Can you tell me a little about yourself and why you started writing?
Sure! I am not an author who wrote stories constantly as a kid like many other writers did—although I did write song lyrics a lot. I actually began writing stories on a regular basis as a third grade teacher. In helping kids to look at writing critically, I’d write stories that had structural issues, etc. and ask my students to grade me--that they could fail me if they liked, but they better explain their reasoning. They dug deep to flunk me; it worked like a charm! And, oddly, it was a lot of fun for me.
However, the very first glimmer of loving to write was years before this when I took a kid Lit class at UConn as an undergrad in which we had to rewrite a famous fairy tale. I wrote about Jack’s (of Beanstalk fame) great, great granddaughter and I had a blast doing it (even though I used a typewriter and white-out!)
Anyway, after leaving teaching to be home with my two children for a while, I told my husband that Sesame Street was feeling intellectually stimulating and that I was going to join a writer’s group at our Barnes and Noble. The rest, as they say, is history.
Can you tell me a little about your debut MG novel One for the Murphys?
Sure! It’s about 12-year-old Carley Connors who, after a heart-breaking betrayal, is thrust into foster care and left on the steps of the Murphys, a happy, bustling family.
Carley has thick walls and isn’t rattled easily, but this is a world she just doesn’t understand. A world that frightens her. So, she resists this side of life she’d believed did not exist with dinners around a table and a “zip your jacket, here’s your lunch” kind of mom.
However, with the help of her Broadway-obsessed and unpredictable friend, Toni, the Murphys do the impossible in showing Carley what it feels like to belong somewhere. But, when her mother wants her back, will she lose the only family that she has ever known?
Where did you get the idea for One for the Murphys?
Well, there were a few things that came together, I think. The first was a conversation that I had with my nine-year-old son about Luke Skywalker and how he wanted to have Darth Vader be his father in one way, but really didn’t want it in another. I began to think about what that would be like. To long for something and wish it away at the same time.
Also, I’d seen the Broadway show, WICKED, at about that time and was so struck by several elements in the story. The writing and music are incredible! I thought a lot about the idea of “defying Gravity.” I played the Wicked soundtrack while writing a good chunk of the book which is surprising, as I usually cannot write while listening to music with lyrics. However, it seemed to propel the story forward.
It is also important to note, I guess, that I lived with another family for a few months when I was young. Staying with them gave me a close look at a kind of life I was not familiar with—but the kind of life I wanted when I got older. That stay changed my view on what my life could be like. What I could be like.
So, one day, while rinsing a plate at the kitchen sink, the first line came into my head. I “tore myself away” from the dishes to write the first chapter of what would become Murphys. Once that was done, I just had to finish it—like having a sliver in my hand. Painful, at times, but I just had to get it out. The book was finished in ten months.
Your main character Carley is scared of one thing-Love. What is one thing you are afraid of?
Well, to be honest, there was a time when I was afraid of love. Not afraid of love, exactly, but afraid that I would find out that I was not really loved at all. Or that someone would change their mind about loving me. (Like how people are not afraid of heights—just afraid of falling. :-)
How does it feel to be releasing your first MG novel?
You know, I should be settled into this idea by now, but I still feel like it’s a bit surreal. When I go into a bookstore to set up an event, I still can’t believe it in a way.
It’s so exciting and the journey since signing with Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin has been so much fun! I live near NY City, so I’ve been to Penguin a few times. It’s pretty amazing to step off of the elevator and see Penguin book characters on the walls and their amazing pubbed books in glass cases. Books I’ve known and loved as a kid, teen, teacher, mom, and writer. To be a part of that world? It blows my mind! Seriously!
I am also so grateful that Nancy Paulsen Books has given me this opportunity to get out to schools and speak with kids about MURPHYS and writing and resilience and heroes. Can’t wait!
Now, I’m thrilled to be working with Nancy on my second novel, Alphabet Soup, due out in spring, 2014.
Why should we read One for the Murphys?
Because, hopefully, Carley, Toni, and the Murphys are memorable characters that readers will be glad they met while reminding them of the most important things in their own lives to cherish and prioritize. Writing MURPHYS did that for me.
Is there any books you are looking forward to being released later in 2012?
Oh my gosh! It’s really hard to pick just a few, so I’ll focus on middle grade:
KATERINA'S WISH by Jeannie Mobley
FLYING THE DRAGON by Natalie Dias Lorenzi
GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES by Mike Jung
THE MAPMAKER AND THE GHOST by Sarvanaz Tash
CHAINED by Lynne Kelly
SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE by Joanne Levy
Buy One for the Murphys:
Facebook: Lynda Mullaly Hunt