Today I am delighted to welcome Philip Taffs, author of the fantastic The Evil Inside, to damppebbles for a Q&A.
Hi Phil, welcome and thank you very much for agreeing to answer my questions. Could you tell us a little about yourself please.
After working for advertising agencies in Australia and New York, I now run my own little advertising consultancy. But have for decades harboured the insane desire to become a full-time fiction writer.
I am the father of two boys – 18 and 9 – and live in Melbourne, Australia.
Apart from writing, I love reading, movies (old and new) and the enfeebled Carlton football club.
I found The Evil Inside quite a shocking read and I think that was because I was so caught up in Guy and Mia’s story. Which character was the most challenging to write?
One small thing I was conscious of was to not make the main character, Guy, too much like myself – given we share certain superficial characteristics and activities.
But to be frank, none of the characters was hard to write as they just “came through” me – like water divining. It’s like being a medium in a way: you don’t make them up, they make you up.
I’ll leave it up to female readers to decide whether the female characters are convincing or not – but Nadine was by far the most fun to write. She’s a sassy little Miss!
When did you realise that you wanted to be a writer?
When I was five, I copied out a page of the first Bond book, ‘Casino Royale’, handed it to my father and claimed it was my own work.
That was the beginning of the dream I suppose. (Though I’ve tried to cut down on the plagiarism since then…)
What do you think is the biggest challenge for writers?
Finding the time to do it when you have another full-time, probably less engaging job that’s necessary to putting food on the table and paying the rent or mortgage.
I gave up many weekends and holidays but it was worth it in the end.
Can you tell us a little about your writing process? Do you have a special writing ‘space’ or ‘nook’?
I write at a desk in my bedroom – which doubles as my advertising office and also at the kitchen table when nobody else is home.
I rented a coastal holiday house occasionally, too, for a week here and there: it’s good to get away by yourself without any partner, kids or internet to distract you.
I’ve also found it useful to sometimes switch from typing to handwriting – in fact, there’s a more intimate connection between brain and hand I find – so it’s good to mix your tools up every now and then.
I also found it a good idea to not always try to write chronologically. In fact, I wrote the last chapter quite early on. That gave me a finish line to write up to/aim for.
You can/should also write chapters out of order and then rearrange them later. It makes it more interesting for you as well, not having everything planned out in a strictly linear fashion.
No wonder so many would-be writers give up: writing in a straight line from go to whoa is just far too daunting and exhausting. You will inevitably run out of steam and motivation.
My advice: Gather information like a magpie then stitch it together like a tailor.
Imagine you’ve set up your own publishing company. Which three authors would you immediately sign and why?
Rana Dasgupta: the “new Salman Rushdie” and one of the most exciting writers on the planet. He’s produced two very different novels and a brilliant non-fiction book about Delhi called Capital.
Gillian Flynn: master not only of the thriller form but also a meticulous crafter of golden sentences. I’ve loved all three of her books but check her section on the “cool girl” in Gone Girl as a shining example of her remarkable “Flynnesse”.
Ian Fleming: I’m just finishing Goldfinger. Despite the technology and context being a little dated, his prose is as vivid, engaging and energetic as ever.
Can you tell us a little about what you are working on at the moment?
I’m 100 pages in: a man goes to his 30-year school reunion and comes face-to-face with another former student he murdered – beyond doubt – way back when.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Writing the book is the easy part.
Finding an agent and then a publisher is 1,000 times harder – at least it was for me.
So once your initial draft (I did ten) is as good as you can make it, you need to also be prepared to do a lot of grunt, admin work: writing pitch letters, taking advice on the chin and then rewrite, rewrite, rewrite….
I was rejected by 70 publishers across three continents. You need to develop a thick skin and never, ever give up.
I would also err on the side of having only one project on the go and staying on that horse till the race is run. I’ve met so many people who seem to always have multiple projects on the boil but never actually complete any of them.
Thank you very much for joining me today Phil. If readers wish to connect with you via social media how can they do this?
Once again, many thanks to Philip Taffs for taking time out to join me on the blog today. You can read my review of the superb The Evil Inside here.