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Monica Murphy Talks Romance, Relatability + Living Life With No Regrets

New York Times, USA Today, IndieReader and internationally bestselling author Monica Murphy is a native Californian who lives in the foothills below Yosemite with her husband and three children. She’s a workaholic who loves her job. When she’s not busy writing, she also loves to read and travel with her family. She writes new adult and contemporary romance and is published with Bantam and Avon. She also writes romance as USA Today bestselling author Karen Erickson.

stealingLoren Kleinman (LK): What do you think the attraction is about romance novels that detail falling in love with wealthy men?

Monica Murphy (MM): I think it has something to do with the power it represents. A wealthy man who can have (and buy) anything he wants, chose YOU (because most readers put themselves in the place of the heroine). That’s powerful stuff. Plus, it’s pure fantasy. A rich man can treat a woman like a queen, he’s usually powerful in his own right (that’s how he acquired all of his wealth) and he allows himself to be vulnerable with the woman when they’re behind closed doors. It’s pretty dreamy when you think about it.

LK: Are the women in your novels antiheroes? Why or why not?

MM: It depends on the character and book. I try to write relatable heroines and sometimes, readers don’t like their choices or behavior. I wouldn’t say I write them as antiheroes only because I don’t want to alienate readers.

one weekIn my book One Week Girlfriend, I didn’t realize at the time I wrote the main female character as a hero. She is the hero of the book. She saves Drew time and again. Readers really seemed to respond to that.

LK: How important is writing to you? How has it helped you as a coping mechanism in your life?

MM: It’s very important to me. I’ve loved to read since I was in kindergarten. I was always reading growing up and when I was in my teens, I discovered all of my mom’s romance books (though I was reading teen romances when I was twelve, they soon became too tame for me ha ha). I devoured them and realized, hey, I want to write something like this.

That I’ve now turned my writing into a sustainable career that supports my family still blows my mind and I’m so thankful. I also feel incredibly lucky. I started out writing as a hobby, I way to be creative and lose myself in a story. Especially when I was just starting out and playing around with it, writing was a way for me to escape the drab realities.

fair gameLK: If you could lunch with any of the characters in your book, who would it be and why?

MM: I think I’d have lunch with Drew and Fable from my One Week Girlfriend series because I’ve written two books and a novella about them, plus they’ve appeared in other books in the series. I feel like I really know these two and I like them. I miss writing about them! So I’d have lunch with them so we could catch up (I sound like a crazy woman).

LK: Why do you think we’re obsessed with beautiful things: people, places, food, and spaces? How do writers depict beauty in romance novels?

MM: I think the world can be a pretty ugly place sometimes. Lots of terrible things are happening all around us and it can get depressing. So a beautiful man, woman, room, plate of food, etc. is something to marvel at and celebrate. Seriously! And while I don’t think everything and everyone should be beautiful, no questions asked, there’s nothing wrong with admiring something that’s beautiful.

In my books, I’ll admit, most of the time the guy is gorgeous and the women are beautiful (hey I am writing fantasy here). But what I really try and depict is how the man finds the woman extremely beautiful and vice versa. It’s more about attraction and eventually, their personalities and how they’re drawn to each other.

in the dark

LK: How long does it take you to complete one book? What’s your writing schedule like?

MM: I’m a pretty fast writer. It can take me on average about six weeks to complete a book, but it also depends on my schedule (sometimes I can have deadlines stacked on top of each other). I’ve written books in a much shorter period of time. I tend to binge write too. Become completely immersed in the story and just purge it all out.

LK: If you could describe yourself in five words what would they be? If your friends could describe you in five words what would they be?

MM: Well, I hope my friends would describe me as kind, silly, giving, protective and a workaholic because that’s pretty much how I see myself too.

LK: Were you an avid reader growing up? What were some of your favorite authors? Why?

