Meet the Author: Iseult Murphy
Good Morning Everyone and Happy Friday Eve!
I don’t know about you, but this week needs to end so I can have me some Netflix and chill time. Today’s post is another author interview, yay!
This time around I’m interviewing horror, fantasy, and scifi author Iseult Murphy. She’s written two collection of short stories and is here today promoting her first full-length horror novel, 7 Days of Hell.
Nestled between counties Limerick and Cork in Southern Ireland, something evil lurks in the place of High Death.
When Vicky’s boss offers her a free vacation in a self catering cottage over Halloween break, she jumps at the chance to spend quality time with her twin sister, Irene, and Irene’s miniature schnauzer, Ronnie.
The village of Basard may boast Ireland’s longest running Halloween celebration, and one of the country’s best preserved standing stone circles, but Vicky finds the place rather dead. What’s more, she can’t sleep for the nightly roars of a distant crowd.
Will the twins survive this Halloween vacation to wake the dead, when their 7 days in paradise turns into 7 Days in Hell?
Before we start, I got to know Iseult through WordPress and GoodReads, though I’m not sure which one came first. WordPress I think? Anyways, we quickly became good friends from our mutual love of horror and good stories in general. Join me in welcoming Iseult to today’s post!
Hi, I’m Iseult. I love writing, reading and watching horror, fantasy and science fiction. I have two collections of short stories available for purchase on Amazon, and my first full length horror novel available for preorder. I post book reviews, author interviews and writing updates on my blog, and I love connecting with others on twitter.
Hi Iseult, thanks so much for stopping by. To keep things interesting, I like to ask my interviewees a random question to get the blood flowing. Here’s yours!
As you walk home from the mall with your friends, an alien ship crash lands near you. The dying alien from inside approaches and offers to give you the power to morph into animals so long as you fight an evil alien race til your dying breath. What do you do?
Bring it on! I’ve wanted the power to morph into different animals my whole life. Have to defeat an alien race at the same time? Why not! Of course, I’d probably die the first time I transformed into a wolf and launched myself at the chief alien’s throat, but I died doing what I loved.
Yes! I’ve been hoping someone would bite at this question since I’m totally obsessed with Animorphs, so kudos to you!
I can’t agree with you more. What’s more exciting than being able to morph into animals and having epic space battles? I’m die hard just like you and would probably pick something huge and catlike for a morph. Maybe a black panther.
Iseult and the Writing Process
For starters, tell us a little bit about your writing.
I write horror, dark fantasy and soft science fiction. I love exploring the idea of a dark undercurrent to life that most people do not know about, and what that means for the individual when they discover it. Transformation is very important in my writing, as are animals. There are elements of all those things in most of my works.
I won some short story competitions in my teens, and then I started publishing short stories. I’ve recently entered the world of self publishing with my short story collections and my forthcoming horror novel series. I like the freedom and control that self publishing allows me. I get a thrill every time someone reviews something I’ve written. There is something awesome and terrifying to think of my words out there worming their way into the brains of people I don’t know. I love it.
Very intriguing! Congrats on your successes past, present, and future. I haven’t published any short stories to date, but after my Reaper sequel is done, I plan on sprucing one up that I already wrote and getting a publisher to go for it.
Mucho respect for self-publishing! It’s tough, but is really the best way to not only learn about each step of the publishing process, but to become a fully-rounded author. Not only can you write, but you run the show too. There’s a certain power in that.
How do you find inspiration to write?
A lot of my inspiration comes from my dreams, or should I say, my nightmares. Anything can spark the idea for a story. My first professional sale was inspired by a misspelling on a trophy. My upcoming horror novel was inspired by a vacation I took with my sister.
That’s awesome. You’re not alone, my friend. All my life I’ve had extremely real dreams and nightmares. I like to think of them as fun stories to tell my friends, though many of them have supernatural elements to them.
Oh nice! I’ve been inspired on vacation before, but not enough to write a whole novel. We’ve got to talk about this trip you took sometime!
What kind of setting do you write in most times?
I have a desk in a room with all my notebooks, my laptop and a filing cabinet with my maps and notes. Because of my poor health, I find I’m increasingly doing work on my phone because I can take it with me anywhere, but when I’m well enough, I work on my laptop at my desk.
