tim! happy pride. you are an individual of both word and action. congratulations on the publication of your book “correspondents”. thank you for allowing us to shine thesalting SPOTLIGHT on you.
can you please tell us your name, profession and in which neighborhood you reside?
tim murphy, novelist and journalist, ridgewood, queens
1. what did young tim want to be when he grew up?
tm: many things! at different times i wanted to be a teacher, a lawyer and a fashion designer. i would read my mother's spiegel catalog or my older cousins' vogues and then go home and sketch and even write the copy to describe the looks. but throughout all of this, i really wanted to be a writer and started writing stories and poetry from a very young age, like seven or eight. I wanted to be edith wharton, then f. scott fitzgerald, then jack kerouac, then john cheever.
2. when did you move to new york city?
tm: in 1991, the summer of the riots in crown heights and the second round of riots in tompkins square park that led to them boarding up the park for a year. i lived with friends from college in a big cheap apartment in windsor terrace, brooklyn, down the street from farrell's, the irish bar to end all irish bars. the patrons would sunbathe on the sidewalk in beach chairs like they were at the beach and play hard rock out of their boom boxes. we really didn't appreciate how great brooklyn was and all we wanted was to move to downtown manhattan, which we did the following year, to chelsea, on a street near the meatpacking district that was full of transgender sex workers at night. and i lived in manhattan for 21 years until moving back to brooklyn, williamsburg, in 2013. and now i just moved to queens!
3. what is the first piece you remember writing?
tm: a cheesy nature poem called "nightfall" that was published in my hometown newspaper in massachusetts when i was eight years old and made me forever hungry to see my work in print!
4. what type of experiences inspire your novels?
tm: i guess i would say a combination of my own life experiences and also experiences that i am obsessed with even if they did not impact me directly, like the aids epidemic in nyc in the 1980s (in my last novel, "christodora") or the impact of the u.s-led invasion of iraq on everyday iraqis (in "correspondents," my new novel). mostly i think life is a jarring combination of beauty and sweetness and darkness and horror and i try to mash those things up in my novels.
5. biggest fear?
tm: aging and losing the ability to do the things i love, like traveling with friends, reading and writing. also watching the u.s. and the world sink deeper into climate disaster and anti-democracy.
6. do you put any of yourself into the characters you create?
tm: yes, there is usually at least an aspect of me in most characters, but I also try to blend them with at least three or four people i know. they are based on certain kinds of people I know and not necessarily one-on-one correlations.
7. fiction, or non-fiction?
tm: I'm a journalist and a novelist, so i love both so much. some nonfiction books i think are more novelistic than novels, such as "common ground" by j. anthony lukas or "the brothers" by masha gessen, to name just a few that come to mind off the top of my head.
8. what does gay pride mean to you?
tm: it was actually the weekend of my 50th birthday - i was actually born the day of stonewall, june 27, 1969 - so i went to some nice friends' parties but also went to my first massive gay dance club event in a very long time (wrecked at elsewhere in bushwick) and the next day partook in the queer liberation march and rally, which recreated the original 1970 march route and had no corporate-sponsored floats or heavy police presence. it was great. at the rally in central park, john cameron mitchell and steven trask performed "the origin of love," from "hedwig and the angry inch," one of my favorite songs of all time.
9. best meal?
tm: that is a tough one. probably a big luncheon in the garden of a beautiful old stone house I was invited to in batroun, which is on the lebanese coast north of beirut--a very long table that was groaning with every lebanese dish imaginable, from roasted lamb to huge heads of roasted cauliflower. i am half lebanese, so lebanese food is a go-to for me, but this luncheon was really special.
10. who is your role-model?
tm: another tough question. i really love keith haring. i'm a little in love with him, especially those pictures of him painting with his shirt off. but on a more contemporary note, i'd probably say liz warren and aoc. i love shrewdly smart progressive women who also have a sense of humor, and i hope they save this country from total collapse!
11. describe a perfect day.
tm: probably being on fire island with friends swimming and sunning naked all day, listening to old disco and house music on the beach, lots of huge waves to throw us around, watermelon feta salad to eat, then outdoor showers and making a big communal meal together at the house with lots of rosé. or maybe some upstate version of this. but it definitely requires swimming because I'm always happiest when I'm swimming, diving into huge waves or jumping off rocks into water, with a big picnic waiting.
12. what talent, other than writing, do you secretly covet?
tm: i would love to have a beautiful, plaintive voice like george michael or frank ocean. i would love to be able to dance like one of liza minnelli's backup dancers in "liza with a z." i watch those clips over and over again. and I still wish i were a designer and knew how to sketch and sew.
13. why do you do what you do?
tm: honestly i write because when i don't write i become very unhappy and feel like i am avoiding what i was put on earth to do, so it's just easier to do it, and then I usually end up enjoying it and feeling good afterward. i feel really grateful that my gift in life matched my passion for it, unlike a violin prodigy who really wants to be a professional skateboarder or something.
14. what makes you happy?
tm: I am writing this in the middle of the corona virus crisis, a period of isolation, so I'd probably say with more clarity than usual that being in real life with loved ones makes me happy, because its not happening now! I think the crisis is making us realize that as easily as we can stay connected and in touch, thanks to things like Facebook, face time, and zoom, there is nothing quite like being in real space with those you love and being able to hug them, or even huddle close, without fear of risking your or their life!
15. how are you getting through the corona virus in New York?
tm: I'm privileged enough to be able to keep working from home, so I'm doing that plus working out with one of those rubber band things and cooking a lot with melted cheese. plus I am volunteering for an amazing effort called -cutredtape4heroes, a hint effort between the great nyc non-profit housing works nd an artist/activist named Rhonda Roland Shearer. with her own line of credit, Rhonda is buying large stocks of medical grade PPE like N95 masks, surgical masks, face shields and gowns, then we identify the most undersupplied hospitals, nursing homes etc throughout the city and pull in front with a cutredtape4heroes truck or van full of hygienically packaged supplies and distribute them directly to health workers who show their work id. Rhonda did something similar to this at ground zero during 9/11 and she's a remarkable woman who was married to the late, foams scientist Stephen jay Gould. so in addition to helping on logistics, I'm helping raise money for the effort, not only to help her recoup her debt, but to keep the effort going for as long as we need to I would appreciate if anyone reading this donated something, even modest, and they can do it right here. thank you!