Thursday, February 12, 2009

Interview, Sally Murphy

Sally Murphy - The Book Chook
Today my guest is Sally Murphy, a talented and prolific Australian writer. I wanted to find out about her new book, The Big Blowie, her book review site, and you guessed it, how she feels about reading aloud to kids!

BC: Sally, one of your wonderful sites is
Aussiereviews. Please tell us about it - how it started, and what we can find there when we visit.

Sally: Aussiereviews is a labour of love, and reviews all genres of books, but focuses on children’s books because they are my main love.

I started the site as part of the Webseed network and when Webseed closed down I bought the domain name and kept it going. At the time there were few websites which reviewed Australian books (this was long before blogs became popular). I thought maybe I could help Australian authors and publishers, as well as the reading public.

When you visit Aussiereviews I’m hoping you’ll find helpful reviews of wonderful Australian books. That’s what I aim to provide.

You're a writer as well as a book reviewer. Your latest book to be published is
The Big Blowie (Aussie Schoolbooks). What on earth impelled you to write a book about a blowfly, and where can we buy it?

I wrote The Big Blowie on spec, to submit to Aussie Schoolbooks for their Aussie Aussie series. I must have been successful in following the guidelines and tailoring my story to their requirements, because they published the book.

Because the publishers were looking for uniquely Australian stories, I decided to use Aussie icons including the Outback, blowflies and ‘Big Things’. They were also keen on stories which explored important issues, so I used the backdrop of a drought, as drought is a huge problem in Australia. With these things in mind, I crafted a story which I hope is both entertaining and a little informative.

So, to answer the question, the reason I wrote a story about a blowfly is that I couldn’t think of anything more likely to be found in the outback in the middle of a drought. I wanted something really Aussie and there it was, buzzing around me!

You're on a blog tour to promote The Big Blowie. What else are you doing to spread the word
about your book?

This is my first ever blog tour (though I’ve had one off visits to other blogs, and I’ve also hosted a couple of tours before). I’m really excited about the blogtour as a way to spread the word about my book, and it’s also lots of fun. Answering all these questions has really proved to be a great writing exercise. I would recommend it as a promotional idea for anyone with a published book.

As well as the tour, I try to take whatever opportunity is available to promote The Big Blowie, and my other books. I have the cover image in my email signature line, with a purchase link. I write articles for other websites and newsletters about all aspects of writing, and include information about the book in the bio. I write about The Big Blowie on my blog.

Away from the net, I promote my books and reading and writing generally when I do school visits.

Sally, many bloggers are concerned about the fact so few parents read aloud to their kids. Is reading aloud important to you? Why? What suggestions do you have for incorporating
literacy and literature into family life?

Yes, reading aloud is very important to me, and I think it's tragic that so few parents read aloud to their children. Tragic is a strong word, but it is tragedy that children are being denied such an important life skill, and even more tragic that many parents blame a lack of time on their not reading aloud to their children. Being read to provides a strong literacy foundation, encouraging a love of reading and proving an early immersion in words and stories which enables children to develop reading skills, and life skills, too. Reading together is also a really important bonding experience. It is a time when you are focussing on being together with your child. What can be more important than showing your child that they are important to you?

How to incorporate literacy and literature into family life? Number one – read to your children. Number two – show them that reading is not just a necessary chore (we read for homework or we read to settle the child down, but really we are looking at our watches and planning what’s next – no!), but something to be cherished. Model reading for pleasure by reading in front of as well as with your child. Have a house filled with books – and encourage your child to choose books at the library or book store. If you must bribe your child with a reward for good behaviour, make it with a book rather than a chocolate bar or toy.

I have six kids, and books and reading have always been an important part of our lives. I have read to them from when they were tiny babies, both at bedtime and during the day. My kids consider themselves lucky that I’m a book reviewer – they have a constant supply of new books coming into the house. Occasionally, one of them even reviews for me. As well as reading, we also discuss books a lot. I’ll ask them what they like about a particular book, or what they didn’t like. I know each child’s reading tastes and so will often hand a book I have just reviewed to a particular child.

I read in your bio where you narrowly escaped being blown up by a bomb! Has that or any other real life experience made it into one of your 27 books?

That particular story hasn’t made it into any stories yet but may well do so one day. I am certainly influenced by experiences from my life when I write, but rather than writing about events that have happened, it is more that I draw on my emotions and reactions to experiences. For example, if I’m writing about someone dying, I will remember what it was like for me when people close to me died. I did this for my forthcoming book, Pearl Verses the World, where I cried buckets of tears as I wrote it.

On a lighter note, I recently travelled across Australia with my husband and five of our six kids, living in the confines of a small caravan for five weeks. Not only did we see lots of wonderful sights, but we had a gazillion life experiences which I am sure will make it into my yet to be written stories, I do think, though, that I’ll avoid telling the kids of Australia about the giant huntsman spider which found its way into my underpants in a public toilet. That might be a mental image they don’t need! Oops – I think I might have just told your readers, though.BC: The Book Chook readers are a tough bunch - they need to be! Thanks for letting us in on your secrets, Sally.

Sally: Thanks so much for having me. I’ve had a ball!

The Big Blowie can be purchased at the publisher's site. If you'd like to find out more about Sally, why not visit her website, her blog, or check out Aussiereviews. If you want to catch up on the other Australian blogs Sally visited this week, here is her schedule:

February 8 Dee Scribe Writing Blog
February 9 Let's have Words
February 10 Robyn Opie's Writing Children's Books
February 11 Spinning Pearls

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