Watch out for the give-away question at the end of the interview.
Q: Looking at your publication list you are incredibly prolific. There’s the Walker Papers, the Negotiator Trilogy, the Inheritors’ Cycle. Then there is the comic and the books you write under your pseudonym Cate Dermody. You say you generally write a book in 6 to 8 weeks. It sounds like you become completely immersed in your books. Do your invented worlds and characters become more real to you than the real world?
Ah, I used to write books that fast. It usually takes 3-4 months now, though I still prefer it if I can get the rough draft done that quickly.
The writing and characters and worlds, though, never have superseded reality. I only realized recently that people actually literally mean it when they say they become so immersed in their worlds that the real world disappears. Truth be told, I think that’s really bizarre.
Q: Are you one of those writers who create a music play list for each series that they work on and only play that music while you are writing that series?
I’m not. I really dislike having music playing when I’m working, in fact. It distracts me. I *can* work with music on if I really have to drown other things out, but it has to be music I’m very very familiar with or it just becomes part of the problem.
Q: You write as both CE Murphy and Cate Dermody. The CE Murphy books are fantasy (with a strong female protagonist). The Cate Dermody books are action-adventure romance. Did you plan to write under two names to give yourself flexibility as a writer?
That’s exactly why. Turns out I should’ve been even more flexible, since the Inheritors’ Cycle, which is very different from my urban fantasy, didn’t sell all that well and might have done better under a different name. Ah well!
Q: Your Cate Dermody books seem to be espionage in a contemporary setting. Do you love writing and reading mystery/thrillers?
Does it show? Yeah, I do. I like stories that just rip along and take me for a great ride, and I think the Dermody books offer that for readers. They’re huge fun. Or at least they were huge fun to write!
*laughs* Honestly, that never occurred to me. I write under CE because I don’t care for being called by my full name, and people tend to call you what’s on the cover of a book. I go by Catie in real life, and I never thought that looked grown-up enough for adult books, so when a friend suggested the initials I thought “Good idea!” It only came up after I’d been published a couple years and people started asking me variations on this question.
Q: You also write for comics. Are you one of those people who come from an illustrator/comic background but also write? Following on from that are you a fan of graphic novels from way back? If so which artists inspired you?
Ah, I wish. I’m a decent artist, but I’m both good enough to know how good I’m not and also not an illustrator. Every once in a while I think “Y’know, I could be really good at this if I tried,” but pretty much my creative efforts have been long focused on writing, so art is just a rarely-visited hobby for me.
I got into comics through ElfQuest when I was about twelve, so yeah, pretty much the first thing beyond Archie and Richie Rich that I read were the graphic novel versions of ElfQuest, which basically makes me a fan of the format since childhood. I still default to Pini-style elves in my doodling.
Q: Was it difficult to make the writing craft adjustments to write for comics/graphic novels?
Yes and no. It’s completely different, but being the sort of person I am, I went out and researched how to write comics before I gave it a shot. (Nat Gertler’s PANEL ONE, for those who are interested, is a great resource.) I was under no time pressure when I did that, which helped, but once I got the idea in place, it wasn’t so bad. Writing comics is fun. Totally different ballgame, and lemme tell you, there’s pretty much *nothing* as awesome as seeing pages come back to you: your words transformed into art. Just wow.
Q: I love your description of your mother: ‘My mom’s a choreographer and a costumer, is wonderfully sensible and extremely silly, and when you have someone like that in your life as your role model for what it is to be an adult female, you just kind of naturally assume that’s what it is to be a woman: strong, talented, inventive, intelligent.’ You write strong, intelligent female characters. Was there ever a conscious decision, or did they just flow?
Well, y’know, they say write what you know. I have a few series ideas with male leads, but mostly I’ve always written girls and women because that’s what I am.
Tell ya something that drives me bugnuts, though, is the idea (often found in romance and paranormal romance) that an “alpha male” is a complete jackass. I like to think there are plenty of alpha males in my books–Morrison, Gary, Alban, Tony–but man, to me, a strong male character is not one who is also automatically an asshole.
Panel discussion strong female characters San Diego Comic-Con 2008.
Q: I was prompted to start this series of interviews because there seems to be a perception in the US and the UK that fantasy is a bit of a boy’s club. Do you think there’s a difference in the way males and females write fantasy?
Eh. Not really. I think there’s a difference in how *people* write books. I’ll never write exactly the same story as anyone else, even if we’re given the exact same premise. That’s because we bring different things to the table, different talents, different voices, different viewpoints. Some of those will be female viewpoints, some of them won’t. Some of them I’ll connect with, some of them I won’t. It’s all about storytelling, not who’s telling it, to me.
Q: Following on from that, does the gender of the writer change your expectations when you pick up their book?
Nah. I read a lot of women authors, but I stopped reading them *because* they were women when I was about, I don’t know, fifteen, and I ran into a slew of books I thought I Should Like, because they were by well-respected female names in the fantasy field. I bounced off them like a bouncing thing, so it was around then that it became clear to me that the author’s gender did not necessarily give me anything in common with the story they were telling or the way they told it…although I seriously doubt I thought of it that way at the time.
Only *one*, she wailed? Is it cheating to say “Anywhere, any time, as long as it’s with the Tenth Doctor”?
All right, all right. One trip, eh? Okay. I’d go back to the Library at Alexandria just before the fire and clean the place out so all those amazing ancient texts could be rediscovered now.
I’ll do a give-away of one copy of SPIRIT DANCES to the commenter who comes up with the time-travel destination I wish I’d thought of…
Follow CE Murphy on Twitter: @ce_murphy