We’re not all that different, you and I. I typically write on my desktop when I’m at home, or if I’m travelling, my laptop. I recently got one of those monitors with a huge screen, so I love that everything is much larger and easy on the eyes. I haven’t yet tried writing on my phone, but my current phone isn’t all that amazing so I may have to wait til I get a better one before trying that out.
I always find it interesting how authors and bloggers alike lead multiple lives. What is your dayjob? Do you enjoy it?
At the moment my health precludes me from having a day job.
I’m sorry friend. I had no idea! Well I hope that one day soon you can find a dayjob that works for you. In the meantime, write your heart out! J
As a writer/blogger, what kind of goals do you set for yourself? How do you achieve them?
I try to write so many words every day, but I rarely achieve it. Recently I started posting book reviews on my blog. I challenged myself to post a horror book review every day for October. I didn’t make 31 days, I think I got 26 or something like that, but it inspired me to keep going and I’ve been blogging very consistently since then. WordPress is great, because with a bit of planning I can schedule my posts in advance to cover the days when I can’t do anything.
Me too on the writing! I used to have a goal of 2,000 words a week, but I realized I was limiting myself, so I don’t really have a goal right now. I usually end up writing 3,500 plus words given that I have everything plotted out that I need to continue forward smoothly (super OCD plotter here lol!).
Yes, I’m all about the book reviews! It’s so helpful to readers and other writers looking for inspiration.
Oh, I’m right there with you. Primarily I plan out my movie and series reviews in advance because they are easy for me to do, but I have also started writing out posts preemptively on Sundays so that I’m not running around like a chicken with my head cut off all throughout the week.
How long have you been writing/blogging?
I’ve been writing since before I could read! I used to scribble in a notebook so that it looked like words, and then I stared dictating stories to my sisters to write down.
I’ve only had my current blog for about two years. I cared for my mother through her final illness, and after she died I decided to take my writing more seriously. I signed up for a course that encouraged me to set up a website and social media presence. It also started me on the track of self publishing. A lot of good things have come out of that course.
Wow, that’s really interesting. Sounds like you were always super creative.
I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m glad that you used that love to ingrain yourself into writing more. It’s definitely a journey! I started blogging on Facebook maybe three years ago? Or was it four? Hell, I can’t remember lol.
Why do you write/blog?
I write because there are always stories buzzing around in my head and it is bad for my mental health if I don’t let them out. I suppose it helps me make sense of things, and I hope it connects with others and entertains them the way books have always been there to comfort me.
I started out blogging to promote my books, but I’ve made some great connections, got to talk to some of my favorite authors and I’ve discovered I enjoy book blogging. That’s all happened in a year. Who knows what I’ll be blogging about this time next year.
I hear ya there! I constantly get little ideas popping into my head. It’s therapeutic to write them out for sure. I also hope to entertain with a good story.
Haha, I did the same thing! After I self-published, it felt like a natural step forward to get my own website and promote myself, but it turned into so much more than that. Go us!
What is your favorite part of writing?
It doesn’t happen often, but when I get into the zone when I’m writing. When the story seems to be flowing through me and I’m just the conductor, waving my arms to make sure everything comes in at the right time and is harmonious. That rocks.
Totally. You’re right in that it just doesn’t all the time, but when it’s there you can definitely feel the difference!
What genre is your favorite to write in? Why?
I love writing about dark things and dangers, whether that’s straight horror or dark fantasy or science fiction. It gives me a way to explore the complexities and difficulties of life. There is darkness and humor, because there is always something slightly absurd in the most horrific situations.
Couldn’t agree more. Everything I write has a certain dark element to it, and I can’t imagine writing without it.
Are you working on any projects at the moment?
I’m working on final edits for the first book in my Irish zombie series, 7 Days in Hell, and its sequel, 7 Weeks in Hell. I’m also preparing a horror novella for publication in late summer. My WIP is a dark fantasy set in a secondary world. It’s very mythic and a bit out there, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out.
May is my second blogaversary, and I’m planning a special gift for that month as well.
Wow, keeping busy! I love it. I’m definitely going to have to check out some of your work. By the way, I love novellas because of how easy and quick they are to get through. Keep me posted on that one, will ya?
My current projects are obviously the Reaper sequel, then I plan on polishing up a short story, and after that I’ll refocus my effort on my unpublished manuscript of The Gifted Chronicles and the other 3-4 books I plan on writing in that universe.
Happy soon to be blogaversary!
What first inspired you to start writing/blogging?
