Pip Murphy on writing 1920s children’s mystery, A Discovery Disappears

It’s no secret among my family and friends that I’m a big fan of mysteries, both reading and writing. In Spring 2020, one of those friends, Cecilia, told me that the publishing house she works for was looking for an author to commission to write a children’s mystery series. The series would be about two sisters living in the 1920s who solve mysteries while meeting famous historical figures. One sister should be shy, the other outgoing, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would be involved. Other than that, the author would have creative freedom over the mysteries and could create the characters and stories as they pleased.

This sounded like a wonderful premise and I was dying to be involved! After reading the brief, I began to fill my notepad with ideas, just like Agatha would do. For inspiration (and accuracy!) I devoured countless articles about Sir Alexander Fleming, Conan Doyle and the other real historical figures who would appear. These historical figures were so intriguing that I almost forgot to start writing, but I finally managed to drag myself away from reading about Conan Doyle’s driving escapades long enough to finish my notes.

Once I had an idea of the core of the mystery, the disappearing “mould juice” (penicillin), I tried to imagine the situation in which it might vanish. After that, the next step was to make a list of suspects and decide who the guilty party might be — much like a detective would do!

When I had decided on the who, how, where, why and when behind the mystery, I made a simple chapter-by-chapter plan of the key events, from introducing the characters and the mystery, to the solution and result. The only thing left to do was to write a sample of the opening chapter — and of course read and re-read it countless times.

After submitting the chapter and synopsis to Sweet Cherry, I tried to remain calm and only check my email a completely reasonable twenty times an hour. When I got the news that my application had been successful and Sweet Cherry wanted me to write the books, I was giddy with excitement. What a dream come true!

I proceeded to write the rest of the chapters based my initial plan, and then it was on to the editing stage. Cecilia gave me a lot of feedback and helpful suggestions — for example, including more detailed descriptions of the locations, improving the pacing, etc. After that I was introduced to Ashley, another one of Sweet Cherry’s wonderfully kind and supportive editors. We bounced the document back and forth until we all agreed it was perfect.

Since then, I’ve balanced writing and editing more books in the series around my full-time teaching job, and the release date of the book 1 crept up on me before I knew it! I’ve been carrying a copy of the book in my bag ever since it arrived, partly so I can see Roberta Tedeschi’s adorable illustrations on tap — but also so I can prove to myself that yes, it is real: there is a book out there with my name on the cover and thanks to Cecilia, Ashley, and the rest of the fab Sweet Cherry crew, it’s one I’m very proud of!

About the Author:

Pip Murphy is a British writer and lived her early life in England on the Wirral. She studied Classics at Edinburgh University, after which she moved to Tokyo, Japan. Pip is also an English teacher and has loved reading her whole life – some of the books that influenced and inspired her the most were ones she read when she was little (she even read every book in her primary school, some of them more than once).

A Discovery Disappears is published by Sweet Cherry Publishing (Winners of Small Press of the Year at The British Book Awards 2021), and available to purchase from all good booksellers now, priced at £6.99 (pb).

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