Susan Murphy is a South Australian based romance author. Her works include Confetti Confidential: They Do, I Don’t and Annabel’s Wedding. Currently she is our writer in residence, and will be working on a historical romance during her time at the Centre.
What attracted you to the romance genre?
What’s not to love about romance? To be honest, I didn’t start out writing in this genre. I wrote a YA novel and then I was working on a conspiracy-type thriller before I jumped ship and set my sights on romance. The catalyst for that shift was attending a masterclass with the amazingly talented Fiona McIntosh who, when I wrote a funny story scene in class, told me quite sternly that I needed to be writing women’s fiction. I took her advice and never looked back.
Your first novel is a contemporary romance and your current project is more of a historical romance: how challenging is the shift between the two? Are you approaching this project the same way you approached your other works, or does it require an entirely different headspace?
Wow, I love this question because it made me sit back in my chair and really give it some thought. The approach to writing this story is a completely different head space for me. Research? Oh my goodness, what is that? Confetti Confidential was about writing from what I know, see, hear, touch in my daily life and this new project requires me to somehow do that authentically in a time I didn’t live. I am eternally grateful to have been lucky enough to have this position at the SA Writers Centre to have the resources and space to get stuck into it. I feel it’s going to be a great challenge, but I love a good challenge. Why do something that’s easy, right? I intend to approach this book with a lot of research, lots of chocolate and probably some wine.
What inspired you to move into historical romance? Do you think historical romance novels offer something that contemporary romances lack, or do you find all romance, at heart, the same?
The inspiration for this story came from real life. I didn’t intend to make the shift as I’ve really been enjoying writing the Confetti Confidential series, but when the opportunity presented itself, I almost felt it was meant for me. My grandfather is 98 years old and loved telling stories of his life. When he moved into a nursing home recently, my Mum came across a box of letters, mostly from the 1940s, as well as Army records, photographs and many more beautifully preserved items. The voices in the letters and the faces in the pictures stirred an excitement in me I hadn’t felt before. I wanted to lock myself in an office and just read all of the words and feel the paper. My grandmother’s story was just as wonderful and the boxes provided stories and letters from the convent she was brought up in in Scotland as well as her life and loves.
I think at its very core, romance is the same, but the time period certainly offers something different. I love contemporary romance that lets me recognise myself in the scene and the characters. I also adore being able to read about a time I didn’t live in because it offers a perfect escape to a different existence and there’s something magical about that.
Do you have any advice for budding romance writers? Any tips given to you that you found useful when you started down the path of writing your novels?
The best advice I had was to start and keep writing until you’re finished. Don’t re-read, don’t go back: if you decide to make a change, keep writing as if you already made it and then fix it on your first edit. Prior to this advice, I always got caught up going back over work and never finished anything! Also don’t overthink it. Persist and finish. Writing ‘The End’ feels amazing.
Finally, can you recommend any other Australian romance writers, or novels?
Where do I begin? Of course, the most talented Fiona McIntosh, who I would unreservedly say has been my mentor and published so many acclaimed romance novels. Then there are a small group of really talented new authors whose work I love. Samantha Napier’s Dating the Alphabet was a great, funny read and Dianne Maguire’s What Matters Most had me in tears. I recently read Tess Woods’ Love at First Flight which explored some difficult topics, but was marvellous. I love Carla Caruso’s stories – all of them! There’s a lot of talent in Australia.