I’m the youngest of ten children, and when I was little, my older siblings were always writing stories and discussing the books they’d read. I made up stories and dictated them, but my first foray into literature was through poetry. What inspired me to get into writing prose was
- A humorous newspaper two of my siblings wrote. I didn’t get the jokes (I was about six), so I decided to write my own publication, which was my version of hard journalism, and
- When I was 7, one of my sisters told me the story of The Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit was already one of my favourite books, but I was considered too young to read the trilogy, so I begged my sister to tell it to me in detail. Again, I wanted to write my own (better – haha) version, so I started writing my first fantasy novel.
Wow, I love how your family loves to read. What a source of inspiration for younger you!
For me, I just got looped into those typical 90’s reading programs where you could earn free ice cream, pizza, etc and discovered how much I loved reading.
What do you think made your blog successful?
My blog is a work in progress, and I’m very grateful for the successes I’ve had so far. Blogging regularly definitely makes a big difference. Book blogging has helped me with this, because I’m reading the books anyway, and I like supporting other authors and introducing readers to new books. I’m very fortunate to have met some very lovely, supportive members of the blogging community. Stories on my blog and interviews with other writers are always my most popular posts, so I’m going to include more fiction and post collaborations going forward.
Oh, you’re not alone in that friend! It takes a long time to get into the groove of things. Many of my posts in 2019 are things I decided not to continue or have changed in 2020. But you’re right, it’s all about connecting with other people and giving them a glimpse of someone else’s life and what that looks like, kinda like what we’re doing now. *stares at computer screen audience*
But ultimately, I’d say whatever you do end up posting, as long as it makes you happy, go with that.
What networking do you do that you feel helps your blogging business?
I try to be active on twitter and visit other blogs and comment on them. The best networking, to my mind, is making true genuine connections with others. So chatting to people, getting to know them, supporting other writers and being yourself are all important factors for me.
Networking is always in style. I’m glad you keep yourself going with that endeavor. You never know what great new friends you’ll make online.
As for me, I try to follow that same methodology, but I’ll admit that lately I’ve kind of gotten into a rut on Facebook and Tumblr where I mainly just share my posts. If I do find something interesting in the moment, I’ll comment and start a conversation, but time is super limited for me. Still, I’d like to set aside a bit more time for social media and connecting with other authors and readers.
What do you find most challenging about writing/blogging?
I’m a perfectionist, and a bit of a pessimist, so I find it hard to know when my work is done. There comes a time when I have to let go and just send stories out there. I’m a flawed being, so I’m never going to reach perfection.
Marketing is probably what I find most challenging. I’m very happy to shout from the roof tops about other writers, but I struggle to whisper about myself.
I’m also a perfectionist, and while it sucks, I feel like over time I’ve gotten a little bit better about getting to a point where I’m okay with the story I’m about to submit. It’s always going to be tough though. I mean, how do you really know? At some point you just have to let go.
Yeah, I’m no marketing pro either. I used to feel awful about promoting myself, but I’ve gotten a tad better over time. Also, marketing can come in the form of networking, so I’ve also relied on that.
When did you first consider yourself a writer/blogger?
I always wanted to be a writer, but it wasn’t until I won some short story competitions in my teens and got great feedback from the judges that it realized that I might be able to do it. Getting stories published helped solidify that.
I don’t know if I consider myself a blogger yet. I see so many excellent bloggers, like yourself, and I feel like such an infant.
Yeah, I think that winning a competition for writing definitely qualifies you as one, even though you were one already. For me, it was when I approached writing seriously that I considered myself one. That and like you said, publication solidifies it even more.
No, you are a blogger! That’s so sweet that you think so highly of me, but honestly I just kind of randomly posted things until I figured out what worked for me and what didn’t. It is true that I like things to look pretty and orderly, so I do put some effort into that, but it was truly a lot of mass randomness before I figured things out.
Describe your writing style.
I would like to think of it as stylistically simple, with multi layered themes, and a different view of the magic in life.
I haven’t personally read your work, but that sounds lovely. I don’t really care for anything written too flowery or overly complex, so your style sounds right up my alley.
I like to think of my writing style as YA for the most part. There may be an adult theme here and there, but for the most part I like my YA style.
What is the hardest lesson you had to learn as a writer/blogger?
That thinking doesn’t make it so! If I had typed out as many novels as I’ve written in my head, I’d be the most prolific writer in the world.
