Murhall, J(acqueline) J(ane) 1964-
MURHALL, J(acqueline) J(ane) 1964-
PERSONAL: Born April 22, 1964, in London, England; daughter of Colin and Gwendoline (Goodwin) Murhall; partner of Michael Toumey (an actor, director, and playwright); children: Saoirse Ruby Murhall-Toumey.
Education: Reigate School of Art and Design, degree in design. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, theatre, cinema, traveling, music, eating, dogs.
ADDRESSES: Home—London, England. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Hodder Children's Books, 338 Euston Road, London NW1 3BH, England; and c/o Author Mail, Bloomsbury Children's Books, 38 Soho Square, London W1D 3HB, England.
CAREER: Author of children's books. Worked for Virgin Records, London, England; former jewelry salesperson and dealer in vintage clothes from the 1950s and 1960s. Has appeared on television and radio programs in England, and at numerous writers' festivals. Became an ambassador for Reading Is Fundamental U.K., 2000.
AWARDS, HONORS: Series winner of a British Academy of Film and Television Arts award and two prestigious awards from "Cartoons on the Bay" animation festival (Italy).
Eddie and the Swine Family, illustrated by Tony Blundell, HarperCollins (London, England), 1994.
Stinkerbell, illustrated by Tony Blundell, Bloomsbury (London, England), 1996.
Stinkerbell and the Fridge Fairies, illustrated by Tony Blundell, Bloomsbury (London, England), 1997.
Author of episode "You're My Hero" for Collingwood O'Hare animated television program Eddie and the Bear, CITV, 2002.
"MAGNIFICENT MISFITS" SERIES; ILLUSTRATED BY ELEANOR TAYLOR
The Great Mistake, Bloomsbury (London, England), 1998.
The Ghastly Ride, Bloomsbury (London, England), 1998.
Ride Again, Bloomsbury (London, England), 1998.
The Terrible Toddler, Bloomsbury (London, England), 1998.
Series has been translated into Italian.
"STAR PETS" SERIES; ILLUSTRATED BY ELEANOR TAYLOR
On Stage, Hodder Wayland (London, England), 1999.
Make It Big, Hodder Wayland (London, England), 1999.
On TV, Hodder Wayland (London, England), 1999.
In the Spotlight, Hodder Wayland (London, England), 1999.
"ST. MISBEHAVIOURS" SERIES; ILLUSTRATED BY MARTIN REMPHRY
Disco Inferno, Hodder Children's Books (London, England), 2001.
Roman Around, Hodder Children's Books (London, England), 2001.
Go Wild! Hodder Children's Books (London, England), 2001.
No Surrender, Hodder Children's Books (London, England), 2001.
Series has been translated into Polish.
"HORSE FORCE" SERIES; ILLUSTRATED BY GARY SWIFT
Smash and Grab Squirrels, Hodder Children's Books (London, England), 2002.
Stick 'em Up, Bunny, Hodder Children's Books (London, England), 2002.
Riddle of a Rich Rat, Hodder Children's Books (London, England), 2002.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A novel for adults; a novel for teenage girls; a book series for six to ten year olds.
SIDELIGHTS: Design-school graduate J. J. Murhall worked as a vintage clothing dealer before deciding to make the break and begin a writing career in 1990. With the popularity of her first book, 1994's Eddie and the Swine Family, her success as a children's author was assured, and she has gone on to publish many other titles, all which contain her irreverent humor and energetic, likeable characters. Stinkerbell, which Murhall published in 1996, features a dirty, illtempered fairy who lives in a garbage can and has to contend with a group of Elvis-lookalike goblins that are even more ill-tempered than she is. Describing Murhall's bewinged protagonist as a "punk fairy," a Books for Keeps contributor praised Stinkerbell as a "short and spicy book" that would captivate pre-teen readers.
