Thursday, February 22, 2018

Elizabeth Murray on her Inspirations and Influences

Inspiration is Everywhere: The Nine Lives Trilogy by E.R. Murray

Elizabeth Murray is the author of The Nine Lives Trilogy. The last book in the series The Book of Revenge was just published. She lives in County Cork, Ireland.

For me, inspiration is everywhere; in words, pictures, memories, sounds, film, sights, thoughts, theatre, emotions, art, the landscape. The question – where do you get your ideas from? – always baffles me. Rather than suffering from writer’s block, my challenge is to collect and contain the myriad ideas that bombard me daily, sifting through the chaff to find the decent sparks. Sometimes, a shot of inspiration might lead to a book, other times it might add colour or texture to a manuscript or a short story that’s already in progress.

Now, I trust in hard work but I don’t think sitting at your desk staring at a blank screen for hours on end is ever the answer. I truly believe that if you open your senses, become a participant as well as an observer, you’ll never be stuck for inspiration.

Talking about inspiring books or writers is impossible; I have far too many writers and stories that I’ve enjoyed over the years and am discovering new and wonderful voices all the time. So instead, here’s a list of some of the things that I find most inspiring outside of the book world…

Places to write

Libraries – I spent my whole childhood in libraries and they’re still my go-to place for some quiet research and a bit of nurturing.

Trains – there’s something about the motion, I think. But trains in Ireland are more sociable than elsewhere so I’ve taken to wearing headphones to ward off the chatterers!

Countries where I can’t speak the language – there’s nothing better than being surrounded by lots of people you can’t understand. There’s a wonderful buzz to it that really drives me on.

Outdoors – being outside helps me think up ideas, write descriptions of events or the landscape, and work out problems in the current WIP. For me, the outdoors can’t be beaten; I always have a notebook, pen, pencil and Dictaphone handy.

Swimming pool – when I wasn’t in a library as a child, I was in the pool and it’s still one of my favourite environments. I don’t take my notebook into the pool but I have it ready for afterwards and often think up new ideas while doing laps.

Graveyards – I adore graveyards. When I was growing up, they were the greenest and most peaceful spots around and I spent hours in them alone or hanging out with friends. I still go to graveyards for peace and focus – and they’re great places to discover names.


My father’s caravan – holiday visits to my father underpin my appreciation of the countryside and rural landscapes and my awareness of the beauty and healing of nature stems from these memories.

The ‘Black Path’ – lots of the journeys I wrote about start with me remembering trips I took along this disused railway track as a child. It comprised of a tarmac road, steep banks, blackberries, bird nests and discarded eggshells, foxgloves and fabulous stone-arched bridges. I walked this path to visit my aunty, to run away from home, to pick fruit, to make dens. It was more than a path, it was a whole world.

Adventures – when I write, I want to feel good. I don’t think writing should be difficult or painful, though many people find it such. So after I ‘finish’ any piece, if I don’t feel as exhilarated by it as the time I ran with bulls or swam with sharks or skydived, then I know it needs more work.

Turning down a gymnastics show – I really wanted to say yes to being in the show but I hadn’t expected to be asked and I accidentally said no because I copied everyone else. I was six years old and didn’t know how to tell the coach I’d made a mistake and wanted to reverse the decision. I was heartbroken and I learned to always follow my heart and my instinct and a lot of strength came from that lesson.


Malcolm X – Any Means Necessary – I was shown this speech in primary school and it made me think very deeply about human rights and how I felt about being from a country that colonised. I liked the way he made the greater issues so personal and understandable.
Neil Gaiman - Make Good Art – I absolutely love this and all it stands for.
Malala Yousafzia – Nobel Speech – as a child, I learned quickly that education was a way to break poverty, but Malala’s story brings it to another level. To hear her speak is always incredible. It doesn’t matter that I’m twice her age, she’s one of my heroes.


Picasso – I was inspired by his art from a young age. I loved how he followed his gut, how he fashioned a new style.

Frieda Kahlo – I love her strength, resilience, honesty, feminism and skill. Her life and her art are inextricable. And all that colour!

Van Gogh – he only ever sold one painting yet did what he loved passionately, voraciously. Now that’s dedication!

Harry Clarke – the intricate design and texture, the gorgeous colour and detail. It’s just stunning. I seek Harry Clarke’s glass all over Ireland and it never fails to impress. His Hans Christian Anderson illustrations were sublime.


My Auntie Rita – Always firm but fair, my auntie was the oldest sibling, the kindest and most thoughtful and always brutally honest. She died last year, but continues to inspire me. I think of her when I’m writing about honesty, integrity, and determination.

Maya Angelou – “And still I rise” – these words were written a year after I was born, but I learned them in college (aged 17) and they have never left me. What an incredible woman.

