Genre Chick Interview: C.E. Murphy

She looks like a superhero, she travels all over the world, and her books will seep into your subconscious and make you wonder about your wildest dreams. Meet Genre Chick Alethea Kontis’s new best friend, urban fantasist C.E. Murphy–author of Coyote Dreams (The Walker Papers).


I met Catie Murphy on a bus. We were both staying in the overflow hotel at last year’s World Fantasy Convention, and we were the first ones on the shuttle bus. (Well, technically it was my misfit friends and me.) Catie–with her Rogue X-Men hair, her sharp wit, and her bubbly laugh–fit right in with us. How could we not adopt her?

In the urban fantasy world, Catie is known as Cate Dermody and C.E. Murphy–author of the Walker Papers Series. I thought I’d share a little of Catie’s exquisitely wonderful uniqueness with you–may it take you even less time to fall in love with her.

Alethea Kontis: You were born in Alaska, but you currently live in Ireland. What are the biggest similarities? The biggest differences?

C. E. Murphy: Alaska’s pretty laid back. The Irish, however, have made being laid back an art form. “Do the Irish have anything like the Spanish siesta?” the joke goes. “Yes,” says the Irishman, thoughtfully, “but without that terrible sense of urgency.” A while ago my brother-in-law and sister were waiting impatiently for a coffee stand to open–it claimed it opened at 10:00, but at 10:00, and 10:05, and 10:10, it still wasn’t open. Finally, my brother-in-law said, “Well, maybe it’s just not 10:00 enough.” Indeed, that seemed to be it, because the shop opened at around 10:15, when it was 10:00 enough.

The obvious difference (besides the accents) is winter. I’ve been in Ireland 15 months and I’m still waiting for winter to arrive. That’s awesome beyond belief.

AK: What kind of research did you do for Coyote Dreams?

CEM: I’ve had a fantastic time researching The Walker Papers series in general. My usual approach is to decide on the basic elements of the story–I’ve read more books on shamanism than you can shake a stick at. I find out as much as I can about those elements, and then, well-armed with knowledge, I rearrange it all to suit my own needs. I’m fully aware that with those stories I’m turning things on their heads, but I like to think I’m doing it out of a place of at least passingly familiar scholarship. For Coyote Dreams, I did a lot of reading about butterflies and Navajo world-creators and African trypanosomiasis and… you get the idea.

AK: If you had a spirit guide, what form would it take?

CEM: I actually did a spirit quest a while ago. Now, I’m from Alaska. You’d think I’d get a wolf or a polar bear or another Charismatic World Wildlife Fund animal like that. A bald eagle. You know, something cool and Alaskan-y. Failing that, I really like tortoises. I had hope.

Nope. Frog. I got a frog. Actually, it was kind of cool. I’m not a visual person at all, so having anything come hopping toward me from the blackness behind my eyelids was pretty awesome.

AK: Have you ever had any super-strange or prophetic dreams?

CEM: No, but I do periodically get really bad cases of déjá vu. Unfortunately, these mostly seem to be while in a car when someone else is driving, and I’ve never commented on what I sensed was about to happen. We hit a dog and got in a car wreck (on two different occasions), and I saw it coming both times. I’ve learned that if it happens again, I will speak up.

AK: How have libraries helped you and/or your career?

CEM: I was maybe the only kid in the world who thought the best possible way to spend a summer was volunteering at the library. I volunteered at my local library when I was nine and 10 (and usually cut recess as often as possible in the dead of winter to go to the library), and I loved it. I shelved books. I read things nine-year-olds shouldn’t. I got to see the inner workings of the library. I got to work behind the counter and check books out for people. It was awesome beyond belief. I read a lot, early, and fast, and by the time I was about five, the librarians all knew my name and would let me check out more than the allotted four books. (Once in a while they’d get a new librarian who’d try to keep me down to four books! The horror!)

AK: Did you believe in magic as a kid?
I don’t remember especially believing in magic, no. What I do remember is believing in stories. Stories are magic, and you can tell stories with magic and they’re real, which is absolutely unconnected to whether magic itself is.

AK: Jim Butcher loved Urban Shaman, the first book in your Walker Papers series. That rocks! So what do you think of the Dresden Files TV show?



Sorry. I just watched the first six episodes at the beginning of this week, and I was so very happy with the show! Jim’s a friend of mine and has been for many years, since well before he got published. I would’ve been just kicking my feet and squealing for the sheer joy of seeing “Based on the novels by Jim Butcher” come up on the screen (I actually knocked my dinner over the first time that came up, in fact), but I really think they’re doing an awesome job of keeping true to the spirit of the books. I cannot wait to see more.

AK: You also write Harlequin Romances as Cate Dermody. Is it difficult to switch between C.E. Murphy and Cate Dermody?

CEM: I have The Walker Papers (Luna), The Negotiator Trilogy, and a new Del Rey series in 2008 (starting with The Queen’s Bastard), all under the Murphy name. I also have a new urban fantasy trilogy (Old Races Trilogy) coming out over the course of 2007-2008. That one’s about a New York City lawyer who finds the perfect man–except he’s a gargoyle and wanted for murder. The first book in that trilogy is Heart of Stone and will be out in November.

I have The Strongbox Chronicles trilogy under Dermody. I think all four series have distinct voices of their own. The Walker Papers share the most in common with The Strongbox Chronicles, because I think Jo and Alisha are the most action-adventure-y of the heroines, but they sound nothing alike. So voice isn’t too hard to deal with.

Probably the biggest hurdle for me is getting enough romance into the Dermody books–my tendency is to write romantic subplots rather than romantic plot-plots, but fortunately, that’s what rewrites are for.

I actually don’t have any more Dermody books planned right now, but that’s okay. I think C.E. is keeping me busy enough for the moment. I’m delighted to report that I’ve signed a contract for the next three Walker Papers. Joanne Walker will be back in 2009!

AK: Your husband is a chef–what’s the most delicious meal he’s ever made for you?

CEM: Oh, good grief, that’s an impossible question. Ted makes these little teeny tiny fried potatoes that are insanely good, or he makes this rockfish risotto meal, or… One year when I said I’d like tacos for my birthday, he created an entire Mexican feast. Tacos, enchiladas, refried beans–I was overwhelmed. It was great!

AK: What is your perfect writing environment?

CEM: I suspect it involves palm fronds and cabana boys and somebody else actually doing the work part, but I haven’t ever actually been in that situation, so I can’t be certain. I’ve got my Captain’s Chair, which is now two years old and continues to rock my socks, and unlike in that photo, I actually have my own office now. We don’t own the house, so I don’t have my artwork up, but I do have a bunch of my Rogue and Gambit figurines out, so it’s the right sort of area. Pretty much a small office without a lot of surface space to clutter up: my Captain’s Chair, my art, and a window to look out make me very happy.

AK: Who’s your hairstylist? (‘Cause you have the best hair ever.)

CEM: (Laughs) For those who haven’t met me, I wear my hair (currently fairly short) with a bleached “Rogue” stripe at the front, a la Anna Paquin in the X-Men movies. (I’ve been doing it since before the movies, though: I’m a complete geek and have had a crush on Rogue in the comics forevah.) I’ve had the bleaching done professionally the last couple of times because I can’t find the right kind of lightener in Ireland, but typically I do it myself. I melted it once (did you know hair can melt? It can! It gets stretchy and gooey and quite awful!) and shaved my head to deal with the results, so I am now very, very careful. But hey, you live and learn.

AK: If you could be any superhero, who would you be?

CEM: (looks at her previous answers)
(looks at Alethea)