Pigeon Pages Interview
with Tim Murphy
Do you have a bird story or favorite feathered friend?
I don't really have strong feelings about birds. I like seagulls because they mean I'm at or near the beach, and when I'm upstate I like watching hawks or falcons, or whatever they are, hover in the sky over a dead deer on the road. I like bunnies. The best thing I ever saw upstate was a bunny and a deer hanging out by the side of the road. Very Bambi and Thumper.
What is your most memorable reading experience?
I'd probably say reading from my last novel, Christodora, at Damian Barr's Literary Salon in London. I didn't really understand that this would be in an opulent hotel ballroom in front of about five hundred people with a spotlight in my face. That was interesting to say the least. But I prefer small readings where I ignore the dais or platform and sit in a circle with the audience and do more of a Mother Goose (bird reference!) storytime thing. Actually, the best reading I did recently was for Correspondents at a Middle Eastern restaurant in the Boston area with about twenty members of my extended family present. I was reading about a family similar to ours, and to see my family see themselves reflected in the pages was really moving.
What makes you most excited about Correspondents?
I'm excited that I created a novel that I think the U.S. is in short supply of, which is novels about the experience of Arabs and Middle Easterners like my own family (on my mother's side) both in the Middle East the U.S. That was satisfying to write. I'm also satisfied that even though it's about the Iraq War, which makes most Americans turn away in disinterest, people say that it's a riveting read with great, real, complex human characters, and that it tricked them into learning more about the invasion's devastating and lasting effect on Iraqi families.
To tweet or not to tweet?
Not a big Twitter fan. I put book-related stuff and an occasional musing on Facebook and Instagram. I'm not going to say I don't use those platforms, especially as a freelance journalist. But overall I hate social media and wish we could go back to the flip-phone culture of 2006. I feel bad for post-millennials who have barely ever known a time when people walked around and looked at other people and things, and let their thoughts wander, instead of being glued to a screen. It's sad.
What books do you have in your bag right now?
Leading Men by Christopher Castellani, a moving and stylish fictionalization of the real-life affair between Tennessee Williams and Frank Merlo, and Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which I haven't gotten very far in yet but am reading because I loved Americanah, and everyone told me I needed to read HOAYS. I think both books have great titles.
Can you tell us your favorite rejection story?
I don't think anyone has a favorite rejection story. I wish I had some story about some officious editor rejecting a book of mine that went on to make me four million dollars and win every literary prize, but that hasn't happened yet, alas.
What literary journals do you love?
Honestly I am usually reading either a novel or the news or long-form journalism.
What shakes your tail feathers?
Maybe a cute bird with a really long beak?
What advice do you have for fledgling writers?
Get out the nest and fly, little chickadees! I guess it's the advice that's always given: Write on a regular schedule, read copiously to learn about craft and choices, and find or create some kind of writing community like a class or a weekly group of friends so you can not only get feedback but give it, because giving others feedback will help you immensely with your own writing.
What other eggs do you have in your basket right now?
I just want to go to the beach. That's about all I can focus on right now. Go to the beach and hang out with the seagulls for a week. Also those cute little birds that dart through the dunes. Piping plovers?
Tim Murphy is the author of the novels "Correspondents" and "Christodora," both published by Grove Atlantic. "Christodora" was longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal. Under the name Timothy Murphy, he is also the author of the 1990s novels "Getting Off Clean" and "The Breeders Box." He has been for nearly 20 years a journalist focusing mostly on HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ issues, for publications including the New York Times, New York magazine, Out magazine, the Nation, POZ magazine, and for the magazines of the ACLU and Lambda Legal. He was a founding member of the NYC-based activist groups Gays Against Guns and Rise and Resist. He has taught journalism at City College of New York and currently teaches creative writing once weekly at Arts & Letters junior high school in Brooklyn, where he lives. A proud Boston-area native, he loves spending time in upstate New York/western Massachusetts as well as in Beirut, not far from the home of his maternal ancestors. He is at work on a new novel as well as some TV projects and, when not tethered to his laptop in his Brooklyn bedroom as he is right now, tries to see as much theater as one possibly can on a freelance writer's salary.