Helen Keller – we were taught about Helen in primary school and I was always intrigued by her story. I couldn’t help but be inspired by her tireless campaigning for people’s rights.

Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks – both of these women refused to follow local law and give up their seats based on their skin colour. I think of them when I’m writing about bravery, hope, and beating the odds.

My friends – I have so many strong, fun, interesting, determined, intelligent, quirky, kind and creative female friends and they inspire me every day in their own individual ways.


Rain – I live in a mobile home and the sound of rain beating on the roof is one of the most comforting and relaxing sounds – it always leads to good writing.

Storms – moody, wild, dramatic – all the ingredients for a good story. I love storms and their ferocity and if I have any dark scenes or stories to write, they get dragged out for an extra editing bash when a storm arrives.
Playlist for WIP – this is a new approach for me as I used to always write in silence but I’m trying to bring more music into my world to make writing less isolating. And so, I’ve created a playlist for my next WIP and play it when I write. It’s quite dark and depressing though, so I don’t use it every time!

Wherever I am, whatever I’m doing, I’m always soaking the world in. Downtime is important and so is creative input – we can’t just pour our heart and soul onto the page and create our best work. I believe ideas stem from stimulation, whatever that may look like in your world. I wonder, when you search your heart and soul, when you think about your happiest
moments writing and where you were when the best ideas hit, what is it that truly inspires you?

Thursday, January 18, 2018

In Love and War Blog Tour

My writing day by Liz Trenow

I wake with a cup of tea in bed and spend half an hour or so just thinking about the novel and my characters, working out what they are going to do next, or trying to solve whatever problems the plot is throwing at me.

Then I get up, have breakfast and sit down at the desk in my study, a small room at the front of the house where there are not too many distractions. I always do my best writing in the mornings when my imagination is freshest – usually starting around 8.30 and continuing till my stomach rumbles for lunch. I start by reviewing and editing the section I wrote yesterday to get me back into the ‘zone, and then try to write 1,000 – 1,500 words each day. After lunch my imagination seems to close down so then I do research, admin, replying to emails, blogging and, when I’ve got to that stage, proof reading.

When I start on a new book I usually know who the main characters are going to be and roughly what happens to them. But historical research often inspires secondary plotlines and new characters who pop up along the way and I love going with them to see where they lead – that’s the really exhilarating part of writing. Some novels seem almost to write themselves, others are more of a struggle. For In Love and War I created all kinds of difficulties for myself by having three characters each with their own story lines and, to make it worse, of differing nationalities and languages! There is a great sense of satisfaction when you can make it all hang together.

Because my novels are based on historical events, I do masses of research by reading, visiting libraries, museums and other places. For In Love and War I went to Flanders on a battlefield tour to find the inscription to my husband’s uncle on the Menin Gate. I love to include real people as characters. For example, the army chaplain Rev Philip (Tubby) Clayton looms large in the plot of In Love and War – I hope I have done justice to a remarkable man.

I usually trawl magazines, newspapers, the internet and old photo albums looking for people who physically look and/or dress like my characters, and pin these images up in my study, so that I can ‘see’ them as I write.

Finally, I arrive at the end of the first draft. With a bit of luck I’ll have time to put it away for a few weeks so that when I read it again I have some critical perspective. Then I print it out and sit in another room from it. Although my hands itch to pick up a pencil I try to read straight through without making detailed edits. It’s a terrifying moment, because there will inevitably be significant things wrong with it at this stage and some may be easier to fix than others.
Further hard work follows – usually with a deadline hanging over you – until you are finally ready to let someone else read it. That is when your agent and editor cast their beady eyes upon it and usually make really sensible recommendations you wish you had realised for yourself. After several more drafts, line-edits and proof reading, the job is done and your creation is – you hope – ready to meet the world.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Book Elves

Yesterday my article about the #bookelves17 featured on Wondering what the Book Elves are? Read on..

Book Elves is the brainchild of writer and children's books expert Sarah Webb. Set up initially to boost coverage of books during The Late Late Toy Show. Sarah came up with an idea a few years ago to use the power of social media combined with the knowledge of enthusiastic children's booksellers, publishers, writers and librarians. So using the hashtag #bookelves Sarah and her book elf recruits made recommendations for children's books throughout the Late Late Toy Show. With an increased interest in children's books but a lack of reviews in the mainstream media the idea really took off.

The hashtag and the idea were so popular and so successful that Sarah decided to make the #bookelves active throughout the year. You can find book recommendations for children of all ages using #bookelves17 on twitter and facebook and the campaign involves children's book experts from all over Ireland and many in the UK . You can use the hashtag to search for recommendations or to ask questions. It's a fantastic initiative giving people instant access to a children's books expert and tailor made recommendations. Books make a fantastic gift for children at any time of year. Reading can help children to cope with anxiety and stress and offer a refuge from the pressures of social media and school. You can also make a list of books you might like to borrow from your local library. Your local library staff will also be happy to help you; they can order books from all over Ireland and help you with recommendations.

