REVIEWS

 

REVIEW: “The Irish World” (8th of January 2011)

The Prophecy of the Shalforen Hangman’s Hole
“IF YOUR KIDS are struggling to pass the time on these cold winternights then this adventurous tale
might be just what the doctor ordered.
“The prophecy of the Shalforen – Hangman’s Hole” is a jam-packed tale that will keep readers guessing until the last minute as Anna Spencerford takes on the adventure of her life.
Crammed in their old red ford escort, the five Spencerfords,Alfred, Penelope, Anna, Dick & Alex, set
out for the South of England to a very quirky wedding and to visit their elderly relatives.
There theywillmeet the Jojoes, cheeky pair of twins that will help
them escape the boring household and introduce them to the wonders of their woods, camp
and hidey holes and a ruined cottage. In the midst of a family drama, Anna finds
that the discovery of the cottage will lead to much more than a simple game, as the ghostly figure of the Hangman will creep slowly into her life! The figure leads
Anna into a series of mysterious situations and an adventure full of laughter, heart-pounding moments, spills and thrills. You will burst with laughter at the Jo-Joe, Alex and Dick’s jokes and pranks, as well as being hooked on the Spencerford’s eccentric moments.”
By Angela Sammon

www.theirishworld.com

 

Whispers of the Muse
Spotlight: Marta Dunphy-Moriel
Author Biography
Marta A Dunphy-Moriel’s love of fantasy began as young as she can remember and she started to write stories as soon as she could hold a pen, telling them to her three younger siblings, Molly, Peter & Manuel. The idea for the “Prophecy of the Shalforen” collection came to her at the age of twelve, one lazy summer day while she was sitting in her grandparent’s dinning room watching the minutes go by before going to the swimming pool. Brought up in a large bilingual family, Marta lives between two countries: in the lovelly West Sussex town of East Grinstead, in the South East of England, and in the quaint coastal town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, in the South of Spain. You can find out more about Marta and the rest of “The prophecy of the Shalforen” athttps://theprophecyoftheshalforen.wordpress.com.
Interview
The following is an exclusive Whispers of the Muse interview conducted by Deborah Riley-Magnus with author, Marta Dunphy-Moriel.
Muse: First of all, Whispers of the Muse welcomes you to the site. Tell us a little about yourself. What part of the world do you live in? Tell us about your background? 
Marta: Ever since I was a little girl I have wanted to be a writer. As the oldest daughter of a rather weird but wonderful bilingual family, maybe I am not a very normal person?

One day in 1984, an English Accountant escaped from his office and ran away to Spain. He survived by teaching English, met a gorgeous Spanish teacher and decided to stay. After just 2 weeks he proposed and she accepted. Eight months later they were happily married in sunny Seville and a year later out popped me, multicultural Marta Dunphy-Moriel.

My family is a little bit different. My father, after giving up a proper job as an auditor, became the first native English teacher in a sleepy Spanish seaside Sherry town called Sanlucar in the South West of Spain but then spent most of his time and effort as a House Husband bringing us up. My mother, who is far more sensible, is a teacher and became headmistress of the local Adult Education Centre. Her speciality is immigrant integration.
Being bilingual is easy enough but hard work for the foriegn parent. Before Sky Tv and Dvd’s, my grandfather took the time to make sure his grandchildren learnt the Queen’s English. Every day, he scanned the TV times searching for suitable children’s programmes, recorded them on video tapes and posted them to us. We never saw a single Spanish TV programme till I was twelve! Spanish was definitely Forbotten! With books it was exactly the same, we learnt to read in English at home where my dad read to us our bedtime stories starting with Ladybirds and working up through, Beatrix Potter,Rupert,Enid Blyton, CS Lewis’s Narnian cycle to the glories of the great Harry Potter. At school we learned to read in Spanish, did Spanish literature, history,etc and at home it was English only! But with every English essay I wrote for my dad I came a step nearer to becoming an author. My mother has always been a culture vulture, so we all went to music conservatory and art classes, ballet or sport,(we all play the piano, Molly plays the Violin and is the Concertino in the Jerez conservatory, Peter plays the clarinet and I am 2nd flute in the Julian Cerdan Young Orchestra).

