Today I have an interview with my second March 2013 Anticipated YA Debut Author! Today’s featured author is Emily Murdoch—and her first novel, If You Find Me, comes out on March 26 from St. Martin’s Griffin! Read on to see how Emily answered my Q&A…
…And be sure to scroll down to find out who won the giveaway!
Nova: I’ll start with the dreaded question you may be hearing already from strangers on elevators, long-lost family members, and your doctor while you’re sitting on the examination table in the paper gown during your next checkup: “So what’s your book about?” Surely you don’t carry around a copy so you can recite the description off the flaps, so how do you answer this question when asked?
Emily: First, thank you so much, Nova, for spotlighting my novel. As a fan of your work (and gorgeous writing!) just to be here having this conversation is a down-the-rabbit-hole moment. That said:
If You Find Me is the story of a teen abducted by her mother, hidden in the woods, and returned to society ten years later.
The consensus (so far) is that tissues are required.
NRS: In my experience, novels transform themselves, sometimes unrecognizably, during the course of being written. Were there any shocking transformations that occurred between rough draft and final bound book?
EM: Mostly, this novel came out whole, as if it were meant to be.
However, there is a revelation at the end of the novel that didn’t exist as first written. I’d sent my agent, Mandy Hubbard, a cryptic message stating, “There’s a part I want to ask you about, where I might need to ‘go there,’ but didn’t. I’ll wait to hear what your thoughts are after you read.”
Being the intuitive author she (also) is, Mandy wrote back, “I know what you’re talking about, and I think you have to go there.”
When we talked on the phone later that week, she knew exactly what I was talking about. Not what happened to Carey. What Carey did.
Now, I can’t imagine the story unfolding any other way.
NRS: So you’re here with me gossiping about your main characters behind their backs. What’s something they wouldn’t want anyone to know that might make them blush?
EM: Oooooo, good question!
Carey wouldn’t want anyone to know how much the hugs from Melissa mean to her, or how her heart plumped up after being carried up the stairs in her father’s arms.
She’s practically a grown-up, after all. She’s supposed to be in charge—not just of Jenessa, but of herself. Feelings are super-private for Carey, and the touching moments are moments she replays over and over in her mind.
NRS: Tell us about the place—as in the physical location: a messy office, a comfy couch, a certain corner table at the café—where you spent most of your time writing this book. Now imagine the writing spot of your fantasies where you wish you’d been able to write this book… tell us all about it.
EM: In order to take a picture of where I write, I’d have to clean up dinner dishes first, which I don’t plan to do until after this Q&A flies off on its merry way. That said:
I work at the kitchen counter, which is the heart, the hub, of our home. From the kitchen, I can keep an eye on the dog kennel out the front window (especially when rattlesnakes swarm in April) and watch the horses out the side window, usually with a terrier on my lap and another at my feet. (Heaven!)
The TV is situated behind me for music or news. The counter is bar-style, so I can spread things out, like first pass pages or notes. I have a candle burning whenever I can. I like to invite the light in.
It’s easy for me to tune out my surroundings, so it’s nice to have my husband watching television behind me in the evenings, writing being such a solitary endeavor when a writer is actually writing.
However…my dream spot is a writing room (when Hubs isn’t home) filled with bookcases crammed with books. A crackling fireplace in the corner. An overstuffed chair for reading, and a comfy chair for writing at my antique, roll-top desk replete with secret compartments. (I’ve dreamt of such a desk my entire life.)
The desk faces a large picture window overlooking acre after acre of pristine land, and every lucky once in a while, I get to look up in wonder at a herd of wild mustangs galloping or meandering by.
NRS: To go along with the theme of this blog (and my life), what is the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
EM: None! I was lucky that way, as this was my NaNoWriMo ’10 novel, and my third year of successful NaNoing. I’m fiercely competitive with myself. No way was I going to lose!
I finished the first draft of If You Find Me in 24 days. And did the kitchen dance around my husband who was getting the turkey ready for its pre-Thanksgiving brining. Then, I realized—this means I have Thanksgiving off!— and I danced some more.
NRS: Imagine you’re on the subway, or bus, or sitting in a park somewhere minding your own business… and you look up and see the most perfect person you could imagine devouring your book. This is your ideal reader. Set the scene and describe this person to us.
EM: So fun! Okay:
Music drifts from a staticky station, something grounding and homey, life-soundtrack-worthy, like Chicago: Saturday, in the park, I think it was the Fourth of July. People dancing, people laughing, a man selling ice cream…
What was that terrible clatter? Everyone stops what they’re doing and looks up. Anvils and pianos and toilet seats rain from the sky, but our Dear Reader doesn’t notice. She’s too engrossed in Carey’s tender tragedies as the tears waterfall down her cheeks.
