Author’s Bio: Cerece Rennie Murphy first fell in love with science fiction watching Empire Strikes Back at the Uptown Theater in Washington, DC with her sister and mother. It’s a love affair that has grown ever since.
In addition to working on the 2nd book in the Ellis and The Magic Mirror children’s book series with her son, Mrs. Murphy is currently developing a time-bending romance and a 2-part science fiction thriller set in outer space. Ms. Murphy lives and writes in her hometown of Washington, DC with her husband, two children and the family dog, Yoda. To learn more about the author and her upcoming projects, please visit her website at www.cerecerenniemurphy.com.
What inspired you to write your book?
What inspires me to write is having a story to tell. I’m someone who NEVER thought I could write a book much less publish it on my own, so to have a book idea is nothing short of a miracle to me. Each of my story ideas have came to me, either while washing the dishes or in a dream or, in the case of Ellis and the Magic Mirror, by my son telling me what he wanted in a book. To me, each story that I’ve been given is a blessing and a blessing is not complete until it is shared, so it is my duty and my privilege to write.
Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
I loved reading poetry growing up. I was a big John Donne, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Dr. Suess, Alexander Pope, and Prince (‘cause music is poetry, too) fan. I didn’t discover Octavia Butler until I was in my early 20s, but her novel Wild Seed was the first book that ever blew my mind. Reading Frank Herbert’s Dune was another life-affirming experience. While I can’t point to one book or writer who has influenced me the most, I will say that all the artists and authors that I love have one thing in common, they all challenge the status quo and my writing is very much influenced by that same desire to develop my own understanding of the world and encourage readers to do the same.
Is this your first book? How long did it take to start and finish your book?
My first book was Order of the Seers and it took me about a year to write. This past August, I published my 4th book, Ellis and The Magic Mirror, with our son, Aryeh. It took me a little less than a month to write, but the edits and illustrations took almost a year. I can’t seem to put out anything fast. LOL!
Do you write with an outline, or just let it flow organically?
I always start with a story outline, that way I know where I’m going before I start. I have very limited time to write and my outline gives me a road map to follow which keeps me focused and efficient. I usually do a chapter outline as well and I write each chapter in order, but with my latest book, To Find You, I seem to be all over the map. It’s a very different process.
The story is about two souls trying to find each other through time and takes place in four different time periods. Though I’ve written a detailed story outline, I don’t have a chapter outline because the story will not be structured that way. Each time period will be it’s own immersive experience. I’m also writing the time periods out of sequence, though they will be in chronological order in the final book. For example, one day, I’m writing about an American secret agent during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the next, I’m in the last days of pre-colonial India. Once, my writing moved back and forth from mid 1800s Ghana to present day US in the same session! I normally don’t write like this, but that’s the way the story is coming to me, so I’m along for the ride. It’s scary for me, letting the story dictate the process, but every time I let go and trust the story, it comes out better than I ever could have imagined.
Do you listen to music when you write? If yes, is there a theme song for this book?
Usually, I don’t listen to music, but if I do, it’s something very soft and unintrusive, like mediation music. But, if this book had a theme song, it would be “Meet Me On the Moon” by Phyllis Hyman.
What are the keys to success in getting your book out to the public?
That’s a great question! I wish I knew, LOL! So far, I would say that my greatest success has come from meeting readers face-to-face at conventions. Making that connection has really helped me build a readership and get positive reviews for my work. Another thing that has helped is working with book bloggers who read and support the genres that I write in. When I started out, they gave me my first reviews and helped me find my audience.
What advice would you give to new authors?
When I started out as a Black, female, sci-fi writer, there was a lot of negatively around what I could expect. The general consensus seemed to be that Black people don’t read science fiction; White People don’t read Black authors; and no one buys science fiction written by a woman. So, in effect, there was literally no audience for my books. But I didn’t believe them and so I did what I could and tried, until I learned more and did more. Less than a month after I published Order of the Seers, I went to New York Comic Con as an exhibitor in the small press section, it was my first major sci-fi convention and my first time exhibiting ANYWHERE. I was the only female selling a book she had written in the ENTIRE small press section. Everyone said I was crazy. No one expected that I would sell over 100 books to every age, gender and race of person. Looking back,
I’m so glad that I was too naïve to listen to all the naysayers. That experience taught me the 2nd most valuable lesson that I have learned so far on this journey. That lesson is: Only take advice on HOW to do something. Never take advice on IF you can do something. No one but God knows what you can do. You must have the courage to find the answer to that question for yourself.
The most valuable lesson I’ve learned on this journey is a piece of advice that I got from my dear friend, Trice Hickman. When I first decided to publish my book, she told me, “Cerece, you have to BELIEVE in your story, no matter what.” At the time when she said it to me, it seemed simple enough, but little did I know how deep the meaning of her words would be. Over the years, through my own doubts and fears, the rejection from others, the skepticism and judgment of my peers, and countless struggles, I have come back to her words for strength over and over again. Believing in your story is the foundation upon which you build everything else you do as a writer. You need it to nurture, write, edit, produce, market, promote and sell the work you want to create. If you don’t have that, nothing you do will stand.
How about sharing an excerpt from To Find You?
Part I: In The Beginning
I wait for him here, at the place where the night sky and the earth become lovers. In the tall grass of our homeland, between two kingdoms, we meet.
Getting here first is easier than slipping away late, especially now when life in my village is bustling with the preparations for our wedding ceremony in just three days.
