Author finds a sense of place and love in West Cork


Posted on: 8th February, 2016

Category: Arts & Entertainment

Contributor: Mary O'Brien

According to Children’s Books Ireland, ER Murray has written a “…a gripping page turner, ‘The Book of Learning’ will keep readers enthralled and guessing until the final page when some answers are given – and as it is part of a trilogy, the pace and plot will leave them wanting more.”

The first in the Nine Lives Trilogy, The Book of Learning is a story of mystery and adventure set between West Cork and Dublin, which will appeal to girls and boys of nine years and older. It is the chosen book for the 2016 Citywide Reading for Children campaign, which aims to encourage children to read for pleasure.

Author Elizabeth (ER) Murray lives just outside the village of Schull in West Cork. Her second book ‘Caramel Hearts’ is due for publication in March, and the second in the Nine Lives Trilogy – ‘The Book of Shadows’ is currently being edited.

“Signing two book deals at the same time was a dream come true,” she tells Mary O’Brien “but it has meant double the pressure and deadlines for a first time writer. As a result, 2015 was a really busy year, but I’ve risen to the challenge and learned a lot, and I can’t wait to enjoy everything 2016 brings.”

Originally from Middlesbrough in the UK, Elizabeth moved to Schull in 2010. It’s the longest this lover of adventures has ever stayed in any one place, possibly due to the fact that, as well as falling for the West Cork landscape, Elizabeth fell for a local man.

“When I was working in Dublin, I wanted to get away somewhere to write so I picked somewhere on the bus route, by the sea, and ended up in Schull…and I married a Schull man! I knew within two minutes of getting off the bus that I wanted to move here.”

bookoflearning“To me West Cork is more of a feeling than a place,” says Elizabeth. The landscape blows me away every single day. The people are really welcoming and fun; it’s such a mixture of locals and blow-ins for a small village, with so many accents, so many creatives and so many different walks of life. People aren’t driven by time or deadlines. I feel very grounded here.”

The Book of Learning features many well-known Dublin landmarks such as the National Library, Glasnevin Cemetery, The Botanic Gardens, The Natural History Museum and St. Stephen’s Green. Elizabeth created a place in the book called Oddley Cove to represent West Cork. “The landscape in the book is based on West Cork,” explains Elizabeth. “I mentioned Gunpoint and I have an island in it called Gallow’s island, which is a mixture of Long island and Cape Clear. I just took the feel of the place — there is a woods in the book based on the one at Lough Ine. There are lots of little elements from all over West Cork and because odd things are happening there, I called it Oddley Cove.”

Coming from a disadvantaged background, Elizabeth worked her way through University, acquiring a Degree in Latin and Classical History and a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) qualifying her as a Primary and Special Needs teacher. “I had a teacher in Primary School who was amazing, very strict but he always encouraged me to go to college and get an education and it stuck with me even though I was only seven,” she says. “I’ve always been a very driven and determined person.”

After teaching for six years, Elizabeth decided to travel, moving to Spain before coming to Ireland.

“I hate routine so I’ve always moved around,” she explains. “Schull is the longest I’ve lived anywhere.”

“I’d written bits and pieces as a child but I really started to write after taking an Inkwell writers course in Dublin with Vanessa O’Loughlin,” says Elizabeth.

“I wanted to write a memoir about my father, who I met for the first time when I was 13. He died a couple of years later. My father was Romany gypsy but ran away from the gypsy culture and built an empire of arcades in the 60 and 70s so he was quite well off. He sold it all, went to live in a mobile home and grew his own vegetables. I was intrigued. During the time I met him, he bought land in the Gambia, converted to Islam and married a Gambian woman. He was a very creative man and lived a completely different lifestyle from the one I grew up in – one of five children in a single parent family living in a poor Council Estate.