#bookelves provides a handy place for parents, teachers, aunts, uncles and grandparents to find the perfect books for the children in their lives. I've been a children's bookseller for many years and I've been part of the Book Elves team from the start and yet I have found so many new and wonderful book ideas for my own children from my Book Elves colleagues. So if you want to seek out books for children then I would absolutely encourage you to get involved.

In the meantime here are a few recommendations for this Christmas to get you started. For the under fives I have to begin by recommending The President's Glasses by Peter Donnelly (Gill Books) It's the hilarious story of our own beloved President and a helpful pigeon. It's beautifully illustrated and will undoubtedly be a huge hit with kids and adults alike. Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers (Harper Collins) is a wonderful exploration of our planet by the best selling Irish author and illustrator. Another fantastic addition to the bookshelf of any young child is A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea by Sarah Webb & Illustrated by Steve McCarthy which is full of traditional rhymes, poems and songs and includes work from classic Irish authors such as W. B. Yeats and Oscar Wilde (O'Brien Press) Malala's Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai & illustrated by Kerasco√ęt (Puffin) is the story of the brave and determined young Malala and everything she has overcome. A truly inspirational story.

For independent readers; five to nine years old. I recommend The Clubhouse Mystery by Erika McGann (O'Brien Press) which is the first in a series of adventure stories perfect for budding spies and investigators. There's a Werewolf in my Tent by Pamela Butchart & illustrated by Thomas Flintham (Nosy Crow) is the hilarious tale of the imaginative Izzy and her school camping trip. For this age group Foclóiropedia by John & Fatti Burke (Gill Books) will have huge appeal. Following on the success of their hugely enjoyable Irelandopedia and Historopedia this is sure to be a hit with it's charming style and gorgeous illustrations.

For confident readers aged nine to twelve there are a wonderful array of choices including a fantastic debut A Place called Perfect by Kilkenny author Helena Duggan (Usborne) a fun fantasy tale reminiscent of Roald Dahl. Another hilarious tale for this age group is Who Let the Gods Out by Maz Evans (Chicken House) as young boy Elliot must team up with some Greek Gods to defeat the daemons. I also highly recommend Letters to the Lighthouse by Emma Carroll (Faber) a superb story of a London brother and sister evacuated to Devon, this is wonderful absorbing storytelling with an intriguing mystery. Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli & Francesca Cavallo (Particular Books) is a superb illustrated collection of 100 mini biographies of amazing women in science, the arts, sport and politics. Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend (Orion) is the first in a new fantasy adventure series that's tipped for the big screen and with the kind of magical storytelling that Harry Potter fans will adore.

For Teens and Young Adults I recommend Star by Star by Sheena Wilkinson (Little Island) a tale of a young suffragette arriving in Ireland as the Great War is coming to an end, the influenza epidemic has taken hold and the general election means many women will cast their vote for the first time. Tangleweed and Brine by Deirdre Sullivan (Little Island) is a collection of powerful feminist fairy tale retellings full of intrigue and enchantment. Thornhill by Pam Smy (David Fickling Books) is a fully illustrated dark ghost story with Gothic echoes of children's classics like The Secret Garden. Dave Rudden continues his Knights of the Borrowed Dark trilogy with The Forever Court (Puffin) with further thrills and spills for Denizen as he learns to control his new powers and new threats rise. This series is perfect for fans of Eoin Colfer, Shane Hegarty and Cornelia Funke. Finally A Skinful of Shadows (Pan Macmillan) is the latest release from the multi award winning Frances Hardinge which features a girl haunted by spirits sent to live with relatives against the backdrop of the English Civil War.
This is just a taste of the many wonderful books available to children and young adults in bookshops and libraries nationwide. For more recommendations don't be afraid to use the hashtag #bookelves17 and get involved.

Here is the original article at writing,ie

Lisa Redmond is a writer of fiction and non fiction, a bookseller and a head book elf. She writes a blog about books, writing and women in history. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Fate of Kings by Mark Stibbe & G.P.Taylor

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Fate Of Kings by Mark Stibbe & G.P. Taylor. This is the first in a new series centering around Thomas Pryce; an 18th Century reverend based on the Kent coast. it is 1793 and "La Terreur" has France in it's grip. The parents of Pryce's beloved French wife are in danger and determined to save them if he can, he travels to France where he meets his wife's uncle and comes under the suspicion of the agents of a secret society with dark intentions. Pryce soon finds himself caught up in a whirlwind of page turning adventure and derring-do. This is a fine start to a series that will no doubt be hugely popular. If you are a fan of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series, or of The Master & Commander series by Patrick O'Brian then you will enjoy this, it's occasionally tongue in cheek, there is action and adventure on every page and it's very, very enjoyable. Although I do think first and foremost the story works as a fun, grown up, boy's own adventure, it is also chock full of interesting women who very often save the hero and save the day. The book features numerous other characters without becoming confusing or feeling weighed down with information. I don't want to give away too much of the plot but the book also features the creation of the first British Secret Service and many of the incidents and characters are based on fact. Great fun for historical fiction fans and hopefully there are plenty more Thomas Pryce adventures to come.

