Monday, September 1, 2014

Interview with author C Lynn Murphy (The First Noble Truth)

Today I welcome author C Lynn Murphy to my blog - enjoy the interview!


Why did you pursue writing?

I’m one of those people who has always wanted “to write” as a concept or a form of identity, and also found herself writing, both as a tool and as a means of entertainment.

I have always enjoyed telling stories, whether to myself or to other people, and as a child often amused myself with created persons and characters. I grew up on a farm and spent a lot of time alone, so I became very good at creating worlds within my own head. Deciding to put the stories to paper, instead of letting them live only within my mind, was an organic process. At first, I wrote stories because I would forget them otherwise. Soon, I realized that the process of writing itself helped me think, both in my daily life, but also in the creative process in general.

I trained as a linguist for the early part of my career, and the interplay between the sounds of a language and the site of a language when written has always interested me. Hearing a story, or listening to a lecture, is a very different experience than reading it. Just as radio and film are different mediums for the public, so too I feel are the written word and the spoken word. However, we often confuse the two, and equate the skill or process of storytelling with that of writing. I feel the two are more of a Van diagram, with clear overlaps, but also stark distinctions.

The question as to why I pursue writing…that’s even more interesting. On the one hand, perhaps it comes back to my childhood self- I travel frequently and usually live in countries where I do not speak the language fluently, and I look different to those around me. This lends an element of creative interpretation to even the most mundane encounters, and certainly encourages my imagination, but also, as many ex-pats know, there can be a degree of loneliness in the wanderer’s life. I think creating stories helps me connect with my inner self and make sense of the world around me. The writing of these stories helps me balance my time, forces a degree of organization within my day, and allows me an outlet in which to practice a very specific skill, to create something tangible and beautiful on which I can later reflect and feel proud.

What inspired your book?

The First Noble Truth had been floating around in my mind for years before I decided to attempt to put it to paper. I have always been interested in the question of suffering, why we suffer, why some seem to suffer more than others, and what we can do about it. I was living in Japan, in a remote village not dissimilar to the setting of this novel, and I began to toy with the idea of writing a book that took place in a similar environment. Interestingly, I knew I did not want to write anything from the perspective of a Westerner living in Japan, or something along Orientalist lines, the traveler reflecting on his/her time in the foreign land. I was extremely blessed in my time in that village, as I was the only foreigner living there. I spent my time in the community, and made a home for myself for those two years. The character of Machiko is named after a friend of mine, as is Sumi chan, but they are not the inspiration for the personalities. Rather, Machiko walked into my life fully formed. She sat down at the table one morning and I knew she was as real to me as any flesh and blood person I had ever met, but only I could see her. I felt it was my duty out of basic fairness to help other people see her too.

Krista grew as I wrote her. She appeared to me in vignettes, brief stories, and in many ways she told me her story the way it appears in the book. I did not meet her as quickly as I met Machiko, but it was clear to me that she too was a fully formed being who should be able to live beyond the confines of my own mind.

How long have you been publishing your work?

This is my first published novel. I have entered a few literary contests for short stories and received a few honorable mentions, so perhaps that counts as publishing, or at as the pursuit of publishing.

I decided to publish independently largely out of practical reasons. I had begun searching for agents and representation during the first year of my PhD, but was quickly overwhelmed by the emotional taxation of repeated rejection, both from the agents and from academic life in general, and I realized I had to choose between the two. I decided on the PhD.

Having advanced to candidacy, I am now based in Mongolia for my research, and I could continue to picket agents, as my schedule is more flexible now. However, I realized that, even when I was a child, I always wrote for myself. It is a source of great joy for me when I receive an email from someone who has enjoyed my work. Not because I feel validated as a writer, but more because I feel that I have been of benefit has a human being. We are all possessed of many skills, and sometimes our greatest desires do not overlap with those skills, or our skills do not correspond with current popularity or interests. This is not the end of the world.  I think we must do what we love to do, and do it as well as we are able. If others enjoy our work, or pay for our work, that is a wonderful thing, but it guarantees as little as it proves.

What’s your writing environment like?

I binge-write. This is largely due to my academic schedule, which has many fixed deadlines of writing projects (papers, conferences, grant applications, etc.). I am not disciplined enough to force out a certain number of pages or words everyday, irrespective of whatever else is happening my life. However, given the nature of my life, I am writing everyday, just not necessarily writing that concerns a novel.

I prefer quiet, tidy spaces. I like to sit at a desk, with my feet flat on the floor. I hate noise or music, although, oddly, there have been times where, as I wrote, I felt I needed to listen to Guns and Roses or Meatloaf, and put my headphones in and, totally out of character, pumped out thousands of words. I have no idea why this happens.

Depending on where I am, I don’t have the luxury of a quiet, personal space. I travel within Mongolia, and am frequently staying with a family in a ger (yurt), which is a round tent, with no doors or private space. I may take a pencil and paper outside to write in the grass, but I have also learned to tune most things out. However, I prefer to be alone, in a simple, uncluttered room, with access to a bathroom and a tea kettle. I usually prefer a laptop, although, similar to the heavy metal impetus, I have occasions where a scene feels best being born in pencil or ink.

What projects are you currently working on?

I have a book chapter for an academic compilation due at the end of October, but I have to get the early draft to my advisor by the end of September. In addition, there is a grant application due in October as well, and a book review which I’d like to have out by the holidays.

 Besides all that, my next project is actually not a novel, but rather a guidebook. During the first year of my PhD, I experienced America’s rape culture firsthand. Having mostly recovered from that incident, I now see what an extraordinary opportunity this is. Violence, particularly sexual violence, is something more people experience than do not, and yet we shy from it, we hide from it, we avoid discussing it, addressing it, or even looking at it openly and honestly. Having experienced this myself, I can no longer hide from it, or avoid it out of fear of its occurrence. Therefore, my next book will be a guidebook for communication on how to discuss the question of gendered violence. Hopefully, it will encourage dialogue and be of benefit. I have arranged to send this to my editor by March, and so will likely be published in the spring.

I have two other novels that are formulating in my mind, and I will begin writing them this summer. One is the beginning of a mystery series, and the other will be about Mongolia. 

My website is:

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