Book Nerd Interview
I live in the north-east highlands of Scotland, with one husband, two children, three dogs (Cluny, Milo and Otto), two psychotic cats (the Ghost and the Darkness), a slayer hamster (Buffy), three chickens (Mapp, Lucia and Mrs Norris) and a lot of nervous fish. I have taken a solemn vow not to get any more pets. I will probably break this vow.
Writing for a living is (a) what I always wanted to do; (b) occasionally frustrating; (c) a lot of fun – I take dictation from the characters in my head, who spend their lives telling me what’s going to happen next.
But I like it that I never know just how it’s all going to end – not till the fat lady sings, the villain meets a suitably sticky end, and the boy gets the girl (or indeed the boy).
As well as full-length books, I write fiction for secondary Key Stage 3. Life Of The Party, Mind’s Eye, Sea Fever and Cyber Fever have been published by Evans Brothers, and short stories The Changeling, Rockface, Misty and The Kindest Cut appear in their sci fi, crime, ghost and comedy collections. And I ghostwrite fiction for companies including Hothouse and Working Partners.
Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
It’s rather lost in the mists of time, but I think it was when I proudly presented my latest Champion The Wonder Horse fanfic to my mother, and she liked it. As mothers do. I was probably about five years old.
Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Because it makes sense of the world; it puts a shape to it and shows up patterns, like rubbing brass. We’re all telling ourselves our own stories, all the time, and reading other people’s gives us new perspectives on our own. Storytelling lets us get inside other people’s heads.
Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
Oh, I like how I get two shots at this. It changes from day to day, but a constant favourite is Mary’s Renault’s ‘Fire From Heaven’, about the young Alexander the Great. And I write in a lot of genres, but I would never be able to write anything like EF Benson’s Mapp & Lucia novels. They are my comfort books - funny, sharp and brilliant. I never get tired of reading them.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Not to get into a tailspin because I can’t work out a plot. The fabulous writer Nick Green (The Cat Kin) once gave me an email talking-to about that. I wish I’d known a lot earlier how many writers fly by the seat of their pants; if you know them well enough, your characters will tell you their story.
Oh, and never to use the words ‘moist, ‘smegma’ or ‘phlegm’ if I can avoid it. (And I usually can.) Thank you, my pal Peter Beere.
In your book; Firebrand, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it?
It’s a story of a young Sithe warrior who finds his home, his clann and his place in the world, then loses them because of the machinations of his queen, Kate NicNiven. Seth and his brother Conal are exiled to our world - at a really bad historical time, involving witch hunts - and have to survive to reclaim their own fortress. Seth also has to master a water horse, foster a wolf, survive young love, and confront a few unpleasant truths about himself.
What part of Kate did you enjoy writing the most?
The fact that she’s so deliciously bitchy. She’s gorgeous and she knows it.
For those who are unfamiliar with Seth, how would you introduce him?
Meet Seth: stroppy, arrogant, damaged and far too fast with his fists. He’s cute, though. And loyal. And he’s the guy you’d want at your side at a party or in a sword fight.
What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I’m doing a few rewrites on Bloodstone before it’s published in the States. Deleted scenes, a new prologue, that sort of thing. Then I’ll be working on the fourth book in the series, Icefall (provisional title). I’m about to write another episode of a middle grade series, Rookery Island, that I write under a pseudonym for Working Partners. In May I’m coming to the US to promote Book 2 of the Erin Hunter series Survivors - about dogs in a post-apocalyptic world. I’m REALLY looking forward to that. And I want to get going on a contemporary YA thriller I’ve started, called Spitting Distance.
If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Mmm. I’d take Seth from Firebrand to the pub, and introduce him to Uhtred Ragnarsson from Bernard Cornwell’s Alfred the Great series. I think they’d have a lot in common. They’d probably get in a fight, then make up and have a great time getting drunk together.