Thanks very much to Rhoda Hardie for a copy of the book.

The Blog tour continues, details here:

The book is available from  Amazon UK   and  Amazon US  and also available in paperback. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Tide Between Us by Olive Collins

Olive Collins second novel is divided into two sections with two narrators, one hundred years apart. The first part, set in the nineteenth century is about Art, who leaves Ireland as an indentured servant bound for Jamaica. He is just a young boy and he soon makes friends among the other servants and among the many slaves on the plantation. The differences between the two groups is made immediately apparent in the way that Art is treated, as he becomes a trusted gardener and indoor servant and later an overseer. His relationship with a young slave woman Flora leads to children but Art is painfully aware that the children are not his to keep and heartache awaits him as his children grow up. I don't want to spoil the book so suffice to say that there is a mystery, left unanswered as section one ends and we hear Yseult's tale. It is 1991 and Yseult is growing old and tired. Her daughter Rachel wants to modernise their beautiful estate, Lugdale in Kerry but Yseult wants life to continue as before, but life at the estate is interrupted as a skeleton is discovered when a storm topples a tree, on the edge of the estate. What is the secret that has been hidden? Yseult must search her own past for answers. This is a fantastic page turning historical tale, beautifully written and revealing the sad legacy of a cruel and inhumane trade and it's close connections to the Irish who were often slave traders and owners as well as intermarrying with the African population in Jamaica. Olive Collins has an eye for detail and a real flair for storytelling. Thanks to Poolbeg and the author for a review copy.

If you like this try 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Witch at Wayside Cross

This is the second book in the Jesperson and Lane series, following the brilliant Somnambulist & The Psychic Thief of last year. The duo have just solved their first case when they are immediately plunged into their second. A man hammers at their door in the early hours and once inside he drops dead at at their feet; a look of terror on his face; the last word from his mouth was "Witch" shouted at Miss Lane. Could he really have died from fright? Was he cursed? Engaged to investigate the mysterious death by the dead man's brother, the pair must travel to rural Norfolk to investigate. There they find a mysterious school of Wisdom run by a charismatic man, rumours of witchcraft and strange tales of the shrieking pits. This is a fantastic follow up to the first volume. The characterisation is pitch perfect; while Miss Lane is always portrayed as a modern and forthright woman she is none the less a modern woman of her own era and not ours. Mr Jesperson is similarly forthright and at times their attitudes are met with resistance. The story is full of twists and turns and there is, as in the first volume just enough hints at the supernatural to keep a speculative fiction fan intrigued.
Thanks so much to Olivia at Jo Fletcher Books for sending me a copy.

Read my review of the first in the series HERE

If you like this try

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

News, Reviews and Recommendations from the Ancient World

It seems a long time since Madeline Miller won the Women's Prize for fiction (it was the Orange Prize then) in 2012 for The Song of Achilles but the wait for a second novel from this talented writer is almost over. It is a retelling of the story of Circe; the first Witch in Western literature and a fascinating character to me and I'm sure many others. Circe is released next April. Here is a short video of Madeline Miller introducing the book.

If you have yet to discover Miller's writing and want to know more about her first book here is an interview she did back in 2012 about writing The Song of Achilles.

and here is a link to the author's own website

If you are interested in Classical Literature then you need to follow Jean's Bookish Thoughts on YouTube. She recommends all sorts of books but as a Classics scholar she has a fascination with books that feature the ancient world and in a sea of samey booktubers all reviewing the exact same thrillers with irritating mid Atlantic accents her book choices and Scottish accent are a delight. Check out Jean's updates at the link HERE

If you are London based or London bound then you should definitely try to check out the newly reconstructed Temple of Mithras which is now open to the public all the details are in this article

The first ever translation of the Odyssey by a woman is now available and you can read an extensive interview with the author in the New York Times HERE

If you aren't already subscribed to Dan Snow's History Hit then you are missing a treat. Dan interviews historians and authors of historical fiction and the podcasts are a fascinating companion while walking or working. Here's a link to a recent interview with classicist Mary Beard about her newest book Women and Power.

I also listened to a fascinating interview earlier today with Catherine Nixey author of The Darkening Age but I cannot find the link for the life of me. However it was a History Hit podcast so it should be available there. Instead I will link you to an article in which Catherine passionately defends the study of Classics at University. I am sure her views will provoke some debate. HERE