Every time Fort Worth author Julie Murphy writes a book, she gets a tattoo.
Her first tattoo is from the children's book Where the Wild Things Are, a reference to harnessing anger in Murphy's first novel, Side Effects May Vary.
Her second tattoo is a "purrmaid" or "mercat," a combination of a cat and mermaid. It depicts the ridiculous aspect of her book Dumplin': cats are not supposed to be mermaids, and fat girls aren't supposed to be beauty queens, according to Murphy.
She's already begun to think about what tattoo she'll get for her third book, Ramona Blue, to be published next spring.
But it's her second book, Dumplin, that's receiving the most fame right now, especially now that the film rights have been optioned by Disney.
"Growing up I was always too tall, too fat and too loud, and I think those are three things we don't like girls to be, especially all at the same time," Murphy said. In high school, she was never satisfied with the fat girl representation. In an effort to write something that 16-year-old Julie might have liked, Murphy wrote Dumplin', the story of a fat girl who enters a beauty pageant amidst other teenage drama.
"I think Dumplin' was always there in my subconscious," Murphy said. She was very deliberate with her use of the word "fat," using it as a descriptor rather than an insult.
"It's just a word. The only way it becomes an insult is when you use it as an insult," Murphy said.
As she wrote, she didn't anticipate Disney making a movie out of it, but she was thrilled when it became a possibility.
In a way, Murphy's fiction-writing career started as a child.
"I lied about absolutely everything growing up: the most ridiculous, completely unnecessary things," Murphy said. "I never lied to be malicious, it was always for the sake of my own entertainment."
When she arrived at a new school while growing up, she told the entire classroom an elaborate lie about her past. Her teacher, Mrs. Salisbury, called her out, recognizing the plot line from an old movie Murphy had seen.
Even when she wasn't lying, Murphy was fascinated by a book's ability to manipulate, and she wanted to figure out how authors did that, thus beginning her own career.
Mornings and afternoons are typically taken up by emails. Whether she's responding to the press, an editor or readers, Murphy spends most of her day time at the computer when she's not traveling.
For Murphy, the worst emails are not the ones insulting her, but rather the ones from vulnerable readers who are opening up to her. She said she hates that she's unable to respond to them with as much vulnerability and time as they gave to her, but she's slowly coming to reconcile that it's a necessary part of her job.
Perhaps because she can't share as much with her readers as she'd like to, she considers unconditional generosity to be the most admirable quality in a person, followed closely by intellect. And with intellectual people, she enjoys arguing.
"If someone wants to stay up and talk a little longer about something a little deeper, that's what really gets me excited. I think that's the only time you can come to a new understanding of a topic or a situation or a person you might not understand in the first place," she said.
Murphy begins her writing at night, often not falling asleep until 4 a.m. just before her husband leaves for his job as a teacher and wrestling coach.
"Ideally, I would like to just be swallowed by pillows with my laptop nestled in and with my dog and a good cup of (Sonic) ice," Murphy said.
As she develops her career as an author, Murphy's established some goals. Short-term, she would like to create boundaries for working, a difficult task since she works from home. Long term, she wants to create a following.
"I want to get to a point in my career where they're buying my books because they're Julie Murphy books and not for any other reason," Murphy said.