Monday, 1 August 2011

Interview - Belinda Murrell

Belinda Murrell is a bestselling, internationally published children’s author currently writing her eleventh book. Her latest book, The Ivory Rose, is a Gothic ghost mystery set in nineteenth century Sydney.

What authors/books did you read as a child? When did you first discover your love of books?

One of my very earliest memories is of snuggling up, reading picture books with my mother. I don’t remember a life before loving books! As a child I loved books by Enid Blyton, C.S Lewis, L.M Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott and Tolkein…. The book that most fired my imagination was The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. I loved its enticing mixture of adventure, action and fantasy. My sister and I would dress up in silver chain mail, with swords and bows and arrows, and play Narnia. I was enraptured by the idea that it might be possible to pass through a secret door into a magical world, full of talking animals and adventure.

When did you first realise you were a writer? What do you hope your readers will take away with them from reading your books?

Writing was one of my other favourite activities as a child. From about the age of eight, I wrote poems, plays and hand-illustrated adventure stories, heavily influenced by Enid Blyton. When I was younger I wrote purely for my own pleasure, but as I have had my own three children, my writing has been influenced by what they love to read.

Firstly, I hope my readers really love reading my books. I hope they feel a sense of joy and fun, adventure and excitement, and ultimately share a belief that an individual can change their life for the better.

Do you find it difficult to read purely for pleasure? Does everything you read come under your ‘writer’ microscope?

Yes, it can be difficult to read for pleasure, partly because there is so much reading to do during the research for my books, or to keep up with what other children’s authors are writing. Life is so busy with three children, working, writing, running a house and family, that it is hard to find time to do anything just for pleasure! However during holidays, I just love escaping into a really good book. For some reason on holidays I find it much easier to suspend my ‘writer eye’ and stop trying to analyse what the author is trying to do.

Do you have to avoid reading certain types of fiction while writing your own? Does what you read while writing have an effect on what you write? In what way?

When I am writing I tend to choose books that I feel will help me with my own book, whether that is historical research or just trying to analyse what I love about someone else’s writing. For example when I was writing The Ruby Talisman, which is set during the French Revolution, I read biographies of Queen Marie-Antoinette, memoirs written by her ladies-in-waiting, eighteenth century etiquette manuals and French history books, as well as a variety of fiction set during the late eighteenth century. I am searching not so much for historical facts but for details about everyday life during that time and how people felt and behaved.

I also try to keep up with what my own children are reading so we can talk about what they love and why. So I am influenced not just by what books I personally enjoy, but also by what my children love to read.

If you were travelling and were told you could only take one book with you, what book would it be and why?

It would be an empty notebook so I could fill it up with ideas, descriptions, experiences, images, impressions and hopefully, a concept for a new book of my own.

What makes a book ‘too good to put down’?

Characters that are so vivid, they seem to come alive so you really care what happens to them. An interesting plot filled with surprising twists and turns. An evocative setting which makes you feel like you are really there. Finally language that is beautiful and and clear and sparkling.

What makes you put down a book without finishing it?

Characters that I couldn’t care less about. Boring, pompous writing. Writers who seem to love the sound of their own voice. And depressing books – books that make me feel that there is no hope for the world!!

Do you have a favourite author? Who is it and what is it about their writing that draws you to them?

That is such a hard question! I love so many authors!!! If I had to name just one, I would have to say my sister Kate Forsyth. She has inspired me in so many ways. Her writing is beautiful, intelligent and so vivid that I feel like I am actually there with her characters.

What was your 2010 ‘best read’? What was it that made it number one?

Again – such a difficult question. I adored Kate Morton’s book – The Forgotten Garden. It was a fascinating tangle of family secrets, the mysteries of the past and its impact on the present, with interesting historical detail and evocative settings. It is exactly the sort of book I love to read.

What do you think of the non-traditional publishing methods – eBooks etc? Do you think the new technology will encourage more people to read? Do you think there’s a future for print books?

I believe there will always be a future for print books, at least this century! For those brought up on books, there is something so special about owning and reading a book printed on paper, curling up somewhere cozy and turning the pages. I love seeing children in bookshops or libraries – they cuddle books to their chests.

I think eBooks are wonderful and I can see how this generation of children use the internet so efficiently and easily. There is no doubt that eBooks will become more and more popular and accessible – especially non-fiction books. The internet has made being a writer so much easier – in moments you can be reading the firsthand memoir of one of Queen Marie-Antoinette’s ladies-in-waiting or looking up the nineteenth century remedy for arsenic poisoning in Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management.

Some of my latest books are available as eBooks, but somehow I can’t get quite as excited about seeing them, as I do when the postman delivers the first copy of one of my books straight from the printer and I get to hold it in my hands.

Belinda has also worked as a travel journalist, technical writer and public relations consultant. Her books include four picture books, her fantasy adventure series - The Sun Sword Trilogy, and her three time-slip adventures The Locket of Dreams, The Ruby Talisman and The Ivory Rose.

Find out more about Belinda at www.belindamurrell.com.au

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