Every year for as long as I can remember, as soon as school finished for summer we were packed off on a plane with a charming air-hostess and/or my Dad to Grandma’s in East Grinstead, Sussex. Idylic holidays, though until the twins were older I did spend quite a lot of time on my own and most of it reading the whole of the EastGrinstead Library’s Children’s section by age 10. That was when I started to write about Anna but it was still a very primitive version of “The Prophecy of the Shalforen”. When I was a little older I was very happy to share the time I was in England with my brothers and sister, living  adventures in Ashdown forest near my second home.

Every year in my mum’s holidays, we went camping all over the place in our ancient Mercedes. It was always a priority for my parents to take us to see all the marvels they could muster, so we toured Spain, France and Britian, in a very quirky manner, living all sorts of mad adventures, from getting lost in the midst of a wooded valley in Scotland to sleeping at a weird and wonderful Hippy camping sight in Portugal, all on a shoe string budget, with hand me down clothes, books, home made cakes and sweets only on Sundays! No playstations and only 3 presents each for Christmas and 12th night. But we honestly didn’t care if we didn’t have the stuff most kids had, it was much more fun to skimp and save for the family trips we looked forward to every year. So every moment we lived, every tale I told my little brothers and sister to settle them down and leave my parents in peace or simply to enjoy their inoncent eyes wander off into the imaginary worlds I created for them on those lazy summer days in our secret beach camp, have inspired my book and have helped me to become a writer.

Though childhood seems so very long ago, in fact it is only a short decade away… but the idylic times we spent were drastically cut short one dreadful summer. My grandfather Terry, a Anglo-Irish engineer and a devoted husband, father and grandfather found out that the doctor’s hadn’t diagnosed his prostrate cancer in time and consequently it had spread to become a lethal bone cancer. From that day on we knew he was dying. Words cannot explain the desperation, pain and fury a child feels when a person they love is going to die because of negligence. He could have been saved yet they didn’t test for what he had until it was too late.

That was the begining of “Hangman’s Hole”, the grief of a young teenager watching her life change and wanting to scream in despair but muted by the fear of making things much worse. I “saw” the Hangman sitting next to my grandfather’s bed, I heard the Requiem in my head as they plugged him into weird machines. And though the book is fiction and not autobiographical, it is fair to say that my family, my friends and the death of my grandfather did push me into writing this novel.

It was me against the world and I couldn’t admit that the world was winning, death destroyed my innocent childhood forever. A funeral was more than I could bear, so I took the decision of not saying goodbye to a dead corpse, as I had already said goodbye to the living man and that was how I wished to remember him.

At the time I started writing the original Hangman’s Hole I was very unfair to a lot of people especially my grandmother who was in effect my English “mum”. In the midst of my teenage traumas I could not understand her countinence and poise and she could not understand my internal screaming. The fact that my Spanish grandmother unexpectedly died the Christmas after that didn’t help much either.

A teenager that felt misunderstood, who felt threatened by loss, as so many had left this world had gone at once (along with my English grandad and Spanish grandma, my great-grandmother, two of my father’s cousins,an aunt and two uncles in Derbyshire died in rapid succession and, closer to home, my English student and close friend, Patricia, who died of Leucemia when she was only 17), found her writing “The prophecy of the Shalforen: Hangman’s Hole”, though it was not finished until a few years later.

Top of my year, I started a joint honours in a Law and Management degree where I met wonderful and extremely intelligent friends who also felt misunderstood by a boozing youth culture. Our conversations have also been a great source of inspiration for the book.

