It’s fun to stay connected and get a sense of an author’s personality online, but I’m always aware that for many industry peeps, it’s a business decision to be on social media. As a result, many posts are often (understandably) limited to their own projects or those of their colleagues.
But every once in awhile, you get a glimpse of a truly remarkable person and kindred spirit. I’d had Emily Murdoch’s If You Find Me on my TBR list for awhile, but it was getting to know her through Twitter that convinced me that I’d love the book. From looking at photos of the horses she rescues and seeing her simple, heartfelt tribute to a friend who’d passed on a year ago, I knew there was a deep and genuine soulfulness to this person–and I wanted to see the kind of book that person would produce.
My instinct was right. The book is a gut-wrenching, though ultimately uplifting, story of one girl’s neglect and abuse. There is a rawness and emotional honesty in If You Find Me that I think readers will respond to, and as we kick off the offical blog tour for the book today, I asked Emily if she’d share how Carey’s story came to be. I had a gut feeling about what the answer might involve, but I was still shocked–and incredibly moved–by her answer. I think you will be, too.
A Tale of Two Emails
Emily Murdoch shares her story behind If You Find Me
If you asked my husband, he’d tell you, “Good luck arguing with Emily. If it comes down to words, you’re sunk.”
I admit to a secret pirate’s smile, like any writer would at word-praise. But I know what he means. My mind and the words are the same. They whir on incessantly, like a ceiling fan in the background. There’s so much to think about.
And, I can admit it: I have a lot to say. I’ve always had a lot to say. I was that child pointing out life’s naked emperors, questioning every wrong, every injustice done to people, children, animals … until the cost became too much, and I lost myself for awhile.
But the one thing I never lost? The writing.
My favorite psychiatric nurse from the Riverside-St. Clare’s inpatient eating disorder unit, of which I called home two or three times in my early twenties, knew it, too.
Nurse B: Feel the fear and do it anyway. What’s left to lose? They’re just words. What’s going to happen if you say them out loud?”
Me: It will make them real.
Nurse B: It’s already real. And from what you have told me, you’re all about the truth. If you can’t say the words out loud, what would happen if you wrote them down? You like to write. Write something important.”
When Nurse Barbara said those words, I was all of XX pounds and so pissed off about my lot in life — especially the nasogastric tube threaded through one nostril, scraping down my esophagus to dangle in my stomach. The tubing was attached to a bag of life-saving, liquid nutrition. All I could think about was finding a way to stop the onslaught of calories. As a matter of fact, she was interrupting my scheming and plotting and it was bugging me.
Until her words stopped me in my tracks. Not hard to do when you’re shaky from starvation and pushing around a kangaroo pump attached to a pole on wheels, but even still.
My writing and my history were intertwined, even then. I guess they always will be. I know now there’s a reason for it. To quote Joan of Arc: “I am not afraid. I was born to do this.”
So, when Wendy Darling of The Midnight Garden, a blog I adore and a woman I admire for her honesty, generosity of spirit, and intelligence as a book blogger and reviewer, approached me and asked if I had plans for a blog tour, and if I didn’t, offered to organize one for If You Find Me, I was over the moon.
And there was more: she loved the book.
It’s magic, I told myself, and not for the first time. Because it’s always been magic with If You Find Me.
A blog tour! Hard work, and fun. I love hard work. I love fun. Easy enough, right? Talk about the book. People love the book. I love the book.
Wendy and I exchanged a flurry of emails.
Until one email stopped me in my tracks. I read the words for a second time, and then a third. My heart knocked crazily against my ribcage.
I’d been found out.
At the same time, I’d finally “allowed” my husband to read my ARC.
Me: Uh, nothing.
Hubs reading IYFM on his iPad from the couch: Wow. I see a lot of you in this book.
Me: No you don’t. You do?
Me: Now what’s wow?
Hubs: This isn’t your story specifically, but the parallels – it hasn’t occurred to you before?
Actually, it hadn’t.
And the bizarre part, looking back on it a few days later, is the fact that I believed AT ALL, on any level, that I, the writer, could hide behind my book.
I read Wendy’s email again. This paragraph, specifically:
“Oh, and goodness–I also wanted to get in your head about how this story came to be. I know some of the interviewers will ask, but do you have a story behind that? Experience with social work/know girls who have been abandoned or abused? The book felt like it came from such a raw and real place, and I couldn’t tell whether that was from real life.”
