About the author

She is the recipient of the 2013 Loren D. Milliman Scholarship for creative writing and was a general contributor at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference from 2008 through 2012. She has lived and studied in North Carolina, Colorado, and Michigan, and now resides in Seattle, Washington.

Jennifer holds a BFA, MA, and MFA in visual art and architecture and is the founder and president of Citi Arts, a public art and urban planning firm.

An Author's Inspiration

The main inspiration for I LOVE YOU MORE was the character Picasso. Character is how stories initially find me. It’s not that they come to me fully formed, it’s more like they present themselves as shadows. I’ll get a feeling, an essence if you will. Sometimes it fades away within a few hours or a day, and other times it continues to form, and, as it does, so does the story. Picasso’s character grew out of my love for art.

In addition to my MFA in creative writing, I hold an MFA in painting, and was interested in how both writers and painters are storytellers, and how storytellers are in essence liars, but without the negative stigma. Pablo Picasso said, “Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.”

I wanted to explore this relationship between lying and truth, and what better way to do that than to create a cast of characters who through circumstance would find themselves grappling with lies? I also wanted to see how Pablo Picasso’s theory played out in the art of life. Are all lies bad? Is lying to save someone we love more acceptable, even altruistic?

My favorite books are those that tug at several human emotions simultaneously, so that’s what I was trying to do with my characters. For instance, I saw the detective, Kyle Kennedy, as the novel’s conscience. Though struggling with his own demons and past mistakes, he is trying to make amends.
By virtue of his job, he sees the good and the bad in the guilty and the innocent. In terms of story, Kyle is also the reader’s road map, the means to solve the larger mystery of what really happened at the beach house on the day of the murder.

I saw Oliver as the novel’s dark side; that dangerous part of ourselves and the world that we fear but are compelled to explore. I hoped Oliver’s character would challenge our sense of universal order. What if the “victim” is really the perpetrator? Does that make his murderers any less guilty?
This allowed me to turn the table of the traditional narrative. For what type of man would readers have the least sympathy? I also wanted the reader to have the opportunity to hear from Oliver directly, to get inside his mind. This brief section was perhaps the most challenging for me as a writer and a person. Braving my way into the mind of a sociopath was both scary and seductive.

The wives I saw as the novel’s alter ego. While each has her say in the novel, I also wanted readers to see them as one because that’s the way Oliver saw them. To him his wives were merely extensions of him; he didn’t see them as individuals in their own right. That’s why I decided to write them in first person plural. This also led to the sense of them being a kind of Greek chorus, and perhaps, like the witches in Macbeth, of their chapters having an eerie and foreboding quality.

My favorite character in the book remains Picasso. From the moment she took shape in my mind to her transition onto the page, I saw Picasso as the novel’s heart. Because she is bright and precocious, she doesn’t fit in at school, yet she desperately wants to. Her loneliness becomes even more apparent as she discovers that her father isn’t who she thought he was, and that life itself is in many respects a lie.

I think my favorite chapter in the book is the one where Picasso, in an attempt to come to terms with the lies her father told her and her mother, ruminates over many types of lies. “The point is, there are many, many shades to lying, and I figure every living person has told at least one, which might mean Daddy wasn’t such a bad person after all.” That chapter ends with Picasso saying: “And right before I go to sleep, I lie to myself. I’ll be just fine, I say.”

- Jennifer Murphy

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© Jennifer Murphy, 2014