Instinctively, I decided to get some fresh air,joined the Erasmus Programme and went to study Law in Lyon (France), where I Aupaired for a French family with three young children. Leaving it all behind I rediscovered myself and found out who I really was. There were good times, bad times and really great times. Many lessons were learnt but not as many as I expected. The most important one was understanding, something that is very present in “The prophecy of the Shalforen’s” plot, that came in the form of an unexpected visit I made to the grandmother I hadn’t spoken more than three straight words to for several years. Understanding. I changed, the book changed, because until that moment I was too angry to understand the whole depth of my own plot. As an Erasmus student, I was lucky to meet great friends from all over the world and live with them and learn from their experiences. As an aupair it is vital to learn how to tell stories to children so I started by reading stories to them and ended by inventing a new tale every night. As a student I learnt many things: French, which I speak fluently, diplomacy, law and how to backpack the Continent. The many crazy adventures I lived with my friends touring Europe have also influenced the book as well as a short-film script I had started writing tremendously.

During the summer holidays, I had the oportunity of starting a short film and theatre group called “M’s Productions present”
with some friends, my brothers and sister and David Peña,the book’s artist, (it is called “M’s” because most of our names start with an M). Todate I have written and directed 3 short films and we are now working on a theatre play.

Alas, not all that is well ends well. After a severe rupture in France, I found myself sitting on a bench in Chaponnay talking to my very worried parents on my mobile phone and I started thinking about “The Prophecy of the Shalforen”. That is when I decided I wanted to share Anna Spencerford’s story with the world.

Ever since I had started writing, I had tried to get published, getting advice from writers such as Winslow Eliot and Terry Deary, (who were kind enough to answer my e-mails), but it was on that bench that I became determined to make my dream come true. I wrote to every single publisher I could get hold of, most of whom refused to read my manuscript because I could not aford to pay an agent. My parents couldn’t pay for one either as they were and still are paying for my brother’s Architecture degree, my sister’s management degree and my own studies. So all I could do was sit and wait. Then one day, Jeff Bohan, an Authorhouse editor, called and told me they were intereseted in my book. After jumping up and down in joy I spoke to my parents and told them of the investment required. My eyes filled with tears when they told me they believed in me and that they would help me fufill my dream.

After careful editing by my dad and myself, I read and re-read the book to the family, who endured paciently every word, comma and change in the novel. They gave their opinions, they also inspired some great ideas and so the manuscript was polished and finished. But it lacked something. A cover and pictures.

David Peña is a brilliant young Catalan artist who I met as a friend and afterwards became my little sister’s boyfriend. When the editor told me I could put some black and white ilustrations in the book I didn’t think twice: they had to be done by David Peña. The superb artwork of “The prophecy of the Shalforen” is all his, following my dreadful instructions. So each of the ilustrations in the book is actually a work of art by one of my favourite artists.

So how do you become a writer? Talent and Luck? Maybe but background helps. Being born into a large eccentric family, where people sing, dance, paint, do sport, travel and enjoy being in each other’s company and having friends in the house the whole time is a definite advantage. Every morning, I give thanks for having been born in a family which believes in me as much as I believe in them: in my sister as a singer, in my brother as an budding architect, in my little brother as a mad scientist/rockstar (so he says) in David Peña as an artist and especialy in my mum and dad, as parents, as professionals and as people as they not only help us but anyone who has the chance to meet them. That is why I am a writer, that is where the books come from, it is not that I write about my life, it is part of my life, it is a reflection of each feeling I ever felt which I wrote like a message in a bottle hoping that someone, someday would want to share them.

Muse: Who are your favorite authors?
Marta: Every single author I have ever read has a special place in my heart because I enjoyed and learned a lot of things with their books. When you take a book in your hands, or, at least, when I take a book in my hands I always think of how much work and talent it took the author to write it, the hours and constancy it took the author to get it published and, morover, the love and hope the author put into the book.

