Thomas Phillips is a new author to me, but I'm glad to welcome him to our blog. Thomas, tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
Lena, I get asked this question a lot. And I love it. You can find a lot of ‘me’ in every character. Some of it is factual. Like, my main character in The Molech Prophecy is a Miami Dolphins fan, and plays guitar. That’s me. But also, a lot of who my characters are is based on who I’d like to most resemble. But you will see my dry sense of humor, philosophies, fears and phobias – mixed into the entire cast of characters.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
You did warn me your questions were … original. Quirkiest, huh? When I was fourteen I worked at a party house. The place was packed full with thousands of guests for a huge New Year’s Eve bash. My boss gave me five dollars (cash, that’s right!) to wear some white linens as a diaper (and nothing else) and run through the party rooms shaking a make-shift rattle yelling, “Happy New Year!” at midnight. And yeah, I did it.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I grew up with a reading disability. It wasn’t until I was in seventh grade that I actually read a complete novel. It was S.E. Hinton’s, The Outsiders. Always a storyteller, I realized, if Hinton could inspire me to want to read, then maybe I could write books and inspire others … maybe reach those reluctant readers …
I knew that Hinton was 16 years old when she wrote that first, amazing novel. So I set a goal. I swore I’d sell a first book before turning 30. That gave me roughly sixteen years to play with.
When I turned twenty-five I found an ad in Writer’s Digest for a new, western-themed Canadian magazine looking for short-stories. I’d never written a western. I gave it a shot. When I submitted my 8,500 word piece, I wasn’t holding my breath.
Two months later, I received a contract and check in the mail. The publication paid $.01 per word. $85! (Remember, this is Canadian money at a time when the American dollar was worth more…) I cashed the check, getting $43.00. I was so excited; I took my family out to celebrate. I told them they could Super-size the whole order!
(I went on to sell more than 30 short stories over the next five years. But had no luck finding a home for my novel. At age 29, I got a call from a small press that – during a move – had misplaced my manuscript. They found it. Read it. And if it was still available, wanted to publish it. The book was released February 2000. I turned 30 that June.)
Cool. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
Not much of a range, I’m afraid. Mystery/Suspense/Horror. That about covers it. Both secular and Christian. I’ve tried the classics. Found most boring. I did enjoy, however, Huxley’s A Brave New World, and Steinbeck’s Of Mice And Men. But I need the books I read to be intense, to keep me turning pages … literary works, and the likes, (although I did enjoy Grisham’s A Painted House, and Bleachers), just don’t work for me. I also have a 100 page rule. If I am not into a book by the 100th page, I’m done with it. I have TOO many books waiting to be read to waste time otherwise. (Hope that doesn’t sound too harsh).
I know what you mean. What other books have you written, whether published or not?
Well, truth is, The Molech Prophecy is my first Christian published novel as Thomas Phillips. Under my real name, I’ve had five other mystery novels published, as well as two middle grade books under, yet, another name. And I’ve got three more completed manuscripts ready to go in the hopes that my publisher, Whitaker House, will accept them all in the near future. (Fingers crossed!)
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
To be honest, it is not easy. I oftentimes question my sanity. My purpose. My desires. Despite having a wonderful full time job and being a published author – without getting into too many details – I am in something of a dark valley, and have been since mid-2005. I believe that it is in writing, writing Christian themed fiction, that God is allowing me to keep some sense of sanity and perspective in my life. And I thank Him for that opportunity.
Also, despite all the activities my kids are involved in, going to their practices, games and school events – hectic as it may be at times – are some of my happiest days of all. They are my anchor, no doubt.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
This could start World War III. See, when I first started out, I tried to use the first names of friends and family. What I quickly learned was, you cannot write books fast enough to satisfy everyone! Being Italian, I have a HUGE family. And they all want their names used, naturally. So now, just to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings, I try not to use ANY of their names. I keep a log of names I like, whether it’s from meeting people (like this fourth grade boy I met while speaking at a school, his name was Cash. Love it. And this kid on my son’s baseball team, Liam…) I also have a 10,001 book of baby names that I keep in my handy-dandy writer’s toolbox. (For last names, I tend to flip through the white pages, lol! Shhh. Our little secret!)
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Honestly? April 2003. It was a Sunday. After going to church for nearly six years, I finally gave my life to Christ. What amazes me is how stubborn I was. It never should have taken that long.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
I just, just adopted a kitten. Cutest little thing. It licks my face and attacks my feet while I sleep … so I do not want to be a cat. I think an eagle. Not a seagull. But an eagle. Flying just appeals to me. Maybe it is a guy thing? But they are incredible creatures, elegant. Majestic. Yeah. An eagle.
What is your favorite food?
I could eat pizza most any night of the week. I like it with everything. Cheese, pepperoni, onions, meatballs, hot/sweet peppers, black olives, anchovies (yes, yes, anchovies) …
But we have this burger place out my way, Schaller’s, it’s by the lake—two burgers on rolls with everything, heavy hot sauce and an order of fries with heavy hot sauce, and a large icy Coke? Nothing beats it. Nothing!
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
I tend to be my biggest roadblock. I am full of self-doubt. I consider myself lucky to have had sold a novel. And then, when I read books and manuscripts by other, far-more talented writers (as I believe most are), I wonder what in the world am I doing here? How did I get here? I don’t belong … and when I start thinking that way, my drive and dedication stall out. I’m still not sure I belong here – a published writer – but I realize that as long as I am here, I’m going to do all I can to make the most of it!
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
Read. Read. Read.
Join some writer critique groups. These are a great way to “try out” what you’ve written before sending it to an editor.
Work on short stories. Try to sell those as you work on a novel. Build up some publishing credits that way. It will help when you try to land an agent or publisher. (You’ve all heard the saying, You can’t get an agent until you’ve been published, and you can’t get published until you have an agent … it’s true. But selling short stories is a loop hole, trust me!)
But most of all, remember that writing is the joy. Publishing is just … icing on the cake.
Write everyday. Blog. Journal. But write.
What would you like to tell us about the featured book?
The Molech Prophecy is, like I said, my first attempt at Christian fiction writing. I put a lot into the characters, and storyline. If any of you actually read it, I would love to hear from you. I can grow as a writer by getting feedback from readers. Most of all, I hope you enjoy the tale I’ve told.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
Thank you, Thomas, for spending this time with us.
Readers, you can order the book by using this link:
Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book. Check back a week from Saturday to see if you won. If you didn't, you can still use the link.