The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Terry Murphy

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Terry Murphy

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Summary: Here at Bookbag Towers we really enjoyed Weekend in Weighton by Terry Murphy and we were very taken by his hero, Eddie Greene. When Terry popped into the office we had a few questions for him.
Date: 28 March 2012
Interviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee

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Here at Bookbag Towers we really enjoyed Weekend in Weighton by Terry Murphy and we were very taken by his hero, Eddie Greene. When Terry popped into the office we had a few questions for him.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Terry Murphy: I imagine I am at Glastonbury – on the main stage of course – looking out at a sea of excited, happy face, all creeds, colours and genders, all hoisting huge banners of my book cover. Then I wake up with a big smile … But seriously, when my book was in beta form on Authonomy I got excellent feedback from a wide-cross section of readers, a good proportion being female. They identified with Eddie and Kate's 'will-they-won't-they' interplay. I also remember all the reviews that began: 'I wouldn't normally have gone for this type of book but …'

  • BB: Where did you get the inspiration for Weekend in Weighton?

TM: I remember loving the iconic 'Sam Spade' character in Woody Allen's noir parody, 'Play It Again Sam.' And the idea of an affectionate noir spoof took further hold when I saw Albert Finney in 'Gumshoe', the setting being much closer to home (Liverpool). But I actually began writing 'Weekend in Weighton' in 1994 a few days after watching 'The Adventures of Ford Fairlane.' It's an obscure neo-noir film, but it provided a huge impetus for the book. It's also interesting to note that reviewers have likened 'WiW' to 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels', but my original story pre-dates that. So either I was ahead of my time or Guy Ritchie pinched my lines. Fight!

  • BB: I loved Eddie G. Is he based on someone you know and how did you collect all those brilliant one-liners, song titles, put-downs and wisecracks?

TM: As mentioned, I enjoyed the “Rock 'n 'Roll Detective” character in 'Ford Fairlane'. He is loud, brash, conceited, a quip-a-second type of guy, annoying at first (like Eddie), but who becomes loveable as you realise it's all he's got to get by. So I set out to write Eddie's character as a 'big persona', but hoping readers would see past that and realise the joke's usually on him. As for one-liners, I'm a fan of the form and I have a quirky sense of humour, but I can only write what I think is funny and hope it works on paper. I don't use ready-made quips as it would sound forced; all I can say is that after writing a 'straight' line for a character, a funny comeback from 'Eddie' would usually suggest itself – in fact in the end, I had to take a few out as I didn't want humour to over-power the main story

  • BB: Weighton seemed very familiar to me. I hope you're not going to tell me that it's Any Northern Mill Town because I felt that I could have drawn a map of it after reading the book. Where's the inspiration for the town?

TM: Errr, prepared to be disappointed … I made up my mind at the outset that the story would be set in a fictional town so I wouldn't be restricted in terms of locations and timings. That was a critical aspect to make the storyline work over one weekend. And to provide a twist on the genre I wanted to evoke a northern mill town. But when writing scenes I kept images of real locations in my head to help with descriptions and detail. I live near Chester, so I used that for some of the geography, the river chase in particular. I also used Northwich locations for the more industrial backdrops. The 'northern mill' location was based on a visit to Quarry Bank Mill museum, near Stockport. And 'Forley Forest' is based on Delamere Forest which is around the corner from me – I'd run out of budget by then.

  • BB: I'm not so much diappointed as shocked. I was convinced that it would turn out to be somewhere I knew!

I had to remind myself to breathe during the action scenes. Was it fun to write them?

TM: Actually it was great fun. And a surprise – writing action scenes proved difficult for me at the start, but the more I wrote the more I enjoyed them. And by the time of the 'big chase' at the end, it had really begun to flow and I was pleased I kept the writing tight.

  • BB: Where and how do you write? Music in the background? Are you disciplined? Despite the very jokey personality of Eddie G I had the sense of an author who went to a lot of trouble to get what he did right.

TM: I mainly write from a little office at home. But to meet deadlines I have ended up writing whenever and wherever I can, including planes, trains but not so much the automobiles. When I first used to write I often had music playing in the background, but now I need quiet. Occasionally I will play music to help with mood, but I switch off when I need to concentrate. And yes, I do go to a lot of trouble to get my writing as good as it can be. I am meticulous like that. I will write a line and immediately re-write it and not move on until I'm happy. And the first thing I do at the start of a writing session is review what I did in the previous session and usually end up re-writing. A lot of the changes I make are to improve flow and keep the beat. And then the real editing starts … It's a cliché but it is a craft.

  • BB: The craftsmanship comes through, Terry.

What do you enjoy about being an author - and what doesn't appeal quite so much?

TM: I heard an interview with Maureen Lipman in which she was asked if she enjoyed writing and she said, 'I don't enjoy writing, but I enjoy having written.' I know what she means. I find the process of writing daunting at times, but I enjoy reading my work back - especially after a sufficient gap that I don't know what's coming next. Making myself laugh or getting caught up in the emotion of the story is a big bonus.

  • BB: I wish I could remember who said that authors are people who find writing harder than other people, but it does seem to be true.

Eddie seemed rather keen on his mountain bike. Is this something which appeals to you?

TM: Yes, I love going out on my trusty bike. The challenge of single-track trails with jumps and mud and water and obstacles is exhilarating. It's very satisfying if I can complete a trail without stopping or falling off. And in terms of Eddie, I wanted a contrast between his cocky alter ego and the more mundane side of his life: living at home with his mum and having to get around by bicycle.

  • BB: You've got one wish? What's it to be?

TM: Any advance on one? Doesn't 'three' have more of a ring to it? Let's assume three for the sake of argument. So firstly, top ten for 'WiW' on the New York Times bestsellers list (aim high with the first wish just in case!), secondly to become a better all-round writer and thirdly to make enough royalties to buy a Santa Cruz Superlight. (I've got enough for the bell so far!) Did I mention world peace?

  • BB: HA! You're just cheeky!

What's next for Terry Murphy?

TM: In between starting and finishing 'WiW', I wrote a short story for my children called 'Warwick the Wanderer and the Battle of the Bands'. Although it turned out to be more of a contemporary fable. It's about a young knight who needs a new career after the Holy Grail turns up. He finds a mythical guitar sticking out of a boulder that falls away when he touches it. He forms a band and enters Simon Scowell's 'Star Factor'. The rest you can guess. Or maybe not! I've had some funky illustrations done and it will come out as an e-book soon. Another 'in-betweener' project was a screenplay I wrote about a soldier returning home from Afghanistan after a battlefield trauma. It's at the onset of the global credit crunch and he finds himself drawn into a different, but no less deadly war in his old neighbourhood. I'm thinking of adapting it as a book. And of course, if enough signatures are collected on a petition to Downing Street, I will write a sequel to 'WiW'.

  • BB: We'll get the petition started! Thanks for talking to us, Terry and good luck with those other projects.

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