Annie Murray – Author Talk

Yesterday I went to hear Annie Murray speak at my local library. Annie writes regional sagas set in Birmingham, each one Annie Murraycovering various segments of the 20th century up until the 1980s. I had expected her to be an older lady who had lived in the city all her life, with a family tree connected to the area for generations. How wrong can you be?

Annie is around my own age (which to my daughters does probably mean ‘an older lady’!) and she only lived in Birmingham for around 5 years during the 1980s. But this brief stay in the city was enough to ignite her passion for the city and it’s heritage. She has been producing novels set in the area for 20 years.

Annie describes her books as being like a ‘family album’ – charting the ups and downs of ordinary people. It is people who interest her rather than history and she adds just enough of her research to the books to give a flavour of the time.

“I’m often told how vivid my novels are,” she says, “but local people subconsciously imprint their own memories of the area on to the story – thus adding to what I’ve written without realising it.”

I asked Annie if she plans her books in great detail. “No,” she explains. “I know the beginning, the end and how many years it will span. I write a half page synopsis for my publisher but then my writing is like driving in the dark. My view forward of what’s going to happen is limited like the distance illuminated by a car’s headlights.”

Like most writers, Annie has had to combine her writing with bringing up a family and it’s often put on the back burner as she deals with her other responsibilities. But that doesn’t mean her work is completely stalled. Annie thinks that writers unconsciously dwell on their work all the time and that we should all learn to work with this.

As always, it was inspiring to listen to an author who has ‘made it’ and if Annie can write sagas spanning generations without a detailed plan maybe there’s hope for the rest of us that struggle to outline everything in advance!

  1. #1 by Carl Peters on May 17, 2012 - 3:02 pm

    I believe that there is something in that, just writing like a long car journey. You might not see the end but you will arrive eventually. I wonder if she has read Anne Lamott, Bird By Bird as that is the metaphor used in there fo writing. I have just finished a degree in English lit and creative writing and although I may not be published yet, I am sure that I will “arrive” one day. I did get a runner up in a poetry comp at the uni though (only took three years!), that’s my first recognition, and I am not a poet! As Ann Morrow Linberg says, “I must write, I must write at all costs. For writing is more than living; it is being conscious of the living.!

    • #2 by Sally Jenkins on May 17, 2012 - 7:12 pm

      Carl, Congratulations on your degree and the poetry success! I love your quote from Ann Morrow Linberg – it must be true of the vast majority of writers since very few of us can make a living out of it. So for us, it’s all about the journey and hoping that we get there in the end. Bon voyage!

  2. #3 by susanjanejones on May 17, 2012 - 5:44 pm

    They sound good books Sally.

    • #4 by Sally Jenkins on May 17, 2012 - 7:14 pm

      Susan, I hadn’t read any of Annie’s books until I heard about the talk. But now I’m reading one & enjoying it. It’s quite different to the crime/contemporary women’s fiction that I normally read.

  3. #5 by Annie Murray on May 17, 2012 - 9:07 pm

    Thanks for this Sally – a very nice write up!
    Just to set the record straight – I did live in Birmingham for 10 years, though it seems a while ago now.
    So far as I’m aware the quote about writing and ‘driving in the dark’ is from E.L Doctorow.
    Best wishes to you all for your writing – I like the quote above – the being conscious one – I have never heard it put quite like that before.

    • #6 by Sally Jenkins on May 18, 2012 - 12:08 pm

      Apologies for not getting the full facts, Annie, and I wish you continued success.

  4. #7 by Vikki (The View Outside) on May 18, 2012 - 8:32 am

    Isn’t it inspiring to listen to successful authors talk 🙂

    Sounds like you had a great time 🙂


    • #8 by Sally Jenkins on May 18, 2012 - 12:09 pm

      Yes, Vikki, always good to hear other writers talk.

  5. #9 by Anne Harvey on May 18, 2012 - 7:08 pm

    Thanks for this heads up, Sally. I had not heard of Annie Murray before but have made a note and will definitely look out for any of her books. I like it that she ‘charts the ups and downs of ordinary people’ and ‘that she adds just enough research to give a flavour of the time’. I love those kind of books. Yet I was told about my own writing ‘people don’t want to read about ordinary people.’ Oh yes? I rather think Annie Murray and Anna Jacobs believe differently. As this is how I write, so do I.

    • #10 by Sally Jenkins on May 18, 2012 - 7:20 pm

      Anne – ordinary people, especially those living in a different time to our own, can be very interesting. Go for it!

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