Tell us a little about how you got started as an author and how you came up with the idea for this book?
I spent decades working as a professional writer in the business world, holding several jobs in corporate communications and executive ghost writing. (Hmmm...now that I think about it, maybe I’ve been hanging out with ‘ghosts’ a lot longer than I realized…) Although I’d play a little bit with fiction in my off hours (anyone interested in looking at a ballroom screenplay called Cha Cha Bimbo?), I started writing my first book, Bob at the Lake, only a couple of years ago. I’d always wanted to create a book about someone surviving on their own because you just don’t see books on that theme anywhere, and so many people do live by themselves and have great lives. Other pieces of the plot drifted into place over several months as I was thinking about actually putting words to paper and trying to craft a book.
Where do you get your ideas for characters? In particular, did you steal some characteristics from yourself or people you know for the main characters?
I do share some personality traits with Roz, I’m afraid--the iffy ones, like crabbiness and frugality. Sigh. But she’s a lot nuttier than I am. (Not really...deep sigh…) Bob was inspired by some humorous essays from the early years of the twentieth century, and I actually met a David-ish wine pourer once. Yum. Other than little bits of character traits here and there, though, the people in my books truly are fictional.
Which author/authors or particular books have inspired you?
I have always loved Robert Benchley’s essays. They have brought me chuckles and guffaws for years, even though some of the topics have become dated. As a teenager I accidentally picked up Harpo Marx’s autobiography Harpo Speaks! and have been fascinated by the Algonquin Round Table ever since; some of its members have been my bosom companions for years. Alexander Woollcott’s letters are a hoot. There was another singleton who had the richest, most exuberant life you can imagine. And I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the novels of Edna Ferber, just one of many Pulitzer winners who sat at that Table. Speaking of the Algonquin Round Table, look for a tense encounter between Roz and ghostly Table members in my second book, Bob at The Plaza.
What were some of your favorite reads of the past year?
Right now I’m in the middle of Connie Willis’ amazing doublet about World War 2--Black Out and All Clear. I’m in awe of the extensive research that underpins this great storytelling. I’m also reading A Guide to Elegance. The book is dated in many respects (not a lot of hats, gloves, and girdles around these days!), but it does contain a handful of timeless nuggets on style. I find myself wondering whether our consumer-driven culture (where an infinite number of ‘wants’ always requires an infinite number of purchases) can co-exist with the concept of elegance (where a need can be filled with one perfect purchase). It sort of ties back to my drive toward frugality, believe it or not.
For the aspiring writers out there, can you tell us something about how you develop your plot?
One of my biggest worries with this book was making my characters believable and understandable. Plot came second, because I wanted my character’s actions to make sense based on who they were.
Tell us about your future? Next book? The manuscript for Bob at The Plaza is just about completed. I should be submitting it to the publisher in the next month or so. Wish me luck!
Enjoy an excerpt:
Bob, [my new ghost], looked around at my quiet, carton-filled house. “But don’t you think you’ll ever get lonely way out here? You might miss having a man around.”
“Well,” I responded, “I’m human, so of course I’d like to have a guy around on a regular basis. But by the time you get to be my age most of the good guys are taken. My grandmother used to say, ‘It takes a very good man to be better than none.’ She was right. If I can’t find a good guy, I’m not going to waste my time and energy on a fixer-upper. You know what they say about teaching a pig to sing.”
“Huh?” he replied, bewildered.
“You know, ‘You can’t teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time, and it annoys the pig.’ I feel the same way about spending my time with an inappropriate man. I’m sure they’re all fine, they just don’t have what’s right for me. I’m tired of pretending that underneath all the nuttiness, I’m not smart and competent. I just don’t feel like putting on the ‘Love me, oh, please, love me’ song and dance routine anymore.”
“Good one about the pig. I should jot that down.”
Thus began months of the strangest dinner conversations I could ever imagine. Topics ranged from the sex life of newts to the menace of buttered toast. We spent several days talking about Bob’s bone dust theory (he believed the kind of person you were was determined by the amount of bone dust in your body). I started buying my semi-dry riesling by the case and developed a taste for very dry martinis. Half of our dinners wound up with me yelling, throwing my hands in the air, and storming out of the kitchen. The other half ended with us laughing so hard tears streamed out of my eyes. What a blast.
About the Author:
When she’s not reading, writing, hill-walking, staring mindlessly out the window at the lake or piling rocks onto her ever-diminishing lakefront, you can usually find Roz hanging out with her family, travelling, or exploring the amazing wines and wineries of the Finger Lakes.
‘Bob at the Lake’ is exclusively available as a Kindle download from Amazon. Please join Roz Murphy Author on Facebook for updates on the many adventures of Roz, David—and Bob.
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