Deadly Shot – Dan’s Diary
by Patricia Murphy
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GENRE: children’s historical fiction/Middle Grade
Football mad, twelve- year- old Dan is a trusted messenger for Ireland’s rebel leader, Michael Collins. He promises his cousin Molly to never fire a gun, but after the dramatic events of “Bloody Sunday” in Croke Park, he is pulled deeper into the struggle. Hunted by a vengeful Intelligence Officer, Molly and Dan are forced to flee Dublin. But unknown to Dan, he holds the key to a deadly plot. And his enemy will stop at nothing to track him down. On the run, they meet Flying Columns and narrowly escape death But as Cork burns can Dan continue to outrun his enemy?
“Has Father been arrested for smuggling arms?” I asked.
“Your father would never do that,” she said. “Do you not remember why he jumped ship when he was young? It wasn’t just for adventure. His father got him a commission in the Royal Navy but he refused to take arms. He hates violence.”
I rubbed my knuckles that were feeling raw now from the rapid changes of cold and heat.
“I can only tell you what it’s like to live,” said my mother. “Feeling pain inside isn’t a good feeling. But it’s part of life. Sometimes you think you are broken but you are being broken open to new things, to grow.”
“Some of the lads say they don’t feel anything when they pull the trigger. Others have nightmares, feel blood in their mouths,” I said.
“If you cannot feel pain, it makes it easier to inflict it. Dan, you are not a killer. It’s not in your nature,” she said.
“I’m too weak,” I said.
She held my face in her hands, her eyes searching into my soul. I looked deep into her eyes full of love.
“No, Dan, you are too strong. You feel other people’s pain. That is strength. May God preserve and keep you so.” She embraced me tight. “We cannot go round it. We must live through it. The only way we know how. Respecting other’s humanity and dignity no matter who they are.”
Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Patricia Murphy author of Deadly Shot – Dan’s Diary.
Hi Patricia, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Please tell us a little about yourself and your background.
As you might guess by my name, I’m Irish. I grew up in Dublin where I went to school and university. I now live in the UK, in Oxford with my husband who is an academic and my seven-year-old daughter. I am the eldest of six children, and I used to tell stories to my brothers and sisters every night, which got me started in storytelling. I am a children’s author. I have written a Celtic fantasy trilogy, The Chingles which has just been reissued as E-books (http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Chingles/).
Last year I published a novel The Easter Rising 1916 – Molly’s Diary, which has been well received and is currently being taught in schools in Ireland. Deadly Shot – Dan’s War of Independence – 1920-22 is my latest book and continues the story into Ireland’s guerrilla war.
I am also a Producer/Director of Documentaries for British television and have made several award-winning and groundbreaking documentaries on subjects such as a children’s hospice, children born with disabilities and how criminals commit their crimes.
What were you like at school?
It depends on what age you checked out my school reports! At around five or six, I was a bit hyperactive. I found it almost impossible to sit behind a desk in a room and would frequently get up and walk around. Then I went to four schools in one year when our new house wasn’t ready to move into, and I discovered I was good at school and I settled down. I became a bookworm at around the age of seven, and that was a major turning point. I loved school after that and did very well in exams. I realize now, I had some great teachers who inspired a love of learning. In my late teens before university, I got a bit bored again. But I knew I wanted to go to university and so I knuckled down for the exams.
Were you good at English?
Yes. I loved English and was lucky to win several writing competitions both in school and nationally. That gave me confidence. I had great English teachers. My favorite was Miss Cronin, who was very encouraging. She made it possible for me to envisage a creative life. She was an inspired teacher who infused each lesson with insight and enthusiasm. I read English and History at university.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
To keep writing and get better! I would also like to work in other genres.
Which writers inspire you?