Born in London in 1964, Murhall grew up reading books by Roald Dahl and C. S. Lewis, among others. She attended the city's Reigate School of Art and Design, where she earned a degree in surface decoration and three-dimensional design. After graduation, she traveled in Europe, at one point paying her way as a jewelry salesperson on a beach in the south of France. Returning to London, she worked for Virgin Records, then decided to start her own business selling clothing from the 1950s and 1960s in a market stall on London's trendy Portobello Road. Although Murhall had lots of ideas for books spinning around in her head, she never had the time to stop and write them down. Finally, in 1988 with the birth of her daughter, she found herself at home with some free time. Eddie and the Swine Family was the result, and HarperCollins publishers quickly snapped it up.
Eddie and the Swine Family is told from the point of view of the family's youngest member, who, despite his age, is left in charge of his less responsible siblings when his parents are away from home. Eddie is destined for life as a "astropig" according to his doting mother, while his sister idles away her time with dreams of soap-opera stardom and his brother plans small-scale criminal activities. Praising the book's "rich mixture of characters," a Junior Bookshelf contributor praised Eddie and the Swine Family as a humorous book that leads readers on a "bizarre journey" in a pizza delivery truck as Eddie thwarts his brother's latest criminal romp and helps his siblings make "at least part of their dreams come true."
Other books by Murhall include a sequel to Stinkerbell, titled Stinkerbell and the Fridge Fairies. Content to live in her grubby dustbin, Stinkerbell is not bad at heart, and is forced to come to the aid of a group of fridge-dwelling fairies when the dastardly goblin family—the Gobs—become too much to handle. Despite expressing some reservations about having "such a scruffy . . . thing as Stinkerbell as a role model" School Librarian reviewer Audrey Laski found Stinkerbell and the Fridge Fairies to be "great fun." Murhall has also penned a number of book series for older readers. In Go Wild! part of her "St. Misbehaviours" series, Students at St. Saviour's School find their highly unconventional school threatened with closure and must come to the aid of their teachers when an undercover inspector from the "Department of Unnecessary Buildings" poses as a geography teacher in order to find reasons to close the building down. Praising Murhall's "firm storyline" good choice of vocabulary, Joan Nellist noted in her School Librarian review that despite being painted as quirky, "teachers are drawn quite sympathetically" and that Go Wild! would find many fans among reluctant readers.
Making her home in London with her partner, actor, director, and playwright Michael Toumey, and daughter Saoirse Ruby—a "major fashion fiend"—Murhall cites her favorite pastime as writing. She told CA: "I still love clothes and even though I don't sell them anymore I do continue to buy them avidly. I'm also a big music fan and listen to all types. I like going to the cinema, restaurants, and the occasional club to watch live bands play."
Regarding her work habits, Murhall told CA: "I get up about 8:00 a.m. After three or four cups of coffee I finally start writing about 9:30 a.m. I try to write until about 1:00 p.m. and break for lunch. I then continue to write from about 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.
"I do sound like I am very disciplined, which obviously you do have to be in order to ever get anything written. However I, like a lot of writers I'm sure, will always find excuses not to sit down and actually make a start. Especially if I am about to embark on something new! Reasons can range from: 'The dog needs another walk' to 'Oh look. There's an episode of The Loveboat on TV this morning. I wonder if that's the original 1970s version that's really brilliantly bad and tacky! I might just have to watch it!'"
Murhall offered this advice to aspiring writers: "Read, read, read all the time. Write, write, write whenever you can. Believe in and care about the characters that you create and your readers will too. Don't waste time watching tacky 1970 television programmes!"
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Books for Keeps, July, 1996, review of Stinkerbell, p. 7.
Junior Bookshelf, August, 1994, review of Eddie and the Swine Family, p. 138.
School Librarian, spring, 1998, Audrey Laski, review of Stinkerbell and the Fridge Fairies, pp. 35-36; spring, 2002, Joan Nellist, review of Go Wild! pp. 33-34.
Bloomsbury Magazine Online,http://www.bloomsburymagazine.com/ (February 12, 2003), "Jacqui Murhall."