Haha, so true. It does a ton of blood, sweat, and tears to make a book happen, although I do believe that it gets easier with time. Not overly so, but a little bit.
For me, it was to have a tough skin and to look the other way when others harshly criticize your work. It can still be tough, but I’ve come to a point where it just bounces off my back now.
What are some of the challenges you face as a writer/blogger?
Crippling self criticism. I have to keep telling myself that it’s ok to write badly. Aim to do my best rather than perfection.
Right, that one is sooo hard! Only lately have I adopted this way of thinking, and it’s helped my word count so much on my rough draft! Before I would fall back to the previous day’s writing and edit it before moving forward, but constantly going back is a huge time suck. There’s plenty of time for the next editing round to happen. No one is perfect, and that’s totally okay. Can you imagine how boring life would be if we were all ‘perfect?’
Not including family, who supported your efforts to become a published author?
I’m very fortunate to have a friend in the great Terrie Leigh Relf. She started off by accepting my work for her Drabble competitions and that’s how we got to know each other. She is incredibly supportive and helpful when it comes to my writing career.
David Rae is another writer who really supports my writing. I met him on a writing course a couple of years ago. We ’get’ each other’s writing.
There has been so many. I am so fortunate. I’m grateful to each and every one.
I always love hearing great stories of writers supporting other. Thanks for sharing that with us. I also met most of my writer friends online, mainly through Scribophile, but more recently through WordPress *wink wink*
Who was your first publisher and what did you learn from them?
My first publisher was an ezine called Alienskin, which unfortunately is no longer in existence. I loved what they published, and used to send them a story every January. I rage wrote a story one day, polished it up and sent it to Alienskin, and it was accepted! You can read it now in my horror anthology, Zoo of the Dead and Other Horrific Tales. It’s called ‘Who’s for dinner?’.
What I learned from that experience is that perseverance is important. Also, don’t wait a whole year to recover from your rejection before sending something else out!
Oh wow, that’s awesome! I’m sorry they’re no longer around. Sounds like they were the perfect publisher for you. Perseverance is huge in our line of work, and I agree. If a publisher rejects your submission, just move on to another one.
My first experience was self-publishing, and I learned so much from the experience. I won’t always self-publish my pieces, but will play each story out by ear. The Gifted Chronicles I definitely want a publisher for. Same with my short story.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I do read my book reviews. I have been very fortunate and I’ve only got good reviews so far. I’m very grateful for anyone who leaves a review. I know not everyone will like my writing, so I’m prepared for the bad reviews. I look forward to seeing what things people dislike about my writing! It’s much nicer reading what things people like, of course.
I also read my reviews. I mean, curiosity wins out in the end with me, so periodically I’ll check. For the most part I’ve had positive reviews, but no bad reviews that really hurt me or anything like that.
I love the feeling when you get that five star rating and someone gushes about how much they love your work. Can’t beat it!
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I did! At one stage I fantasized about writing fantasy romance novels and making lots of money. I was going to write them under Jasmine Graves. However, I don’t read romance, and my ideas started turning into dark adventures, so I thought it would be better if I didn’t go through with it.
Sometimes I wonder if I would be better publishing my horror, fantasy and science fiction novels under three slightly different versions of my name so that readers will know immediately which type of book it is. I know in the past publishers went that route, especially when writers were starting out, but I don’t think it’s necessary anymore.
Ooo, I like your pseudonym! Well I’m glad you’re comfortable with your decision.
I won’t hate on pseudonyms, but I don’t feel the need for one. I’m such an open book already that I just used my name. Besides, Pongratz is a funky original name haha!
Fun Facts About Iseult
Pancakes or waffles?
Yes, don’t forget the butter!
What’s your favorite place that you’ve travelled to?
New Zealand. Spent a month traveling around. I’d love to go back.
Ooo, I’ve always wanted to go! So jelly right now! For me it’s probably Seattle and Denver. I haven’t done any big trips in quite a while though.
Are pineapples on pizza blasphemy or no?
The horror! Never.
Lol I totally agree. Separately it’s fine. Together? Blech!
If you had to choose one type of food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Nom nom nom! I love me some Asian food, so that one always wins out for me.
If you could choose to be any supernatural creature, what would you be and why?
I would love the ability to change into different types of animals, so some variation on a werewolf, but not the demonic kind.
Thanks for specifying not the demon kind because then you don’t have to answer to the powers that be. I wouldn’t mind being a vampire or some kind of djinn. Djinn can have a surprising array of powers at their disposal depending on what type it is.
