Saturday, May 5, 2012

Apocalypse Now: An interview with ONE FOR THE MURPHYS author Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Today we have an interview with Apolcaypsie Lynda Mullaly Hunt. I'll be giving away a copy of the ARC to one lucky person who leaves a comment for Lynda below!

From the jacket copy:

Twelve-year-old Carley uses her street smarts and dry sense of humor to guard herself from getting hurt. But the day she's placed with a foster family, she's blindsided. Stable families like the Murphys don't exist in real life, do they? Carley feels like an outsider in their bustling, affectionate household with dinners around the table and a "zip your jacket, here's your lunch" kind of mom. 

She fights her hardest to resist them—jealous older brother Daniel makes it easy—but the younger boys and the kind Mrs. Murphy work their way into her heart with their charm, much to Carley's surprise. Thanks to the Murphys, Carley is able to see herself through their eyes and reimagine her future—even when she has to leave them.

Thanks for visiting with The Lucky 13s, Lynda!

Thank you! And congrat’s to all of you Thirteens on your debut contracts. Your launches will come faster than you think! Enjoy the journey; you’ll only debut a book once.

I have to say right up front—I love your main character, Carley Connors. She is at once so tough and so tender. Can you tell us about how you came to know her, and what led you to her story?

Thanks, again, Melanie. J

Well, I’ve known Carley forever, as I have several similarities to her—not the facts of her life, necessarily, but in her emotional journey.

I did stay with another family for a few months when I was about seven and that experience was similar to Carley’s in that it gave me a peek into a kind of life I had not known previously. Even at that young age, it shifted my view of my own life and what it could hold—if I took charge of my own future. For years after, when I came to a crossroads I tended to make decisions based on that long-term plan. It kept me out of trouble.

What led me to the writing of ONE FOR THE MURPHYS was a line that popped into my head one day while washing dishes. But what lead to that line appearing there? Well, it was years of observation. Of wondering. Of planning.

While growing up had its difficult challenges, I consider myself to have been an over-the-top-fortunate child as well. So, I guess that’s it. What led me to write such a story? Carley is a myriad of contradictions—she simultaneously sees every angle of a situation. And so do I.

I'm curious—in which character do you see more of yourself: Mrs. Murphy or Carley?

This is a funny question and one that may make me sound a bit like a nut. There are chunks of me in every character I write, I think. The pieces that make them authentic, anyway.

I’m a very visual writer. I see everything happening in movies in my head and I write down what I see/hear/feel, etc. In those movies, I see me in both Carley and Mrs. Murphy. Literally. I see myself as if looking in a mirror in both characters. Lynda speaking with Lynda. In fact, as I write, I typically “drop”’ in to all of my characters. Even in writing Michael Eric, the four-year-old boy, I see his world through his eyes—his view of looking upward at others, sitting on the cold tile floor playing with Matchboxes. It’s all a bit odd, I must admit, but I’m grateful for it.

But to address your specific question, Carley probably represents the younger Lynda while Mrs. Murphy represents the adult/teacher/mother/child advocate Lynda. Although, I must admit that I don’t stay up late to iron (like Mrs. Murphy) unless someone absolutely needs those clothes early the following morning. I do, however, love Jay Leno. 

Many authors say that they have one single reader in mind while they write. For what kind of kid were you writing this story? Who do you hope ends up with a beloved copy of ONE FOR THE MURPHYS tucked under her pillow?

I’ve never written with any kind of readership on my shoulder. I think it makes the job harder that way. I wrote honestly—with no emotional filters because I figured no one would read it anyway. (No, I really didn’t think contract lightning would strike.)  Ironically, I think that’s why I ended up published.

As a kid, I would have loved to find a book like this because the message I would have taken from it is, “You know, everything is going to be okay.” So, I would hope that any kid who wonders about the future finds his/her way to Murphys. It’s a book for kids who worry about fitting in or standing out. It’s a book for kids who have ever been afraid of who they are or who’ll they’ll grow up to be. It’s a book for anyone that wants to be a hero—not a drag-people-from-a-soon-to-explode-car kind of hero (although that’s cool!) I mean a be-the-best-person-you-can-be-and-take-care-of-the-people-you-love kind of hero. 

PICTURES OF HOLLIS WOODS is one of my favorite books, so I was very impressed to see this quote on the back cover of OFTM:
     "This is a beautiful book, filled with hope. You'll cry and laugh along with Carley as she learns to lower her defenses enough to love—and, more surprisingly, be loved. It's a story you'll long remember." –Patricia Reilly Giff
I think Ms. Giff said it perfectly. Can you tell us about the writers, books, or characters that inspired you to tell Carley's story?

Ah, you have impeccable taste!  I can’t tell you what a thrill it was for me to have Patricia Reilly Giff blurb my book, as her novel, PICTURES OF HOLLIS WOODS is one of my all-time favorites. I think that the opening pages of this novel are some of the most poignant words ever written. Clever. Heart-breaking. Spot-on.

I also love Katherine Paterson’s work. I was floored by Kirkus calling Carley, “a modern day Gilly Hopkins.” I mean, IS there a higher compliment?  I love Gilly—oh, I really do. But the scene in Bridge to Terabithia when Jess is sitting at the table following Leslie’s death is masterful. Katherine Paterson’s gift for showing emotion in a layered and palatable way—yet in an understated way—is genius.

