Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Interview with Sara Hosey for Iphigenia Murphy

Iphigenia Murphy

Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Release Date: March 10th 2020
Genre: Young Adult
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Running away from home hasn't solved Iphigenia Murphy's problems. In fact, it's only a matter of time before they'll catch up with her. Iffy is desperate to find her long-lost mother, and, so far, in spite of the need to forage for food and shelter and fend off an unending number of creeps, living in Queens' Forest Park has felt safer than living at home. But as the summer days get shorter, it all threatens to fall apart.

A novel that explores the sustaining love of friendship, the kindness of strangers, and the indelible bond of family, Iphigenia Murphy captures the gritty side of 1992 Queens, the most diverse borough in New York City. Just like Iffy, the friends she makes in the park--Angel, a stray dog with the most ridiculous tail; Corinne, a young trans woman who is escaping her own abusive situation; and Anthony, a former foster kid from upstate whose parents are addicts--each seek a place where they feel at home. Whether fate or coincidence has brought them together, within this community of misfits Iffy can finally be herself, but she still has to face the effects of abandonment and abuse--and the possibility that she may be pregnant. During what turns out to be a remarkable journey to find her mother, will Iffy ultimately discover herself?

Can you briefly describe IPHIGENIA MURPHY and its characters?

Iphigenia Murphy is an adventure story and a coming-of-age tale about a girl, Iffy, who has to run away from an unsafe home. She goes in search of her long-lost mother—whom she thinks is living in a city park—and, despite the profound difficulties and dangers, the park becomes a place of safety, community and love. Iffy makes a best friend (Corinne), meets a cute guy (Anthony), and even finds a dog (Angel). She gets lost to get found.

Who would you say is your favourite character from the story and why?

I adore Iffy. She is my heart. But! Corinne is my favourite character. She’s a little older and a little more sophisticated than Iffy, so she gets to play the sort of big-sister role. At the same time, she is extremely vulnerable. She’s had tough times, but she hasn’t let them break her. She’s incredibly strong and smart and kind. And she gets a lot of the best lines. 

How did the story occur to you? Did you find inspiration anywhere?

I have so many sources of inspiration—including some of my friends and former students who have experienced homelessness, foster care, intimate partner violence, and abuse. I wanted to focus on how these issues can and do affect many young people and especially many girls and women. 

There is a very specific thing that happened, though, that got me started plotting the novel: my dog, Angel, ran away. It was a complicated situation—she was a complicated dog—and she never came back and we never found her. We did get a tip, though, that someone had seen her and that she was being taken care of by a person who appeared to be a homeless. 

When I heard that, I was so grateful that Angel had found a person. She was a fiercely protective dog, but also sometimes skittish, so I had really worried that she would bite anyone who approached her. Then, after my initial relief, I started to worry about both of them. I was grateful to the person who was taking care of Angel, but I was also concerned that she wouldn’t have enough, for the dog or for herself.

This experience really heightened my awareness of the people that we pass by every day and work so hard not to notice: folks without homes, folks who live in parks or on the street. 

As I mentioned, I’ve had friends who have struggled with housing, so it’s not as though I was completely unaware of the precarity many people live with every day. But because I was always on the lookout for my dog, I started to notice more and more the people in need around me. I wondered what I would do if I saw Angel. Would I try to take her back? Or would I try to help support the person who was taking care of her? I don’t know the answer to this question, because I didn’t ever find Angel. But thinking through this scenario was really the spark for the book—and if you’re familiar with the book, I think you’ll know what I’m talking about!

If you could choose one song to describe your book, which one would it be?

So, Iffy loves The Ramones and, early in the book, she is listening to The Pixies and The Smiths—all obviously amazing bands. So, if she was choosing a song, she would probably choose something from one of them. However, she is not choosing, I am, so I will choose another song that was really popular in the 90s: Tori Amos’ “Silent All These Years.”

Although Iphigenia Murphy and “Silent All These Years” tell different stories, there are some lines in that song that really nail what Iffy’s going through. Amos’ song describes a girl who has been silenced, who has felt invisible and has been treated so badly, but is learning that she does have a voice, even if it’s been “silent all these years.” The beginning of the novel is the beginning of Iffy learning how to use that voice to advocate for herself, to demand a better life, and to communicate and connect with others.

If your book was going to be made into a movie, who would play your characters?

I love this question! For Iffy, I would love to see Joey King or Aitana Rinab.

For Corinne, I love love love Eve Lindley or Michelle Hendley or Carlie Guevara.

And for Anthony, I would love to see Jharrel Jerome or Algee Smith—wouldn’t that be amazing?

What drink and place do you think will go with your book to have a perfect book date?

This book needs to be read in a woods—a wooded city park in the summer is the best place—but if you don’t have one of those near you, a backyard or a fire escape works—you just have to get outdoors. 

Iffy drinks water—she’s got to keep hydrated—and she doesn’t have the luxury of lemon, but if you have one handy, a nice cool lemon-water on a hot day with a book—that sounds like a dream come true to me. 

Can you recommend your readers any other books in case they are left hungry for more once they finish IPHIGENIA MURPHY?

Absolutely! If you are looking for more Queens, NY in your life, I recommend Meg Medina’s Burn, Baby Burn, which is set in Flushing during the “Summer of Sam.” Another recent Queens novel to check out is Stephanie Jimenez’s They Could Have Named Her Anything.

What would you say is the most difficult part of writing a book?

Sticking with it! I have so many ideas and so many false starts; it’s so hard to keep going on a project after the initial adrenaline that comes with a new idea wears off. So finishing—and then revising, of course—is so challenging for me.

What’s next for you?

I’m so excited to share that my novella, Great Expectations, is forthcoming in the Running Wild Press novella anthology. Great Expectations, I think, is concerned with many of the same issues as Iphigenia Murphy, but using a very different lens and perspective. That is, if Iphigenia Murphy is about kids who long for functional parents, Great Expectations is about adults who long to parent, who are prevented, for various reasons, for being the mothers and fathers they would like to be. I’m so excited to be sharing both with the world.

Sara Hosey holds a PhD in American literature from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and is an associate professor of English and women and gender studies at Nassau Community College. Her book, Home Is Where the Hurt Is: Media Depictions of Wives and Mothers (McFarland, 2019), looks at representations of the domestic in popular culture. Sara grew up in Queens and now lives in Sea Cliff, New York, with her partner and their children. She is working on a second novel.

1 comment:

  1. I like the idea of a character getitng lost to be found. This story sounds emotional and it's on my TBR.