There are so many writers that have opened worlds for me. Regarding children’s authors, Phillip Pullman’s Northern Lights Trilogy gave a vivid portrait of children with a cracking plot but also moral and philosophical seriousness. He lives in Oxford, and I’ve seen him on the street but wouldn’t dare approach him. He gave a terrific interview at the Society of Authors recently full of sage advice. I also love Nathalie Babbitt. She took on complex themes about conflict in The Search for Delicious. Lewis Carroll for revealing imaginary worlds and creating Alice, a heroine who is often perplexed, angry and sad. Donna Tartt is also a marvelous writer. The Little Friend is one of the best portraits of childhood I’ve ever read. I never tire of Jane Austen. I love James Joyce too. In a way, all writers inspire me because they’ve had the guts to write and put their work out there.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does Dan do that makes him special?
Dan is a talented footballer. He has extraordinary skill at keeping the ball up in the air – known as “keepy-uppy” – but also on the pitch. He has honed it with many hours of obsessive practice. It’s this skill that brings him to the attention of the rebel leader Michael Collins when his display of prowess causes a diversion that allows a wounded rebel to escape arrest by the British forces. Dan becomes a trusted messenger and lookout. Dan’s split second timing and hyper-awareness give him good survival skills. But as he gets pulled deeper into the struggle it gets harder to outrun a war. The morality complexities deepen, the stakes are higher. The character Dan is based on my grandfather who was a talented footballer and a boy scout in the rebel Fianna troop. But I have taken the germ of his stories of being a lookout and a messenger and built an imaginary plot that take the reader through real events.
What are you currently working?
I am currently writing book 3, which is the story of the Irish Civil War on 1922 that broke out after the Treaty for independence was negotiated. It’s told from the viewpoint of an Irish-American girl who moves to Dublin from New York after her parents’ messy divorce. She finds a cache of letters and the sliver of a diamond and is plunged into a mystery that takes her into the heart of Ireland’s bitter Civil War, the Russian Revolution and millions in a lost bank account in New York.
Which actor would you like to see playing Dan from Deadly Shot – Dan’s Diary?
Dan is a twelve-year-old boy – so it would have to be an unknown who could kick a ball! Unless one of my nephews were the right age by the time, a film would get made! I think Michael Fassbender would make a great Michael Collins. He’s from Kerry. Collins was from Cork, but it’s close enough and he once played him on stage. Dan would also work as an animation character.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start writing?
My first published novel, a Celtic fantasy for children, The Chingles from the East came from a story I told my then nine-year-old niece, Aoife. She lived in Kerry off the West Coast of Ireland. Three children visit a magical island and are plunged into an adventure that takes them into Irish mythology. My sister Audrey encouraged me to enter a writing competition and to my great astonishment I won. The prize was a publishing deal with Poolbeg.
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
I am reasonably disciplined and keep office hours. Once my daughter is at school, I sit down at my desk and stop for lunch. If I can’t get a flow, I do some research, re-write, or catch up on admin. Once I pick her up from school, I’m back to being a mummy!
Where do your ideas come from?
With the historical novels, there’s the framework of historical events. Then I used my family history to get a toe-hold in the period. I like looking at photographs from the era. But a lot of it just comes out of my head! Often I find it has some basis in reality. When I wrote about the villain in Deadly Shot. I invented a sinister spy covered in tattoos. Then when I researched to make sure he wasn’t too outlandish I discovered there had been a spy like that. In fact, my character turned out to be an amalgam of several real historical characters.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
A mixture of both. With Molly’s Diary and Deadly Shot – Dan’s Diary, which are set in the era of Ireland’s turbulent path to independence, there is a structure imposed by historical events. But I chose where to begin and end the narrative and what to emphasize. I usually start with a vivid image of the character. I get a flash of a scene and then the character’s voice comes to me. With Molly, it was the image of a young girl running into the General Post Office in Dublin, just as it was about to be taken over by the rebels. With Deadly Shot, I saw a boy kicking a ball outside school just as a wounded rebel is about to run into a road block of British troops. Then the characters voice emerges, and I’m off. Somewhere down the middle, I start to plot. I enjoy plotting.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
I think one doesn’t choose writing- it chooses you. Then it’s a privilege if you are published or find a way to an audience. The hardest thing is having to do a lot of sitting and not getting enough exercise!
