On Writing and The Night Caller by Martina Murphy.

A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to be asked to talk to a classroom of children about my route to publication. “I wrote my first book by hand,” I told them, “and then I saved up money to buy a word processor.”

A hand shot up. “Please, what’s a word processor?”

“It was a step up from a typewriter,” I answered.

This only served to confuse them further.

My first book, published in 1997, did not feature texting, social media or the INTERNET!

In fact, on the night it was launched, there was great excitement as my husband bought me my very first mobile phone in celebration. It was a small, grey affair with sticky-out, clicky buttons. The screen was about an inch square and texting was not about pressing letters but about pressing numbers a certain amount of times.

It was cutting edge.

In those days and for a few years afterwards, drafts of books were typed, bound, posted to publishers and came back with corrections, much like homework. Now it’s all email, word documents and editing packages.

Everything has moved on apace and though it’s great, it can leave me a bit at sea sometimes.  

When I came to write The Night Caller I was more than a little apprehensive. Firstly, it was a police procedural and while I know how to write a good story and dialogue, I knew nothing about procedure. I boned up on things I never thought I’d ever want to know – Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act anyone?

 And then I met with a detective.

“I’m a bit concerned,” I said, “that while the book might be a good read, I don’t quite get all the technology and the forensics and –

He cut me off. “Aw Jesus,” he said, “D’you how crimes are solved?”

“Well, first off a cordon is –

“Good old-fashioned police work,” he said, “talking to witnesses, knocking on doors, writing reports, compiling reports, layer upon boring layer. That’s it. The forensics is all well and good, but if the investigation isn’t right…” he let the words hang.

Writing is the same, I realised. Email and Word and fancy editing packages all have their place, but books will always be written by good old-fashioned sitting in front of the blank page. Laying the words down. Re-reading. Restructuring.

Finally – something I understand!

Martina Murphy lives with her family in Maynouth, County Kildare. She has previously written general fiction as Martina Reilly published by Little Brown and Hachette Ireland. Her novel Something Borrowed, was long listed for an Impac award.

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