However, it would be silly not to admit I have some personal favourites!!! Among others, I would have to say Agatha Christie, Edgar Allan Poe, CS Lewis, Paula Saez, Elvira Lindo, Lewis Carrol, JK Rowling… and so many others I have been cheeky enough not to enumerate so as not to bore you out of your wits!!! (Wink)

Muse: Why did you write a Young Adult Fiction? And what other genres do you write? 
Marta: That is a very direct question for which I am afraid I do not have a simple answer. It isn’t as if I got up  one day and said “Oooh! Why not write YA Fiction!” (laugh) in fact, it was some delightful coincidence that lead me to write for young people. 
The fact is, when I started writing The Prophecy of the Shalforen I was a teenager, a young adult, a strange being that had the need of transmitting its thoughts to the world. That is why I started writing YA fiction.

However, now a days it is an absolutely different reason all together.

As both a reader and a writer I love the YA genre. Why? You may ask. Because YA Fiction allows writers to do “all rounder” books. That is to say, you can play with fiction and have a non-fiction background story in the same book, you can play with  characters, time and descriptions much more freely in YA Fiction that, in my opinion, in any other genre, as the readers have a certain level of maturity that allows them to understand both the stories at the same time without spoiling the fiction with the serious questions analyzed in the book.  Consequently and in plain speaking, I just enjoy writing YA Fiction!!!

As well as YA Fiction novels and as part of M’s Productions Presenta, a small film/theater company I am lucky enough to be part of, the scripts are usually my task and I have to admit… I love it!!! It is so fulfilling to see something you have written acted out by such a great team of actors!!!

Muse: What is your writing regimen? How often do you work on a book? Do you set daily time or word goals? What keeps you meeting your deadlines?
Marta: Some writers have the sensible idea to have a strict writing regime and I can honestly say I truly and wholeheartedly admire them. In my case, it depends on what I am writing. It has long been my belief that to become a writer you need 10% talent, 10% luck, 80% Constancy, hard work and power of will. Putting that philosophy into practice is no piece of cake, however, I do try to sit down and work every 2 o 3  days on a page or chapter. Sometimes it isn’t easy because “writer’s block” exists and your muse is on holiday but when she decides to return she may bombard you with ideas at five o’clock in the morning at a club and you find yourself discretely writing down on napkins between songs. (LOL)

Deadlines are important and it is always a good idea to set yourself a deadline for what ever your doing. Basically, once the “spine” of the book is done, I usually set a deadline to finish the first “round”, then set another one to go through it and polish it to a reasonable standard can take several rounds. Patience and concentration make perfect!!! And as a terrible perfectionist it is never perfect that is why the editor’s deadline is so important!!! (laughter)

Muse: Does the way you personally look at life reflect in your writing style?
Marta: Ortega y Gasset once said “I am myself plus my circumstance and if I do not save it, I cannot save myself.”so, in answer to your question, inevitably there is a little bit of my soul in each word I write. That does not mean there is an idea of indoctrinating anyone or even trying to convince readers about anything but  to let them see through the  story the book tells the little part of the writer’s soul that has been etched into each page and the reader is free, nay, invited to reflect and criticize the reasoning the writer has been so bold as to present in his/her work.

Muse: What are the creative jumping off points for you? Are you inspired by dreams? Music? Nature? The occasional black nightmare? What triggers your imagination?
Marta: Anything and everything, from the smell of a run down seaside bar to a strange dream. It is usually in the weirdest of situations that my muse decides to appear and inspiration just comes, ideas just pop into my head traveling, in class, at work, having coffee with some friends, in a club, listening to music… they are bit like falling in love, I suppose, you don’t know who, you don’t know how, you don’t know where, you just keep your eyes open just in case it passes by discretely, yet the moment you see it you just know it is the most wonderful thing that has happened to you to date.  
But inspiration has the same little catch that love has… if you don’t look after it, if you don’t nurture it, it will die out and it will have been as if it had never existed.

