Author Interview with Phillip T. Stephens

Welcome All! You’ve shown up on a perfect day, because today is Friday and that means (fanfare plays) AUTHOR INTERVIEWS! This week I’m discussing our ten questions with Phillip T. Stephens, who I don’t believe that I can sufficiently describe for you right here so…Let’s get started!

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Hello Phillip and thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions for us!

  • What name do you write under? Is this a pseudonym? Do you use more than one name when you write?

Phillip T. Stephens. This is my only name.

  • Tell us about the first time you realized that you were an author or were going to be an author.

I think I knew I was going to be an author in high school, when I was a freshman. That doesn’t mean I made a commitment to becoming one. I wrote my first pitiful attempt during my freshman and sophomore year, then got distracted by life and that was the story of my writing career for the next fifty years.

I wrote seven novels and the better half of three more, rewriting all of them several times over.

I made a commitment to becoming an author when I published my first novel Raising Hell in 2012. It’s about a clueless optimist sent to hell by accident, who decides to make hell to best place of eternal punishment possible. I wrote at least seven drafts of that and I’m still working on it.

  • What genre(s) do you write in, and why?

I write in the genre the novel demands, which, I admit, hurts marketing. But when I look back on the writers who influenced me the most— Walker Percy, Thomas Pynchon, Flannery O’Connor, Saul Bellow—genre didn’t exist for them. Sales only became genre driven in the last twenty or thirty years.

  • What genres are your favorites to read? Why?

I don’t have a favorite. I like global thrillers, mysteries, procedurals, some science fiction, horror. In the end, however, it’s the book that appeals to me, not the genre. If I read a blurb and a sample appeals to me, I’ll read the book. Right now I pretty much read indie authors to support their efforts to break the control of the publishing industry.

  • Tell us about your two all-time favorite characters: 1 that you wrote and 1 that someone else wrote.

My favorite character that I wrote is Lucifer. It’s hard to talk about him without spoilers, but he’s the second most powerful being in the universe and instead of shaping his will on a kingdom of his choosing, the All-Know-Better-Than-You put him in charge of the whiners, back-stabbers, ingrates, and squabbling politicians. He can’t seem to get past the slight.

I’m not sure about this guy….he’s either super excited to be there or that creepy smile has been burned onto his face. Either way, it certainly screams “Welcome to …well you know”

  • There is a lot of controversy about allowing books to be made into movies (especially when they cut or change large portions of the plot). Would you be willing for your books/stories to become a movie? Why or why not?

Sure. Movies are a different art form. You have to reduce what could be an expansive concept to ninety minutes or two hours. That’s 90 to 110 pages of which most of the page is white space. People don’t get that. One script page is one film minute. And I don’t care what they say, I couldn’t sit through Lord of the Rings in a theater. Or the Hobbit

I watched all of them in the theater…each LoftR movie was seen at least twice in theater (the third one I went to 3 or maybe 4 times). I was enthralled…and about the only one who sat still through the majority of the movies! During one of the movies someone kept trying to announce intermission. It has been suggested, more than once, by my dad, that they could have made that into a 6 part series or cut half the story. He prefers the cartoons. 

Writers make cuts. I wrote a script of my novel Cigerets, Guns & Beer and I’m glad I did because it made me go back and trim a lot of fat from the book. Once I visualized it for the screen I realized the book carried a lot of dead weight. And the script still cut half the book out and changes the ending entirely. Not the big ending (No spoilers) but the aftermath.

  • How do you handle writer’s block?

I don’t let it happen. I write through it. Any crap is better than nothing. I can fix bad writing, but I can’t use an empty page. I find that if you refuse to be blocked, you aren’t blocked.

I wish it worked like that for me! I refuse to be blocked, then I get frustrated, then I KNOW what needs written but it won’t come out. It’s like my refusal has sparked a stand off. 

I don’t believe in rules for writers. What works for me doesn’t necessarily work for Jessica Downthestreet. But this is one I would state as a rule. You can’t rewrite what you never wrote. And every writer I talked to who follows that principle is never blocked.

I write other things so I suppose it isn’t really writer’s block then? right? Or perhaps it is only partial blockage, like when those sadistic people block off half of the highway and make you follow the pilot vehicles…making a 10 minute trip into an hour and a half.

  • What inspires you?

A lot of things. Film, art, music, faith. A story I wrote in college that won an award came from the image of a dust mote dancing in the morning light through a window.

  • How do you respond when people ask what you do, then make that face if you say “I’m an author”?

You mean my family? All my life? It’s part of why I didn’t publish until I was almost 60. I had to teach college. I could write, but for ad agencies and non-profit clients. I could become visual designer (which I segued into in the eighties), but I couldn’t make art for love either, I had to work for agencies and clients.

Truthfully, I’m many things and author is only part of that. I’m also a philosopher, a free-range Christian, a poet who occasionally resurfaces, and most of all a wise ass. It’s that last title that is really shining through here, I think 😉

So I know that some people will think it’s cool, and some people will think I turned like the salmon they left in their refrigerator too long. I live with it and I still visit my family once a year at Christmas and smile when they tell me about all the suburban things they’re into.

  • Finally, tell us where to go to find you (Twitter, Facebook, Blog, Online Bookstores, Physical Stores, Etc. List them all for us please!)

