Belonging to Your Tribe

fullsizerender-77There may be prehistoric wildcats, an amulet, imaginary worlds, a pet rat, and a mechanical shark submarine in the Nine Lives Trilogy, but behind it all is twelve-year-old Ebony Smart; a girl who just wants to belong.

So, why did I choose to write about belonging?

One reason is that I remember being the new girl in a school playground, looking around me and trying to figure out whom to talk to. And what I could possibly say. Everyone else was in a group or pair, and seemed quite happy with their little tribe. I can remember quite clearly that feeling of being on the outside, looking in through an invisible barrier and not knowing how to cross over it.

I also remember the times my brother and sister didn’t want me to join in their games. They were quite happy with how things were going, and adding me into the equation would feel like an interruption – so they didn’t want my input. At the time I felt crushed, even though I pretended that I didn’t care. Later, I would get my revenge by stopping one of them from joining in – but to be honest, it never felt like a nice thing to do and I felt just as bad as if I’d been left out.

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Some quiet storytelling

Another reason I wanted to look at the theme of belonging is because it’s an important part of our human existence. How could we have survived this long if we hadn’t formed social groups? We all need to belong to a tribe of some kind, so we can feel safe, loved, and respected. For some people, their tribe is their family; but not everyone is lucky enough to have a family for one reason or another. Your tribe might be your friends, your sports team, or a group of people that share your favourite hobby.

It can be difficult to find your tribe, and the dynamics will often shift. There’ll be awkward moments with fallouts, disagreements and upset, but these will usually sort themselves out over time and with a bit of effort. When you belong, it’s just as much about forgiveness and compromise as it is about having fun and enjoying each other’s company. You might have to bite your tongue or apologise sometimes, but your tribe will do the same for you. There’s no right or wrong way to belong – so long as your tribe makes you feel safe, happy, and confident, and you feel like you can be yourself, it’s a good fit.

But if you’ve ever felt lonely or left out like Ebony Smart, guess what? There’s probably someone else nearby feeling the exact same way. So why not seek them out and make your own tribe? Or, if you already belong, let them join in and see what they can add to your tribe? There are no invisible barriers – only the ones we create for ourselves.

(Note: post originally written for Girls Heart Books)

The Book of Shadows is here – & you’re invited!

It’s my third book in a 12-month period, and yet holding that initial copy of an actual physical book for the first time never gets old. I’m in the middle of writing the final part of the trilogy, and it feels like a very long time since I thought about/edited/looked at The Book of Shadows – Nine Lives Trilogy 2… and yet, when I received this in the post from my publishers, the very first copy I’ve seen, it all came flooding back.

Book of Shadows ER Murray

And so, once again, it’s launch time! The lovely and very generous Sarah Webb is launching The Book of Shadows in Eason’s O’Connell St, Dublin at 6.30pm on Thursday, September 15th – if you’re nearby and you’re free, I’d love you to be there. If we’ve chatted via social media but haven’t yet chatted in person, so come up and introduce yourself – please don’t be shy!

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If you’re battling away at your own manuscript, please keep going and stay strong. The Book of Learning, the first in my Nine Lives Trilogy, was rejected many times and I even shelved it, thinking it was the book that got me my agent. I revived it a couple of years later and it got snapped up, and ended up being chosen as the 2016 Dublin UNESCO Citywide Read for Children.

So believe in yourself, keep going, and trust your instinct. With hard work, determination and a damn good manuscript, you’ll get there.

Dublin UNESCO January Roundup!

FullSizeRender (18)And so, the Dublin UNESCO Citywide Reading Campaign has begun! As an author, these past few weeks have proved to be a really exciting time, and as a debut author, I’m still pinching myself.

Up to now there has been a photo shoot in the National Library of Ireland, and events in seven Dublin City Public Libraries – Raheny, Donaghmede, Central Library, Charleville Mall, Walkinstown, Dolphins Barn, and Marino – as well as a visit to Scoil Chiarain Special Needs School in Glasnevin. The library staff have been warm, welcoming and supportive, and the response from both teachers and pupils has been incredibly positive. Jackie from UNESCO has been a godsend, making sure the packed schedule runs smoothly, and all in all, I’m feeling really grateful to everyone involved – especially the readers.

As The Book of Learning has only been out for a few months, usually when I do events, I’m introducing myself and hoping people might like my book as I read. Imagine how different it feels walking into a room with between 30 and 60 pupils at a time engrossed in the book and full of questions! That’s more than 400 readers up to now – and you should hear how smart their questions are! Here are some of my favourites so far:

  • IMG_4142Did you ever nearly have a nervous breakdown writing a book?
  • Who is your favourite baddie?
  • If you weren’t a writer, what would you like to be?
  • If you could write a book with any other author, who would it be?
  • If you could meet any author, living or dead, who would you meet?
  • If you had a Book of Learning, what do you think you would see?

