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Shauna C. Murphy, the creative mind behind the new young adult fantasy novel, Animalia, hails from Los Angeles, where her formative years were enriched by a vibrant theatrical atmosphere. Her childhood summers, on the other hand, were spent in the tranquil countryside, fostering a deep appreciation for the great outdoors, a fascination with hidden marvels, and a passion for crafting narratives that inspire hope.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
My protagonist struggles with self-blame and self-guilt, something we all can relate to. Perhaps some remorse is needed when we make a mistake, but we have to forgive ourselves to grow and evolve from that place. The message is to have mercy and embrace yourself for all aspects of who you are, and that is what makes you whole and gives you peace. We have to let love in.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
It’s odd to think of myself dreaming of these Victorian era fantasy scenes, but that’s exactly where the inspiration for Animalia began. The scene where Sunday first sees Seraphim in the street was entirely a dream, everything from the colors to the points of view, to their emotions. From there, I woke up and wanted to write my dream down, and I continued to fill in the blank spaces until I had a story. The struggles in the novel are crafted from threats that young people, and many of us, have faced. I think it resonates deeply because it is a struggle we all can relate to.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I want to tell them how much I love them and believe in them. Creating Animalia was all about them, and I hope they feel that when they read it.
What is your favorite theme/genre to write about?
I love fantasy because it allows me to think about emotional realities that often feel larger than life. Fantasy requires the most trust with a reader, I think, because you’re asking them to empathize in new ways and change their paradigm entirely. It’s like dreaming with someone. My own life has so many charmed moments, so fantasy feels like the truest way to tell and talk about life stories.
What is your favorite genre to write?
Anything with of sense of magical realism or real, gritty fantasy. There are certain things we walk through in life that are more than our natural senses can comprehend, and I think fantasy can be cathartic in a way, because it allows our minds to stretch and consider things in ways we otherwise never would.
What has influenced you the most as a writer?
The thought of my stories being a place of rest and wonder for young people. If my work can help give sanctuary to them, or help them through any tough places in life, that, to me, is the dream.
What behind-the-scenes tidbit in your life would probably surprise your readers the most?
Probably the fact that I have no animals in my life, ha! I love animals so much and I would be delighted to have friendship with one, but right now I have none in my life. I also have never had a real relationship with a dog before. Maybe at the right time, one day, I will…
What would the logline be for your book?
An insightful girl, grieved from the guilt of her father’s death, auditions for acceptance into the school he went to; there, she finds a mystery which redeems her faith in herself, and her abilities.
How do you think being a writer has helped you as a person?
It’s given me superpowers, really. It’s some kind of wild gifting to be able to write an intense scene, feel it deeply, then go have a sandwich with your friend, crack jokes, and forget about it entirely. While writing Animalia, I was challenged to grow deeper into the themes of the book. The places and themes are always teaching me, making me into a more resilient person.
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