This month I am thrilled to welcome Clare Broyles, teacher, musician, and feminist. She is also Rhys Bowen’s daughter, and began collaborating with her mother on the wildly popular Molly Murphy mysteries, beginning with number 18 in the series, Wild Irish Rose. Clare has worn many hats in her 55 years on earth. She has degrees in Biology, English Literature and Music. She met her wonderful husband, Tim, when they were both volunteering at a homeless shelter in Juarez, Mexico. They went on to do volunteer and church work in El Salvador and Mexico, where Clare developed after school programs in literacy and music, even writing a children’s opera in Spanish and performing it with the children in Colonia Anapra in Juarez. She has also worked extensively with refugees; running a shelter and creating a non-profit for asylum seekers. After her three children came along, Clare began teaching music at a Montessori school in Phoenix, Arizona. In Phoenix, she composed and arranged for theater and was nominated for an AriZoni award. She is now the co-author of the Molly Murphy mystery series with her mother, Rhys. She lives in Phoenix with her husband Tim, two goofy dogs and, when they can be persuaded to visit, her children, Sam, TJ, and Mary Clare.
Clare/Rhys’ newest Molly Murphy Mystery is All That Is Hidden, coming in March 2023!
A Reader Becomes an Author
By Clare Broyles
I don’t remember a day of my life without reading. As a child, forbidden from bringing a book to the breakfast table, I read the back of the cereal box. I remember my childhood rooms by the spaces in closets and even on top of a wardrobe that I made my little nests full of books. In high school I read a book a day, tucked away under my desk, glancing up occasionally to answer a question or jot down some notes. My early reading was mostly fantasy and science fiction. I distinctly remember the first day I got my hands on Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. I laughed so hard I fell off my stool in biology class.
The only time in my life that my reading slowed was when I became a mother. At first it was blissful to sit nursing with a book, but soon my son started to walk, climb, run and then twins followed whose life mission was to tear the house apart. I didn’t dare pick up my book unsupervised. I am the sort of reader who blocks out the whole world. I am perfectly capable of telling a toddler, ‘just one more page’. In the early years I had to listen with all my might for the suspicious silence. As they got older my time after work was filled with their karate, soccer, wrestling, football, dance, homework, dinner, bath and bedtime.
Then the oldest went off the college and the twins started driving themselves around, and I picked up my books again. This time I didn’t just want to read them, I wanted to write them as well.
Luckily for me I have a mother who is the amazing writer Rhys Bowen. I read her children’s books as a child and her teen romances as a teen. I was the first reader for each of them and died of embarrassment when the love interest in the novel had the same name as my teenage crush. And I eagerly read each mystery novel as she transitioned to writing Evan Evans, Molly Murphy and then Her Royal Spyness. I enjoyed them all but I had a special connection with Molly.
Rhys’ Molly Murphy is an Irish immigrant to New York in 1901 who becomes an unlikely detective. She will never let herself be put down, she sees the best in people and comes in on the side of the underdog. She trusts in her own instincts and is sometimes foolishly confident. She is surrounded by the most fun cast of characters. Sid and Gus, the bohemian couple who live across the street, Ryan O’Hare the dramatic playwright, little Bridie who accompanied Molly on her journey to America, and of course, Daniel the handsome policeman. I loved every one of the novels. As Rhys began to focus on Her Royal Spyness and her stand alone novels she had to leave Molly Murphy behind. I saw the queries on Facebook, ‘when is the next Molly book coming out?’ And I felt sad as I knew there would not be another one.
Then, just before the world shut down in 2020, I had an idea. What if I could write or co-write the next Molly Murphy? I had a lifetime of experience with what it takes to create a good plot. I had some writing experience with a failed ghost-writing attempt for another author and a fun co-writing experience on a fantasy book with my mom. I put the question to her, would she trust me to work on the next Molly book? And she said yes.
Immediately I dove into Molly’s world. First, I re-read the seventeen existing novels taking notes as I went. I am a visual person, so I made little avatars of the main characters in the series. Here is my Molly.
Then I immersed myself in 1906, reading the New York Times for each day that the novel would cover. As Rhys and I bounced ideas off each other, an idea for Molly number eighteen came together.
The hardest part for me was the computer curser blinking from a blank screen. I had confidently pitched my writing ability to my mother, our agents and our publisher. Now my confidence failed me as I had to start proving it. Those first scenes seemed like torture as I was filled with doubt. Was this too wordy? Too sparse? Enough description? Not enough? Then I discovered the two best things about having a coauthor. One was that as I had agonized over my ten pages, she had written twenty. The other was that she gave me immediate feedback that she loved my scene. Confidence renewed, I started digging in as a working author, trying to match Rhys’ pace of five pages a day, enjoying the process of reading her scenes and long discussions of how to work clues and red herrings into the upcoming chapters.
Now, when asked what I do for a living, I sometimes shyly say that I am an author. And I get up every morning at 5:45 so that I can write before I go to my other job as a teacher at a Montessori school. I never knew how many people had the dream of being an author until I began revealing that I am one. So many people have then shared the novel that they have tucked away, or their idea for a brilliant series. What I have learned in these last few years is that writers write. To be an author one must get up each day and put something on the page; move the story forward a bit, research a plot point, polish a description. Some days it feels like nails on a chalkboard; every word and phrase feels wrong. But some days it feels like I’m creating the book that I want to read, curled up in my reading nook with a cup of tea. And the love of reading is really what this is all about.
Check out Clare’s website at https://www.clarebroyles.com
(I think we can all agree with Clare that the hardest part is the curser blinking from a blank screen! Donis)