How do you strike the balance between writing something you want to write and writing something that people want to read, in terms of the compromises you make, if any?
I mostly write non-fiction stories about growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. This wasn’t what I intended to do. My original aim was to write humorous fiction but I couldn’t interest anyone in that. However, I wrote a piece for a local competition about a playing field we used to use as children (“The Wreck”) and, although it didn’t win it (or even get placed) it was included in the anthology of stories that was published. This encouraged me to write similar stories in the same vein for our local newspaper’s nostalgia supplement, and I’ve been doing the same ever since. So you could say that I’ve been steered into writing what people want to read, and it turns out that I’m not bad at it. I think my original hope was that the world would read my ‘nostalgedy’ pieces (what happens when you combine nostalgia with comedy) and say “Wow, this bloke can write, we should encourage him to write fiction”, but of course it doesn’t work like that. I’m glad people like what I write and it’s great to have the opportunity to grow an audience, which I never thought would ever happen.
What excites, attracts or appeals to you about the genre(s) you write in.
I find it relatively easy to write about my childhood because I’ve discovered that I have a fund of stories to tell. In fact, I often start to write about one thing and find that the action of doing so generates further memories that I had completely forgotten about. Putting myself back into the situations and reliving the feelings, sensations and atmosphere is something I’ve become quite adept at achieving.
Do you have a box, drawer, folder etc where you keep thoughts and ideas for future stories? Such as names you have come across, bits of dialogue, ideas, characters - even if you have no idea when you might use them?
I know that I should do this, and I have tried carrying a notebook around with me so that I can capture any stray ideas or memories, but I tend to forget to do it (blame it on my age). If I have a particular idea, I usually just keep churning it over in my mind until I’ve got something roughly shaped out that I can transfer to paper (or hard disk, I suppose) at some point. I tend to have these really good ideas just as I’m going to sleep (no, nothing like that, I mean story ideas), and always say that I’ll remember them when I wake up, but I don’t.
How do you manage plot bunnies (ideas that invade your mind that aren’t usually helpful to the story you’re writing but breed like...er...bunnies)?
I love the idea of ‘plot bunnies’! In all honesty, I tend to follow any stray ideas and see where they lead me. This makes for a somewhat discursive style, but I like it that way. My one and only (to date) excursion into full-length fiction (‘Jambalaya’) was written in entirely the wrong manner in that I wrote it in the same way that you would read it. I simply started at the beginning and then followed the story wherever it took me, cracking jokes along the way. I know that isn’t how it’s supposed to be done. So, I guess the bottom line is that I don’t manage the ‘bunnies’, they manage me!
How much of you is in your characters? Which of your characters is the you that you’d most like to be? Or be with ?
I don’t have characters as such. As all of the stories are about me growing up, then I couldn’t identify with the main character any more than I do. Mind you, I wouldn’t mind going back and doing it all again with the benefit of hindsight.
Do you become so wrapped up in your writing that your spouse wonders if they're married to you or one of your characters?
Oh yes. That business of churning a story around in my mind for days on end does tend to make me a little distanced from reality at times.
What type of book do you like reading? Is it the same genre as you write?
I read an awful lot of humour, particularly humorous essays by the likes of Bill Bryson, Alan Coren and Stuart Maconie. I’m also trying to collect all the books of P.G. Wodehouse. However, since I’ve had my Kindle I’ve been developing a more eclectic taste by snapping up free books as they become available.
What lengths do you go to to convince us readers that your book has the X factor?
I don’t think that I do. I like my readership to grow organically, as one reader recommends something to another. Having said that, I’m willing to accept overnight success as much as the next person, it just seems to be taking a while.
How do you feel when a reader points out the spelling mistake(s) you have made?
Annoyed, because I should have picked them up myself. Doesn’t often happen, although I do occasionally have problems with possessive apostrophes.
What do you like most about visiting KUF/GR/forums?
I’ve always been heartened by the amount of support that is offered and the general friendliness.
What is on your near horizon?
I’m toying with the idea of a short compilation of Christmas pieces with a view to helping people get in the right spirit. If it happens, I’ll be aiming for an October launch.
Where can we find you for more information?
Well, there’s my blog at http://www.philwhiteland.blogspot.co.uk/ or you can find all of my books and a bit about me at my Amazon author page http://www.amazon.co.uk/Philip-Whiteland/e/B004SBQSHG/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1