Hey there Novelista's! I am back with another Interview post. I have had this little beauty tucked away for A WHILE. So while I must apologise to Philip, I also apologise to you. I know, you know, I schedule my posts in advance (this one is no different). I do hope you enjoy it anyway.
Hi Philip, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
Hi Rhianne, thanks for agreeing to interview me! I’m 29, married, and I live in Bath in the UK. At this point in time, I’m not a professional writer. I’m self employed, and I work as a piano teacher/accompanist. I’ve been doing this full time for about three years now. I’ve always had an interest in writing though.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I set no upper limit on where writing could take me, but I have what I hope to be a realistic goal. When I graduated university with a music degree, I ended up working in the retail sector for a few years. During this time, I earned extra income playing the piano for choirs, and taking on a couple of students. (I registered as self-employed so don’t worry Mr. Tax Man, you got what you were owed!)
I would like to do with writing what I did with music back then; Make a respectable side income to complement my job as a musician. I’m working on how to get my writing out there at the moment. So far, I’ve won a couple of short story competitions at www.hourofwrites.com(Competition titles were ‘Date Of Birth,’ and ‘Saving The World’), but my biggest ambition is to get a novel out there.
So, what are you writing?
My main focus is currently on a dark fantasy novel, called The Fractured Isle (Working title). This began as my debut attempt at NaNoWriMo in 2014, which proved to be a successful way to get the ball rolling. I finished writing my second draft of the novel in June 2016, and I’ve got a couple of beta readers going through it at the moment. It’s just under 100,000 words long (That’s in between the length of the 2nd and 3rd Harry Potter books).
The Novel features religious tension, crime, corruption, and a sea dwelling race. They call themselves the sirens, but humanity knows them as the wraiths. They are the demons of human religion, supposedly heathens that were cast into the sea for their wickedness. And there’s the odd giant scorpion!
I’m writing a collection of short stories set in the same fantasy world as The Fractured Isle. Some of these feature my main characters, before the events of the novel. Others are mainly for world building, and I may just use them for reference purposes as I edit my draft.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
I have three main point of view characters in my novel. Their names are Kieran, Alex and Jeanette.
Kieran is a disgraced nobleman in his mid twenties. He has left his home after a violent altercation threatened his freedom. He now works for his uncle, the head of an organised criminal empire.
Alex is an eighteen year old girl with a simple ambition; to fight professionally. She has been blacklisted from her nation’s official fighting circuit. She is trying to find her way into illegal no holds barred fights. The most prominent of these are run by Kieran’s uncle.
Jeanette is a member of the guard in Squall’s Folly, the city where the novel takes place. She is in her early thirties, and has known her share of hardship. Her biggest aspiration is to take down Kieran’s uncle. However, she has accepted bribes in the past to make ends meet. Now, her corrupt history gets in the way of her ability to do her job properly.
Would you mind sharing an excerpt with us, or a favourite quote?
In twenty-six years of life, Kieran North had been many things. Amongst them, he had been a vagrant on the streets of the city of Squall’s Folly. A petit thief, taking whatever he could get. A dogsbody for one of the most dangerous criminals in The Fractured Isle. A nobleman in the nation’s capital of High Winterton. The problem was, that list was not accurate in terms of timeline. Nobility was at the start, followed in a single year by everything else.
Where do your ideas come from?
I try to pull influences from anywhere I can find them. I’ve drawn on my music degree to come up with the culture of the sirens, for instance. Music is central to the siren way of life, which is an idea I got from Confucius, an ancient Chinese philosopher.
I also got a rich tapestry of material from my years working in the retail sector. I’ve never based a character purely on one person. However, some dialogue in the novel is pretty heavily influenced by conversations I had or overheard while working in a shop.
And of course, I try to read as widely as I can. Fantasy is my favourite genre, but I read outside of it too. Recently, I’ve read Catch 22, 1984, The Girl on The Train, Dissolution, Wolf Hall and The Grapes of Wrath. I think it’s essential to see what other authors do as I build my own writing style. Bringing in influences from other genres can help mix things up as well.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I like to have a rough outline, but for a first draft it tends to be very basic. With my NaNoWriMo efforts, I’ve tended to know where I’ll start and end up, but much of the middle will be a mystery until I get there. I think it helps to have a couple of scenes planned though. That gives the book room to wander, but some form of map back to where you want to end up. I had more of an idea for my 2nd draft, but some things still changed as I went.