This quote from film maker, Frank Capra, reminds me of both of these ladies and their writing:  “I made mistakes in drama. I thought drama was when actors cried. But drama is when the audience cries.”
As a child, I loved THE CAY by Theodore Taylor. I read it so many times that I lost count. The experience of knowing how a book can take a hold of its reader was probably one of many seeds that contributed to writing for children. As an adult, my favorite book on craft is Stephen King’s ON WRITING; I’ve read it a couple of times.

But, the drive to get my story down did not come from any external sources. It came from within—a place I had not even known existed. It was like having a sliver in my hand that I just had to get out. Yes, a painful process but a necessary one.

We Lucky 13s have a thing for superstitions, and Carley's Irish, so she clearly agrees with us! Do you have any writerly superstitions or odd rituals?

Well, I wouldn’t say I have writerly superstitions or odd rituals exactly (I feel so boring!) but I will say that since my mum passed away in 2004, I feel her presence more and more—which may seem ironic to some. The closer the launch date gets, the more I feel like she is with me.

Just last night, I took my daughter to see the musical, MAME, at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, CT. We went because it was my mum’s favorite play, her birthday is this coming week, and it seemed a fitting way celebrate her. My mum loved Mame’s quote, “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving!” She pulled it out for all kinds of occasions.

Seeing the play made me both laugh out loud and cry. I wish she could be here to see my launch. My mum was a writer—a fantastic poet—and I know my ability is hers. Also, my “Don’t tell me the odds/I can do this” approach to chasing publication came from her as well. If she were still alive, she’d lean in and tell me to take on the world—something Mame would say as well.

So, this isn’t superstitious really, but it does fall in the category of beliefs that can’t be proven yet change our behavior. Probably a stretch for the question, huh? Just remember—I make things up for a living! 

Last question, and then I'll let you get back to the business of a very exciting launch week! What are you most looking forward to in the release of your first novel and beyond?

I am most looking forward to sharing this experience with my friends, family, and others who love books for children. I can’t wait to get into schools to talk with kids about Murphys and writing and what it really means to be a hero.

Huge congratulations on your debut novel, Lynda, and thanks for stopping by!

Lynda Mullaly Hunt is the author of middle-grade novel, ONE FOR THE MURPHYS (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin), winner of The Tassy Walden Award: New Voices in Children’s Literature. She is also a former teacher and Scenario Writing coach. Lynda has been Director of the SCBWI-NE Whispering Pines Retreat for six years. Lynda lives with her husband, two kids, impetuous beagle and beagle-loathing cat.
Visit her online at
Add ONE FOR THE MURPHYS to your to-read list.
Watch the book trailer here.
Catch up with Lynda in-person at one of these events.
Buy a copy at IndieBound here or at Barnes & Noble here.

*Starred Review* Kirkus— “Carley is a modern-day Gilly Hopkins, bright and strong, angry and deeply hurt…The first-person narration allows readers inside Carley’s head as she fights against both showing emotion and her growing pleasure in belonging to their world. There’s plenty of snappy dialogue as well. By the end of this poignant debut, readers will be applauding Carley’s strength even if they’re as unhappy as Carley is about the resolution. A worthy addition to the foster-family shelf.”

This interview was conducted by Lucky 13s member Melanie Crowder as a part of an ongoing series of interviews with The Apocalypsies—YA, MG and picture book authors debuting in 2012.

*cross-posted at . 


  1. Congrats, Lynda. Reading this made me tear up...not an easy thing to do. :-P

    1. Thanks so much, Melissa. I know that's a high compliment, as I am the same way. :-)

  2. Great interview Melanie & Lynda. I just started One for the Murphys and really am enjoying it. Good luck with your debut Lynda.

    1. Thanks so much, Natalie. I'm glad that you are enjoying One for the Murphys. :-)

  3. Love this interview! Lynda, I was so touched by what you said about your mom, and I have no doubt that she would be extremely proud of you. Enjoy this special time in your writerly life!

    1. What a sweet comment. Thanks so much, Natalie.

  4. Sounds like a great book. I have many students who would relate to this character.

    1. Wonderful interview, and congratulations on the release of ONE FOR THE MURPHYS, Lynda! It sounds like a lovely book.



  5. Having read this wonderful book, it's so interesting to see some of the real-world experiences that inspired it. Great interview, you guys! And happy, happy book launch to Lynda!

    1. Thanks so much, Jeanne! SO glad you liked OFTM. And congrat's on YOUR debut! :-)

  6. I'm a visual writer too, so I totally get Lynda's process!

    1. We visual writers have to stick together, Lydia! Non-writers really think it sounds nutty!

  7. Lynda - Great interview. Learned so much about you as both a writer and a person. Can't wait to read the book.

    Melanie - Thanks for asking such thought provoking questions that provided a window into Lynda's thinking.

    1. Hey, Ro

      Thanks so much for stopping by! Hope you enjoy Murphys!

  8. This book sounds great! I'm from England i hope i can enter!

  9. I can't wait to read this book! As soon as I read the description on goodreads I was hooked. (And Lynda, maybe someday I'll even get a chance to meet you at the NESCBWI conference!)

    Thanks Melanie for the interview and giveaway!

    (Also, I have the funny feeling I left a comment on here already, so if this is a repeat I apologize :))

    1. Oh, Ann! You're a fellow New Englander! I do hope our paths cross some day soon. Snag me if you see me--and I'll do the same! :-)

  10. And the winner is....

    Ann Bedichek! Thanks, everybody for your comments, and Happy Book Birthday to Lynda!

  11. Wahoo!! I'm so excited!

    I cannot wait to read it.