Tamsyn Murray started her writing career at the age of five, with a critically acclaimed article on her weekend. In 2008, she decided to 'take this writing lark seriously' and wrote her first novel, My So-Called Afterlife, about a teenage ghost who haunts a public toilet. This was followed by Stunt Bunny: Showbiz Sensation, about a rabbit with the X factor. A new teen novel, My So-Called Haunting, is published this month. Tamsyn's German publisher lists her age as 25 and she likes that just fine. Find out more at Tamsyn Murray Online or follow her on Twitter as @TamsynTweetie. Here she writes about Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's Good Omens.
Tamsyn Murray on Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Two things happen when I'm asked to select a favourite book. First, my mind becomes a cavernous void and I can't remember anything I've read, let alone something which made me laugh, cry, think, salivate etc. There are some people who would say that this is my default mental state and, given the number of times I've stood at the top of my stairs wondering what it is I went there to do, I might be hard pushed to argue. I like to think it happens because my brain is constantly bombarded by new and interesting input but actually it's probably that, like my creaking old desktop PC, I could do with a bit of an upgrade.
But once my overworked and underpaid neurons begin to spark, it's like J.K. Rowling's school reunion in there. Characters begin to materialize in my mind; some waving, others shouting and one or two falling over drunkenly, all desperate to remind me what I liked about them. Once that's happened, it's hard to pick a favourite; there are a lot that I counted as friends and have fond memories of. Like ex-boyfriends, there might even be a few I'd be inclined to dally with again, if the circumstances were right. But as the hubbub dies down, and Mr Darcy stops pretending he doesn't care if I choose him or not, there's one book which stands out from all the rest. It's not a classic in the best-known sense of the word; some people would say it's not up there with One Hundred Years of Solitude or Our Mutual Friend, or any of the other excellent books I've read, but it's my favourite all the same. That book is Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.
For those of you who don't know it, Good Omens is a sort-of spoof of The Omen (which I've also read; Good Omens has more belly-laughs). Its main protagonists are Aziraphale ('An angel, and part-time rare book dealer'), Crowley ('An angel who did not so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards') and Adam ('An Antichrist'), but there are a host of supporting characters, including everyone's favourite Pratchett anti-hero, Death. The plot starts with the birth of the Antichrist and rattles headlong towards Armageddon, with guffaws and giggles on every page. The footnotes in particular are a delight, as anyone familiar with Pratchett's Discworld books will know. This is a book stuffed with wry observations and genius jokes and the storyline zips along like Roadrunner on amphetamine. Before you know it, hours have passed and your children are Googling 'Childline' because you haven't fed them since breakfast. (That last bit could just be me.)
I know what you're thinking; that's all very well but is it really the best book you've ever read? Maybe you're starting to wonder whether I know anything about what makes a good book good (and after that last sentence, I wouldn't blame you). So I'll explain. I discovered Good Omens around the same time as I found myself; I was eighteen, leaving home to go to university for the first time and working out what made me tick. I hadn't read many classics but I'd got through a few Discworld books and knew I liked the humour, which is probably what made me pick up Good Omens in the first place. Needless to say, I loved it. These days, there are two well-thumbed copies on my bookshelves which, given the obsessively pristine state of almost every other book I own, tells its own tale. I reach for it when I'm sad, bored or in need of inspiration and it never fails to make me smile. I can quote chunks of it verbatim and can't drive around the M25 without a wry grin, much to the mystification of my husband.
So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to realize how much its authors had influenced me when I started writing my own novels. I write funny books, or at least I try to. My characters are sarcastic, self-deprecating and sometimes plain rude to each other. My plots are odd and faintly ridiculous. Above all, I try to make people laugh. In that respect, Good Omens is like a bible to me; it taught me the fundamentals of witty writing and a whole lot more. It's also a blooming good read.
[All the pieces that have appeared in this series, with the links to them, are listed in the index here.]