Do you write every day, 5 days a week or as and when?
This massively depends on the month. 2015 was a pretty unfocused year for writing, and I only got a small amount done. When 2016 came round, I put a plan into motion. I wanted the 2nd draft of my novel to get written, and be around 100,000 words. I planned to do a third of it in February, a third in April, and a third in June. I kept to the plan, and I did not write much in March and May. During my ‘on’ months, I tried to write every day. Except for a couple of days where I was away from my Mac, I stuck to this.
Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
I tend to set myself a word goal, which varies according to the project. For NaNoWriMo, I aim for 2,000 words a day, and a minimum monthly goal of the winning threshold of 50,000. I go for 50k instead of 60k because there are some days in November that I know I won’t write at all. November and December are my busiest months as a musician, and preparing for concerts has to take priority. However, I’ve done two NaNoWriMo’s and won both so far, which I’ve been pretty pleased with.
I started doing Camp NaNoWriMo as well this year. For both April and July, I set 30,000 word goals. I reached my April target, and I’m on about 2,000 words ahead for July. Again, I know I won’t be able to write for a couple of days this month due to my job. Therefore, I’ve set myself an additional goal. I won’t fall below an average of 1,000 words a day at any point. That’s why I’m ahead at the moment, to give me a buffer for the days I can’t get anything done.
How much research do you do?
I tend to research as I go, which is pretty hard to measure in terms of time. I know I had to do a lot of research into whale song at one point, I probably spent a good couple of hours reading up on humpback whales as well. I also had to look up mining techniques, historical currency values and old technology.
I’m also looking into improving my ability to write, so I’m hunting for creative writing advice. The best resource I’ve found so far is www.onlinewritingtips.com. Author and lecturer D.D. Johnston presents short and informative videos on the site about how to write, and how to avoid common mistakes.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
I think staying motivated can be a difficult thing at times, but that’s the same for anything creative. Sometimes I won’t feel like getting my thousand words down for the day, but I remind myself that I’m always glad I did afterwards. Related to this is the idea that you’re writing complete rubbish. When this happens, I cling to the thought that you lose perspective over your own work, and there is always editing afterwards anyway.
Do you ever get writer’s Block?
Sometimes I wonder about the quality of what I’m writing, but generally I manage to get something written. I used to think I had writer’s block, but really I was just being lazy. It takes a while for me to get the first sentence of the day sorted but after that, the words start to flow so long as I stay focused.
What book/s are you reading at present?
I’ve recently read Paternus, a brand new fantasy novel from debut author Dyrk Ashton. I’ve got Joe Abercrombie’s Sharp Ends to read, but I’m about to start The Sister by Louise Jensen first. It’s another debut novel, and this one has been out less than a week.
If you couldn’t be an author, what would your ideal career be?
Pianist! As I mentioned above, I plan for writing to be one string to my bow, but I have no intention of ditching the piano. It’s been weird to go from the grind of minimum wage shop work to something where I get applause just for doing my job, but the change has been a welcome one. I don’t earn very much but I get by, and I have time to write.
Advice to aspiring writers?
Act on your aspirations. I’ve read blog posts where people say ‘I hate people who describe themselves as aspiring writers,’ but I disagree. I think it’s fine, as long as you embrace it. I’ve still got a long way to go before I ditch the aspiring part, but I’m learning. I’m writing, and I’m researching how to get my work out there. If you’re putting your ideas down on paper, and working at improving your craft, I believe you’re on the path to success.
It’s a long path but if we keep walking it, I believe it will lead to great things.
About Philip Ridgers
Philip lives in Bath, where he shows people how to hit strings with hammers. Some people call it piano teaching. He’s currently working on a debut fantasy Novel, The Fractured Isle. It’s out whenever he finishes it and finds a way to get it published. If you want to judge him for his life choices, you can gather evidence at https://philcharlesr.wordpress.com. You can also read some short stories he wrote at https://hourofwrites.com/user/entries/id/1098