen and paper will do in a pinch. I like to sit down knowing what I’m going to be working on – having no direction scares me a little. I am a wuss, and things like cold, pain and hunger will easily distract me, so a good environment. I can’t write to music, but I can write in coffee shops and with friends around the table. I need time – I don’t do well with short bursts. I need to know I’ve got three hours or so ahead of me so I can relax into it.
I need to have some direction to focus as well otherwise I am easily distracted also. Besides writing, what do you like to do? What are your hobbies and interests?
Reading. Watching television and movies. Listening to music, particularly from the 80s, although anything rock inspired tends to work. This year, my big hobby has been making my own handbags. Trialling different materials and methods to see what works. My aim was to make one a month for the entire year. I fell behind in April and May, so I’m desperately trying to catch up.
I’m also quite involved in science fiction convention organising. I’m on the committee for this year’s Conflux convention www.conflux.org.au and I along with a friend am chairing the convention in 2013, which will also be the Australian National Science Fiction convention for the year. Conventions are where I get to hang with my other family – science fiction folks – and gain inspiration and energy for my further efforts in writing.
And I teach writing, and blog a lot, and I love Twitter.
What’s next for you?
Oh, that’s a big question. So the main thing is the new gadda trilogy – People of the Star – which is currently being considered by the publisher (cross fingers for me, folks!) I’ve also written a new gadda novella, which will hopefully be available later this year. I’m also trying my hand at writing contemporary romances, to diversify my career. And then there’s short stories too – I’ve got two coming out in anthologies in October and hope to sell more.
A new gadda trilogy sounds like fun! Now, for some quick questions:
Dog-eared books or bookmarks?
Dog-eared. And I’m very bad at leaving books lying around face down, cracking the spine.
Outlines or just wing it?
Used to be a complete winger – now I do a mix of both. I think I may end up an outliner.
Coffee – wouldn’t survive without my morning cuppa joe.
Right now – summer. But ask me again in six months…
Nicole, thank you so much for stopping by The Australian Bookshelf.
For another chance to win a copy of Rogue Gadda, enter the Mega Aussie Author GIVEAWAY. To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment at the end of the post for Nicole with your email address (so I can contact you if you win) and follow The Australian Bookshelf. You can find me @ Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads or subscribe to my blog by email!
Entries close August 31st and the winner will be drawn via random.org THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED