Belinda Murrell – Interview with CKT

Belinda Murrell

Q. What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Definitely seeing children love my work! Getting emails from children saying that was the best book I’ve ever read! Watching a boy walk down the street and bump into a lightpost because he was reading one of my books!

Q. Where is your favourite place to write?

I have a beautiful office at home which has just been renovated where I do most of my writing. It is full of books, with a fireplace and a sunny view over the garden. But while I was away travelling with my family for two years, I wrote in many beautiful and wild places – in the Kimberley in far north Western Australia, in the Scottish highlands, on the verandah of a friend’s cattle farm, on outback stations, in Margaret River…

Q. How do you like to relax?

I love to head to the beach with my family on weekends – to walk, swim and catch up with friends. During the week I start most days with a walk by the ocean with my beautiful dog Asha. In the school holidays we usually go away for surfing trips up the coast or we head to my brother’s farm to ride my horse. Lastly there is nothing like curling up with a fabulous new book…..

Q. How long does it take from the first idea to having your story ready to submit to publishers?

I am in a very lucky position now, where I have several books contracted ahead with my publisher Random House. At the moment I usually write one longer book each year and a few shorter projects such as my new Lulu Bell  books. My time slip/historical adventure books such as The Ivory Rose  and The Forgotten Pearl  usually take about nine months. I spend time day dreaming ideas over the summer holidays with my children. I write a synopsis and pitch the idea to Random House in February. It usually takes me a few months to research the historical period before I can start writing seriously. The manuscript is due to my publishers in September. The Lulu Bell  books take a much shorter time. As well as writing – I also do lots of school visits, speaking at teacher/librarian conferences and literary festivals.

Q. Tell us a little about your writing journey. What prompted you to sit down and write your first story?

I grew up in quite an unusual family in a huge house full of books and animals, in the heart of Sydney’s North Shore. My dad was a vet, always bringing home injured animals – everything from dogs, cats and horses to snakes, possums and a baby wallaby who slept in a sack hung on the kitchen door. My mum was a compulsive storyteller who encouraged us to read and write avidly from a very young age. Hence my sister Kate Forsyth and my brother Nick Humphrey are also authors. I started writing poems, plays and novels when I was about eight – heavily influenced by Enid Blyton! When I had my own children I was inspired to write the sort of books that I loved – exciting adventure stories which made you bite your nails and cry and laugh out loud.

Q. Do you road test your ideas before you start your story?

Once I think I have the bones for a good story, I talk it through with my family, especially with my daughter Emily and my husband Rob. My children love to know details of the book I am working on. They often give me suggestions or ideas or feedback. Telling the story out loud helps me to clarify my thoughts. I usually talk over the story idea with my agent Pippa Masson and my publisher Zoe Walton to make sure they think that the story is a good one. Zoe then takes the book synopsis to the sales acquisitions meeting, so she needs to be absolutely sure the book will work. So quite a lot of people have to love the concept, before I even start to write it.

Q. If you could invite one author, dead or alive to dinner who would it be?

I would love to have a formal dinner with Jane Austen – complete with silver, crystal and several exquisite courses. I love all of Jane Austen’s novels. I discovered them when I was a teenager and am now rediscovering them with my own teenage daughter. I particularly enjoyed the satirical humour of her novels, the witty dialogue and the insight into late eighteenth century English society – not to mention the romance! Elizabeth Bennett and Emma Woodhouse are two of my favourite heroines. I imagine that in many ways, they are based on Jane Austen herself.

Q. If you could be any character from any book for a day who would you be and why?

Lucie Pevensie from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.  This was one of my favourite books as a child. I loved its enticing mixture of adventure, action and fantasy. As kids, 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.

Q. What’s next from Belinda Murrell?

This year is a huge year for me as I have five new books being released. There are four books in my new Lulu Bell  series – written for younger kids (6 to 9) years old. It is about a girl called Lulu growing up in a vet hospital so there are many adventures involving family, friends and lots of lovely animals. Some of the stories were inspired by my own childhood growing up in a vet hospital and living with so many gorgeous pets. The first two books Lulu Bell and the Birthday Unicorn  and Lulu Bell and the Fairy Penguin  are being released in June. Lulu Bell and the Cubby Fort  and Lulu Bell and the Moon Dragon  will be released in August. I am now writing another two books in the series to come out in January 2014.

My new time slip book The River Charm,  will also be released in June. This is a very special project for me because it is based on the true life adventures of my own ancestors, the Atkinsons of Oldbury. In 1839, Charlotte Atkinson lives at Oldbury, a gracious estate in the Australian bush, with her Mamma and her sisters and brother. But after the death of Charlotte’s father, things start to go terribly wrong. There are murderous convicts and marauding bushrangers. Worst of all, Charlotte’s new stepfather is cruel and unpredictable. Her family must flee on horseback to a remote stockman’s hut in the bush, taking not much more than their pet koala and Mamma’s writing desk. They must fight to save their property, their independence and even their right to stay together.

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