What is your favorite genre to read? Why?
No surprises here. Horror, fantasy and science fiction. They are the genres that speak to me most and I find most entertaining.
Yeah, those are the big three for me too. I also can’t deny YA and supernatural/paranormal as well.
Iseult and Her Works
Tell us about your new book.
My upcoming novel is about twin sisters, and their dog, vacationing in a self catering cottage in Southern Ireland over Halloween. It all goes well until they realize the village is infested with zombies. I hope readers find it scary and funny and entertaining.
Oh snap, that sounds terrifying! Sounds like quite the battle!
How did you come up with the title for this book?
The twins have rented the cottage for the week, and it’s a horror, so it came together naturally.
I agree, simple but perfect for what the book is about.
What inspired you to write this book in particular? Is it part of a series?
It started out as a NaNoWriMo novel, and then I thought up a really cool idea for a play that would be a sequel of sorts, but I turned it into a book instead, which led to ideas for several more books that finish the series.
Yes, I’m all about Nanowrimo novels! I’m so happy that the website inspired you to finish this book and share it with us. I’m always down for a bloody zombie series.
What was your favorite part about writing this book?
It was so much fun to write. It has elements of real life, and it has zombies, which I love. I hope readers will enjoy it.
Oh, I bet I will once I pick it up. I’ve seen sooo many zombie movies over the years.
Do you have a favorite character in your new book? Why are they your favorite?
I can’t pick a favourite. I love them all for different reasons.
I usually feel the same way about my characters as well. I totally get it. Each becomes a part of you, so it’s hard to choose.
What did you find was the hardest part about writing this book?
Some of the darker parts of the book were upsetting to write. I was surprised how invested I was in the characters and the action. It took me days to recover from writing several parts of the book. I hope that impact comes across to the reader.
That’s totally understandable. I actually wrote a passage yesterday that really upset me. I had to take some serious deep breaths and remind myself that I knew this part was coming.
How much of your book is based on your own experiences or those of someone you know?
The setting for the book was inspired by a real vacation, and the main characters started off as loosely based on myself on my sister, but they are very much their own characters now. Real life was just a starting point for the idea.
Awesome! That really is how a lot of my characters started, then they form into these amazing, strong heroes of their own making through their trials and tribulations.
What criteria did you use when selecting the cover for your book?
I’m in a writers group on twitter and one of the members mentioned that she designed book covers. I’d seen her photographs and loved them, so I talked to her. After a brief chat she produced these shots that were perfect, exactly what I envisioned. She’s Keshia Erin at The Caliburn Photography Group and she’s designed the covers for the entire series.
That’s great that you know your cover artist personally! I started out not knowing mine, but ever since I had the first stellar cover made I’m not going to anyone else if I can help it.
Alright, looks like our time’s up. Last question! If you could give advice to new writers/bloggers, what would you say?
It’s not original advice, but people keep saying it because it is good advice. Write constantly. The more you write, the more ideas you get and the better you are at writing. Also, read constantly. I see a lot of people complaining that they don’t have time for reading. It’s really important to read if you want to write. That’s how you learn how to write – what works, and what doesn’t. It also shows you that some ideas have been written about a lot in the same sort of way, so that great idea you have about someone waking up and it turns out they’re in a computer game? If you read a lot, you will find out that ideas like that should stay as writing exercises unless you put in a lot of work developing them to put an original spin on it.
By all means write how and what you like, never edit or read, but if you are sending work to publishers, or expect people to pay for your work, you need to practice your craft. What better way to improve than reading and writing! You learn while having fun.
I mean, it may not be original, but clichés exist for a reason I believe, and actually you stole my answer!
Never stop writing. In time, your craft suffers from it. I’m not saying don’t take a day off if you really feel you need it. I usually take off Saturday or Sunday. Gotta have that day of rest. But consistently writing makes for polished skill in the long run.
Reading for me is my creative juice, so if I stop reading, I feel that my writing suffers.
Thanks so much for joining us today, Iseult!
That’s a Wrap!
All righty book worms, that wraps up my interview with Iseult Murphy. I always have a great time chatting it up with her, and I hope you enjoyed the experience too!
If you’d like to learn more about Iseult and her work, she can be reached at the social media and purchase links provided below.
Thank you for stopping by, and have a great day!
Social Media Links
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