Terrie Leigh Relf: What are your daily writing and/or artistic rituals? How do you prepare your space for these activities?
Iseult Murphy: I am very grateful that I have a dedicated writing space. I’ve converted one of the bedrooms into a writing room. It has a window overlooking a small courtyard at the back of the house, and there are always birds of various types feeding on the bushes outside or chilling in the sun, and there is often a squirrel or two seen running past. It is important for me to be close to nature. I have white boards on the walls so I can write down my story ideas and writing goals. I also have a huge bean bag that I can lounge on and look up at the sky and think about things, or do research.
Every evening I write out a list of my projects for the next day on one of the whiteboards. I love making lists and planning things months in advance. During the day, I think about my project as often as I can, so that when I am able to, I can get straight down to work.
TLR: With what media – or genres – do you work?
IM: I will turn anything into a creative endeavor. I’ve worked with clay, acrylic, water colour, pastel, pencil, charcoal, needle and thread, prose, poetry, almond paste, chocolate.
Visually I like bold colours and thick layers, so pastels and acrylic paints are my favourite media, although I do like the control I can get with pencil, and I adore the undo function when working with digital media.
For writing, my favorite genres are horror, fantasy, and science fiction. I like blending genres together.
TLR: Do you have a “day job” in addition to being a writer and artist? If you have an unrelated day job, how do you balance your creative and work time?
IM: At the present moment, I am a full time carer for my mother. I use her rest times for planning out my work, and usually get to work in the afternoon or evening when I get a break from my caring duties.
TLR: What tips do you have for other writers and artists? This could be anything from a time-management strategy to an inspirational quote or exercise.
IM: My first tip is to be consistent and disciplined. I think this is good advice for everything in life. Set aside time for creativity every day. Keep working, even if you think you are terrible. As with all things, you need to practice to improve. The best way to become a better writer or artist is to create.
I know it is always said, but my second tip is to read as much as possible. I was very fortunate to be raised on a foundation of the classics, and I learned through osmosis the principles of good writing. It’s very important to read a wide variety of books.
The same with art; study other artists and their work. What is it that you like about their work? Why does one painting speak to you and another leave you cold? What has one artist done differently to another?
My third tip is to finish everything you start, no matter how awful and challenging it might be at the time. I have abandoned lots of stories and sketches, only to realize years later that they had a glimmer of promise, if only I could remember what I had intended the finished project to be!
Remember, you can’t edit a blank page. Even if the finished story or the picture turns out to be dreadful, you can still use that experience to improve. Nothing is wasted.
TLR: What would you like people to know about the creative process in general and your creative process in particular?
IM: Creating something is incredibly rewarding, but the birthing process can also be incredibly painful, so don’t panic if you are struggling. It’s expected!
One of my blessings is that I always have lots of ideas. New ideas come to me all the time. I even get incredibly detailed ideas for projects in my dreams. I have notebooks full of characters, worlds, and story ideas.
My curse is focusing on one project at a time and seeing it through to completion.
I am a very visual person, so I plan out my creative projects in my head in a similar way to creating a sculpture. I build a structure in my mind and add layers to it until it is a three-dimensional image. I know the rhythm, beats, texture, look, and feel of what I want my art or story to be. Each revision is to bring the physical project into line with this mental map.
However, the transfer from my mental structure to the physical page or canvas is always difficult, and can leave me despondent because the two images don’t match up. That’s where the pain comes in! It can be hard to accept the finished project for what it is, even though it can often turn out better than I had expected. The only thing to do is to know when to stop revising, learn from the experience, and move on to something new.
TLR: What interview question would you most like to be asked? Least?
IM: Mmm, I suppose I would most like to be asked what is it like to be a world famous, bestselling author? Haha! Of course, my reply would be “It’s awesome!”
I would least like to be asked why are you so bad at writing? I would try to remain polite and reply “Well, tastes vary.”
TLR: What about upcoming publications? Gallery shows? Other accolades?
IM: My flash fiction piece, “The Rains Would Not Come” appeared in the December edition of New Myths.
TLR: Thank you so much for sharing your life – and process – with us. I know that readers will love your work and will learn much from your sage words!
Iseult Murphy’s early drawings of cats hunting mice indicated that she would grow up to write horror. She won several national science fiction short story competitions in her teens, and has had over two dozen speculative fiction stories published in a variety of print and online markets. Her stories have recently appeared in Alban Lake’s Drabble Harvest and NewMyths.com.