Thursday, August 29, 2013

Interview with Terry Phillips

On to our next Silly Tree author interview. This time we talked with Terry Phillips. His story, “Gemini Wraith”, is a tale of the true evil of which humans are capable. We hope you enjoy the interview as much as we did.

1. When did you start writing professionally?

Probably about five minutes ago now.

Seriously though, Gemini Wraith will be my first published work, and whilst I have been writing for many years and have long dreamed of moving into the sphere of professional writing, it’s only within the last year I finally pushed all the lame excuses aside and have started pursuing it seriously.

I’m still yet to discover whether I shall be successful in pursuit of my goal, but at least I won’t be left wondering “what if” in 20 years time.

2.     What inspired your story for the Silly Tree anthology?

The story is actually a prelude to the events in a novel I’m currently working on, and I wanted to go back and build some back story to that particular work.  I had been toying with the concept of a Victorian era detective novel for quite some time, and finally began setting words to the page as a result of my current Masters studies. 

I also need to say that I also owe a huge debt of gratitude to Matt, my old university flatmate, who has graciously allowed me to turn his computer gaming pseudonym into a sadistic sociopath with a penchant for flaying his victims alive.  I owe him a signed copy when the anthology is released. 

3.     Have you ever hated anything you wrote?

I really can’t say that I have.  There have been some pieces I have written in the past that have not been as polished or well conceived as I would have liked, but as far as I’m concerned they’re still potential fodder for a good resurrection and rewrite.

From my point of view there is no one idea which is so bad it doesn’t possess some redeeming features or future potential in a successive redrafting.   The only real problem lies in deciding when something is actually ready to see the light of day.

4.     How do you stay motivated?

I tend to get cranky with myself if I haven’t at least done some form of writing on a daily basis.  Even on incredibly hectic days (which with 3 kids, 6 and under is pretty much every other day) I like to try and ensure I’ve at least gotten something down before my head hits the pillow.

I’m also the sort of writer who likes to be a bit obsessive in my planning and preparation phases for a piece, and I usually like to ensure I’ve got a fairly sturdy skeleton on which to build before I get too far along in the writing process.  I know a lot of other writers who would prefer to fly by the seat of their pants, but I have found that in the past that approach only gets me so far before I run headlong into a creative dead-end.

For long pieces, I’ve been known to select a “theme song” of sorts which I listen to as part of a writing ritual to help get me in the right frame of mind when my motivation begins to lag.  It’s almost a little bit of operant conditioning Pavlov style – but then my wife always said I was a simple creature.

5.     What is your favorite genre to write?

One of the things which I am discovering from my current studies is how much I enjoy being shifted out of my traditional comfort zone and trying my hands at styles and genres I would not have normally considered.  That being said though, I have definitely noticed a tendency for my works to drift backward in history into the realm of historical fiction and fantasy more often than not. 

I know a handful of sci-fi writers, and whilst I’m a fan the genre I’ve never really had the inkling to head seriously into creating a fictional future realm – perhaps that’s something I may need to seriously consider stretching myself toward sometime in the near future.

6.     Do you have advice for other writers?

There’s so much good advice already floating around out there, I struggle to think what I might have to offer on top of all that.  Perhaps what I would suggest is try not to fall into the trap of thinking of writing as a purely solitary activity.  There are countless opportunities out there for writers looking to share and hone their craft alongside their fellow artisans – everything from formal writing courses, writer’s networks and festivals, online communities and blogs.  Don’t think you can just lock yourself away in a darkened room with no human contact and produce a masterpiece.

Oh, that and caffeine.  Caffeine is your friend.

7.     What books or authors have most influenced your life?

I still remember very clearly that in primary school all the sporty kids went off on Friday afternoons to compete in interschool sport.  In the meantime, my grade four teacher would take all the athletically challenged kids who remained behind out to sit underneath this old tree and read to us.  One afternoon he decided to introduce us to The Hobbit, and the chapter Riddles in the Dark with Gollum just totally blew my 9-year-old mind.  I’ve never been quite the same since.

Ever since that moment I had always been a voracious reader, and growing up my mother owned some wonderful books including both a set of the complete Sherlock Holmes and a volume of Edgar Allen Poe’s collected works which I would have read and reread ad nauseam.  I remember that during a year 8 poetry recital assignment, I was getting quite a few strange looks being the only kid to choosing to recite The Raven.

8.     Would you like to share a bit about your current work in progress?

I can be a little bit ADHD in my writing practices, as I’ll usually have a couple of projects at various stages of completion at any one time.  That being said, for the last few months my main priority has been working on the novel which follows on from the events depicted in Gemini Wraith.

In the novel we are introduced to the dishevelled and controversial Inspector Carto, as he seeks to capture the killer whose gruesome tableaus are appearing in greater frequency across the city.  Yet Carto’s unpredictable methods, combined with his blatant disregard for the Constabulary’s hierarchy, quickly earn him an unwelcomed sidekick in the form of junior Constable Jonsen, who we meet briefly in this piece.

It’s really a classic Victorian era detective tale with a little dash of the supernatural thrown in.  I’m thoroughly enjoying the process on this one, and can’t wait to get it finished.

9.      When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
In 1998, the late David Eddings made the following comment in his foreword to the Rivan Codex which really resonated with me:

‘Want' has almost nothing to do with it. It's either there or it isn't. If you happen to be one, you're stuck with it. You'll write whether you get paid for it or not. You won't be able to help yourself. When it's going well, it's like reaching up into heaven and pulling down fire. It's better than any dope you can buy. When it's not going well, it's much like giving birth to a baby elephant.

For me personally, I think I first discovered that I was a writer around the same time Bilbo Baggins and Gollum slapped me firmly into the wonderful world of the written word as a youngster. It was around that time I can recall writing my first ever short story on our old Amiga 500 and printing it out on our dot-matrix printer.  Funnily enough, it was a detective story about a thief who stole the last piece of pizza.  Twenty-four years later I’m still writing detective stories.

10.  Where have you been published?

Gemini Wraith will actually be my first published piece, but I also have a fantasy story Cauldron of Annwyn which is shortly due for release in Beyond the Pillars: An Anthology of Pagan Fantasy, and I have a few other stories currently circulating in the ether of potential markets.

I also have a self-published illustrated children’s book The Little Stegosaurus and the T-Rex which is available via the iTunes bookstore.  Go and buy it, with all the profits I might be able to afford a pack of gum shortly.

No seriously.  Buy it.

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