Interview: Sian Phillips

Sian Phillips: I have worked as a teaching assistant for some time as I love watching young people grow in confidence but selfishly, it also allows me sufficient time to write. Without writing, I really don’t know what I would do as it’s possibly one of few things I can do well! I am forever lost in my head and since I was old enough to pick up books, I have devoured all forms of literature. Great cinema, writing, music and art serve as inspirations. I cannot imagine life without them. I would never have pursued a writing dream were it not for the active encouragement and constructive criticism offered to me by my former creative writing lecturer. She made me believe I was more than just okay at something. 

Congratulations on winning our February contest with ‘Then and Now’. What was the inspiration for this story?

Thank you! The story came about as a result of watching a music video and creating a narrative around the images on the screen. I was curious at what I saw and wanted to develop a backstory and characters beyond the surface image presented. I often find a simple photograph or an overheard conversation are enough to spark the beginnings of a story- hence the need to have a notebook or phone at all times to make furious notes/memos.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to see where an idea takes you?

In terms of writing a novel, I find it absolutely imperative to plan and develop an outline. Over the years I have learned the necessity for careful planning due to many cases of running out of steam on a story idea where I have simply dived in. Plans are more intensive with novels and there are pages devoted just to character biographies; with short stories, I either use bullet pointed plans or write freely (although in the latter case, it is often when stories are very short).

What type of books do you like to read and who are your favourite authors?

I have a huge appetite for books and have for as long as I can remember; I try to alternate between reading fiction and non-fiction and enjoy a wide variety of different literature. I suppose I am particularly drawn to novels that deal with grittier/seedier aspects of life as well as books on film and music history. My favourite authors include Charles Bukowski, William S. Burroughs, Hubert Selby Jr, Joyce Carol Oates and Armistead Maupin. The list, if permitted, could go on and on….

Can you tell us what you are working on at present?

I am currently working on a novel that takes place over the course of a Christmas holiday and centres around one family. On the surface, they present as very normal but as is often the case, there is a lot more going on and dynamics are constantly shifting. I’m excited about it and remain optimistic that further writing success awaits.

Interview: Sian Phillips