It’s been a few days but I return with another #SPFBO interview! Phase 1 is coming to a close, with only six weeks left for the end of the first brutal judging. Best of luck to everyone still in it.
Today’s interview is with Phil Parker, who wandered into the den of The Thousand Scars lost and alone. I managed to talk Tyir out of harvesting his organs and managed to sneak Phil in for a quick chat while Horse made coffee. He makes terrible coffee. Fucking Pyrans, man.
Enjoy the interview!
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?
Hi Michael, thanks for interviewing me! It’s nice here, I like the décor especially. And that welcome meal was scrumptious! So, let me tell you about myself. My name is Phil Parker and I write dark fantasy novels. I’ve been a fan of the genre for a long time but folk like Richard Morgan and Joe Abercrombie have had a big impact on my writing in recent years and I mainly try to read any book that’s vaguely ‘Grimdark’ – I’m into Rob J Hayes and Ed McDonald particularly at the moment.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
I’ve no idea. My characters are like gate-crashers at a party. It’s only as you’re trying to explain that they can’t come in, that you get to know them better and start to wonder if it’s worth letting them stay! Sometimes it’s a mistake but quite often the characters who’ve wrecked the place, caused havoc and have grabbed the mike and are singing out of tune are the ones who feature in my stories. If they start threatening people with swords and knives, even better! It’s the characters that then dictate the plot I find. They tell me what to do next.
Tell us about your current project.
The Bastard from Fairyland is the first book in The Knights’ Protocol trilogy and it’s an entrant in this year’s SPFBO. I’m in Lynn’s Books group. The story is set in dystopian England after global warming has raised sea levels and society has collapsed, ideal timing for the Dark Fae to invade. It’s a story about vengeance, villainy and violence, of Shakespearian proportions. That last bit isn’t surprising because part of the story uses A Midsummer Night’s Dream as its maguffin.
Who would you say is the main character of your novels? And tell me a little bit about them!
Remember what I said about characters that gatecrash parties? Well, Robin Goodfellow is definitely one of them, he’s in there, full of anger and threatening people who annoy him! You might recognise the name, he’s out of that Shakespeare play I just mentioned. Except in my story his alter ego, Puck, is a psychotic killer that Robin does his best to keep under control. Robin is a badly damaged guy who’s been mistreated for the whole of his life, primarily because of his sexuality which has caused him to rebel against any form of oppression. As a result, if he sees people suffering, he’ll attack those causing the suffering. For a guy who believes himself to be thoroughly evil, he’s actually a good guy.
What advice would you give new writers on how to delve into creative fiction?
Jeez. I’m going to need more wine before I can answer that question! Ah, thanks! The bottle will do nicely. My advice is to start writing and just keep doing it. Then keep reviewing it critically and find ways you can improve on it. Keep polishing.
I think my other suggestion is this: find a good writing course. I did a 3-month novel-writing course with the literary agents, Curtis Brown. It meant sharing my work with other writers and with an established (and highly talented) author. I learned so much but – primarily – it gave me confidence. I started to believe in myself. Until that point I didn’t think I could write. (And weeks go by when I STILL think that!)
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book?
OK, pass me the soap box will you? I believe in building worlds that reflect and exaggerate the world in which we live. The Knights’ Protocol was written during the largest mass migration of people into Europe we’ve known for over 200 years. And it caused some folk to show their lack of tolerance for so many minority groups and forget that these people were also human beings fleeing war, starvation and fear. It showed that if you’re different you can expect to be persecuted and made to suffer and denied opportunities. I wanted my books to show where that could lead us, as a race.
End of lecture.
What inspires you to write?
Because I love it. I need to do it. Always have, since I was a kid.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Believing I could do it. Believing anyone would want to read it after I had. The thing that gives me the greatest satisfaction now is when wonderful people get in touch with reviews or comments to tell me how much they enjoyed it. It is the best feeling! It still feels like a huge surprise.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
Oh wow. That’s difficult. I think my favourite chapter is probably the opening one. It had so many iterations, especially on the course I mentioned earlier. I wanted to smack people in the face with a character they’d find unsympathetic, heartless even, but who they thought might actually be a decent person deep down. Feedback has suggested I succeeded!
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
I could write a book to answer this question! It wasn’t so much a learning curve, more a learning wall that needed to be scaled. One thing I learned – I noticed the literary agent Jonny Gellar mentioned on Twitter recently – to allow your readers to do some of the thinking, not to give them all the information. It goes beyond the Show Don’t Tell adage. It’s more like Don’t Show, Drop Hints. I learned that reading the work of other writers who didn’t always do that, you look at your own work and realise you’re doing the same thing!
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
Oh well. Confession time. I hear voices in my head. But in a creative way doctor!
I trained as a Drama teacher and I’ve done my fair share of acting. As a result I’m someone who can get into the heads of characters, hear the lines and know how they’ll say them. I shift from one character to another easily, even those (like Robin) who are not always people you can sympathize with. I see things from their perspective.
What are your future project(s)?
(Knocks back the rest of the wine). If I cry, pass me a tissue will you? I’ve just dumped the Work in Progress I’ve spent the last six months working on. It was a tough decision but I knew I wasn’t enjoying it and knew something was wrong – I just didn’t know what. I lacked the passion I’d had all the way through writing The Knights’ Protocol.
I’m five chapters into a new project and enjoying it immensely. Too early to tell if it will work but I hope so. It’s a departure from what I’ve written before but I think that’s why I’m enjoying it, it’s a challenge and I thrive on challenge.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
I’ve spent my working life as a teacher and working in education generally. I still write online learning materials and marketing material for an elearning company. I enjoy both those jobs. But there is a part of me that would have loved to act!
What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?
I’m obsessive about Twitter – you can always get in touch @PhilSpeculates
I’m also on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/PhilSpeculates
On Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/PhilParker-FantasyWriter
I have my website – https://www.philparker-fantasywriter.com/ – you can get in touch with me there too. It has more information about The Knights’ Protocol (including some of the massive amount of research I did for it), reviews of books, my short stories and my blog. I’d love to hear from anyone who’s read this interview or wants to know more about The Knights’ Protocol, or perhaps about self publishing.
Thank you for the interview Michael, I’ve had lots of fun. The party games especially.
A huge thanks to you Phil. Stay tuned for the weekend for my next interview. These authors just keep getting lost in the Kahal wilderness. I need to set up some signposts…if I can convince Kramer.