Sally Murphy – Interview with CKT

Sally Murphy

Q. What are five words that best describe you?

Busy, creative, happy, lucky, ditzy.

Q. What prompted you to sit down and write your first story?

My love for making up stories. I wrote my first story when I was very young – in fact, before I could form letters. I just loved books and reading and wanted to make up my own. As an adult, the impulse was the same – I wanted to create stories that brought people pleasure just as other writers had done for me all my life.

Q. What tips would you give to an aspiring writer?

Read a lot and write a lot. Both are equally important. You need to read the kinds of books you are trying to write –that is, if you want to write picture book, read picture books, if you want to write mysteries, read mysteries and so on. By reading good, recently released books, you learn my osmosis.

Also, write not just to get published, but just for the sheer pleasure of it. The more you write, the better you get.

Lastly, be persistent. Work and at your story until it is perfect – you will need to revise and revise and revise. And when you submit work to publishers, you will probably be rejected lots of times. Learn from the rejections and keep submitting. Persistence does pay off.

Q. Are you a plotter or a panster?

(Plotter =Plotting out your manuscript before you write it. / Panster = Putting pen to paper and plotting as you go along)

Mostly, I’m a pantser. I start off with a character and a situation and just write. But I do spend a lot of time thinking in between writing sessions, so when I start writing for the day, I usually know where I’m headed. And when I write historical fiction, such as my latest book 1915  I have to plan more, to ensure that the story is historically accurate. And even when I’m pantsing, once the first draft is down, the revision process is key to making sure everything works.

Q. What is a typical writing day for you?

I wish I had a typical writing day! Every day is very different when you try to juggle family, writing, promoting, studying, reviewing… But, on a day when I have no external commitments, I usually try to get essential housework done before my kids go to school, then exercise and shower and be at my desk by 9.30. From there until 4 I try to focus on writing, and during breaks (I try not to sit at my desk for too long) I read, or take the dog for a quick walk or hang out a load of washing. I take breaks when I find my mind wandering or when I’m stuck, and find that when I get back to my desk I am more focussed. But to be honest many work days involve not enough actual writing time because there are emails to answer, books to read, promotion to do and so on. I try hard to make writing the priority when I’m in the midst of a project, but at times it can be a big juggling act.

Q. Tell us a little about your publishing experience?

I have been published by several different publishers – including Walker Books, Random House, Scholastic, New Frontier and Five Mile Press as well as quite a few educational publishers. I find each publisher has a slightly different process, but some things are constant – including attention to detail, great editors and wonderful design teams. It is easy sometimes to forget that the author is just one part of a big team, and everyone working on a book wants it to do well. So when an editor asks me to make changes, they are doing it because they believe it will make the book better. I have been lucky to work with amazing editors. I’m also lucky to have found a great agent, Tara. I didn’t always have an agent, and so most of my publications were the result of unsolicited submissions to the slush pile. I would suggest to people starting out that they don’t stress about needing an agent – it can be just as hard to get an agent as it is to find a publisher. Back to me, I still pinch myself every day that I am a published author.

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

One? Gosh, that’s tricky. If I was sure they would be able to come, I would still have to choose two: Claire Saxby and Sue Whiting. Even though I have shared many dinners with them previously, they are still my two favourite authors to spend time with. I met these ladies at the very first conference I went to, a CBCA Conference in Perth. We were all just starting out and quickly became friends. We have shared our publishing journeys for nearly fifteen years, and it has been amazing.

Q. What’s next from Sally Murphy?

I have a new picture book, Fly-In Fly-Out Dad  coming out on July 1, published by Five Mile press and illustrated by Janine Dawson. And I am working on a verse novel and lots of poetry, as well as a series for younger readers.

Sally’s website:


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