Hubs looking up from ARC: Huh?
And like all dams that should, mine broke. This email, like all good magic, like all good books, for that matter, moved something important and necessary within me out of the darkness of the scared and impossible.
How do you turn down magic?
I needed to think about it.
I did. And I cried. I waffled. I panicked. I cried some more. Was I really going to do this? Smack in the middle of my blog tour? And if I didn’t? What would that mean? What would I be saying to the children?
Whir, whir, whir …
Finally, finally … I decided. And in the end, I wrote this email.
I kept wanting to reply further to your lovely email, even during the freak snowstorms that felled our internet, even from my sand-grain-sized phone keypad, as I’m doing now, but I just couldn’t get the words together.
When I first read your email, it sent me into a tailspin. It hadn’t (denial! ding-ding-ding!) occurred to me anyone would attach any of the story to me, personally.
I wasn’t kidnapped. I didn’t have a meth-addicted mother. Oh, the (protective) human mind is fearfully and wonderfully made!
Carey isn’t me, certainly. But she IS an over-arching thinking pattern of abused children. A thematic, you might say. If you’ve been hurt, or have children, she’ll especially strike a chord. It’s impossible for me to read the book without crying, myself, no matter how many times I’ve read it since starting production.
I was a middle-class battered child, and a genius at hiding it. Keeping the secret meant I was purging my school lunches by age eight in the girls’ bathroom. I ended up with anorexia by age eighteen and made the rounds of the inpatient eating disorder programs.
It was there that I began to come to grips with my abusive history. At that point, my physical life depended on it.
All these years later, I’m “out of the woods.” Happy. Writing. But as the book’s release date approaches, I’ve been anxious, worried, snappy … so many tangled emotions! So much exposure! At almost a month until release (as of this writing) and with all the lovely buzz, and all the publicity – three starred reviews so far, along with being on Macmillan’s bestseller list –
Wow. I wanted to write a great book, that’s a fact. But I had no idea the book was going to hit like this. I’m watching this book, like Carey and Nessa’s eaglets, find the edge of its nest and take the leap.
Which brings me full-circle-round to what I already knew: obviously, this book is bigger than me, and who am I to stand in its way? If I was appointed its steward, then it’s an honor to not only write books I love, and books others love, but books that can touch, validate, heal.
Because books really can, and DO, save lives.
Books saved mine.
But, in all honesty, I don’t want to become the poster child for abuse or eating disorders. At least, I don’t want those glimpses into my life to become the definitive glimpses. I’ve worked too hard as a writer. To become an author. I’m a writer with some hard experiences. We all have our skeletons in the closet.
I’m not a saint, and I’m definitely not perfect. I’m just a person who has always loved to help. And if my writing can do that …
“God’s in his Heaven
All’s right with the world.”
~ Robert Browning
I hadn’t been found out.
I’d been found.
And I want to pass it on.
For children of all ages:
I’m doing this for you, because you count. You are precious. I realize I’d be dishonoring Carey and all of you if I didn’t speak up. And I’d be dishonoring myself.
Feel the fear and do it anyway.
Is it scary? You bet. But what’s the alternative? Even scarier, believe me.
If you are being hurt, find a trusted adult, one that DOESN’T hurt, and TELL.
The truth really does set you free.
People WILL help you. Good people. To quote Melissa from If You Find Me, “Good things come to those who let them in. All you have to do is take a chance.”
You’re a one-of-a-kind original. The world needs you desperately.
In parting, I leave you with this:
“What is the point of being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable?”
~ John Green, An Abundance of Katherines
Be remarkable! And even better? Pass it on.
Emily Murdoch is a writer, a poet, and a lover of books. There’s never a time she’s without a book. Her debut novel, IF YOU FIND ME, will be available from St. Martin’s Press on March 26, 2013 and from Orion/Indigo UK on May 2, 2013. Add the book on GoodReads or reserve your copy on Amazon.
Our rave review for If You Find Me can be found here.
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Follow along with the rest of the If You Find Me Tour! Thoughtful new posts, excerpts, and Q & As daily through March 29th, 2013 at these wonderful blogs.