For many years Fi Phillips worked in an office environment until the arrival of her two children robbed her of her short term memory and sent her hurtling down a new, bumpy, creative path. She finds that getting the words down on paper is the best way to keep the creative muse out of her shower.
Fi lives in the wilds of North Wales with her family, earning a living as a copywriter, playwright and fantasy novelist.
Writing about magical possibilities is her passion.
Tell me what inspired you to write your (debut) novel?
So many things but if I have to choose one, it would be that I wanted to find a vehicle for two characters I’d written about in another fantasy story. Hartley Keg was originally a travelling salesman who had the knack for being in the right place at the right time with the exact gadget that was needed to solve any dilemma. He was a naughty, jovial, mentor figure. The second character was a dark assassin and initially a villain. The essence of that character turned into the darkling in Haven Wakes.
But on top of that, I wanted to write a fantasy novel that wasn’t set in a medieval or Tolkien-esque past, but in a world much closer to our own.
How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?
Like many authors who want to get their novels out there, I started by looking for a literary agent and while I got lots of lovely feedback over the three years I spent on that search, no agent ever said ‘yes’. So, I decided to find a publisher myself. I came across Burning Chair on a list of indie publishers open to submissions, sent my novel off, and the wonderful people there said ‘yes’.
How long did it take to write?
This is a difficult question to answer because Haven Wakes went through numerous edits, reframes, and title changes before it landed in the hands of Burning Chair. In its final format, it probably took about nine months to a year to complete.
Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?
I like to write in silence but if I’m having problems, I’ll write to ambient soundtracks. I generally use the Peaceful Ambience channel on YouTube.
What kind of reactions have you had to your books?
Overall, I’ve had a wonderful response to my novels Haven Wakes and Magic Bound. Readers like my characters, my mixture of fantasy and sci fi, and genuinely want to know what will happen next. Beyond the flattery of lovely book reviews, I also listen to what readers say they want from the next book or what they felt was missing in the current book. One question that’s cropped up in several of my book reviews is, ‘where are Steve’s parents?’. I’ll answer that one in the third book of the series.
What can you tell us about your next book?
Haven Wakes was Steve’s introduction to magic. The second novel, Magic Bound, took him further into the magical culture, made him face the consequences of what happened in Haven Wakes, and forced him to leave the city limits of his hometown.
In the third novel, Steve’s world – both magical and futuristic – is further investigated. He lost one person dear to him in Magic Bound and now he’s in search of two other people he loves, his parents. There are new, more deadly villains to tackle, and Steve will discover more about his family’s connection to the world of magic and his own origins too.
Do you take notice of online reviews?
I do but I try to keep my own response realistic. Some people will like, or even love, my books while they just won’t be other readers’ cups of tea. I have to accept that. However, I do look for the gems in amongst the good (or bad) stuff, those clues that point to how I can improve my writing and plotting for the next novel.
Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?
Yes. I currently write fantasy which is also my favourite genre to read. However, I do have plans that touch on sci fi and horror too. Perhaps it won’t be horror, so much as dark fantasy. Or maybe dark fantasy is horror.
For years, I wrote murder mystery plays for amateur theatre groups and small fundraisers, and I’m tempted to use those as inspiration for a series of cosy mystery novels at some point.
What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?
In the past, I worked across a variety of companies and industries as a secretary, PA, office manager, etc. I also wrote murder mystery plays.
Now, I earn my living as a freelance copywriter creating blog posts and web articles for small to medium businesses.
Which author(s) inspire you?
There are so many, and they change from year to year as I read more books, but the main list would have to include Mary Shelley, Sheri S Tepper, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Clive Barker, Terry Brooks, and Stephen King.
Which genres do you read yourself?
The big one is fantasy, but I also read horror and sci fi. I love vintage whodunnit and mystery from authors like Agatha Christie and Wilkie Collins. From time to time, I’ll dip into poetry collections too.
What is your biggest motivator?
In life, I’d say my family. As a writer, I’d hate to waste the story and character ideas that come to me (generally in the shower or just as I’m about to nod off to sleep). I have so many stories to tell. It’s just a shame I’m not a speedy writer.
Were you a big reader as a child?
Absolutely. I was an only child to parents who were the age of most of my friends’ grandparents so while Mum and Dad didn’t feel that I should be seen and not heard, I was definitely expected to entertain myself a lot of the time. They were both big readers, so we had a house full of books and I was allowed to read whatever I wanted. They filled a bookcase in my bedroom with fairytales and mythology stories too. And I enthusiastically tagged along with my mother on her weekly visits to the library.
What were your favourite childhood books?
Fairytales and mythology played a large part in my childhood reading, but I also discovered Roald Dahl’s books. I loved his magical but often dark take on life.
As I said, I was allowed to read what I wanted and both of my parents owned big tomes of Shakespearean plays. I loved diving into them and imagining a theatrical production as I read.
How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?
Oh dear, this is rather telling of the lack of time I have to read and my problems resisting new book purchases. My physical TBR pile currently holds sixteen books. The plan is to read at least twelve books this year, with the hope that I’ll be able to fit in more.
Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?
I’m working on the third book in my futuristic fantasy series. It doesn’t have a title yet – I just keep calling it Book 3.
I wrote a novella set in the same world as my novels for subscribers to my author newsletter last year and I’d like to write another novella for subscribers this year too.
What inspired you to write the genre you do?
It’s all about the magic. I was brought up on a literary diet of fairytales and myths, around colourful folk that seemed magical to the child I was, and by a father who constantly told me stories of his past. It was always the magical ‘what if’ that caught my imagination so it’s no surprise that my stories have always tended towards fantasy.