JD Phillips is my Woman In Horror today! JD is a fascinating lady and has much to say. I asked her some questions in our interview that I really wanted to get the answers to. All authors can certainly learn from each other, and some of the ideas in my mind happen to be in hers as well. It's really nice to know that you're not the only one on this spinning rock that wonders about such things. Read the interview and see if you feel the same way. It's an eye opener for sure.
JD Phillips – Woman In Horror
It's great to have you here today, JD Phillips. Before we start the interview, could you tell us a little about yourself?
I'm just a normal spooky girl who enjoys unusual things in ordinary places. And cats – I love my cats.
Thank you. Now to the Q&A.
Q. I first got acquainted with your great work through In The Calm, a novel dealing with past lives and ghosts. What are your actual thoughts about past lives?
A. Funnily enough Calm was basically just a fictionalized version of an experience I actually had so of course I believe our souls cycle from one life to the next. I can't even tell you the number of times I've recognized or knew things I have no reason to know or experienced that creepy crawly feeling that I've done something I haven't before.
Q. I know you believe in the paranormal. Do you feel that past lives and ghosts could both be taken as truth and able to occupy the same space and time?
A. I really like the theory that we're sharing different levels of the same space at the same time. Someone could be staring into the same cabinet as you in a different time except, every once in a while, the lines blur and they open your cabinet when you're away or you close the cabinet when they're reaching for something and now you both think you've got a ghost haunting the room when it's really just two people – both alive in their own time – trying to make dinner or something.
Maybe the same principles work for past lives too. Maybe what you think of as a past life is actually still going on some other level. Here you're a writer, there you're onboard the Titanic.
Kind of makes my head hurt to think about too much.
Q. I love how you slowly added in your backstory in From Ashes. I personally hate when an author jams all the backstory at the beginning of a novel.
A. I'm with you – I don't like the feeling I'm reading a Wiki page for a character in a novel and try to avoid doing that – but I was also thinking about the seemingly random sometimes inappropriate thoughts that tend to pop in your head in times of duress. Stuff you haven't even considered since you were a teen suddenly jump front and center and sort of festers there almost to distract you from the current problem. Or maybe that's just me. Anyway I thought it made sense all those bits and pieces from a past he'd rather forget would drift in and out of focus given the situation he's in.
Q. By the way, I loved the psychological horror in From Ashes.
A. Oh, thank you. It certainly wasn't a fun one to write but I've been wanting to do something dark. I ended up going way dark.
Q. I love Touching Spirits! Not only is the concept fresh, but the snarky, wise-ass style grabbed me. You pulled this off extremely well.
A. You're killing me with the compliments! Spirits was probably the easiest book I've ever written. I got it done and published in about a month. If I'm honest (maybe too honest) Killian's sense of humor and mine are fairly identical. I basically just let the stuff I normally keep filtered in public run free on the pages. It was definitely a much-needed release after Ashes.
Q. I also love the idea you had of having the protagonist in Touching Spirits, Killian A. Black, have his own Facebook page. It's a real hoot! Where did you get the idea for this?
A. It was Killian's idea. All of it. It's difficult to make friends when you're a spook, you know, but the Internet is helping to change that.
Q. I love Killian's interview as well. Tres cool!
A. It was tricky to set up but also a lot of fun. He's available for more, by the way, if anyone's interested. You always have free time on your hands when you're dead.
Q. Could you tell us about your Atraxia series? What are the three books in the series?
A. Well, I wrote the first – The Reckoning – several years ago after falling in love with the game called Dragon Age Origins. I wrote the sequel, The Rising, immediately after but my computer's sudden suicide and my own dumb mistake of not saving the final edited version two of flash before the hard drive went boom caused it to remain unpublished.
Anyway last year after I finished Ashes I started the third in the series, The Divide, after getting a fresh wave of inspiration (from another Dragon Age game, oddly enough, amongst other things) but hit a wall and ended up taking a break to write Spirits before I finally returned.
Atraxia is a fantasy world but it's based on manipulating natural elements and spirits rather than wizards and spells. It's definitely more fantasy than horror but there are plenty of dark creepy creatures and people that make for some frightening moments – and also plenty of humor and love and all that good stuff.
