By MAGGIE MENDERSKI
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
KAHOKA Mo. -- The last time Linda Murphy went to her hometown library, it had a card catalog.
Now more than two decades later, she's added her own book to the library's collection. Earlier this month, J. Taylor Publishing released L.S. Murphy's debut novel "Reaper."
The 1992 Clark County R-1 High School graduate looks forward to returning home to Sever Library for a book signing on Jan. 26 from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Even though Murphy wasn't always certain of her success, she said her hometown always encouraged her writing.
"One of the things that's been amazing for me, I didn't realize how many people would be so supportive," Murphy said. "It just surprised me how many people from my hometown always knew I could to do it."
Aimee Bickers, marketing and production director at J. Taylor Publishing, said the company gained interest in "Reaper" because it not only focused on paranormal romance but touched on several social issues. As the main character navigates high school and sorts through her destiny, she also encounters death, violence and abuse.
"Those are side pieces, but those side pieces have such a great impact on the main character and that's where the story really shines," Bickers said.
In Murphy's own childhood, she enjoyed leaving the farm she grew up on to spend a day in town at Sever Library. As a teenager, she laid sprawled on the floor of the library pouring through books such as Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five," Joseph Heller's "Catch-22" Ken Kesey's "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and Anthony Burgess's "A Clockwork Orange." While these authors and their characters have influenced Murphy's passion for writing and literature, she credits much of her success to her eighth grade English teacher Greg Wirsig, who still teaches at Clark County R-1 High School today.
Wirsig challenged Murphy to think critically about literature and turned writing into something she treasured. She recalled Wirsig leading the class outside in search of inspiration. Without walking too far the class passed a line of tractors in the parking lot.
"And he said, ‘If that isn't inspiration I don't know what it is, just sit down and write,'" Murphy remembered.
Years later, Murphy still carries that memory with her. She's even incorporated into a draft of another unpublished novel about a city girl who moves to a small town. Even today, her Kahoka upbringing and Wirsig still influence her writing.
"Everything, my love of literature starts with that man," Murphy said.
Murphy left Kahoka to earn a bachelor's degree in English from University of Missouri-St. Louis. She currently lives in the St. Louis area, but readers will notice a tribute to the Tri-state area tucked in "Reaper's" pages.
The young adult paranormal romance tells the story of 16-year-old Quincy Amarante who must cope with her destiny to become the Grim Reaper. Murphy borrowed her main character's first name from Quincy, Ill., which is roughly 50 miles from her hometown.
"I was so desperate to get out (of Kahoka), now I cherish every minute that I have there," Murphy said.