Today I have a super cool blog post for you, today I bring you an interview with the lovely author of Caramel Hearts, E. R. Murray! I had the pleasure of reading her book late last month and was so happy to say I loved it, its a must read for those that adore cooking and even if you don’t (like me) it will make you want to cook! So here are some questions that I asked Elizabeth and here are her awesome answers!

A book you wish you wrote?

American Gods by Neil Gaiman – I love everything about it. The characters, the storyline(s), the mythology – it has such perfect pace and plot, I can’t fault it.

Your ideal place to write/read?

I have a writing room at home (I don’t call it an office as that sounds too work-like) and that’s my little sanctuary when I’m there. It’s painted sky blue to counteract the frequently grey Irish skies, and it has a few paintings and all my notebooks. It’s a place that I can walk into and immediately switch to writing mode. However, I don’t like routine – I find it makes me lethargic – so I also like to write on trains, in cafes (in busy cities only – not my village as you can’t be anonymous) and when I travel. In fact, I regularly position myself in new places to write – I find it gives me energy. I was in Carcassone last year, Cambodia the year before that, this year I’m off to Bangkok. I find being around different sights and sounds helps me switch off from regular life and immerse myself in my books. I also go to the wonderful Tyrone Guthrie Centre for creative practitioners twice a year to recharge.

Hobbies other than writing/reading?

Travel is my main hobby – as much as possible! – but I also love being outdoors; hiking, growing my own vegetables and catching my own fish. We have a small punt and catch mackerel and pollock during the summer and autumn months. I only garden in the spring and summer as I get too cold in winter – I did try, but failed. I also love film, theatre, and art; anything visual helps me switch off as I’m always working with words. Live music is another biggie – luckily I’m married to a musician/singer-songwriter, so I get lots of that. As a creative person, you need to get creative input, as well as output – it’s nurturing.

Inspiration for Caramel Hearts?

This book is loosely based on my own experiences; I grew up in a family affected by addiction and I wanted to explore that a little. The events and characters are fictional, but the emotions are autobiographical; I drew on memories to make the characters and situations as real as I could. This was very important to me; I wanted Caramel Hearts to resonate with anyone experiencing the effects of addiction.

In addition, I wanted to write something around food and play with form a little; the recipe book idea came quite early on but I didn’t realise how prominent the recipes were going to be until I got to know the main character, Liv, a little more. A timely visit to the National Library of Ireland also helped; they invited me to see some old cookbooks from the 1600s, with magical ingredients like ‘frosted plums picked by moonlight’ – they had such a strong voice, they stayed with me. And I realised that the recipes had to be part of the story; they had to reflect the events and emotions the characters were experiencing. This is why the recipes ended up structuring the narrative.

Favourite recipe to cook?

I actually prefer savoury food, and I love spice – so curries and Thai dishes are what I love to cook. I also adore Japanese food – sushi and cooked dishes, like ramen. There’s an alchemy to mixing spices and herbs to get a distinct flavour – and I think Thai, Japanese and Indian food does this to perfection. So if you came to me for dinner you’d probably get a starter of sushi (with ginger & soy), followed by spicy beef salad, pad thai noodles, and some Indian bahjis as sides. With lots of condiments – I love thai fish sauce, but also raita!

What was it like to write about family issues?

In some ways it felt very personal and scary, because I was drawing on emotions and memories I’d hidden away, but in other ways it was refreshing; I could look at the effects of addiction from another person’s perspective. I guess it was quite cathartic. The biggest compliment is when someone who has experienced similar events as those in the book emails me to tell me they feel less lonely, that Caramel Hearts touched them. It was a bit scary

What makes you want to write contemporary?

This was the story that I had to tell; the character, Liv, was hassling me and I had visual images running through my head of different scenes – that’s how my next project calls me. It was also written after I’d finished the first book in my middle grade trilogy, The Book of Learning – Nine Lives Trilogy 1 – and sent it on submission. I wanted to write something different, a story that wasn’t urban fantasy. When I start a story, I don’t think about the genre or the readership age; I write the story first and then the characters and plot dictate the rest.

How did you get yourself into the mindset of a character who had to go through so much emotional trauma?

Mainly drawing on my own experiences, or people I know, but I do read a lot of fiction also, so I’m always living inside other people’s heads in a way. I also believe that travel opens up your eyes to how other people live and think too. I did do some online research but to be honest, I fund it too disturbing – there were streams of bullying video links coming up in my google searches that I couldn’t bear to watch. I would feel as bad as the perpetrator and the person videoing – but it shows what a massive problem we have with bullying.

To learn more about E.R. Murray visit her website or connect with her on twitter@ERMurray or instagram elizabethrosemurray.


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