Ask T.M. Murphy
Do you have a question for T.M. Murphy? Get in touch!
Question from Sandy in Burbank, CA - Age 13
This is a question I get everyday via email and I guess the best way to get the answer is for you to watch this video.
Question from Samuel in Salt Lake City, Utah - Age 12
My friend found your books in our local library and I thank him everyday for finding them because your books are so cool! When I read them I see the pictures in my head so clearly! I’m so happy to find your website because I want you to know that you’ve made me want to write my own mysteries about Salt Lake City. So I guess I am wondering did you always want to be a writer?
I am so glad you were able to find my books and that they’ve inspired you to write. I felt the same way when I was a kid and found The Hardy Boys’ series! I think I’ve always wanted to entertain people with my stories and the best way to understand what I mean by that and how I became a writer is to read an early piece of mine, The Hands of a Father. I wrote this about my Dad before I became a published writer and it was published in the Cape Cod Times one Father’s Day. It was one of the best days of my life because I was able to let the world know how much I loved my Dad and what a great man he is – Samuel, that is truly the power or writing!
Question from Tom - Age 20
My friends and I first read your books when we were eleven years old and by far they were our favorites! I am now eighteen years old and I’m going to Bridgewater State College to be a middle or junior high school teacher. In one of my classes we had an assignment to pick a book we liked as a child and write a paper on why we now think it worked. Naturally, I picked The Secrets Of Belltown. I could go on and on to you about my paper and why I thought it was such a great book – relatable main character, love interest, realistic and scary plots, but the simple answer is your stories don’t talk down to kids! It is a major lesson I will want to remember when I become a teacher, and because of that fact your books are still enjoyable for adults to read. I discussed this fact with my parents and they both agreed saying that is why they never hesitated to do a read aloud of a Belltown book with me which begs the question -- Have you ever thought of writing books for adults? I bet you now have a fan base that would devour an adult mystery!
What a validating email of what I tried to do when I wrote the Belltown Mystery Series! I also commend you for your desire to become a teacher! My mom was a teacher and my dad has taught for almost fifty years and it was that lesson of never talk down (or in my case write down) to the student that they always taught me! Of course, over the years I have received a few letters from a couple of parents and librarians who don’t share that sentiment. They try to shelter kids from reading the books that are going to entertain as well as challenge their senses.
Example: Why would you write murder mysteries for children?
Answer: If I wrote The Secrets of Who Stole The Cookie From The Cookie Jar very few kids are going to stay up and by flashlight at night to read in their bed!
I love when I get letters from kids who tell me they never read a book until they read one of mine and now they are reading everything! As for your question, I am currently working on two novels for adults. One book is a very special project that I am working on with my brother Seton Murphy and we are close to completion. The other book I see as a big beach book someday and it is a mystery. If that were to get published I actually have several notebooks filled with hundreds of mystery ideas for adult readers. We’ll see what happens after I finish the first one. I hope to have both projects completed soon, and then we’ll take it from there. You raise a good point though when I look for an agent or publishing company. There are a lot of Belltown fans who are now grown up! Thanks so much for your email and remember on those hard days of teaching you are changing the future for the better!
Question from Liz in Raleigh, North Carolina - Age 12
Your books are so cool, and so are your book covers! I want to be an illustrator and I was wondering who drew your covers?
My book covers are really cool! I was so lucky and forever grateful to Jeremy Townsend (my publisher at the time) who hired my childhood best friend Mark Penta to illustrate the covers. I’ve known Mark since we were seven. And yes, he is also the Mark character in the books! When we were kids I used to tell the ghost stories around the picnic table and he’d draw the pictures little did we know someday I’d have books with my stories and his illustrations on them! You should check out Mark’s website and see all of his cool artwork and he also does caricatures.
Question from Carly in Albuquerque, New Mexico - Age 14
In your video describing Belltown landmarks you mention how you listen to music when you try to think up ideas for your book, and I was wondering does music play a part in your writing? I ask the question because I love to listen to music and when I do ideas for stories often come to me after I hear a song. I was wondering if it was just me and what kind of music do you listen to?
It’s not just you! Music absolutely plays a huge part in my writing! I think it is because I grew up when MTV first came out and that channel had music videos that told stories so I naturally would listen to a song and think – what story can I get from listening to this song? That training has helped me come up with several emotional scenes and even full chapters in my books. In a book for adults I am currently working on with my brother (Seton Murphy) we feel the music is almost like its own character – the summer of 1994 - and because of that belief we are using very special songs to set the tone of that time period. I also use music while teaching my class. I will play different styles and just let the kids write. Some of the story ideas they come up with from hearing a four minute song can be mind blowing. As far as what kind of music I have them listen to it ranges from songs that have no lyrics like mood setting songs by the amazing composer Tim Janis to songs that already have words like songs by the legendary lyricist Sean Kelly of The Samples. I try to give the kids a wide range of music to listen to and remind them it’s not a music appreciation class it’s about what story idea they get from the song. Of course, though I do like when they enjoy the songs I am playing like the two above mentioned or eighties music or old U2 songs HaHa. I also encourage the kids to always bring in their own song or songs that they think might trigger great story ideas from their fellow classmates.
Question from Stephanie in Georgetown, ME
My oldest daughter is a big fan of your books but right now I am looking for a book about Cape Cod for my youngest daughter who is in the first grade. Do you have any recommendations and where to buy it?
I’m not an expert on that age group but I do have a couple of recommendations. A few years back I was lucky to be doing a talk with Martha Zschock who is the author of Journey Around Cape Cod. She was a really sweet person so I bought the book for my nephew and he loved it! As far as buying the book, you might want to try Eight Cousins in Falmouth. Carol Chittenden and her staff are some of the most knowledgeable people in the business when it comes to recommending quality children’s books! They are also pretty cool and have always been very supportive of my career! Another author I highly recommend if you’re looking for books for that age group that take place in Maine is Emily Chetkowski. Her Mabel books are really fun and her school presentations always are a big hit because she is so funny and she also brings her dog Mabel to them! K-2 loves it!
Question from Terry in Norton, MA - Age 44
Being a full-time insurance salesman and a part-time struggling writer I’ve read a lot of kids books and I just love the tone of your stories. But my question is did you also build your own website?
Thanks for the question. I hope this site inspires you to keep writing and going for it! I’m so grateful for the question because it also gives me the opportunity to send out my own thanks! I may be responsible for the content of Capecodwriter.com, but the person who should receive the accolades for building this site is John Furfey. If I didn’t have a strong family and loyal friends to support me during the down times I doubt I’d still be writing today. It’s those down times is when you find out who you’re true friends are! Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was in one of those times when John picked up my spirits by reminding me I’ve accomplished a lot and suggesting that I should have a new website built. He took it one step further by volunteering to do it. Since then the feedback from fans - young and old - has been amazing and has reminded me that over the years people from all over the world have read and enjoyed my books! That tremendous boost of confidence I have gained from that knowledge I owe to John’s hard work and constant friendship.
Thanks again, Furf!!