When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
I’m British. I always lie in response to ‘Hello, how are you?’ Even if you’re half under a bus, it’s compulsory to say ‘I’m fine.’ My son was rushed to hospital last week with suspected appendicitis. The surgeon said ‘How are you feeling?’ He said, ‘I’m fine.’
What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?
Write. Write some more, and then write some more. Tuck it away in a file for a month; then take it out and rewrite the whole thing. And THEN rewrite it again. Don’t make excuses, don’t go watch X Factor and don’t decide you have to clean the toilets. And don’t go on Twitter, whatever you do. I’m partly talking to myself here.
Who is the first person you call when you have a bad day?
I never call anyone. I hate telephones. If I’ve had a bad day I grab the kids and a really good box set, and we sit in front of the TV eating popcorn and drinking wine. The kids don’t get any of the wine.
What's the most memorable summer job you've ever had?
I was an officer cadet in the Territorial Army at university. My unit (the Royal Engineers) spent a summer building a bridge and clearing rhododendrons for the Forestry Commission, on the island of Arran. I had the time of my life. Amazingly, considering I was working on it, the bridge is still standing.
Who was your first boyfriend?
Robert Duncan. I was 14 and he was 18; he was the first of my older men. He took me to see Grease; I thought he looked just like John Travolta. My first Very True Love was Kenny Williamson; I fell in love with his arms. He was gorgeous and he introduced me to that attractive bad boy vibe. I’m certain he’s lovely now.
Tell me about your first kiss
A complete disaster. I had literally no idea that tongues were involved.
What would be harder for you, to tell someone you love them or that you do not love them back?
Uh... to tell them I don’t love them. I probably spent my teens and my twenties telling far too many boys I loved them. Not to mention a couple of girls.
When was the last time you cried?
I almost never cry. Maybe at the end of Titanic, which I don’t even like, or Into The West, which I do. My last real, true, hysterical crying jag was while writing the last few chapters of Firebrand. My husband was threatening to call the men in white coats.
What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?
The nineties. I kind of missed the nineties altogether, because I lived abroad and there was no internet yet, and we didn’t even own a TV for ages. So I think it would be fun to go back as a teen and experience that whole BritPop phenomenon, and the first run of some of those brilliant nineties TV shows.
What is the one, single food that you would never give up?
Pasta. Heaven knows I’ve tried.
Where can readers stalk you?
At facebook.com/gillianphilipauthor, or on Twitter, where I spend far too much time as @Gillian_Philip. I also have a website that I keep forgetting to update: gillianphilip.com.
Seth MacGregor is the half-feral son of a Sidhe nobleman. When his father is assassinated, and Seth is exiled with his brother Conal to the full-mortal world, they vow not only to survive, but to return to reclaim their fortress and save the Veil.
But even the Veil’s power can’t protect the brothers when the brutal witch-hunts begin…
Author Gillian takes readers into a fantasy world where everything you many know about fairies is thrown out of the window and is given a new makeover. The twist she laces the fairy world is refreshing and original that the book will give readers a whole new and exhilarating experience.
The story is told from young Seth’s viewpoint and he guides readers through 16th Century Scotland where the lands are raging with religious wars. He is the type of character that readers will find easy to follow and relate to. Although he is bigheaded, egotistical, and sometimes a flat-out brat, he has a soft side and shows his vulnerability. Perhaps the one thing that I truly enjoyed about Seth is his devotion to his brother Conal. Even when they didn’t see eye to eye, it did not sway how he felt for his brother.
Gillian’s writing style places readers in a front row seat and they are able to soak in all of this fantasy world’s glory. She delivers a powerful story that is packed with action, superstition, and adventure that it transforms into a whirlwind emotional rollercoaster ride. This is the first book in the series and it was the perfect introduction. It manages to welcome readers into a world unlike anything before. Once immersed into its highly addicting story, readers will not want a way out. Firebrand is the type of book that will be enjoyed by all. It has laid out an amazing foundation of great characters and an epic storyline. I cannot wait to find out what the story will take the characters through in the next installment.