Freelance editor M. D. Murphy is about to launch his first novel, ‘Dark River Melody’ – a dark thriller, a gritty love story, a political drama and epic adventure all rolled into one. Here the Lancaster writer, 54, talks about himself and his writing journey
Introduce yourself ...
I’m a novelist and editor. I help experienced and aspiring writers to develop their work. I work in the fields of academic and creative writing.
Where were you born and educated?
I was born in north London and played truant for most of my secondary education. Formal education came later in life, culminating with a PhD in English literature from Lancaster University.
What’s your working history?
I’ve done all manner of jobs, from building-site labourer to university lecturer.
Describe your book and what inspired it.
Dark River Melody is an historical novel; it is something of a dark thriller, a gritty love story, a political drama and an epic adventure. I couldn’t say that a single event inspired the novel, but I was certainly moved by the historical plight of those early radicals who dared to speak out against the church, monarchy and government.
When did you start writing and why?
At the age of about16, I began to write poems and songs.
What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
Without a doubt the first draft. That’s when the magic happens, when ideas are flowing and a voice speaks through me that I hardly recognize. It’s both spooky and electrifying.
...and your worst?
I suppose it’s the slog of multiple drafting, which is not entirely devoid of pleasure but it can suck the life out of you.
Where do you write?
All my best writing has taken place in attic rooms. But at least now, I face a window looking out on the sky. Birdsong and swaying trees are my pacifiers.
What time do you write?
Early bird – I hit my desk just after seven and don’t leave until I have 1000 words (good, bad, or indifferent).
Tea or coffee?
Definitely tea, as coffee now gives me the jitters. Redbush is my tipple. Who or what inspires your writing?
All things great and small – a wagging tail, an old lady’s smile, life in abundance.
Do you have a favourite author?
There’s too many to list, but Sebastian Barry is a current favourite.
What’s your favourite book and why?
I love too many books to favour one, but perhaps the most influential would be the Communist Manifesto, or something from the Buddhist or Hindu tradition: the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, or the Dhammapada. These books change the way you look at the world, and there’s no going back once you’ve seen the light.
What was your favourite book as a child?
Does the Beano count?
How do you unwind?
A host of golden peacemakers come to mind: red wine, meditation (and more meditation), singing and playing guitar, walking around the cemetery, the company of friends and family, all dogs of the world.
I have a feeling that another novel will appear.
lM. D. Murphy will be signing copies of Dark River Melody at a launch event at Waterstones in Lancaster on June 4 at 6.30pm.