My love of writing came from a love of reading. My mum got me to join the local library when I was young and the book I remember most is the Secret Garden. The mysterious element in it hooked me straight way – the fact that the children had their own secret place to play in and which they decided to make beautiful for themselves. Ever since, I’ve found walled gardens to be fascinating.
The book I remember most from my teens is Pride and Prejudice, which I had to study for school. Never before or since have I enjoyed homework so much! I became completely absorbed in the romance of it, the wonderfully strong character of Elizabeth Bennett and the handsome, aloof Mr. Darcy.
So, considering the influence of these two books, I suppose it’s not surprising that there is a walled orchard, and a love story that is set back in time in my debut novel, For the Love of Martha.
When I started to write, it never entered my head that someday I would write a novel. I was twenty and in a folk group in St Francis Church in Cork. I wrote the lyrics of several songs and figured out the chords on an old guitar we had at home. One of them was particularly liked by the folk group and on the night of my twenty first birthday, (dressed in all my finery for the party that was happening after the Saturday evening Mass) I sang my own composition. It was a wonderful moment for me.
Around that time I also wrote some poems but never did anything with them. I didn’t write for years after that, busy with work, first in Cork then in London, and then back in Ireland, raising a family. In the autumn of 2004, I picked up a leaflet on evening classes in my local community school. I was immediately drawn to the class on creative writing and couldn’t wait to sign up.
Alison Maxwell ran the class of about twelve of us. We all hit it off and there was as much laughing as there was writing. I thoroughly enjoyed the classes and was fascinated by the process. For example, how we could all be asked to write about the same topic and yet there would be such diversity in the pieces written.
Once the course finished, a core group of us decided to form a writing group. We called it the Naas Harbour Writers, meeting once a fortnight in the library. We were honest with each other and supportive. I wrote some short stories, one of which was published in Ireland’s own and the other on the web on Stories for the Ear.
After being together for a couple of years, we decided to self-publish a compilation of some of our work. We called the book ‘Who brought the biscuits?’ as it was usually one of the first questions asked at our meetings.
Publishing the book was a great experience and it sold very well, with the proceeds going to charity.
After that some of us moved on to larger projects like memoir, screenplays and novels. I began work on a novel that was set in Vienna and I applied to Kildare County Council for a grant based on the premise of that story and my work to date. I was awarded the Tyrone Guthrie Residential Bursary award. This bursary was for a two week stay in the beautiful artists’ retreat centre, Annaghmakerrig.
During my first week there, in glorious September weather, I worked on the novel as planned. But, a few days into it, I was suddenly struck by an idea for a different story. By the time the week ended, I had the outline written. I brought chapters to the group over the following months and they liked it. I returned to Annaghmakerrig in May for my second week to finish the story. It was 36,000 words long – a novella, which I thought was complete and publishable. However, I was soon told that it is very difficult to get a novella published.
I was very disappointed, but the writing group was fantastic and suggested that I take one character, Martha, and tell her story more fully. Loving her story and her character I was only too happy to do this. I ended up with a novel whose first half was set in the 1880s and the second half in the present. Vanessa O’Loughlin looked at it for me and suggested that it could be improved by alternating the chapters on the past and the present. So I returned to the drawing board again, but in doing so also changed two of the main characters in the part set in the present, making that a love story too.
I had been working on the novel on a very part-time basis over a few years, but at this point I threw myself into it and worked consistently on it, finishing it a couple of months later.
I began sending out the first few chapters, and felt like a real writer when I started getting rejection emails and letters! But I still felt Martha’s story wanted to be told so I persevered.
When Poolbeg asked to see the full manuscript I crossed everything that was crossable and waited! In November 2014 I got that wonderful phone call every writer dreams of and I heard Paula Campbell say “We’d like to publish your novel.” I’m not sure what else I heard or said during that phone call! I just wanted to get off the phone and dance a jig around the room. I was with my cousin at the time in West Cork and we cracked open a bottle of champagne at eleven o’clock on a Monday morning and laughed and cried. The joy was for Martha’s story getting out there and the tears were of relief, relief because I could keep doing what I wanted to do, which is write!
(c) Maria Murphy
About For the Love of Martha
Though separated by one hundred and twenty years, two strangers need each other. Their worlds collide in Carissima, a beautiful old house in County Monaghan, Ireland, when mysterious events begin to unfold.
All Martha wanted was to be with Edward. As governess to the Pershaw family in England, in 1888, she never thought she would know a man like Dr. Edward Adams or experience such passionate love. And she would do all in her power to be with him.
When photographer Juliet flies off for a holiday in Florence, she doesn’t realise she will be sharing an apartment with a distractingly gorgeous stranger, Happily indulging in a little holiday romance with Logan Persaw, before returning to her life in London, is just what she needs. She certainly has no intention of uprooting and following him back to an old house in Ireland where she has to fight for their love.
There, Juliet comes to realise that the mysteries within Carissima can lead her to the fulfilment she craves – if she can just manage to bridge time and unlock them…
For the Love of Martha is in bookshops now or pick up your copy online here!
About Maria Murphy
Maria Murphy started writing in 2005 when, out of curiosity, she joined an evening class in creative writing in her local community college. And so her love affair with words began. She had a short story published in ‘Ireland’s Own’ shortly afterwards and one on the web on Kildare County Council’s Stories for the Ear. She was a founder member of the Naas Harbour Writers and some of her poems were included in ‘Who brought the biscuits?’ which they self-published for charity in 2007. In May 2007, she was Secretary and Event Manager for the Aidan Higgins at 80 Literary Festival.
Maria was broadcast on RTE Radio’s Living Word in July 2007 and received a bursary in 2008 for a two week stay at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre. She coordinated and hosted a literary event for the charity, Afri, in 2011 in Kildare. Originally from Cork, she lived in London for five years, where she worked as a personal assistant to one of the Director’s of the Royal National Institute of the Blind. She returned to Ireland in 1997 and now lives in Co. Kildare with her husband and two sons. As well as her love for writing, Maria loves to sing and is a member of the Nás na Rí Singers, a choral choir in based in Naas.