Wednesday 9 March 2016

Interview with Lee Murray from The Refuge Collection

You can check out the Refuge Collection here:


Multiple Sir Julius Vogel Award winning author of novels such as A Dash of Reality (romantic comedy)Battle of the Birds (children’s novel) and the young adult novel, Misplaced. Lee lives with her husband and two teenaged children near the ocean in New Zealand.

I asked Lee some questions about the Refuge Collection and her story in the collection:

How did you get involved with the Refuge Collection?

It was one of those ‘our eyes met over a crowded room’ stories actually. I’d been following the refugee crisis, and agonising over how helpless I felt to do anything meaningful down here at the arse end of the world. Sure, I could put my hand in my pocket and hand over a few dollars, but it wasn’t what I wanted. I was keen to do something more. Then I saw a Steve’s post on a Facebook forum. And again on another site. The candles flickered. Violins played. Here was something positive I could do to raise awareness of children fleeing from their homes with only one set of clothes, babies walking miles and miles to sleep on cardboard boxes on the side of the road. I contacted Steve and, happily, he didn’t turn me away at the border.

What did you learn about writing whilst writing your Refuge Collection story?

That Steve Dillon never sleeps. A great editor, motivator and community builder, Steve asks and talented generous writer people put their hands up to help. “What do you need? Oh, sure, I can do that.” Artists jump in. Techy people. I learned that every writing project needs a champion, and Steve has lead Refuge from the front of the pack.

Do you have a set writing process, if so what is it?

Most days, I sit at my computer. About mid-morning when I can tear myself away from Facebook and editing my colleagues’ amazing stories, judging writing competitions and other similar distracting activities, I try to write stuff that doesn’t suck too much. I’m not a natural writer: I’m not one of those people whose stories write themselves in a coffee-fuelled marathon frenzy of words. I’m very slow. My daily output is less than Hemmingway’s purported 500 words. The quality is considerably less. But I keep at it until I have something that might be worth reading, which I then send out to trusted friends for critique. Rinse and repeat. When I think it might be finished, I like to leave the text to sit for a few weeks. Often the story will turn to vinegar, but occasionally I’ll get it out and find it’s aged to a satisfying dark red. That’s my writing process.

Do you write a lot of short stories?

I write more stories than people who don’t write. I write fewer than Marty Livings.

Do you prefer the long or short form? How do you feel about Flash Fiction?

Flash Fiction? Short, right? Dynamic, forthright and great to hook up with when you have a spare few minutes?  Yes, Flash and I met at a speed- dating event and dated on and off, but I don’t see us ever being a long-term thing. I’m married to a novel, but I still like to hang out with stories: short, flashy, with pictures or without. Just because you’re married doesn’t mean you can’t spend time with friends.

Which character in your story do you most identify with and why?

I think… Ginger Rogers. We both enjoy lounging in sunny places, and meals that involve playing with your food. But mainly because New Zealand speculative fiction writers are a small community, and our local market is teensy, so getting noticed is hard. I’ve been lucky to enough to have had some great support from various sources and although I’m no one famous, I try to pay it forward through (mostly unpaid) writing mentorships and activism. Sharing encouragement and skills can be hugely rewarding, but I put so much energy into these activities that I sometimes feel like an emptied husk. I’m learning to take a step back, which is something my character Ginger should have done. 

Which bit of your writing are you most proud of?

That would be the epic world-shattering book I haven’t written yet.

Can you give us a teaser for your story in the Collection?

The agent had said the clasp was broken. Whitney ran her fingernail along the groove. She touched the clasp and noted the dent in the mechanism. She slid her jeweller’s screwdriver carefully into the gap, applying just enough pressure… The lid popped up, a tiny puff of dust escaping. She smiled. It was all in the way you held your tongue.

In one sentence what is your best piece of advice for new writers?

Grow a carapace. 

Many thanks to Lee - go and check out her other work over here

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