MM: Huge reader. I had a ton of Dr. Seuss books and Richard Scarry too. I loved Busy Town! As I got older I read pretty much everything Judy Blume wrote (Blubber still sticks with me, I feel like no one really talks about that book and it was one of her best in my opinion) and I think she really understood kids and how they felt. I could relate to her books and the characters.

I wish I could remember the author’s name and the name of the book but I read a story about a young teenage girl who ran away to New York and became a prostitute. I’ve always had a thing for dark reads; don’t know what that says about me. I was twelve when I read that book and it blew my mind! Then I let a friend borrow it and never got it back. Bummer.

slow playLK: If you could collaborate on a book with any author, who would it be and why?

MM: I’d love to write a book with my critique partner and friend Katy Evans. We really understand each other and our writing styles. I think we could come up with something awesome together! But we never have time. Maybe someday…

LK: Is writing a successful romance book about creating a believable persona?

MM: I think having believable characters is important with any book. As a writer, you want your characters to be relatable. You want readers to like your characters and hopefully understand them. Sometimes, they don’t have to like the characters but what they do and what they say should be understandable. But again, there is a fantasy aspect to creating a romance book so while you want believable, you also, as a reader, want to be swept up in the story. That means that some not so believable things are going to happen along the way. There needs to be a balance. Believable fantasy has a nice ring to it I think.

LK: Did you always know you would be a writer? How has the success empowered you?

MM: I did always want to be a writer but let other things get in the way, like real life. It was only after I became a stay at home mom with my two younger children did I start thinking I should try and write something and get it published. Writing became my escape after putting my kids to bed (my two youngest are twenty months apart so they kept me busy in those early years).

How has success empowered me? I must confess—most of the time I don’t feel very successful. This business is like a rollercoaster. One day you’re on top of the world and the next, you’re down in the dumps believing it’s all gone wrong.

You know what thrills me the most? That readers from all over the world take the time to write me and let me know how my books touched them. That blows me away. Hearing from readers is the best thing ever. When I started out, I’d hoped I could entertain a few people and that was about it. My expectations were low. So it means the world to me to hear from readers.

second chanceLK: How much does location inspire/or play a part in your stories?

MM: I usually write about places I’ve been or I make up towns, locations, etc. that are based on somewhere I’ve been or lived. I went to London last summer for the first time and my book Stealing Rose is located mostly in London.

I’ve also purposely not mentioned where a book/series was located and drop the occasional name of a real restaurant, etc. and have had people email me knowing exactly what town I was talking about (that would be the One Week Girlfriend series which is yep, based in Chico, CA). I thought it was awesome readers actually figured it out!

LK: Do you have days where you feel like giving up on writing? Do you ever hit a wall? How do you get out of that?

MM: I never want to give up on writing. It’s in my blood. But I have hit the occasional wall. Sometimes I just need to walk away and relax. Take a walk. Read a book. Watch a movie. Hang out with my kids. The need to write always comes back.

LK: When do you write? Do you reference an outline?

MM: I usually write in the afternoon when my kids are still at school. I also like to write at night when I’m on deadline. When I was first writing and getting published, my kids were still small and I got my best writing in after they went to bed. That habit is still somewhat ingrained in me.

LK: One of my favorite lines in literature comes from Oscar Wilde. In The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays, he writes, “The very essence of romance is uncertainty.”  Would you agree? Why or why not?

MM: Oh, I definitely agree, that’s a great quote. The best thing about reading or writing a romance is all of that uncertainty in the beginning. Is he attracted to me? Did I just blow it? Are we getting together or not? What’s happening? It’s the same with a real life romance. And when the uncertainty is finally confirmed and the romance is really happening? Best feeling ever.

LK: If you could do everything over, would you change anything?

MM: I try to live my life with no regrets. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve done a lot of stupid things, and I’ve learned from them. But overall, I can’t regret anything because it led me to where I am today and I’m pretty happy. I have a career that I love, a family that loves and supports me, and great friends. Life is good!