IMG_4130Reading is so important to me, and being part of a campaign that encourages reading for fun is an absolute honour. So far, the atmosphere is exactly what I hoped for; a space where we can all celebrate books and reading. We talk about what the books and authors we love and why, and what reading means to us. We reveal a few secrets, explore ideas, share our passions and laugh plenty. There are quizzes, illustration demonstrations, and games thrown into the mix – it’s all about fun and looking at books and reading from a fresh perspective.

There are lots more events coming up over the next two months, including a book trail in the National Library of Ireland, an illustration workshop with the wonderful Oisin McGann in Hugh Lane Gallery, and a really special event as part of the Big Day Out St Patrick’s Festival in March. Check out www.dublincityofliterature.ie for more details!

I’d like to leave you with a couple of surprises that I wasn’t expecting. The first is the sighting of posters on Dublin Bus – don’t they look amazing?

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And the second is the fantastic window display in Hodges Figgis Bookshop that blew me away. It’s every writer’s dream to see something like this!

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I do hope to see you at some of the events over the coming months – remember to visit www.dublincityofliterature.ie for more details on what’s happening and how you can book your space. And don’t forget to come and say hi!

Dublin UNESCO Citywide Read Launch

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of launching the Dublin UNESCO Citywide Read at the gorgeous National Library in Dublin – one of the city’s landmarks that feature in The Book of Learning.

I was joined by six faithful readers; Erica, Lucy, Matthew, Mia, Maia, and Abby. There was a photo shoot, a reading, and an interview for News2Day on RTE2, followed by much tea and cake. Here are a few of my favourite shots from the day…

Real Places, Fantastical Worlds

When I started writing The Book of Learning (Nine Lives Trilogy 1), I was new to Dublin and infatuated with exploring this beautiful, friendly city. The parks, museums, theatres, cathedrals; there was so much to see. As I immersed myself in my new surroundings, the characters of Ebony Smart and Icarus Bean – who had been lingering in my head for some time – became so noisy and infuriating, that I had to start writing about them.

I always write my first draft in one month, and whenever I get stuck I take a walk. Wandering the streets of Dublin, the plot of The Book of Learning began to unravel, and the valuable role of this city emerged. When you’re writing about fantastical worlds, the details must be realistic so the reader will believe in your characters and your settings and I soon realised that Dublin’s hideaways and historical buildings suited my storyline and characters perfectly.

My Lower Hatch Street apartment transformed into 23 Mercury Lane, a Georgian house full of mystery and unusual events. The Botanic Gardens morphed into the secret Headquarters for the Order of Nine Lives and its villainous judge. The pond in St Stephen’s Green became a magical underground lair, and other landmark buildings like The National Library and The Natural History Museum provided the perfect backdrop for many weird and wonderful scenes.

west cork scenery

Days like this have to be taken advantage of – Schull

But this was only half of the story solved. I’d always planned for The Book of Learning to be set in two different locations, so when I visited Schull in West Cork for a writing break, everything fell into place. I needed a seaside setting, with hills and islands – but I also needed woodland. So, rather than basing this section of my book on one particular village, I took the essence of West Cork and combined different parts of the area to make my own fictional village – Oddley Cove.

Gallows Island is based on Long Island, with added cliffs and a cave. Gun Point is the name of a real place (though I have moved it geographically), and the channel is my version of Roaring Water Bay. There’s a scene in my book that involves a stormy boat trip, and this is based on real events; while I was visiting Cape Clear, we were caught in bad weather returning home, only I exaggerated events to make them much more exciting.

Hopefully when you read #TheBookofLearning you’ll recognise some of the places. And when you’re wandering your own streets, wherever they may be, let your imagination wander – you never know where it might lead!

(Note: This piece was originally written for the Eason Edition blog – direct link not included because the competition has passed, but go have a look what else is on there!)

Win a Limited Edition Copy of The Book of Learning

I have some very exciting news for readers in Ireland…

A few days ahead of publication day (Sept 2nd), you have the chance to win a special Limited Edition version of The Book of Learning over at Eason’s!

These Limited Edition covers are SILVER, they’re SHINY, and they’re just GORGEOUS (see below)!

To be in with a chance to win, read my blog post over on Eason’s and then answer the question – good luck everyone!

Limited Edition The Book of Learning by ER Murray Limited Edition The Book of Learning by E.R. Murray Limited Edition The Book of Learning Silver

Cover Reveal: The Book Of Learning by E.R.Murray

Here it is, my cover for The Book of Learning – Book One of my #NineLives Trilogy for 9-12 year olds with Mercier Press (August 2015). I’m so excited!

The Book of Learning by E.R.Murray

And here’s the blurb…

Sometimes, it takes more than one lifetime to put things right.

After the death of her beloved grandpa, Ebony Smart’s world is turned upside down. Sent to Dublin to live with an aunt she didn’t know existed, she soon discovers that her new home, 23 Mercury Lane, is full of secrets.

Learning that she is part of an ancient order of people who have the power to reincarnate, Ebony quickly discovers that a terrible evil threatens their existence. With just her pet rat, Winston, and a mysterious book to help her, she must figure out why her people are disappearing and how to save their souls, including her own, before time runs out …