by Susie Murphy
I am an Irish historical fiction writer. Why historical fiction? Because I often wish I’d been born two hundred years ago. There’s just something about the past that dazzles me – maybe it’s the magnificence of a long, elaborate gown, the sweet romance of a chivalrous courtship, the charm of a 19th century house, the slower pace of life…
But I suppose there was also the lack of hygiene. And women had very little in the way of rights. And corsets made it hard to breathe. And life expectancy wasn’t great. And that’s to say nothing of what it was like to be lower class…
Okay, maybe the 21st century isn’t so bad after all. We do have women’s suffrage, electric showers and pizza. But it’s still nice to escape every now and then, isn’t it?
When I’m not disappearing into the past, I teach piano to kids of all ages (and a couple of adults too). I get to teach all sorts of beautiful pieces by Debussy, Mendelssohn and Chopin, but invariably it’s Mary Had a Little Lamb that gets stuck in my head. I love going to musicals and can recite all the colours of Joseph’s amazing technicolour dreamcoat at top speed in one breath.
I started writing because it was an itch I had to scratch – and then it turned out that the more I scratched, the more it itched. My historical fiction series A Matter of Class was supposed to be just one book. Then three. Now six. I’m sure it’ll end eventually.
To be very honest, I started blogging simply because I was told I had to maintain an online presence to have a decent chance of selling a book – and then I discovered that it was lots of fun and that there were loads of lovely people out there to meet. I used to struggle to put together a single blog post per month or to muster the courage to comment on someone else’s blog. Now I have a long list of blog post ideas and…okay, I still have to muster the courage to comment but it’s easier than it used to be!
And now for my animal-related stories. I have to admit that I’ve never owned a pet in my life, although if I ever did get one I think I’d get a rabbit. I tend to have a great affinity for animals that have featured in books I’ve read and Watership Down by Richard Adams was my absolute favourite as a child. So much so that my very first ‘novel’ at age eleven, The Rabbits’ Journey, was an eleven-page-long unashamed plagiarism of Watership Down.
This affinity has also led to a fondness for foxes (Tom McCaughren’s Run With the Wind series) and, um, mice and rats (Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien – I often feel that the poor creatures are just misunderstood).
My real-life encounters with cats have been sporadic. When I tried to pick up a friend’s cat as a child, it scratched me and I had to get a tetanus injection. My mam once fed a stray cat for a week and then it vanished and never came back, but a picture of that cat still hangs in a frame on the kitchen wall, fifteen years later. Nowadays, my neighbours’ two cats tend to stalk around my garden like it’s their own place; I pretend that I let them but they know they can do whatever they want.