@stephens_pt where I Tweet forty-five minutes to an hour’s worth of fresh material nightly (usually between 7 – 9 pm CST)

My blog Wind Eggs: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/583139.Phillip_T_Stephens/blog

And the fan site for my book Raising Hell, g.d.i. Mondays, which is Hell’s most popular (and only) fast food franchise.

http://www.gdimonday.com

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I’m using it to build a participatory fan base. I would really like young artists and writers to explore their inner imp with flash fiction, lymericks, sketches, cartoons. What a cool idea! I’ve seen participation based sites for books, like the Harry Potter (of course), but this sounds somehow fresh and different.

I will pull the best from the Goodreads forum and post them on the main site and if I get enough response, I’ll pull them together for an anthology and even pay out of pocket for my favorites. If worse comes to worse, I intend to release Raising Hell 2.0, the Director’s Cut which will include the best material in an addedendum.

So even if it’s not your thing, but you know someone with a little devil inside, pass the word.

And may I say, it’s been a real pleasure to chat with you Elizabeth. I hope we cross paths again.

Thank Phillip! I’ve enjoyed our chat as well. I’m sure there will be more to come, wicked senses of humor always seem to roll back around!

Remember, if you would like to have your own feature on an Author Interview Friday all you have to do is let me know! I can’t wait to get to know more of you and it seems like Phillip may be looking for some new books to read!

Until next time, Pick up a book or a pen and get some work done! And, as always…Be excellent to each other (!)

Writing Playlists

I may have mentioned this before, but I have Musical ADHD. I start a song I LOVE and hit the ‘next’ button within seconds. Or I hit on a song that I kind of like and get stuck on it, so that I play it four or five times in a row and quickly learn all of the words, back up percussion noises, and a full dance routine complete with car variations. So when I hear that people have playlists for their novels, or sen just for their writing time, it amazes me!

I often turn the television on reruns and low volume while I write, so that I hear the murmur of known voices and activities without the need to see what’s going on…been there, watched that! If I’m able to get up to my ‘writing loft’ (this does not happen often in the winter though! WAY TOO CHILLY!) I take my phone or computer and turn on Pandora or iHeart radio and crank it, the music causing me issues if its low and whispery…i.e. I try to write while listening and wind up just having to stop trying to write because I can’t really hear the music! So I crank it up and dance while I write; my handwriting is pretty poor to begin with so it doesn’t matter much if I wiggle a bit here or there. But it completely depends on my mood, my surroundings, and the content of the sentence I’m writing at the time as to whether I’m listening to classic rock, pop, alternative, reggae, ‘beach music’, red dirt, classical, or some other random piece. HOW DO PEOPLE SET ONE PLAYLIST FOR WRITING???!!???

Maybe its just my musical background, I did major in music education before switching to elementary ed. Perhaps all of those years of practicing and learning to play so many different types of music has hardwired me to keep switching things up. I don’t know…but I sometimes worry about my inability to just choose a kind to write along with. Of course, normally I just worry about the people who don’t include variety into their own lives…musical variety that is!

Do you have a set playlist for your writing/activities? Do you always listen to the same things as you write, exercise, cook, work, etc.? If so, do you have any tips or explanations for me? If not, how do you feel about people who do? Have you even heard of this one playlist thing? Is it a craze? I think it might be a craze….And I’m aching to find out! Let me hear from you, and have a blessed weekend!

Do you think they’re all listening to the same thing?? CRAZY

A Watched Blog Doesn’t Boil

I have had several blogs over the past few months that I just KNEW would garner untold amounts of attention and boost my statistics through the roof. I hit the button to post my self-proclaimed brilliance and anxiously wait for the dozens of ‘likes’ and comments that I am so sure will come pouring in to the site.

I wait, and I wait, and I wait some more…each time I check the page it tells me the same story: no new views, no new likes, no new followers, and no new comments. Much like my tea kettle, a watched blog just doesn’t seem to boil.

So here is a question for you. IS there something that I can do to entice my readers to become more interactive? Is there a topic you would like to see covered? A story prompt, title, or character name you would like for me to use? Please let me know!

While you think on that I will go work on this week’s short story, the title of which was given to me as a prompt by a loyal reader…”The Watch in the Window.” Remember to swing by Sunday to discover how and why that watch shows up! Until tomorrow (or in five minutes when I obsessively check my stats page and realize that you haven’t read this yet) May you have a Blessed and worthwhile day!

Are you REAL???

Are you REAL? This is a questions that we do not often think about after ‘growing up’ and going through the requisite SantaClause/EasterBunny/ToothFairy fiasco. After we hit that certain age, usually around the time that we get our first car or go away to college, we begin to simply assume ourselves all knowing.

However, it has recently been brought to my attention that some things are still in question. For example: Are you a REAL cowboy? Are you a REAL Christian?? Are you a REAL fan of…?? I won’t address any of these at the moment because the real question now has to be boiled down to just, “Are YOU a REAL Person??”

When you answer the phone, call customer service, or even talk to someone online, you have to wonder if you are actually speaking to a blood and bones living being, or if a program is responding to signals.

More than that though, the advancing technologies for media have allowed people to pigeonhole themselves into groups they, or their friends, identify with and then change accordingly. So that preppy girl next door, she may not be anymore ‘real’ than your customer service program. “But Elizabeth,” you may ask, “What is your point?? People change all the time!”

The point, my dear friends, is that you and I don’t know it all and there are questions. Questions that, at least in my world, need to be asked, and hopefully answered. Ask your cousin why he feels the need to wear a spiked collar, or talk to the girl in line at the store and find out about the names on her shirt. Don’t let people slip by in the anonymity of their ‘kind’, there is a “Real” person inside that Elvis Impersonator. There may even be a real person in that hipster downstairs!

May you all be lucky enough to find the real bits inside each person you meet, and may you have a Blessed Day!