Intimate Conversation with Cerece Rennie Murphy
Cerece Rennie Murphy fell in love with science fiction at the age of seven, watching “Empire Strikes Back” at the Uptown Theater in Washington, D.C., with her sister and mom. It’s a love affair that has grown ever since. As an ardent fan of John Donne, Alice Walker, Kurt Vonnegut and Alexander Pope from an early age, Cerece began exploring her own creative writing through poetry.
She earned her master’s degrees in social work and international relations at Boston College and Johns Hopkins School for Advance International Studies, respectively, and built a rewarding 15-year career in program development, management and fundraising in the community and international development arenas – all while appreciating the stories of human connection told in science fiction through works like Octavia Butler’s “Wild Seed,” Frank Herbert’s “Dune” and “The X-Files.”
In 2011, Cerece experienced her own supernatural event - a vision of her first science fiction story. Shortly after, she began developing and writing what would become the “Order of the Seers” trilogy.
Cerece lives just outside of her hometown of Washington, D.C., with her husband, two children and the family dog, Yoda.
BPM: What moved you enough to sit down and actually start writing the first book in the Order of the Seers Trilogy?
When I got the idea for Order of the Seers, it felt like a blessing to me, this incredible gift and I just didn't want to waste it. The story came to me in such a complete way, with character names and backstories, plot lines - even the title of the story came to me. I felt convicted to try and bring it to life. To me, each story is a gift and the journey to telling that story is a privilege. It was never a question of *if* I would write it. It also helped that, in the beginning, I had no inkling of trying to publish Order of the Seers as a novel. I think if I'd had that notion from the start, I would have been too intimidated. Instead of worrying about if my story was "publishable", I was able to focus on writing.
BPM: Does your upbringing or life experiences inspire your writing?
Absolutely, though I have to say that I don’t do it intentionally. All my questions about God, what our true purpose is on this earth and what we are truly capable of and meant for as a species are in Order of the Seers. My own struggles to find and protect my identity are reflected in characters like Alessandra, who has so much self-doubt when you first meet her, and Liam whose guilt weighs him down to the point where he becomes a different person. Self-discovery and determination are big themes in the Order of the Seers Trilogy because they are themes that I relate to on a very personal level.
Family is also very important to me and, in retrospect, I can see how I got to explore the idea of family in a variety of ways throughout the book. I'm not someone who grew up with a lot of family around me, but I learned that family doesn't have to mean people who are related to you by blood. Someone who knows you and loves you for exactly who you are can be family, too. Family can be the people you claim and those who claim you. The story’s main villain, Crane Le Dieu, is basically an amalgamation of all my worst fears. Almost every aspect of his personality terrifies me. I think I would faint if I met him in the street.
BPM: Where do your book ideas come from? Are your books plot driven or character driven? Why?
So far, my book ideas come from questions that are on my mind that I would like to explore, but I also have at least two books planned that came to me in a dream, so who knows. I'll take inspiration anywhere I can get it! I read one reviewer who described my books as "very character-driven" which I took as a compliment because it said to me that she liked the book because she cared about the characters and that's ultimately what defines a good story for me. All kinds of cool stuff can be happening in a book, but if I don't care about the characters then I can check out of almost any story pretty quick. But to be completely honest, I don't think about any of that when I'm writing. In fact, I try not to come with any personal agenda. I believe the story exists already. As a writer, I think my job is to see that story clearly and try to describe it to the readers as best I can. I'm following the story that is taking place in my head and trying to write it down as true to that vision as possible.
My only exception to this rule is when I chose not to expound on a particular aspect of a story because I am trying to keep the pace of the book pretty tight. At the end of each chapter, I want there to be a reason why you need to turn the page and I try very hard to keep the story from meandering into territory that might compromise the pace. Other than that, the characters and the story are in charge and the more I can keep my own agenda out of it, the better the story turns out.
BPM: Introduce us to your current work. What genre do you consider your book? Is this book available in digital forms like Nook and Kindle?
Right now I am working on the final book in the Order of the Seers Trilogy, which is about a group of people who can see the future and are enslaved for that ability. The entire trilogy takes you on a journey as they escape the group that hunts them, rebuild their lives and start fighting back. Through books 1 and 2, you watch these characters evolve from a group of people who are just trying to survive to a community that answers a much larger calling to restore a legacy that was broken for every man, woman and child on earth.
