INTERVIEW WITH A WRITER
1. How and when did you get started as a writer?
Growing up I hated reading. I did all I could to avoid books. Turns out later I learned I was suffering from a reading
comprehension disability. It wasn't until 7th grade that things changed. My English teacher announced that we'd be reading
4 books that year. All by S.E. Hinton (The Outsiders, Rumble Fish, Tex, That Was Then This Is Now). She explained that Hinton
was 16 when she wrote The Outsiders. From page one until the end of the book, I was catapulted into another world. The book
amazed me. I thought about it for days after reading it. I could not wait to read another book. And it was like that for all
of Hinton's books. Before I knew what was happening to me, I was buying books in stores and reading at least a book a month.
And I knew, at age 13, that I wanted to be a writer. When I was a freshman in high school, I wrote a short story about a busboy
working at a party house. It was published in the school's annual magazine. My career, you might say, had begun.
2. How do you usually find your ideas?
It's a great question. One I can't answer in black and white. Sometimes I get a character in mind. Sometimes a plot, or
a twist ending. Lots of times I just start writing and see where it leads me. Occasionally I get inspired with something that
has a beginning, middle and end. With King Gauthier and the Little Dragon Slayer it was different. I was recently married.
My wife found out she was pregnant. We were so excited. She said, what if he, our son, grows up to be a lawyer. I said, what
if he grows up to be a writer. And we compromised: A lawyer that writes books. We laughed, and realized, despite what WE want
him to do, he's going to expect to have some say in the matter. And, there you have it, the birth of my first children's story
(which, incidentally, I wrote in 1992).
3. Did you ever get any rejections?
Did I ever get any rejections? Hmmm. Maybe only enough to wallpaper my entire house, monthly. (I still get rejections).
Part of being a writer is having a thick skin. Finding and interested editor, I believe, has to do a lot with luck and timing.
4. If yes, how did you react to them?
There are two types of rejections. Form Letter and what I call Positive Rejection. A Form Letter is just like it sounds.
No signature, or a rubber-stamp signature. You wonder if they didn't just open your submission, attach a Form Letter, and
return it to you without so much as reading a word. A little depressing at times. But what can you do? The Positive Rejection
is when an editor actually takes the time to personalize the rejection letter in some way. "Close, try us with your next story
idea." Something. Anything that makes it more than a just a Form Letter Rejection. Those I consider inspiring.
5. Tell us about your books. What was your first one?
Well, the name Grant R. Philips is a pen name. I am also the author of more than 30 short stories and 6 mystery novels.
Doing this interview as Philips, I'd prefer not to talk about my other writings. The whole point of using the pen name was
so kids who read King Gauthier and the Little Dragon Slayer won't accidentally end up reading one of my thrillers.
6. Now tell us about your first children's book.
Dustin is a young boy living in a time of castles, knights and dragons. When he grows up he wants to become one of the
king's brave knights. However, his father is a well-respected armor-smith, making suits of armor for the king's knights and
expects his son to follow in his footsteps.
In order to prove himself to his father, Dustin sets out one night to slay a terrible dragon, teaming up with two friends
from school. When they find the dragon, they realize the serious danger they are now in.
Dustin's father and many of the villagers search desperately through the woods, hoping they are not too late to save their
children from the flames of the fire-breathing dragon.
7. What inspired you to write a children's book?
See question #2 above.
8. How long did it take you to write it?
A few months and many revisions over the years.
9. What are the major challenges that you have faced in your career?
There are many major challenges I think most writers face. For me, frustration is one of them. Always wondering if my story
is good enough, if my writing is good enough. Then once I sell a work and it is published I worry that no one is going to
buy the books, read them, like them. I worry about marketing and sales figures and getting out and promoting. Then there is
finding enough time in a day to do all that needs to be done. I work full time as an employment law paralegal, I freelance
part-time for a community newspaper, write book reviews for a web site and am married with three children. I try to schedule
40-60 book signings a year, teach creative writing classes a few times a year and give presentations to schools and clubs
as often as possible. So where do I find time to write? Saturdays and Sundays I wake up at 3:00 AM. I write until about 9:00,
when the family starts to stir. This way I do not take time away from them. (As it is I have them at mall bookstores all over
the place at least once a week, almost every week, from September until May). So for me, time and energy are the most frustrating.
But I wouldn't do it, if I didn't love it. You have to want it. Write because you love it. If it sells, that's icing on the
10. What do you advise new writers to do?
There is an old saying. I forget who said it. So forgive me. "If you always do what you have always done, then you will
always get what you have always gotten." Those are words to live by. The key is never give up. Save every rejection letter.
Work and re work your query letters. Those are, perhaps, more vital than the story themselves. They are the first thingand
maybe the only thingan editor will look at. If the query letter is full of mistakes, the editor won't bother with your story.
If you've been using the same style letter for years and are getting no where--try revamping it. Look at some other letters.
And keep at it. If it's what you want, always keep at it.
I appreciate your help! Thanks a lot!
Thank you, Liana.