Exclusive Interview with
When did you start writing?
I started writing at a fairly young age. I have several memories that give a timeline of my early writing efforts. One is when I was in the fourth grade. The teacher had us write a short story. I recall she was impressed with mine and had me go to the front of the class and read it aloud.
The second memory is a story I wrote around the age of ten or maybe eleven. I don’t recall this story as well as the other, but my mother says she still has it and tells me from time to time how good it is. I suspect much of that is just a mother talking. But those are two instances that give an indication of my age and first attempts at writing something of substance.
What makes writing your passion?
It’s a way to express myself artistically. Music and writing lyrics is also an artistic passion for me. However, I was not able to have much success with music. I went through a period in my life where I focused on music and enjoyed playing with various bands. But it’s a difficult business to break into and considering one must find and work with other artists to have a successful band, the limitations eventually became clear to me.
It seems writing was always present in my artistic endeavors and as I moved away from my musical efforts I naturally moved towards literature. I was still playing in bands when I began to write my first short stories. My writing simply changed from lyrics to writing fiction and some non-fiction as well.
How long have you been writing?
As far as books go, I wrote and published my first book in 2004. So, I would say sixteen years, in a serious manner.
What was the feeling when you published your first book?
Likely what most authors feel after they publish their first book. A lot of pride and the feeling of accomplishment.
These feelings were followed by disappointment and the realization that writing and publishing a book are merely the first steps. In fact, I was so disappointed with the minimal success of my first book that it took several years before I began writing in earnest again.
I’ve since come to believe the first book often separates the writers who are in it totally for financial gain and the writers who are in it for the art.
What’s the story behind your choice of characters?
Simply put, I want my characters to be real people. Or perhaps I should say people that could be real. Though I am more fond of positive characters, I won’t hesitate to create a negative or bad character if the story demands it.
What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?
The absence of a magical editing wand.
How do you get over the “writer’s block”?
I don’t believe in it. It’s a myth. One must simply “write through it,” in my opinion. Much of what you write during those occasions will be garbage but I always find nuggets in those efforts that are valuable to the story. And once you get past the rough spots, your story takes off again and the so called “writers block,” is vanquished. It’s like trying to go to sleep. The harder you try the more difficult it can be. So to, I suspect, the more power you give the idea of writer’s block, the more it can have an adverse effect on your ability to write.
We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?
The advice I often give is to find a more noble purpose in writing. I really thought my first book would be a great success. I was prepared for the financial windfall and when that didn’t happen it was a disappointment.
After a while and after not writing for some time, I realized that if I was only in it for the money, I may never find success. That’s when I came to the realization that success in writing or any art can be possible if only one person enjoys your work. That alone can make it worth the effort. So, I decided if only ten or ten thousand people read my stories and enjoyed them, it would be a success. Once you find that higher purpose, and accept that displaying art in its true form is not always graded by financial measures, then you are free to work as an artist and not as a laborer.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
Start reading the works of Earl Nightingale a lot sooner.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?
I do read them occasionally. Not as often as I did early on. Initially the bad reviews were very hurtful. I didn’t mind the reviews that were rated low and full of constructive criticism. But there are people who are simply unhappy and seek ways to spread that unhappiness. My theory is that these are the people who write very negative reviews, which have no value.
When you get one of these reviews, you know it. And the way I deal with them is to be glad I am not as unhappy as that person appears to be. For whatever reason, that person is so miserable that they will intentionally trash another person’s hard work. So, when I read such a review, I just tell myself to avoid such a negative place. I feel certain I can always find something good in another person’s work and efforts. Perhaps those good things should be mixed well with some constructive input. But to truly be of value, for all, a review should have valuable advise and observations.
A purely negative review is only given as a form of hurting the writer or dishing out the negativity the reviewer is feeling inside him or herself. We can take heart that we are on the receiving end and not in such a dark place that we are dishing out such negativity.
What is the feeling when you get a good review?
That my artistic efforts were a success.
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
In small ways, yes many times. In large ways I would say a few times. In my book Tears of Abandon I incorporated a lot of things from my journey to Alaska and Yukon territory.
However for the most part it’s more subtle ways. I don’t wish to use my own experiences too much in a direct manner as I always want the characters to have their own identities and history. But I do feel there is a little bit of me in every character I create.
Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?
I would rather not answer that question.
What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?
The story should always be the most important. However, it’s true that you can have a beat up car that needs a paint job sitting for sale on the side of the road and even though it may have a super-hot engine under the hood, getting people to stop and take a closer look is instrumental in selling the car. So, in some respects, the cover will help the book find readers, but a great cover with a lousy story is not as preferable in my opinion to a fair cover with a great story.
Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?
I do connect with readers that message me on my fan page. Sometimes it is a quick note and there have been other times that I write a lot. It depends on the question or comment. I am not one that likes a lot of interaction though. I suppose I am completely over the whole celebrity thing. I understand it has its place and that people want to know more about authors whose work they enjoy .
I do try to have my fan page relay things from my personal life. But beyond that, I don’t go to great efforts to cultivate a fan base for the purpose of feeling like a celebrity. I would much rather have them like and appreciate my work than focus on me.
How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?
I love when people enjoy my work. I don’t have a lot of instances where people recognize me or say “you’re Oliver Phipps!” Generally on the few occasions I am noticed, it's more along the lines of, “hey you’re that writer aren’t you?” At which point I might answer, “well, I am a writer but I’m not sure if I’m ‘that’ writer.”
Who is your favorite author? Why?
Oh, that is a tough one. I am very fond of J.R.R Tolkien’s work. I think it is the entertainment factor on the reader side and the sheer expansive world he was able to create on the writer side of it.
What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?
Oliver Phipps, without a doubt.
Would you rewrite any of your books? Why?
No, and I would not try to re-raise my children either.