Interview: Niamh Murphy

Niamh Murphy grew up in rural Wales, who has a degree in Medieval Archaeology and History. Her journey with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome allowed her imagination to blossom and now she gets to share that wild imagination and all those adventures with her readers. She loves rewriting fairy tales for the modern reader or re-telling mythical stories of old with a sapphic twist. Regardless of the adventure or the character, her books always include romance, love, and a lesbian main character.

Your 8th book, Scarlet (The Robyn Hood Adventures Book 2), comes out on February 26th, What was the inspiration for the story?
‘Scarlet’ is the second of my Robyn Hood adventures, and for this book, I knew I wanted to introduce one of the most famous characters from the Robin Hood stories. One of my biggest inspirations for the story was a childhood favourite; Howard Pyle’s ‘The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood’ but I also looked up some of the older ballads including ‘Robyn and the Bishop’ and the ‘Robin Hood Rescuing Will Stutly’ all of which gave me some really good ideas for where to take the story.
With a historical novel, there is a lot of room to play but you are also restricted in some ways; the location and characters are fixed to some extent but there is still room to add things which are new and fresh. I’ve set the book in a particular time, the 1190’s, which means that there are historical events occurring which I can weave into the plot but it is still my world and my characters. So, I’ve sprinkled in the odd character trait from real people I’ve met and added bits and pieces from legend and fable which I felt fit this story.

Which of your main characters has surprised you the most? And what was surprising?
There was a character in this book that I was worried about, an old Bishop known as the Bishop of Hereford. The title immediately conjures an image for me; the old Catholic Bishop who is equal parts stern and stuffy. One word came to mind; boring.
But when I started delving into the man who was the Bishop of Hereford at this time, William de Vere, I started seeing tiny aspects of a real man. I couldn’t get to know the real person but I could take cold hard facts from the real historical figure such as his age, his career achievements, and the fact that he wrote a (now lost) biography of St Osyth, then combine these with the Bishop’s character traits shown in the ballads; mean, proud, greedy and so on.
When I tried to look into the mind of the type of person who would embody these traits and live that type of life, I started to see a really interesting person that I could have a lot of fun with. He went from being the character I dreaded writing, to the one who made me laugh the most. There was even a scene he had with Robyn where I had planned for him to hate her by the end of it but when it came to writing it, the two ended up enjoying one another’s company despite their reasons to hate each other. It was a lot of fun.

What is the one thing you must know about a story before you start writing?
It depends on the story!
I’ve had ideas that have sparked from the smallest detail, such as the image of a woman in a cave, or a silver locket, both of these turned into novels and I worked out the rest of the story as I went along.
However, I don’t think that is a very reliable way to finish writing a book and I have a lot of half-finished projects as a result. What I try to do now is take those sparks and weave out a full story before I even write a single word.
So, I suppose the one thing I must know before I begin is everything!

What is your ideal writing environment and how has the pandemic changed that?
It’s been a strange year. I’m lucky because I know an awful lot of writers enjoy going to cafes to write or have a hot desk or an office somewhere. But I’m quite happy at home, I have a standing desk in the kitchen and a wonderful lap desk for the sofa. I have tried so many ‘normal’ desks but I have never been able to find a chair and desk combo that doesn’t give me crazy RSI.
But being in Lockdown has forced me to really slow down, look at my life and work out how I want to live day by day. There have been a lot of things we missed out on in the last year, and the pandemic has been a shock to the system. But I am now starting to give my writing day a structure it never had and I hope that is one good thing I will take away from all this.

If you could name a pet after a favourite fictional book character, who would it be? (Your own or other author)
I love literary pet names! I think I would very much enjoy having a cat called Professor McGonagall, but I’m not sure I would be able to face registering them to the vet!

Blurb of Scarlet (The Robyn Hood Adventures Book 2)
Robyn Hood and her loyal friend Littlejohn want nothing more than to stay one step ahead of the Sheriff of Nottingham’s men.

But when they offer their help to a Holy Sister in need, they soon discover not all is as it seems.

Now they have both the Sheriff of Nottingham on their tail and the self-serving Bishop of Hereford too.

Will they aid a fellow thief?

Or save their own necks, keep the gold for themselves, and leave the fugitive, sword-wielding rogue for the gallows?

Find out in this brand new Robyn Hood Adventure!

Buy Scarlet (The Robyn Hood Adventures Book 2) here

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