Muse: Tell us about The Prophecy of Shalforen: Hangman’s Hole. What was your inspiration?
Marta: Believe it or not, the inspiration for The prophecy of the Shalforen came to me whilst I was observing a grandfather clock ticking!!! It was the weirdest of things… waiting to go to the swimming pool was dreadfully boring and, as I am not much of an artist, I just sat in the dining room, with a pen and a white sheet of paper on the table staring at time go by. Then, the first words ever written about Anna Spencerford were etched, in horrible handwriting I may add, on that blank piece of paper “Anna was a normal girl.” Those words stayed in my head when I left for the swimming pool and didn’t stop bugging me until I decided to explain why Anna WAS a normal girl. And that is where “The prophecy of the Shalforen” started.

Just a few short years later, the idyllic times spent were drastically cut short one dreadful summer. My grandfather Terry, a Anglo-Irish engineer and a devoted husband, father and grandfather found out that the doctor’s hadn’t diagnosed his prostrate cancer in time and consequently it had spread to become a lethal bone cancer. From that day on we knew he was dying. Words cannot explain the desperation, pain and fury a child feels when a person they love is going to die because of negligence. He could have been saved yet they didn’t test for what he had until it was too late.

That was the beginning of “Hangman’s Hole”, the grief of a young teenager watching her life change and wanting to scream in despair but muted by the fear of making things much worse. I “saw” the Hangman sitting next to my grandfather’s bed, I heard the Requiem in my head as they plugged him into weird machines. And though the book is fiction and not autobiographical, it is fair to say that my family, my friends and the death of my grandfather did push me into writing this novel.

It was me against the world and I couldn’t admit that the world was winning, death destroyed my innocent childhood forever. A funeral was more than I could bear, so I took the decision of not saying goodbye to a dead corpse, as I had already said goodbye to the living man and that was how I wished to remember him.

Muse: What is your favorite scene from the book and why?
Marta: Spoilers!!! (Wink) In fact I have several totally different scenes that, for various reasons, are my favorite. However, as ruining the story is out of the question (Laughter) if I had to choose one I would probably say the conversation between Charlotte and her childhood friend is one of my favorites apart from the weird wedding and  the slightly bizarre silent funeral chapter. Dreadfully sorry but you’ll have to read the whole book to know what I am going on about!!! (LOL)

Muse: Have you written other books?  Tell us about your other books? 
Marta:  On her eight birthday my friend Isabel received a handwritten adventure “book” called “The adventurers” which she still cherishes nearly twelve years afterwords. That was the first book I ever wrote. Since then, three out of twelve of “The prophecy of the  Shalforen” collection have been written as well as some children’s stories and fables, a couple of plays, short-film scripts and a chic- lit novel I am half way through writing called “Diario de una au-pair en apuros”.  All of these have been or are being re-written into English/ Spanish so that, one  marvelous day, readers can enjoy them in both my mother tongues and choose which they like best!!!

Muse: How do you feel about the current publishing marketplace? 
Marta: Luckily for readers it is a jungle out there, unluckily for writers it is a jungle out there! There are so many great books available a reader is spoilt for choice… however, as kids well know when you have so many sweets to choose from you never know what to eat! It is great to live in a world with so many different styles, stories, opinions, subjects… the variety is one of the greatest things we have in modern culture.

On the other hand, as a writer, it is much tougher to actually get your book out there as there as there a millions of “messages in a bottle” floating in an already packed out sea. But, one must never loose faith in themselves or their book… one day, someone will read the message, it may not be millions of people, but someone, somewhere will read it and tell you what they think about it. It may be an absolute hassle and you may need a ton of patience and buckets of chocolate chip ice cream to overcome the process of actually being able to put your book out there, let’s be honest, it is no walk in the park… but it is worth every single effort you do the moment a reader plunges into the story you have told and enjoys every minute of it!

http://www.whispersofthemuse.org/AuthorSpotlight/MartaDunphy-Moriel.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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