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today 6/2/16 on aobibliosphere™ [aobibliospotlight™: A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart]

Thursday, March 24, 2011

bibliochat with Philip Ellis

aobibliophile™: hi Philip and welcome to aobibliosphere™. let's get the ball rolling. first, please tell us something about yourself.

Philip in Barcelona
Philip Ellis: I work in marketing, I speak French and I am both a cat person and a dog person.  I love music, but if I were to pick up any instrument it would probably burst into flames as a sign of how ungifted I am.  I am my mother’s son, which means I have ginger hair and a penchant for vodka.  Also, I write things, and sometimes people are good enough to read them.

aob™: what started you on your journey to be a writer?

PE: I’ve always been a huge bookworm.  I can remember being incredibly young and realizing that the stories I loved didn’t come from some magic factory.  Somebody had thought them up and written them down.  As soon as it dawned on me that the words “Roald Dahl” were not nonsensical letters on the cover of a book but the name of the author, I wanted to write a book of my own.  The dream hasn’t changed in all the years since then. 

aob™: are there any particular books and/or authors that inspired you and continue to do so?

PE: I read my first Stephen King novel when I was eleven, and it had a huge effect on me.  Besides scaring me witless, it also opened my mind to all sorts of possibilities.  A horror story could have epic scope, and it could feature characters that you really care about.  Stephen King and Neil Gaiman are both masters when it comes to a good story, well told.
Ian McEwan is another writer I admire, for his skill at transforming the barest of bones into a literary feast.  For the first half of Atonement, and pretty much all of On Chesil Beach, not a lot happens – but it is some of the most gripping prose I have ever read.
And I have to mention Angela Carter, who I love not only for her wildly imaginative, phantasmagorical creations, but also for the sheer joy with which she uses the English language.  Anybody who has read Nights at the Circus will know exactly what I mean.

aob™: could you describe to us your typical writing day?

PE: I currently work full time, so I try and keep a few hours free each evening for making notes, doing research and just generally daydreaming about my characters.  Then, I’ll take as much time as I can over the weekend to write first drafts.  Short stories are tricky, as some can be written in one sitting with no follow-up work necessary, while others are capable of hounding me for weeks, even months, before I have the time, motivation or inspiration to complete them.

Sweet Tooth
aob™: i loved Sweet Tooth and i mentioned in my review that my top pick was No Going Back. i was impressed with the way you employed reverse chronology to create that story. why did you choose to use that style?

PE: The seed of that story began in my mind with Max, standing on the hill at sunset, his life in tatters.  I wanted to open with that image and go back, exploring how events had conspired to turn a romantic holiday into such a hellish experience.  The mystery of the story is never “whodunit”, but more “why” and “how”.  Also, by ending with the characters at the beginning, it allows the reader to interpret it as a “happy ending”, as none of Max and Vitto’s suffering has actually happened yet.  If you were a true optimist, you could theorise that it was all just a dream.

aob™: if you were to write a screenplay based on Sweet Tooth, which story would you choose?

PE: At some point I would also like to adapt Toffee into either a short film or stage play, as the entire story plays out in real time between just two characters, so the premise would lend itself well to theatre. I think the dynamic with those two men would be electric to watch. 

in sunny Barcelona
aob™: what projects are you currently working on right now Philip? would you mind sharing them with us? 

PE: I’m currently working on my first full length novel, a supernatural thriller with erotic elements.  I don’t want to give too much of the plot away (mainly as it is still changing on a daily basis!), but I can say that it involves a young reporter on the trail of a missing girl with whom he shares a very complicated history.  The books opens with him arriving in a small town in Tennessee, where vampires, doppelgangers and wicked spirits abound.  The other main character is a local artist who lives in supposed bliss with his partner, but lives a second life at night. 
There are some themes that kept popping up in Sweet Tooth that I am exploring in more depth this time around – identity, the unreliable narrator, truth and lies.  I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of a secret, inner self; the notion that each and every one of us lives in our own head, and we are only capable of knowing other people by trusting in what they do and say.  But what if that trust isn’t there?  What happens when you lie about who you are?  Do you end up buying into your own story?  The crux of the novel is that one character is running from the truth, the other towards it.

aob™: aside from writing, what do you enjoy doing on your spare time?

PE: I love cooking for large numbers of people, so most weekends I’ll have friends over for dinner.  There’s nothing better than good food, enjoyed with good company.

I’ve mentioned once or twice that some of the plots in Sweet Tooth were inspired by real life events.  I’d just like to take this opportunity to mention that I don’t make a habit of hanging out with murderers, ghosts, or talking animals.

aob™: any last thoughts before we conclude?

PE: Please buy my book!  And if you can stomach that, reward yourself with The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.  I recently sped through it and now I can’t stop recommending it.

aob™: thank you very much Philip for taking time to be with us today. it was a pleasure having you on aobiliosphere™.

PE: Thank you for having me!  

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