5 Quick Questions with Sara Flannery Murphy, Author of Girl One

5 Quick Questions with Sara Flannery Murphy, Author of Girl One

What was the most challenging part of writing this book?

Transforming all these abstract ideas into an exciting, accessible story. The spark of the idea came during a course about reproductive history, and I couldn’t figure out how to make it an engaging story instead of dry and confusing. Giving the story a mother-daughter relationship at its core helped focus Girl One emotionally. And having Margaret Morrow go missing in the second chapter gave the story suspense. But it took a lot of trial and error to arrive there.

How did you think of the title of the book?

I wrote this novel with a longer, nerdier title, but the moment my agent read an early draft, she said, “We’re calling this Girl One.” I was a little nervous because I know the word “girl” in titles has been a controversial topic, but the way “Girl” is used in the novel—as a diminishing nickname for these parthenogenetic children, a nickname that the Girls eventually come to challenge—makes it fitting, and almost irreverent.

What’s the easiest and most difficult parts of your job as a writer?

The easiest part is having so much control over the process. I work collaboratively with my agent, early readers, and editors—all of whom make my work so much better—but my average workday is me and the words. When the writing is going well, it’s immersive and magical. I’ve been a daydreamer my entire life. Writing sometimes feels like the best kind of daydreaming—daydreaming you can share with other people.

The most difficult part? Also the control! I’m a second-guesser, so having all that choice can be overwhelming. I’m constantly asking: is this the best way to tell this exact story? What if there’s some secret ingredient I’ve overlooked? Why isn’t this character cooperating? But each book I’ve written so far has felt right, by the end of the final draft, and that’s comforting.

What’s your daily writing routine like and what are you working on at the moment?

Because I have young kids, I don’t have a set routine. I was homeschooled in a large family as a child, and my brain’s been trained to find small moments in chaos and tune out the noise. I’m accustomed to unknotting a plot problem while I make lunch or writing the next scene in my head as I drive to school pickup. But I’ve tried to create more of a routine lately, as I get closer to a time when my kids are in school full-time. A lot of writers benefit from a small ritual that signals to their brains that it’s time to write. I recently bought a bracelet because it feels easy to slip on and off at short notice—versus lighting a candle or meditating. I’m excited to see if it helps.

Right now, I’m working on my third novel, which takes place in the Arkansas Ozarks. Diving into the weird, mystical history of this isolated place I once called home has been fascinating.

If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?

To look at what works in other people’s writing, even if the writing doesn’t speak to you. It’s wonderful to take inspiration from the books you love—but sometimes work you don’t like can offer secret advice. If you read a book that you privately think is pretty awful, but everyone else is in love with it, ask: what is working? What in this book is so good, so addictive, that it makes people forgive (for example) plot holes or flat characters? It doesn’t always apply, of course, but sometimes I’m able to read books I don’t personally enjoy and come away with surprising clarity about my own work.

Reviews

A Genre-Defying Thriller: Read an Extract from Girl One by Sara Flannery Murphy

Review | Extract

13 July 2021

A Genre-Defying Thriller: Read an Extract from Girl One by Sara Flannery Murphy

    Subversive Sci-Fi at its Best: Read our Review of Girl One by Sara Flannery Murphy

    Review | Our Review

    12 July 2021

    Subversive Sci-Fi at its Best: Read our Review of Girl One by Sara Flannery Murphy

      Publisher details

      Girl One
      Author
      Sara Flannery Murphy
      Publisher
      Bloomsbury
      Genre
      Fiction
      Released
      02 July, 2021
      ISBN
      9781526637420

      Synopsis

      Eighteen women down to two, two down to... Girl One. The world knows them as 'The Homestead Girls'. Nine women who raised nine 'miracle babies' on an experimental commune in rural America. But after a suspicious fire at the ranch kills both the doctor behind the pioneering experiment and one of the youngest of the girls, the mothers and their children are scattered across the country, some embracing the media spotlight, others refusing to talk about it. Now years later, Josephine Morrow, aka Girl One, is studying medicine, following in the footsteps of her beloved mentor, when she is called home to discover that her mother has vanished, while her house has been trashed. If Josie is to find her, and find her alive, she will need to track down her estranged sisters and finally confront the secrets of their dark past – before it is too late.
      Sara Flannery Murphy
      About the author

      Sara Flannery Murphy

      Sara Flannery Murphy is the author of The Possessions and Girl One. She grew up in Arkansas, studied library science in British Columbia, and received her MFA in creative writing at Washington University in St. Louis. She now lives in Utah with her husband and their two sons.

      Books by Sara Flannery Murphy

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