The Order of the Seers Trilogy falls solidly into the science fiction genre, but if you enjoy a lot of action, mystery and suspense in your stories, you could still enjoy this book even if you aren’t into science fiction. Both books are available in Kindle and Nook. Book I is also available in audiobook.
BPM: Introduce us to your books! Take us inside the world of your main characters. What makes each one so special?
Sure. The book starts out with Liam and Lilith (Lilli) Knight, a brother and sister who are about to have their world turned upside down when they discover that their parents died to hide a secret so powerful the people hunting them will stop at nothing to get it. Before this happens, Liam and Lilli are your typical American teenagers, living life day-by-day without a care in the world. What makes these characters so special to me is how they come together to create this safe haven for each other. The adversity they endure could have easily torn them apart, but instead they form this incredible bond of familial love that helps them weather all the storms in their lives.
Marcus Akida is another main character that I love. Before he was captured, he had a wife, a son and was a leader in his community. In some ways, he is the character who’s lost the most in the book, but he is anything but bitter. His spirit is gentle, optimist and kind, despite everything that has been taken from him. He never losses himself to the brutality around him and as a result becomes the most powerful Seer. His character was very much inspired by Colin Powell and Nelson Mandela, people I deeply admire for their compassion and integrity.
BPM: What topics are primarily discussed? Did you learn anything personal from writing your book?
You know, even though Order of the Seers is science fiction, at its core this is a story about the importance of self-discovery and finding your true purpose. The story is set in the real world for a reason. Now more than ever, we need to encourage people to unleash their greatest potential so that it can be used to heal this world. The Seers in this story are doing the same thing, and while the powers may seem a bit extreme, the potential for each and every one of us to change the world is VERY real.
The journey of writing this story has taught me so much, but I think there are two main things that I discovered about myself. The first is that I can write a full-length story (and then some). Before this book, I never knew that about myself. In fact, I used to tell myself that I couldn’t write anything longer than about 5 pages. So, to be working on my 3rd book with another 5 books in varying stages of development is just incredible to me. People ask me if this is a dream come true and I tell them, “No,” because I never dreamed of doing anything like this. This experience is literally, beyond my wildest dreams.
The second thing that I’ve learned about myself is just how afraid I am of putting myself in front. The fear factor for putting my self, my work and even my picture “out there” for the world to judge and criticize is huge for me. It’s gotten better since I started, but only be degrees. (The fear used to be enormous, now it’s only huge.) Three years ago, when I published my 1st book, I hid under the covers the entire day, sick with worry. By the time I released my second book less than a year later, I actually had the presence of mind to go have lunch with a friend to celebrate. I may have felt a little queasy, but I kept everything down. That’s progress!
BPM: What defines success for you, as a published author? What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I have many levels of success that I hope to achieve with my writing. The first and foremost is to write each story I am given to the best of my abilities and to be obedient to God’s will for them. I know that if I can do that, then someone will read my books and enjoy them, be inspired by them and maybe even change a little bit for the better. If I can achieve that, then I would have accomplished a great deal.
For the next level of success, I would like my writing career to be financially self-sustaining. It’s a very competitive market out there, but I would like my publishing business to be profitable. Ultimately, I would like to make enough money from my writing to retire my husband. I have the best partner in the world and I would love to see us both have the financial freedom to pursue our passions.
BPM: What are your expectations for this book? What would you like for readers to do after reading this book?
You know, I don’t have expectations for the book because you never know how a story will (or won’t) impact a reader. It’s such a subjective experience. On the most basic level, I’d like them to have been entertained by the story and satisfied by the conclusion. On a deeper level, I hope that after finishing Order of the Seers, readers will be more curious about the limits of their own potential and examine their own spiritual relationship more closely as it relates to their unique purpose and calling.
BPM: Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included? How can readers discover more about you and your work?
I definitely want to say THANK YOU for the opportunity to do this interview! It’s given me a great chance to reflect on my journey as a writer and I so appreciate that. If anyone would like to learn more about my upcoming projects, you can visit my website at www.cerecerenniemurphy.com. You can also visit my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cerece-Rennie-Murphy/205753729546299.
Purchase The Last Seer (Book 3 in the Order of the Seers Trilogy)
Books by Cerece Rennie Murphy: