Rebecca Perkin caught up with Struan Murray to chat about his writing and his Orphans of the Tide book series. You can catch the interview in the full magazine by clicking here and scrolling down to our Spring 2021 issue.
When a mystery boy washes in with the tide, the citizens believe he’s the Enemy – the god who drowned the world – come again to cause untold chaos.
Struan Murray grew up in Edinburgh and has a PhD in genetics and is a lecturer in biochemistry at the University of Oxford. And now, following his success with the Bath Children’s Novel Award, he is the debut author of fantasy adventure Orphans of the Tide. If you’re a fan of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, then Orphans of the Tide is a must read. Children and adults alike will find themselves caught up in Murray’s dark and mysterious word, left wanting more when they reach the end. Thank goodness there’s a sequel!
After enjoying a very interesting and insightful video call with Struan through my writing group, I was thrilled when he accepted my invitation of an interview. I asked him ten questions about himself and his debut.
Orphans of the Tide has a lot of themes around trust, family and grief. What was the hardest scene to write?
To be honest, the emotional scenes are usually the ones I find easiest – it’s not hard to get into the heads of characters when everything’s emotionally turbulent. The hardest parts were more technical – there are a lot of rules surrounding the magical element of this book and it was a challenge at times to find ways to weave in the necessary backstory in a way that was organic, without overloading the reader or giving away too much too soon.
Ellie and Anna are two strong independent female characters. What is the most difficult thing about writing characters of the opposite sex?
I think it’s important for me to be mindful when writing female characters to avoid the dangers of the unintentional male gaze and be really thoughtful about expressing the integrity of someone with a different gender from me.
Aside from the follow up to Orphans of the Tide, Shipwreck Island, what other works do you have in the pipeline?
Currently I’m working on the third (and possibly final!) book in the Orphans of the Tide trilogy. So many of my previous (unpublished) projects were the first books of planned trilogies, so it is a strange and wonderful thing to finally be able to finish one.
Could you see Orphans of the Tide as a film and if so who would you like to see playing Ellie?
I definitely could – in fact whenever I’m writing a scene at least a part of my brain is imagining how it would be filmed. I’m a huge fan of Studio Ghibli, and often dream about how my novel would look in that style. As for actors, I haven’t thought much about the child characters but think Tom Hardy would do a great job of the brooding, fanatical Inquisitor Hargrath, while Chiwetel Ejiofor would be perfect as Castion, the kindly, charismatic whale lord.
If you were to rewrite Orphans of the Tide is there anything you would do differently?
If I’m honest, I haven’t really looked back through the novel since it was published. There are certain aspects of the world that I would have liked to bring out more (the politics of the City, the rivalries between different whale lords), but I think that would be more for me, because they were important considerations in creating the world, but would have slowed the pace of the story.
As an author myself, I like to hide things in my books that only a handful of people might pick up on. For example, a door code being your birth date. Do you hide any secrets in your books?
I named a few (very minor) characters after a few of my (very minor) friends. They haven’t been nearly as grateful enough.
Has a book ever made you cry, and if so what was it?
I remember crying at the end of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (spoiler alert) when Dumbledore died. Occasionally I have cried while rereading my own stuff but that’s more from exhaustion than the quality of the writing.
What is your writing kryptonite?
I sometimes get bored describing character’s physical/emotional reactions to things and usually just put an asterisk for future Struan to deal with. When he comes across them he *
If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be? Related or unrelated to writing.
I think I’ve spent an awful lot of my writing life questioning whether I am ‘worthy’ of being a writer, instead of just writing. This is an entirely pointless exercise – if you have made the effort to sit down to try making up a story, then you are a writer.
And, finally, if you could write anywhere, where would it be? Real or imaginary?
A big, big library full of books and comfy chairs and spiral staircases that lead to nowhere.
Thanks so much to Struan for this ten question insight into his debut novel and world of writing.
You can visit Struan’s official website to keep up to date with all his latest news and books. Orphans of the Tide is published by Puffin Books and OUT NOW. The follow up to Orphans of the Tide, Shipwreck Island was released on 4th March 2021.
Interview by Rebecca Perkin.
Rebecca Perkin is a YA fantasy and sci-fi author from Surrey. Being an avid reader from a young age, Rebecca always loved escaping to other worlds. Her passion for writing comes from the freedom it gives someone to live out another life. She has written five novels to date, and is currently working on Half Undone, a YA Speculative fiction all about secrets, memories and what it means to be human.
Don’t forget you can catch up with the latest issues of PaperBound Magazine here – and they’re all completely free!