Here's a new friend of mine for you to meet: a newly signed author and newly minted Tassy Walden winner, Lynda Mullaly Hunt. New, new, new! Get to know her---I bet you'll enjoy her passion for writing and her sense of humor as much as I do. Congrats, Lynda!
Title: One for the Murphys
Release date: Spring, 2012
Imprint/publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Books for Children
Target age group: 9-13
Synopsis: Turns out that 13 year old, street smart Carley Connors is only afraid of one thing—Love. After a heart-breaking betrayal, Carley, a newly minted foster care child is placed with the Murphy family, who break down her walls. She learns the hard won lesson that she can love other people and, even more surprising, she can let them love her.
1. Every good story starts at the point of change. What is the point of change in this story?
The point of change is in the first line when the reader finds that Carley is in the backseat of a social worker’s car on her way to a foster home placement. From that point on, the story is all about Carley dealing with changes—both external and internal.
Carley must navigate the unfamiliar territory of a bustling, happy family and come to terms with the reality that a life she’s never thought existed actually does--just not for her. She avoids physical contact and follows a strict rule about never, ever crying, because that is for the weak. However, as Carley is drawn to her foster mom, Julie, and the youngest of her three boys, those rules become harder and harder to follow. The Murphys (with the help of Carley's hard-edged, Broadway obsessed friend, Toni) chip away at her barriers, transforming her. At first, she hates it. Then she hates it that she doesn't hate it.
But, when the state says that Carley’s mother wants her back, will she lose the only real family she's ever known?
So, yes, this story is all about changes. Dealing with them in the moment and predicting the next one coming around the corner. A little like real life, huh?
2. What do you want that you can’t have? How would your main character answer the same question?
Wow! What are we talking about here? I’d really like a mocha latte, but I’d also like to be able to fly or travel through time. To get serious (gasp!) I’d like my brother, Michael Eric, and my Mum back. Michael died when we were young. My Mum died five years ago. There are also some things I'd really like to undo for the people I really love such as my niece's car accident.
I'd also want all children who are not mothered to find someone to nurture them. Imagine how our world would change if ALL children were well cared for and loved! Oh my God---Imagine what we could do! How different the world would be?!
Carley wants a lot, actually. She longs to have her mother back but doesn’t want her at the same time because she fears the pain. She longs for the affection and gentleness of Julie Murphy (foster mother) but keeps her distance because she fears the love. All the while, though, Carley wants to be folded in and feel like she belongs somewhere. She doesn't want the push and pull anymore. She wants the truth. And she wants to know she can believe it.
Personally, there are other things I want, but I wouldn’t say I can’t have them. I just have to work hard and be patient. Patience comes naturally to me. So, hurry up and give me the next question.
3. Did another book serve as a model for yours, either in structure or inspiration? Tell us how.
The impetus for MURPHYS came from an unlikely source--Star Wars. My then nine year old son and I were talking about the six Star Wars movies and the story they told as a whole. We discussed how the six episodes of the movies were the complete life story of Anakin Skywalker—the first movie being him at about nine years old and the last movie portraying his death. We also talked about Luke as a character. Somehow, I stumbled upon the idea of Luke wanting his father and yet not wanting his father. How there were a few characters in the movies that both wanted yet didn’t want the same thing and the internal struggle that comes from that. I thought about this for days.
As a teacher who has worked with at-risk kids, I had also been thinking about the ways children protect themselves emotionally and had been researching resilience in children for a paper. I found that no matter the geographic location, socio-economic status, race, or any other factor, the number one attribute in resilient children is to be able to spot the adults who can help them and be able to reach out to them for support. Simple in theory but so difficult for some of the kids who need that little extra help to do.
Anyway, while doing the dishes one evening, I think these ideas crashed into each other. The line, “I ask the nurse how long I’ve been out” popped into my head. Not only did I hear the line, but I saw the girl, smelled the hospital, heard the beeping of the machines, felt her sadness and confusion. Her isolation.
Always happy to wait on doing dishes, I ran to the computer to type it in, planning to work on it the next day. However, after typing that one line, I just kept going. I had the first chapter of Carley waking up in the hospital (which I have since thrown out) done before heading back to the kitchen. Once Carley's voice started, I just had to get it out—like having a sliver in my hand. I so wanted to know what she would tell me. The novel was done within a year.
4. Tell us about a real-life person or situation that crept into this book.
After reading MURPHYS, my sister asked me why I had written it. (Funny that I’d never asked myself that question, because I’m forever asking questions.) I sat back and thought for a moment and decided that it was a wish. I’ve come to realize that buried in everything I write, there is always…always a wish. And by writing the story, I can fulfill that wish, if only a little.
As a new teacher, I became friends with, Judy, another teacher who is about 20 years older than me. She became a life mentor, teaching me things about kids and husbands and marriage and navigating life in general. I watched and listened and learned a lot from her. To show my appreciation, I rigged her closets with confetti, placed hidden recordings of “The Voice of God” in her classroom, stole her chalk, and created an elaborate joke about how I was selling her new car for five hundred bucks. She loves me though. Honest.
My sense of humor, writing ability, creativity, and stubborn passion all come from my own Mum, and I am so grateful to have been her daughter. In many ways, though, I would have never known what it was to be “mothered” without Judy. In the early days of our friendship, especially, she cared for the waiting child in me and I am a stronger, happier adult for it.
5. Wildcard question: What’s your superpower? What’s your Kryptonite?
Well, at the risk of sounding like a complete sap (which I am, of course!) my kids are both my superpower and kryptonite. My husband and I met when we were young, so I gave my heart to him before I even had a driver’s license. However, I could never have predicted how having a child cracks you wide open emotionally. The world has expanded in all kinds of ways for me since they arrived. But life’s stakes are much higher now; a mom worries sometimes, you know…
6. What are you wishing I would get around to asking already? (And what’s the answer, wise guy!)
How about the best writing advice ev-UH?
My Mum used to love the quote from Auntie Mame, "Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving!"
Well, it wasn't writing advice exactly, but I’ve found that all good "life" advice usually always pertains to writing specifically. Success in either one means you must put yourself “out there.” Be confident even when you don’t always feel that way. Make connections. Take chances. Don't be afraid of redos. Be vulnerable and then stay vulnerable even after you have to brush off your setbacks. Keep your sense of humor. Follow your heart. Be open to change—in you and in your manuscript. Work your butt off!
Want to write? Go for it! Don't worry about it or think about it---just do it. Is there an agent you really want? An editor? Again, go for it! Be prepared, though---do your homework, put in your time! Join critique groups and get serious about studying the craft. Remember---overnight success usually takes years!
To that I would add that you need to write your story—not what you think an editor will like—but your story in your voice. The key to a strong voice? Authenticity! So, go ahead! Sit down at your keyboard and open up that vein!
7. What can we expect from you next?
I have a draft of a YA novel, OUT OF ORDER, to my incredible agent, Erin Murphy. I am more than half way through another MG but jumped from it about a week ago when another YA voice started up in my head. Thus far, this newest venture is entitled, RUNNING BACKWARDS.
What I am most looking forward to after MURPHYS is released, is getting into schools to talk with kids about books and writing and life—about going for it! Life (and publication!) is not about waiting for your ship to come in; it’s about leaping into the water and swimming out to it!
Facebook: Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Agent: Erin Murphy of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency
Thanks Lynda. Lots of great advice here. For a minute, I thought you said, don't be afraid of rodeos...the clowns are pretty scary...And your mom and I have something in common, except when my kids tell it, they'll be complaining that they couldn't get me to stop pretending to be Rosalind Russell/Auntie Mame.
Thanks for coming by, Lynda.
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