Every good story starts at the point of change. What is the point of change in this story?
The point of change is in the first line when the reader finds that Carley is in the backseat of a social worker’s car on her way to a foster home placement. From that point on, the story is all about Carley dealing with changes—both external and internal.
Carley must navigate the unfamiliar territory of a bustling, happy family and come to terms with the reality that a life she’s never thought existed actually does–just not for her. She avoids physical contact and follows a strict rule about never, ever crying, because that is for the weak. However, as Carley is drawn to her foster mom, Julie, and the youngest of her three boys, those rules become harder and harder to follow. The Murphys (with the help of Carley’s hard-edged, Broadway obsessed friend, Toni) chip away at her barriers, transforming her. At first, she hates it. Then she hates it that she doesn’t hate it.
But, when the state says that Carley’s mother wants her back, will she lose the only real family she’s ever known?
So, yes, this story is all about changes. Dealing with them in the moment and predicting the next one coming around the corner. A little like real life, huh?
What do you want that you can’t have? How would your main character answer the same question?
Wow! What are we talking about here? I’d really like a mocha latte, but I’d also like to be able to fly or travel through time. To get serious (gasp!) I’d like my brother, Michael Eric, and my Mum back. Michael died when we were young. My Mum died eleven years ago. There are also some things I’d really like to undo for the people I really love such as my niece’s car accident.
I’d also want all children who are not mothered to find someone to nurture them. Imagine how our world would change if ALL children were well cared for and loved! Oh my God–Imagine what we could do! How different the world would be?!
Carley wants a lot, actually. She longs to have her mother back but doesn’t want her at the same time because she fears the pain. She longs for the affection and gentleness of Julie Murphy (foster mother) but keeps her distance because she fears the love. All the while, though, Carley wants to be folded in and feel like she belongs somewhere. She doesn’t want the push and pull anymore. She wants the truth. And she wants to know she can believe it.
Personally, there are other things I want, but I wouldn’t say I can’t have them. I just have to work hard and be patient. Patience comes naturally to me. So, hurry up and give me the next question.
Did another book serve as a model for yours, either in structure or inspiration? Tell us how.
The impetus for MURPHYS came from an unlikely source–Star Wars. My then nine year old son and I were talking about the six Star Wars movies and the story they told as a whole. We discussed how the six episodes of the movies were the complete life story of Anakin Skywalker—the first movie being him at about nine years old and the last movie portraying his death. We also talked about Luke as a character. Somehow, I stumbled upon the idea of Luke wanting his father and yet not wanting his father. How there were a few characters in the movies that both wanted yet didn’t want the same thing and the internal struggle that comes from that.I thought about this for days.
As a teacher who has worked with at-risk kids, I had also been thinking about the ways children protect themselves emotionally and had been researching resilience in children for a paper. I found that no matter the geographic location, socio-economic status, race, or any other factor, the number one attribute in resilient children is to be able to spot the adults who can help them and be able to reach out to them for support. Simple in theory but so difficult for some of the kids who need that little extra help to do.
Anyway, while doing the dishes one evening, I think these ideas crashed into each other. The line, “I ask the nurse how long I’ve been out” popped into my head. Not only did I hear the line, but I saw the girl, smelled the hospital, heard the beeping of the machines, felt her sadness and confusion. Her isolation.
Always happy to wait on doing dishes, I ran to the computer to type it in, planning to work on it the next day. However, after typing that one line, I just kept going. I had the first chapter of Carley waking up in the hospital (which I have since thrown out) done before heading back to the kitchen. Once Carley’s voice started, I just had to get it out—like having a sliver in my hand. I so wanted to know what she would tell me. The novel was done within a year.
Here is an interview with Global Read Aloud Founder, Pernille Ripp about One for the Murphys. If you would like to know what happens to Carley after the end of the book, this video includes an epilogue :-)