Do you read much and who are your favorite authors?
I am an avid reader. I always have a book on the go. I’ve just finished Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet following the troubled friendship between two women in Naples from childhood to old age. My favorite authors are Rohinton Mistry, James Joyce, Alice Munro, Jane Austen, JD Salinger, Lewis Carroll, JRR Tolkien, Phillip Pullman, Samuel Beckett, Henry James.
For your own reading, do you prefer eBooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
I read in both. My husband bought me a Kindle when they first came out so I wouldn’t keep him awake at night. They are great for travel. I often read print books too, though. I’m going to re-read the Elena Ferrante books in print now so I can compare!
What books are you presently reading?
Having just finished the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante, I have moved on to another novel by her, The Days of Abandonment.
My seven-year-old daughter and I have just finished reading Emil and the Sneaky Rat by Astrid Lindgren. The Swedish author was a big favorite in my family when I was a child and it was a real pleasure to read these stories with her about the naughtiest boy in Sweden. She wrote about Emil for a homework assignment, with many crossings and rubbing out. When I pointed out it looked like something chewed by the cat, she wrote at the bottom, “This is the messy way Emil would do his homework.” I didn’t know whether to scold or laugh.
Please tell us about the cover and how it came about.
When I chatted about it with the publisher Paula Campbell, she thought an animation style cover would work for this age group of roughly aged ten to fourteen, and I agreed. Illustrated covers are no longer seen as babyish and can appeal to a wide age group. The main thing was not to make theme ponderous or to look like a school text! All the children I’ve met respond very favorably.
Who designed your book cover?
An Irish illustrator called Derry Dillon. His work is vivid and energetic.
Do you have a video trailer?
Do you think that giving books away free works?
The jury is still out on this one. It’s a very tough climate for authors and publishers. But that means the market is less likely to take creative risks so giving books away for free is a way for an author to break through and establish an audience. That’s the logic of online merchants. However, it does create the perception that creative endeavors should be free by right. The financing system hasn’t quite been worked out to show if the authors will ultimately benefit. I’m keeping an open mind!
How do you relax?
I like walking in the countryside. And cooking and hanging out with friends. I love going to the cinema and theater with my daughter. I also do Yoga Nidra – a form of meditation that involves lying very still and breathing deeply.
What is your favorite quote?
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” — Samuel Beckett
What is your favorite movie?
Andrei Rublev by Tarkovsky about a medieval Russian artist. I went to Film School so have seen a lot of classic films. It’s a Wonderful Life is a big favorite.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
My website is www.patriciamurphyonline.com
Any final words?
Thank you for running this blog. It’s such a great thing to connect readers with authors.
Thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedule to visit with me and the readers of Room With Books.
Patricia Murphy is an award-winning children’s author and Producer/Director of documentaries. Her most recent novel is Deadly Shot – Dan’s Diary – the War of Independence 1920-22. Previous works include the critically acclaimed Easter Week 1916 – Molly’s Diary, described as “brilliantly imagined”, “beautifully written and compelling” and “ fantastic at bringing history alive for children”. She is also the author of The Chingles Celtic Fantasy trilogy. She was the winner of the Poolbeg “Write a Bestseller for Children” Competition 2004.
She is also an award-winning Producer/Director of primetime documentaries for BBC and Channel 4. These include Children of Helen House on the Oxford children’s hospice for BBC. She created and filmed the launch programmes of Born to Be Different the Channel 4 flagship series following six children with disabilities through the 21st century. Other films include Behind the Crime about criminals and Raised by the State on growing up in care. She has also made Worst Jobs in History with Tony Robinson for Channel 4.
Links to buy Deadly Shot – Dan’s Diary
Links to buy Molly’s Diary
Patricia Murphy will be awarding a $20 Amazon or B&N gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour.