Wednesday, 21 April 2010
The above is one of Jill Murphy's illustrations from Dear Hound, her latest book. Recently I was lucky enough to interview Jill Murphy, author of the Worst Witch series of books, who has turned to her own dogs for inspiration for her latest book about a deerhound that goes missing. See link to the interview here. Jill is not only a highly talented writer, but a fabulous illustrator as well and there are some heart breaking pictures in the book which derived from a true incident when her son's dog went missing.
Thankfully Dear Hound has a happy ending, but Jill's life hasn't been quite so straightforward. She's a bubbly, very attractive lady, a mix of very strong and very sensitive, and very close to her 19 year old son (and vice versa).
She has also overcome incredible hardship in her life. As a single mother, she discovered that she had breast cancer when her son was young. She got over that only to find that her mother had dementia, and made the barn next door to her house into a flat so her mum could live there. When her mother died, she discovered her aunt had dementia and brought her to live next door.
At one point, Charlie (her son) said, "Mummy do you realise we've spent the last 7 years looking after mad old ladies?" And yet Jill had some wonderfully funny stories about this time in her life (when she was also bringing up a teenage son and working). "It was a privilege to look after them," she said.
A lot of writers I've met recently have undergone a lot of difficulties, and some keep writing no matter what, whereas others don't feel able to put pen to paper. But in the end, I suppose we all muddle through.
I find work a solace, an escape. But obviously if you have a very sick partner it's not always possible to write if you're in charge of nursing, or driving to hospital. And sometimes it's just not possible to write.
But sitting on Jill's sofa, being licked to death by her gorgeous dogs (and they really are huge and lovely), I felt such admiration for this gutsy lady who, rightly, is very loved by all around her. Do read Dear Hound. It's a fascinating tribute to some very wonderful dogs.