But as the reeds lick the backs of my calves, I know that this is only one part of the reason I wait.
The truth is that I like to feel him coming. At this hour, when my imagination reigns over every shape and whisper, I can almost see him walking on limbs taller and stronger than mine will ever be.
He cuts through the blue-black night, which hides his only slightly lighter shade and stalks his prey. I cannot hear his approach, but I feel him drawing near, compelled by the same force that holds me where I stand – the scent of my desire in the air.
I close my eyes and breathe deeply, imagining I can taste him, too. The flavor is salt, sweet grass and home. It fills my senses and makes me thirsty.
On the outside my knees shake and my heart pounds, impatient for her mate, while the deepest part of me grows calm and still – stretching towards the peace that only his presence brings.
And he’s close now, so close.
When we were children, he was such a scrawny thing. I used to like to wrestle him just to beat him, just to prove that I could. I was young and determined and more than a little jealous of the prowess of my older brothers. Secretly, I wanted to be like them. My youngest brother was 10 years my senior. In Ekow, I could finally prove that no boy could match me.
My laughter rumbles in the stillness as I think of it. Oh, how mad he would be every time I beat him! And in the beginning, there were many, many times when I did. He would get so angry that his ears would twitch. He would stomp away from his defeat with his hands balled up in knobby little fists – eyes glaring, ears twitching while one of our elders cackled nearby and me sticking out my tongue. We didn’t see each other often enough for me to beat him everyday, but I looked forward to it whenever I could. I was always stronger than I looked and even when he grew a little taller than me, his limbs seemed to flail awkwardly about him, so that he was never quite coordinated. And in my delicious reign as his tormentor, time seemed to stretch on forever, until one day it stopped.
I remember the sun burned low in the sky that day as the dust and amber light conspired against me in swirling fits that stung my eyes. Rolling around on the ground, I was shocked to find myself panting for air. Suddenly, his legs overpowered me. I couldn’t throw him the way I had been able to before. His grip was a vice that I had to sweat to free myself from and even then, he would catch me again, quickly - too quickly for my liking.
Unable to break free, I grunted and cursed as he pinned me down on my back. At first, I refused to meet his gaze. Beneath my eyelashes, I could swear I saw my own taunting smirk, the same one I had given him, year after year, curling the corners of his lips. Enraged, I shut my eyes to avoid my fears and kicked my legs furiously, all to no avail. I could feel the muscles of his powerful thighs holding me in place without the slightest indication of strain and I couldn’t stand it.
As if sensing the scream that would send my brothers flying to my aid and gotten us both into a world of trouble, he suddenly lifted his body from mine, then leaned over to adjust his grip so that our hands were stretched out above my head, palm to palm, fingers intertwined in the grass and the dirt beneath us.
How did I not know, even then…
Something about the gesture was so strange that it distracted me from my fury. The feel of his hands pressed gently, firmly into mine made my stomach flutter and clench in a way that was startling, but not unpleasant.
“Ama,” he called. “Ama, don’t scream. Ama, please, surrender.”
It must have been the “surrender” that made my eyes fly up to meet his in absolute indignation.
Sometimes, I like to think that if I’d never opened my eyes, it never would have happened, but this is, of course, foolish. I was meant to see.
When I opened my eyes, I found him staring down at me. The smirk I’d feared was nowhere in sight.
Instead, his eyes wore the same wariness I felt as I looked back at him, then quickly dissolved into something I’d never seen in him before.
He eyed my mouth with what I understand now as a mixture of surprise and captivation. Back then, I still had no idea what was happening, but as his gaze continued to linger over me, I became aware that I felt like someone was seeing me truly for the first time in my life. I remember fighting the nameless emotion that closed my throat and pricked my eyes.
“Ama, surrender,” he whispered, “Please.”
And that’s when I understood that I held him in place as much as he held me. Neither one of us could leave without the other.
“Please,” he said again and I finally realized what I needed to do all along.
Seeing the answer there in my eyes, he released my hands and rose to his feet. I remember averting my eyes against the sudden rush of loneliness that came as he left. But at the corner of my vision I saw it, his hand extended out to help me up. He’d done it before, even as I beat him and he’d risen in defeat while I remained holding my belly in victorious laughter on the ground. I’d always ignored the gesture until that moment, when suddenly it felt like the most natural thing in the world to accept his help.
When I finally stood up, I noticed for the first time that he was a full foot taller than me.
Despite my daze, I frowned. “You’re taller than me,” I said in dismay.
“No, Ama,” he replied. Ekow’s voice was deep and heavy as he stepped forward to take my other hand in his. “We are now exactly the same height.”
I was 11 years old; Ekow was 13 and, after that, nothing between us was ever the same.
What’s next for you?
Well, this year I plan to release 2 books (a first for me), To Find You, which I am writing now and the 2nd book in the Ellis and The Magic Mirror series. It’s pretty ambitious for a slow writer like me, but I’m grateful and excited.
Where can readers find out more about you and your book(s)?
· Website: www.cerecerenniemurphy.com
· Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Cerece-Rennie-Murphy/e/B008G6XXBS/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1452631878&sr=8-1
· Twitter: @cerecermurphy
· Book buy Links: · http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_6?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=cerece+rennie+murphy&sprefix=cerece+rennie+murphy%2Caps%2C187
It’s been a pleasure having you here with us today. I know my readers will enjoy getting to know you and your work.
Thanks for having me, Dee! It’s been a wonderful experience.