You and I, Emily Gillmor Murphy
Writing a novel is a huge commitment for anyone to undertake. It takes a considerable amount of time, a considerable amount of talent and huge amounts of self-discipline. For twenty-one year old debut novelist, Emily Gillmor Murphy, there was also the small matter of her degree to fit in around her ambitions to be a published writer, not to mention the fact that she suffered from dyslexia as a child.
So, how exactly did she write her debut novel ‘You & I’ during her second year of university and how is she handling life as a published author?
‘I originally started writing while I was in school. They were mostly short stories and I wrote them for myself. I never imagined that my work would one day be good enough to be published. I was dyslexic as a child and I felt that this would hinder my literary career. When I had finished school my mum encouraged me to get in contact with literary agents to see if I would be able to make a career out of my writing. I got in contact with Marianne Gunn O’Connor, who was very encouraging and gave me some helpful critiquing on my writing. Marianne told me to get back to her if I ever wrote a novel. When I finished my first year of college, I had also finished my first manuscript of ‘You & I’. When I presented my manuscript to Marianne she instantly fell in love with it. My writing career has taken off since then. I owe Marianne a lot because without her I would have never been published.’
For Emily, writing has clearly always been a passion. For her, it wasn’t a case of choosing between a writing career and completing her studies at UCD; they were two things she felt able to combine. ‘After Marianne Gunn O’Connor became my literary agent, writing became a huge priority in my life. I am very lucky because I truly enjoy writing so it didn’t feel like hard work to me. I found writing almost therapeutic. But my degree was important to me and I didn’t want to give up on it. I am a very ambitious person and I worked hard on my degree and writing and I am now delighted to have a published book and to be also graduating this September. College was a huge time of growth for me and I think that personal growth was vital for my writing career.’
It is exactly this level of balance and maturity Emily has managed to sustain which came as a very pleasant surprise to her editor at Transworld, Catherine Cobain, who spoke very highly of Emily’s writing talent and maturity at the recent launch of ‘You & I’ at Dubray Books in Dublin.
In terms of developing her writing, Emily has never joined any official writing or book groups, but has relied on close friends who are interested in creative writing and journalism. ‘I found it great to talk to them about different books and writing styles we liked. This was another reason why I didn’t want to leave UCD. UCD had introduced me to new, interesting and ambitious people; some of my closest friends are the ones I met there.’
For many aspiring authors, the biggest issue to completing their novel is time. With an English Literature and History degree to study for while she was editing her novel, Emily explains how she managed to fit it all in. ‘I have always been a person who likes being busy. I am also quite a fast worker. I studied in UCD and I found that my studies helped my writing. I also kept my laptop with me at all times so whenever I had a free hour or so I would take the opportunity to write. Summer holidays were also extremely helpful.’
But of course, it hasn’t been an easy process and, as with every writer – especially a debut author – there were challenges to overcome on the path to publication. ‘I feel first impressions are very important and I wanted the beginning of this novel to be very strong. I had to rewrite the beginning a few times in order to grip the reader from the start. Now that my novel is finished I am extremely happy with the beginning and I think it achieves the effect and emotions that I wanted it too.’
‘You & I’ is described as coming-of-age love story and a sharp look at a changing Dublin and is told through the central characters of Tom and Olive. Emily explains how she developed the concept of the novel. ‘Over the past three years in college I have met many different types of people. Tom and Olive are both characters that everyone can relate too. In my novel I really wanted to look past the stereotypical views that everyone has of students. No character is purely evil and no character is purely good. Olive and Tom both have flaws and they make endless mistakes. Their history, families and situations make up such a huge part of what they are. Olive and Tom are not only challenged by each other and other characters but they are also faced with being challenged by their own demons. I think it is this that makes them so interesting and the story so enjoyable.
So, in a period where many publishers are cautious about taking on new writers, what does Emily think it is about ‘You & I’ which made it stand out? ‘You & I is a very honest story. Absolutely nothing is glossed over in the book. The characters are faced with harsh realities that they are not prepared to deal with. It is a book that is filled with happiness but also with a lot of darkness too. And again I think it is that honesty that makes it relatable to such a wide audience. Whether you are young or old you will be able to understand the life that these characters live.’
Emily Gillmor Murphy is, undoubtedly, a confident, enigmatic young woman. She has an unflappable, unstoppable energy which comes across in the many interviews she has been involved with during the launch of the book – all of which Emily has taken completely in her stride. The fact that Cat Cobain, her editor, speaks so highly of Emily’s professionalism and work ethic, sets this young woman out as a great role model – not only to other young authors, but to authors everywhere.
So, what can we expect from her next?
‘I am currently working on my second novel. It is based in the Irish show jumping scene. My second novel is quite different from my first as the characters are older and they are faced with a completely different situation. I want to eliminate the perception that some people have of Show jumping, that it is quite glamorous and affluent. For some show jumping is a very difficult life to follow, it can be cruel and unfair and often unrewarding. For a lot of people horses are like an addiction, they leave you with an empty wallet and a broken heart.’
Emily Gillmor Murphy is undeniably – as they say – one to watch.
(c) Hazel Gaynor July 2012
You and I : About the Book
Each September, thousands of students walk through the doors of University College and Trinity College, Dublin. This year, Olive and Tom will be among them.
Eighteen-year-old Olive is fresh from the country, and her eyes are opened wide by the big-city goings on of her new friends When she starts to be pursued by Tom, the scruffy maverick who’s seduced half the girls she’s met, she’s adamant he’s not for her. But when a tragedy befalls her family, it’s Tom who proves her best friend – until that is, she discovers his real motivations.
Tom has never thought further than the next party, the next girl, the next drink. But now, with his own broken family about to cast him off and his social habits spinning out of control, he seems to have destroyed his relationship with Olive. What started out as a stupid date metamorphoses into something much more serious.
Set against the backdrop of youth on the brink of adulthood, and capturing the contrasts of the haves versus the have-nots, the worldly versus the innocent, Emily Gillmor Murphy’s ‘You & I’ is an assured debut that will transport readers straight to the rollercoaster experience of growing up and falling in love.
About the author
Emily Gillmor Murphy was born in 1990 in County Dublin, Ireland and is currently in her final year studying Arts in University College Dublin, majoring in English and History. Emily is also a competitive show jumper, travelling across the country to events with her older sister Lucy.