Today, I welcome R. Michael Phillips to talk about his novel, Between Good and Evil. I really enjoyed this interview, and I hope you do too. Welcome, Michael!
Why do you write fiction?
Fiction is, and always has been, a great escape from the demands and sometimes drudgery of our everyday lives. Before there were movies, or TV, or Smartphones, there were books. Books filled with stories of faraway lands, colorful characters, or worlds far beyond our own. The authors of these books allowed an individual to experience other cultures or different periods in time. They brought romance into some lives and mystery into others. They introduced us to Pip and Mrs. Havisham, Holmes and Watson, Mr. Darcy, Scarlett O’Hara, and so many more leading to current favorites like Harry Potter, Jesse Stone, and Katniss Everdeen. Characters so real we feel we’ve known them forever.
So, why do I write fiction? Having the ability to create a character, develop a story around them, and then present them to readers is one of the most creatively rewarding things you can do. Over the course of writing the new Auburn Notch series I’ve developed a few new characters that I hope readers will come to love or hate as I do. I’m just finishing the second book in the series, so I’ve gotten to know these characters pretty well. My reward for doing this is hearing what my readers think of them.
Please tell us about your book. What ideas or images inspired this novel?
Between Good And Evil is the first book in my new Auburn Notch Mysteries. The book introduces Sheriff Promise Flynn, an overly impulsive Metro Detective whose disregard for procedure finally resulted in her being shot and left for dead during an investigation. To repair her bruised ego and splintered confidence she abandons the callous dark alleys of Chicago to patrol the quiet, birch-lined streets of Auburn Notch. What she wasn’t expecting were her troubles following her there.
Promise is a combination of the personalities of two people I met years ago. My recollection of them was so strong that when it came time to develop a main character for the new series I drew from those memories. With a little creative license I added something extra to her background, darkening the past enough to add a mysterious note to an otherwise outwardly carefree appearance. We all have skeletons in our closets; it’s when they choose to rattle their bones that make our lives interesting.
As for the town of Auburn Notch? I spent many years in New Hampshire, skiing, hiking, and just enjoying the scenery and the hospitality of the wonderful New Englanders. I still look forward to every trip back there. There is genuineness to the towns I spent time in and the people who make up those towns. It was an easy choice for a setting when I was putting together the series. I believe location is so important to any story that it should be treated like a character. The setting has to make sense of the events.
Do you have an ideal reader in mind when you write? If so, please describe that reader.
I’ve read mysteries all my life, so the progression to writing them seemed to just happen. The readers I hope will enjoy my books are readers quite like myself — people who enjoy whodunits with quirky characters, surprising plot twists, and Aha! moments peppered in throughout the book. They enjoy a good puzzle and get to the answer right along with the main character. The Auburn Notch Mysteries are a little darker than my Ernie Bisquets Mysteries; they’re English cozies. The new series has a bit more suspense to it, something I hope my readers will enjoy as much as I do writing it.
Please describe your writing routine.
I have, since I first opened my laptop and typed the first words of my first book some 10 years ago, devote all day Saturday to writing. Whether it’s one paragraph, one chapter, or research for certain technical aspects of the book, I devote 8-10 hours every Saturday to writing. This is not to say I don’t throw together notes and plot ideas during the week, because I do. I’m constantly jotting down ideas, dropping them off on my desk all week long. But when Saturday comes, I hit the keys hard and stay at it all day. My family is very supportive, which I appreciate immensely. I think the key to writing is establishing a routine and sticking to it. I talk to other writers all the time who write just about every day. They all tell me the same thing — they get distracted and don’t get as much done as they hoped. Treat writing like a job; set hours and be there on time.
What advice do you give writers just starting their careers?
There are many stumbling blocks along the way when writing your first book, too many to really mention but none that you can’t overcome. Along with those you should remember, there are no magic formulas. If you follow a few basic steps it will take the pain out of writing that first novel. First, get the story out of your head and into a basic book form. This is your first draft. It will be short, terrible, and an editor’s nightmare, but it will at least be a story. Second, go back to the beginning and start fleshing out your characters, cleaning up the plot, and correcting grammar. Done correctly, this should significantly increase your word count along with polishing your book. Third, hire an editor to check the entire book. This can be done relatively inexpensively, and should be looked at as an investment in your work. This is important, so don’t skip this step. If you want to be taken as a serious writer, a polished manuscript will speak volumes. From here you start the query process and the next book. A good query is just as important as the book itself. It is the first impression an agent/publisher will have of you and your work. Make it count. I highly suggest a query-writing seminar. There are a lot of good ones out there. While the query process is going on, get the next book started. Don’t be surprised if the second book is hands-down better than the first, it happens more than you think.
More about Between Good and Evil:
Years after the Willis Asylum closed, the secrets of its past lingered in its decaying halls as a reminder to the good people of Auburn Notch. When Evil closes a door, he opens a window. Sheriff Promise Flynn was new to the town, and she was about to find out some windows should never be opened.
Promise Flynn is an overly impulsive Metro Detective whose disregard for procedure finally resulted in her being shot and left for dead during an investigation. To repair her bruised ego and splintered confidence she abandons the callous dark alleys of Chicago to patrol the quiet, birch-lined streets of Auburn Notch—a favorite vacation spot of her youth. For two years everything was idyllic, until the body of a young girl found in the abandoned asylum outside of town awakens the insecurities she thought her new life would insulate her from.
As the new Sheriff she begins her investigation refusing to accept the similarities between the young woman’s death and her own case, oblivious to being unexpectedly recognized and penciled in at the top of a clever murderer’s To-Do list. Her internal struggle intensifies when a discredited crime reporter from the past suspiciously arrives in town to resurrect his threadbare reputation, along with an FBI agent chasing down a lead in a cold case. Both men quickly become entangled in Flynn’s investigation and her attempts to finally put her past to rest.
Flynn reluctantly accepts the murder of the young girl might be the work of the two men responsible for her hasty departure from Chicago, but Agent MacGregor insists the evidence points to a man he’s been chasing. As the rising current of her past threatens to pull her under, Flynn finds herself unprepared for option three.
Grab your copy here: [amazon text=Amazon&asin=B01B12YPTC]
Michael Phillips is a classically trained artist turned mystery writer. By combining his creative talents with a passion for mysteries he conceived his first series—The Ernie Bisquets Mysteries. It introduced Ernie Bisquets, a retired London pickpocket who decided he was going to assist the London police with their most difficult cases, whether they want his help or not. Michael has completed three books in the series, and has plans for at least five additional books.
Michael travels a bit, especially to Great Britain, but also has a fondness for New England. He spent many winters in the shadow of the White Mountains, skiing and enjoying the beautiful countryside. Those fond memories are the backdrop now for the new Auburn Notch Mysteries being published by Sunbury Press. The main character is Sheriff Promise Flynn—an ex-metro detective who left a dark past and her big-city detective shield behind and moved to a small New England town. What follows is anything but therapeutic.
When not painting or writing Michael is an avid antique collector, filling his current home — an 1894 Queen Ann Victorian he is restoring with his wife and son — with an assortment of antiques from around the world. Michael also enjoys cooking, working in the garden, and playing in the yard with their two rescues, Beau and Pup.
How to connect with Michael:
A Fifer’s Blog: