Author Interview – Harrison Murphy

It’s Thursday which means it is time for another author interview. This week I’m talking with Harrison Murphy, Author of Chrysalis, Dandelion, and Elephant coming later this year.

Harrison writes speculative thrillers with dystopian elements and you can learn more about him and his books through his social media.


Not long after a disease leaves thousands dependent on transfusions, the UK’s blood reserves are stolen overnight.

The government’s response? Make blood into currency.

The stolen blood is sold by dealers being controlled by a mysterious implant.

Ginley and Sara, two rival political journalists with opposing agenda, cover the government’s handling of a country thrust into crisis. As they find out more about the blood heist and the implant, a political story turns personal, and they have to put their differences aside and work together to unravel a colossal conspiracy.


Questions About Writing

What inspired you to start writing?

Initially, it was all the free time during lockdown which encouraged me to start reading for enjoyment, after numerous failed previous attempts. I always found I didn’t have the attention span for reading, and preferred watching TV. But my girlfriend encouraged me to read a book – Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay – because she thought the MC would remind me of me. Which he did. He was obsessed by Google Street View in much the same way I was obsessed with street maps when I was younger. I used to colour code all the districts in my town, and also memorised the numbers of lampposts. A man once asked my mum for directions and she directed him towards me, a six year old!

Anyway, I’ve always been hyper imaginative, and after reading a few books I thought I could do this. So I did. And now I’m on the cusp of completing a trilogy of novels, three years down the line.

What comes first, the plot or characters?

Plot for me. Every time. I get that some people like in-depth descriptions of characters and setting. But I couldn’t care less what the MC looks like, or what colour the walls are in the room where it all takes place. I want to know what happens next, and my novels reflect that.

Plotter or pantser or somewhere in between?

Pantser mostly. In terms of I don’t have detailed chapter plans, or banks of information about characters or setting. I make all that up as I go along. I certainly don’t write the chapters in order. I write the scenes that excite me most first, as it makes the whole project seem less daunting if I’ve already churned out 20,000 or so words. Then I figure out how to tie it all together and write the rest.

In terms of plot, I feel like thriller writing is really just writing, but in reverse. Like, it seems so impressive when you read a good thriller and there are all these impressive twists and turns. But the author wrote it cognisant of those twists. It’s really just taking a simple interaction between some characters, and then finding layers by which to conceal that information from the reader. The trick is to peel away those layers at strategic times. You get the hang of when, and you can plot a thriller. The actual writing part comes organically. I don’t have any advice to offer on that.

Is writing your full-time career? Or would you like it to be?

No, I’m a civil servant, and I write when I get the chance. I would love to write full-time though.

Questions About Your Books

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I’ve written three now, albeit only two have been published. They’re a trilogy, and I think my favourite is the second one, Dandelion. It’s very dark, and I toy with the reader a lot in it, which is fun from my perspective. Even though it’s a sequel, Dandelion can be read on its own as I give a little explainer of what happens in Chrysalis at the start. Although I would implore you to read Chrysalis first as you’ll get a deeper understanding of all the issues covered, and the forces at play (plus, I will make 35p).

What is the key theme and/or message in the book?

The overarching themes in the trilogy are that it isn’t climate catastrophe that will end the human race. It’s our increasing disconnect from reality and our obsession with perfection. I think what makes us human is to be flawed, so trying too hard to erase them all is surely dangerous. And will lead us to some quasi-android state of being.

What is the significance of the title?

The novels are all about a speculative means of transformation. And the caterpillar to butterfly transition was just a nice comparison to draw upon.

What were the key challenges you faced when writing your books?

More so with the first book, the challenges were learning how to write a novel with no background in creative writing, and having read about six books since I left school in 2005. Chrysalis required six beta-readers and nine drafts. Dandelion had two betas and three drafts. My process is becoming more streamlined all the time. The beauty of writing a novel though is that you don’t need to know all the rules. Especially grammar-wise. My editor says I should give up trying to use semicolons and leave them to her!

Are you working on anything new at present?

I’m working on a standalone novel called Faceless, with is set in a fantasy world, but still has all the elements that I like my book to have; plenty of social critique and moral questions for the reader to ponder (I really shouldn’t use semicolons). It’s based on a character called Indigo who defies the norms of her society. They are all identical beings with no genitalia, yet get assigned male or female at birth, and have very specific roles to play in the society. And they all think Rainbows are gods, and follow the Rules of the Rainbow. It will hopefully make people question the role that gender, class and religion all play in the real world.

Questions About Reading

What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?

This is difficult because I came to novel-writing having not being well-read at all. I really like the style of Emily St John Mandel and Claire North. I often stop reading their novels just to drool over a paragraph or a single sentence. They have such an affinity for describing things beautifully. I think readers will see a marked difference in the way I write between Chrysalis and Dandelion as I begin trying to emulate that style a bit more. Elsewhere, I really just pick up little tricks and plot devices I like from elsewhere. One of the twists (and how the reveal is delivered) in Chrysalis is inspired enormously by the Linwood Barclay and Sarah Pinborough books I was reading at the time.

Who is the author you most admire in your genre?

I find it hard to find good speculative fiction to read (all suggestions are welcome). Rather than speculative fiction set way in the future, with fictional nations and such like, I prefer novels set in the near-future where one technological advancement changes the game. John Marrs is probably the king at this (Passengers and The One especially). I have DM’d him before and he replied, which was very cool.

Favorite book when you were a kid?

The Jungle Book, albeit the VHS tape. I could probably recite that film line by line.

Do you prefer paper or digital books?

Digital all the way. If it’s on my phone on the Kindle app, I can’t forget to take it with me, and it doesn’t feel like I’m lugging something around. And it means I don’t need bookmarks!

Personal Questions

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

I’m a keen follower of politics. I also watch football (or soccer depending on who is reading this). I like being out in nature too, going on long-distance hikes, etc. Which being Scottish, I have a lot of great opportunities for on my doorstep.

Favorite artist and favorite song?

My favourite artist is of Montreal. Their song Nightsift is actually part of the inspiration for Faceless and I plan to make some references to that song within the text. I wouldn’t say I had a favourite song by them, but I love the way their lyrics often articulate, better than I could, how I’m feeling.

For example, my relationship with my girlfriend was tested more than it has ever been during lockdown – what with all that unbroken time spent together. There’s a lyric in Writing the Circles which I told our couples-counsellor which articulated how I felt better than even the recent novelist version of me ever could:

“Don’t complain about your personal hell. You should be grateful you don’t have to share one.”

Basically, I don’t suffer from anxiety/depression and she does. And I felt guilty about complaining about taking on some of her issues. I spoke with the counsellor about it and it helped. I got in touch with Kevin from the band to ask about what they were writing about the time, and they replied to me too. Which was also cool.

Do you prefer tea or coffee or something else?

I’m very much a coffee person, but I drink tea in the evening as I struggle to sleep as it is, what with all my novel ideas going around in my head. Often the most important part of writing is when you’re not actually writing, just ruminating.

Would you rather watch a movie or read a book?

Despite a new-found appreciation for reading, I would still rather watch a movie, or a series.

Thank you to Harrison, for joining me for this week interview. And all of you, remember to go follow Harrison on social media and grab a copy of his books.

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