I'm actually working on another in the series but unlike Reckoning and Divide – which are written to stand alone so you don't need to read one to understand the other – this one is directly connected to The Divide so I'm keeping the details top-secret.
Q. What is your favorite novel or book of yours? Your favorite series?
A. Ooo, that's a nasty question! They're all my children and you're not supposed to have a favorite child, right?
Honestly I like each for different reasons and the characters feel like old friends – some you keep in better touch with than others, some you just sometimes wonder what they're up to and then get on with your day.
Though I can say Killian has been the most fun to hang out with and Divide has my favorite overall cast – not to mention couple – to date. Unlike many characters I have written, both good and bad, these are people that I wouldn't mind actually hanging out with in real life.
Q. Bones and Stitches, your Etsy page, is pretty interesting. Not only do you have hand-made goodies – I love the pillows – but you sell your paperback books there as well. How is that working out for you?
A. A lot of days it really isn't. I love that it allows me to sign books and give away freebies with orders – especially to those that have supported me for a long time – but it's almost totally dependent on word-of-mouth like everything else and there's just so much out there these days it's easy for people to overlook that. I'm not sure I can afford to keep it open much longer.
Q. Who are some of your favorite authors? Favorite books?
A. Oscar Wilde, Shirley Jackson, Khalil Gibran. The Picture of Dorian Grey, The Haunting of Hill House, The Prophet.
Q. You and I have discussed the pros and cons of self-publishing vs going with a Press before. Could you explain it here again for the folks?
A. A lot of it depends on you – how much you can do on your own, if you're good enough to be doing it all on your own, if you're really prepared for the extra burdens that come with doing it that way – as well as the press you'd be dealing with. Are they large or small? Do they have marketing plans or do they expect you to sell it yourself? Are they asking fees? Are they reasonable/willing to listen to your ideas and feedback?
A good press will make you feel supported and help you land reviews and things. A bad one will take a cut and leave you doing pretty much all the work you'd have done on your own regardless.
I think if you like being in control of everything and don't mind working your butt off self publishing is the way to go. If you don't mind allowing someone else to have the final say over the finished product and taking control of your royalties and don't want to bother listing/pubbing yourself a press could be a good fit for you.
Q. This might appear to be a trick question, but it's really not. Why do you feel that it's important for an author to get their work out, especially when one is writing fiction, and horror fiction at that?
A. It's kind of like the tree in the forest question – if a writer writes a book but nobody reads it does the story exist outside the writer's mind?
I am a firm believer things happen for reason -if you're given a talent, you're meant to use it. Maybe that's just because I can't understand why I would have this obsessive burning need to write as much as I do otherwise but I do believe I'm meant to share my madness.
As for horror specifically – I've said many times you can't have light without the dark and vice versa. Guiding people through the darker areas of life seems to be my thing; at least works of horror usually allow you to also have some fun along the way.
Now's your turn to talk about anything else that's on your mind. Notice that magic word anything.
This morning I found myself thinking about cheese. Like why it is you can buy two bags of the same brand of cheddar cheese but the finely shredded tastes different than the thicker cut?
I've also been thinking a lot about a character called Handsome Jack from the Borderlands series (yes, I know it's not the norm for a writer to find the bulk of her inspiration from video games but that's just how I roll). On the surface the guy is a raging psychopath – narcissist, violent, rides diamond pony called Butt Stallion and makes jokes as he kills people in terrible ways – but in his mind he is and always has been the hero of the story. The creepy cool thing is, if you take a step back and factor in how his story begins, you can argue – given the context of the world he lives in – that he may not necessarily be wrong about that.
That idea comes up in The Divide and weighs heavily in my current piece too. If you do what others see as despicable harm in order to prevent an even greater tragedy you know for certain will otherwise unfold are you the hero you think yourself to be or have you become the villain? Do good intentions lessen the weight of the blood on your hands? How many things do you tear down before you can build them back up again? Can you even build things back up again when there will always be some new person or thing looking to deepen the already existing divide?
So that's pretty much it. These are the sorts of thoughts that rotate around inside my head all day every day – from cheese to contemplating the nature of good and evil and what it means in terms of keeping the universe and balance.
(And people wonder why I need to write).
Cool! Now feel free to plaster any and all links you wish to have bandied about.
It's been great having you here, JD Phillips. You are a most charming lady and a true Woman In Horror.