A toilet seat hula-hoops around her neck and settles there, a porcelain necklace. Dear Reader doesn’t notice. A barmaid with eyes as large as drink coasters streaks past in a Renaissance Fair gown with one sleeve half-torn, juggling an armful of shrieking triplets. Dear Reader remains oblivious.
Finally, with a satisfied burst of laughter-through-tears, Dear Reader devours the novel’s last line, looks up, and gasps. The world is gone, Neverending Story-style! Pitch black nothingness! All that’s left is our Dear Reader, her trusty park bench with a drizzle of pigeon poop on the far arm, and a copy of If You Find Me in her hand.
Thank Atreyu my iPhone has a flashlight app, she thinks. Dear Reader turns on the light, flips to page one, and begins again.
NRS: If you could go back in time to whisper a few words of advice into your own ear before you leaped into this writing career, what would you tell your young, impressionable self?
EM: This: just because you possess a scrap of natural ability and the glimmer of a chance, it doesn’t mean you won’t have to work your fanny off to lasso that star.
Things will happen when they happen, when they’re supposed to happen, and you have to trust that. (Writers have to trust that.)
Your job, in the meantime, is to write. No more. No less!
NRS: Dream question: If you could go on book tour anywhere in the world, with any two authors (living or dead), and serve any item of food at your book signing… where would you go, who with, and what delicious treat would you serve your fans?
EM: Let’s have fun with this, too!
Sounds simple, but I’d go to New York City for a reading in Central Park. I’d invite a gaggle of present-day authors to read from their current work, in a sort of book-Woodstock.
My two guests of honor would arrive by carriage, freshly-risen from the dead that morning, with a character in tow—their +1s. We’d have Lucy Maud Montgomery and Anne (with an e) Shirley, and Louisa May Alcott and Jo March. Imagine our surprise to learn that Jo and Anne have been bosom buddies for years! Kindred spirits! So close are these two that back on their storybook planet, they’re known as “JoAnne.”
Every publisher would contribute their author’s favorite food. Thank you, lovely publishers! Being NYC, mine would be pizza. Grease-running-down-your-forearm-to-drip-off-your-elbow, cheese-bubbling, New York City pizza.
Everyone’s dogs and children would be welcome! There’d be Frisbees fashioned from bacon for the dogs to catch, and unbirthday cake for everyone to eat at the Mad Hatter’s tea party, where the children would gather under adult supervision. As the stars filled the sky and the stage, nervous authors would clear their throats and wait for their names to be called.
Our little group clusters on a chenille blanket on the lawn. Anne Shirley turns redder than her ginger hair as she begs Lucy Maud not to read aloud the part where Anne gets Diana drunk, and Jo March, looking suspiciously like Winona Ryder, talks about Concord this, rag money that, Marmee this and Laurie that.
In the middle of Nova Ren Suma’s reading, a ruckus ensues! We watch wide-eyed as two burly men break up the fight, Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath still swinging as park security struggles to keep them apart.
The two women are wearing the exact same dress. Uh-oh.
“You can have your stupid dress. My poems are better than yours and you know it! I won awards and stuff,” Sylvia shouts.
“Like I didn’t? And that’s Anne with an e to you.”
“You stole that from Anne Shirley,” Sylvia says, hands on hips.
“So? Who are you, the alphabet police?”
Lucy Maud leans over and whispers in my ear. “You think this is bad? You should see them back at home.”
Nova waits by the microphone smiling sweetly as Security escorts the two women from the park, their Betty Page dresses limp, their little white gloves covered in grass stains.
Afterward, we all breathe a sigh of relief. And take another bite of pizza. And clap as Nova resumes reading from her newest novel, 17 & Gone…
Anne Shirley twists toward me, her eyes twinkling as she leans very unladylike over Jo March. “Are you ready, Emily? You’re up next…”
NRS: How do you plan to celebrate your book’s birthday on March 26?
EM: I haven’t decided yet, as of this writing. I’m not the belle of the ball type. But, one thing I do know? No NYC pizza.
But who cares! My book’s coming out!
If You Find Me is on sale March 26 from St. Martin’s Griffin. Read on for a chance to win a copy of the book!
Emily Murdoch lives in the Arizona desert with her husband and adopted dogs, spending her days operating a sanctuary for slaughter-rescued horses and burros. At night, she writes furiously by candlelight, capturing the ideas inspired by the day.
Visit her at emilymurdoch.wordpress.com to find out more.
NOW TO ANNOUNCE THE GIVEAWAY WINNER…
One lucky winner was chosen to win a signed hardcover of If You Find Me!
And the winner is…
Congrats, Kaye! I’ll be in touch for your mailing address. Thank you to everyone who entered!