“I wanted to write about him but hit a complete blank. So I toyed around with another idea. At the time I lived in a flat in Dublin near the National Concert Hall and I saw a ghost, which I didn’t believe in…but I kept seeing this figure around the flat. It got me thinking about what is a ghost and where do these things come from and initiated this idea about the nine lives. I had the character names and the characters started forming but I didn’t have an idea until it just kind of hit me. The apartment in the book is based on the one I lived in in Dublin. It’s almost like you can hear stories whispering from the cobbles sometimes in Dublin.”

Elizabeth’s stories are always character-led. “I have tried to plot and plan a story but it just kills it, makes it boring. I love prologues so I usually have a prologue in my head and I always know the end but I don’t necessarily know anything else. I think the story might be going one way but then the characters lead me another way.”

“The Book of Learning has some big questions in it about death and reincarnation. It’s a story about a girl who’s trying to find her place in the world like so many of us,” says Elizabeth.

“The Grandpa dies on the first page, which is loosely based on my lack of relationship with my father, based on that sense of absence and connection. The Ebony Smart character is based around what I’d have liked my childhood to be like. She has lots of animals and grows up in West Cork.”

“I love a good a good story,” says Elizabeth “but I think unless you have a really strong setting and really believable characters it doesn’t work. My favourite book of all time is Wuthering Heights. I must have read it about 18 times.”

Elizabeth’s next book ‘Caramel Hearts’ is set in the North East of England and is a story about a 14-year-old girl with an alcoholic mum who runs away.

“I’ve always had a big imagination,” says Elizabeth animatedly “As a kid I’d go to bed and tell myself a story and pick it up again the next day. I’ve always read voraciously. I grew up in a really poor council estate but everyone was joined the swimming pool and the library.

Writing or editing books or doing events never feels like work to Elizabeth. “I particularly love meeting the readers and seeing people get excited about reading. Most writers have a job as well, as you have to pay the bills and put food on the table, and sometimes it can be difficult to start freelance work after writing or editing for several hours. But writing books is what I love and it’s something I need to do, so I’ll never stop.”

The Book of Learning by ER Murray is available in local bookshops.

Latest News Articles:

Global Shares to create 80 new jobs
Ford 100 Fest on Ford family farm to mark 100 years of Ford in Ireland
A Taste of West Cork Food Festival launches delectable programme
Healing with a harp
Plan the perfect wedding day at the Fota Island Resort Wedding Forum
Clutching at straws for Coalition
Lee’s and Nils: West Cork clubs in the city
The walk of a lifetime
West Cork farmers take gold at National Farmer of the Year Awards
Shining success for Union Hall Centra store at 2017 Quality Awards

Join us on Facebook

Dunmanway Historical Association regrets to announce that the talk on Sile na Gig which was to take place on Thursday, 24th August in Atkins hall @ 8:30pm has been cancelled. ... See MoreSee Less

18th August, 2017  ·  

This year Wild Atlantic Tag sponsored by Marine Harvest will take place in Adrigole on Saturday August 5th. All are welcome, whether you are a team entry or an individual looking to join a team. The teams will be divided into two sections, Social & Seriously Social! Please contact Sean (0879568363) or Joey (0879865827) to register. It promises to be great craic with plenty of refreshments available pre and post-match! Fantastic local musician Eoghan McEllhenny will entertain the rugby masses from 4.30pm followed by Peadar O’Callaghan and renowned Natural Gas will round off the night from 9.30pm! ... See MoreSee Less

14th July, 2017  ·  

A woodland walk will take place on the 22nd June at 7pm in Glengarriff Nature Reserve. This is a great opportunity to learn about woodlands, their plants and wildlife and is an opportunity not to be missed. Glengarriff Nature Reserve was designated as a Nature reserve in 1991, and covers over 300 acres in size. It is a beautiful and unique woodlands containing many different habitats and is owned and managed by NPWS primarily for conservation and amenity purposes. The event is led by National Parks Ranger Clare Heardman and has been organised by Cork Nature Network For further information please contact ... See MoreSee Less

19th June, 2017  ·  

Jump to: