Shape I'm In: Novelist Emma Murray

I can’t eat anything without chilli flakes stuffed into it
Shape I'm In: Novelist Emma Murray

Emma Murray
Emma Murray

THERE was a time when a mild korma was Dubliner Emma Murray’s spice limit. That was before she met her husband whose family comes from Iraq.

But now the London-based novelist can’t eat anything “without chilli flakes stuffed into it”.

And, of course, all curries must be made from scratch - she’s currently hooked on Rick Stein’s rich egg curry dish, describing it as “sublime”.

“My problem is that I have a tendency to fall in love with certain foods. Then I just eat them over and over again and I go off them. It drives my husband crazy.

“I’m cooking it sparingly - every few weeks rather than every second day.”

Emma Murray is the author of Time Out (Boldwood Books, €10)

What shape are you in?

I’m less fit because I don’t have the 40-minute walk to and from school. I’ve two young daughters aged 10 and eight. I’m doing Zoom pilates once a week for an hour - it’s such a timesaver. It’s on mute, so you can’t hear me swearing.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

My husband is a health freak and makes salads. If it wasn’t for him, I’d be eating crisps and Yorkshire pudding. We pretty much have a salad on the table every night.

What are your guiltiest pleasures?

Cheese, the smellier and gooier the better. The ones that really stink out the fridge. And soft jellies - I often nick the children’s supply. Also, the odd glass of wine.

What would keep you awake at night?

I’m a relatively good sleeper but things will pop into my head just as I’m about to go to sleep. For example, if I’m thinking of ideas for the next novel. Work deadlines often get to me and then too much wine which is just a killer. It used to put me to sleep and now it’s doing the opposite.

How do you relax?

Reading predictably. Yes, I read every moment that I can.I’m a mixture of fiction and non-fiction. And watching Netflix particularly programmes with subtitles because there’s something going on with my hearing.

Who are the people who inspire you the most?

Writers and actors. Marian Keyes is the first on the list, she’s my hero. Sharon Horgan is a huge inspiration. And if you invite her you have to invite Rob Delaney. Aisling Bea who I think is a fantastic actor and she wrote her own series. Paul Howard because I love everything about the Ross O’Carroll Kelly books and Bill Bryson again because I grew up with him.

What’s your favourite smell?

Anything with spices.

What would you like to change about your appearance?

I’m at the age (43) when I don’t care anymore - it’s a lovely stage in life to be. The thing my kids point out to me fairly constantly is that I’m getting a lot grey in my hair and they would probably like me to cover it up but I don’t care enough to do anything about it just yet. My worst nightmare is sitting in a hairdresser - I’ve too much to do.

When is the last time you cried?

It was my husband’s birthday recently and usually we’d take the day off and wander around London. It just hits you, you can’t do that anymore. I just burst into tears. And then I was fine.

What traits do you least like in others?

I hate when people are rude to waiting staff. I used to work in the service industry in Ireland and different countries so I know how it feels. Also, people who are dishonest. I am quite direct so I do prefer people who reciprocate.

What traits do you least like about yourself?

I’m a time freak, particularly when it comes to people who are late and don’t let you know you are going to be late. I’ll arrive five hours early at the airport. It drives everybody crazy. I envy people who can be very relaxed. We all know which one of us is going to die first.

What would cheer up your day?

Having a meal cooked for me. I don’t care if it’s food I don’t like. At the moment everyone’s home and it’s three meals a day - I’m constantly thinking about food. To be fair, my husband is a very good cook and we help each other out.

What quote inspires you most and why?

It by the poet George Eliot. ‘It’s never too late to be what you might have been.’ I always wanted to write a novel. I was writing stuff from the age of seven, but it took me a long time to get the confidence to put a novel out there. It’s never too late.

Where is your favourite place in the world?

Franschhoek in South Africa. I went there with my husband for my 30th and my 40th birthdays - it's full of fabulous restaurants for half nothing and vineyards and the scenery is stunning. It’s a small paradise just an hour and a half from Cape Town.

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