RANCHO SANTA FE — Summer Murphy‘s life was like a dream. Imagine a real life Holly Golightly — Audrey Hepburn’s character in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” — only more exciting. Born to a religious family in Escondido, Murphy ran away from home when she was 16 years old. She married and divorced four very wealthy husbands and lived with them all over the world.
And everywhere Murphy went, her best friend, Arline “A.J.” Genis, went too. As an established interior designer, she decorated all of the homes that Murphy lived in.
“Paris, London, Cannes, Turkey, and San Francisco,” Genis listed off the spots her friend lived in and laughed. “Every time she got a new husband, I got a new job.”
Murphy died by suicide about five years ago at the age of 80. This was tough on Genis, now age 85, who deeply admired her best friend’s charisma and spirit.
“I grieved and grieved,” Genis said. “We were joined at the hip.”
Genis, who has written poetry for decades, decided to use her literary skills to remember her friend Murphy through a historical romance novel.
“I started it as a hobby when she was alive because she had a great name,” Genis said. “The reason I chose this genre is because I like history, and I also like heaving bosoms.”
The novel, “Summer Murphy: A Pirate’s Woman,” is set on the waters in the 19th century. Several pirates raid a ship near Great Britain and capture the crew, which includes a royal lady and her servant, Summer Murphy. The pirates plan to ransom the Lady off to a rich planter in America. To protect the royal, the two women switch places, leading the main pirate Patric O’Brien to believe that Summer, a servant, is the true Lady. Then in typical romance novel fashion, the pair fall in love, entering a relationship that involves heaving bosoms and steamy romance scenes. Genis said she loved setting this romance in a different era.
“It was so much fun,” Genis said. “I knew so much history and I wanted to use it.”
Genis and her husband, Dan, currently live in Rancho Santa Fe. Dan Genis was a special effects editor for the first Star Wars and other major films. A.J. Genis spent many years as an interior designer, and continues to consult and design in addition to writing.
Two years ago, while working on her novel, Genis was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. She temporarily lost her ability to move and speak — writing this story became her escape.
“Danny would sit me in the chair and I would sit here for hours writing,” Genis said. “I would pretend that I was OK in my mind.”
Genis has spent six years putting this work together. She also has plans for a second novel. Set in modern times, this one features a college-aged Summer Murphy attempting to write the story from part one. When Genis considers how long the writing process has taken her, she reminds audiences that it’s all about perspective.
“Margaret Mitchell took 10 years to write ‘Gone with the Wind,’” Genis said. “A.J. Genis took six years to write Summer Murphy. That’s nothing!”
“Summer Murphy: A Pirate’s Woman” is currently being bid on multiple big-name publishers, and is expected to be picked up by one in the next couple of months. Genis anticipates a publishing date sometime in 2019.