Friday, July 25, 2008

FEATURED AUTHOR: Phillip Thomas Duck

EDITOR NOTE: We met Phillip when he submitted a short story, now we're introducing him as a published author. For you still pushing forward on this path, it does happen, don't give up. It is always a pleasure to introduce supporters of SORMAG, please take moment to learn about Phillip.

Phillip Thomas Duck is the author of PLAYING WITH DESTINY, GROWN AND SEXY, and APPLE BROWN BETTY. Just released is his first YA novel, DIRTY JERSEY, in July '08. The steamy COUNTERFEIT WIVES (cover features the talented Christian Keyes) will be released in December '08. The author lives in New Jersey.


From zero to hero

What's cool at Eric Posey's high school? A player's swagger, a baller's style, and game enough to catch every girl. Unfortunately, Eric is seriously uncool—unlike his popular sister, Kenya...., who sings like an angel. But forget the choir; ....Kenya.... wants the fabulous life—bad boys and fly girls.

A chance encounter with Fiasco, one of the hottest rappers around, gives Eric entrĂ©e into the world of the "Dirty Jersey" crew, where he's introduced to everyone and everything. Suddenly, Eric is cool and has access to anything he's ever wanted. Never mind that Fiasco isn't exactly a good guy— so what? But so what has a price. And Fiasco has just named it: ....Kenya.....

What would you like your readers to take away from your book?

I consider myself a relationship novelist. And not always in the sense of a romantic coupling between a man and a woman. I attempt to explore all types of relationships. Mothers to their children. Children to their fathers. Husbands to wives, of course. Siblings. The full gamut. So with every book, whatever the plot points, whatever the ups and downs the characters may encounter, my ultimate goal is that readers will examine their own relationships with family and loved ones. That in some way my stories jar them to cultivate their already strong relationships and work to strengthen those that aren't strong.

What did you learn while writing this book?

A great deal. This was my first YA (Young Adult) novel. It required me to use different writing "muscles" than I do with my Adult fiction. I was starting my Fall 08' Adult release, COUNTERFEIT WIVES, at the same time I was working on DIRTY JERSEY. The adult novel is steamy and provocative. Those elements will keep readers turning the pages. With DIRTY JERSEY it would be destructive for me to put those elements in the book, so I had to find intriguing and interesting elements to keep my young readers involved in the story. I focused on the elements that are pertinent to them: peer pressure, finding their way in relationships, fitting in, decisions on sex, etc. I have to admit it was a challenge. But I believe I succeeded in writing a book that will be enjoyed.

What is the hardest part about the writing business?

Without a doubt the most difficult thing is finding an audience for your work. There are myriad choices for the reader once they step inside a bookstore. Shelves and shelves of books. How then do they find their way to my novels?

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?

Not from a writing perspective. Certainly I've written books that could have been better, could have been trimmed and pruned and refined. But I haven't written a bad book yet. And I read as much, or more, than I write. And I've had the misfortune of reading some terrible books. Books that made me question the publisher's sanity and the writer's ability. Now, everyone isn't going to appreciate or enjoy my novels, I know that, but I'm confident at this point that I write good novels. My only real doubts are with the marketing and promotion of my novels. Again, finding an audience is a difficult task. And in these times of plus-4 dollar gasoline consumers have so many greater concerns than finding and reading a good book. I have self-doubts about the publishing industry in general.

What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?

I think the greatest misconception is that anyone can write a book. The majority of us learn to write in school. So at face value writing seems like a skill that basically everyone has. We've all written someone a letter, or jotted down a quick note. We've all told someone a sad story, or a funny story. You combine those experiences, the ability to write on some level and the ability to tell a story, and it would appear that anyone could write a book. But writing is a craft. Writing a novel is like building a house. There are essential elements that must exist for the thing to stand. It takes study and work to build a house (a novel) that doesn't come crashing down at the first sign of trouble. Think about sitting at your computer, blank screen in front of you, and as a writer you must construct a world populated with characters in interesting situations, and the end line is hundreds and hundreds of pages later. That's a difficult task. I believe anyone can START a novel, but how many have the stamina and ability to FINISH one. Very few.

What marketing have you found that particularly works well for you?

Interviews. The internet. MySpace, blogs, ads on sites that cater to my readership. Postcard mailings. I think you have to be actively involved in your book's success on so many levels. No one really knows how to make a book a bestseller. Not even the publishers. What it ultimately comes down to though is word of mouth. One reader telling another reader they read a wonderful book. So to me, it's like the lottery, you have to be in it to win it. So how you get that one reader will vary. They found you through MySpace. They read an interview. They met you at an event. Everything helps, I believe.

What are three things you wish you'd known before you reached where you are now?

1) That the books wouldn't get easier to write.

2) That having a novel published was just the start of things. The book still had to sell.

3) That writing good novels wasn't a guarantee of commercial success.

This month our theme is Agent Hunting. Do you have any advice for finding an agent?

I'd advise any aspiring writer to first write the best novel they can. Reshape it, rewrite it, refine it, until it is the absolute best reflection of you as a writer. Aspiring writers want to be published so quickly. They want to see their books on the shelves. And I understand, I was there, too. But you often will only get one chance to make an impression with an agent, so put your best foot forward. Present them with the best possible novel you could have written. Secondly, make sure you're presenting your work to agents that represent similar works. Research what the agents have sold. Familiarize yourself with any agent you want to represent you. I'm a big Eric Jerome Dickey fan. He inspired me to want to write. So naturally I worked hard to get the same agent. Thanks be unto God I was successful and she has turned out to be a wonderful representative for my work. Thirdly, craft a clear and concise query letter seeking representation. The internet is chock full of query letter samples. Work on the query letter even HARDER than you worked on your novel. There are annual guides for writers with the names and addresses of Literary Agents. Peruse those guides and compile a list of agents you'd like to represent you. Rank them by preference and start with your most desired agent and work your way down. When I first started my good friend (and brilliant writer) Timmothy McCann always kept my spirits high when I was agent hunting by reminding me I needed "just one" to believe in me. The hunt can be frustrating, but that is a good thing to remember. All you need is one.

Do you have any advice for the aspiring writer?

Read. Read. And read some more. The best understanding of how to build a novel comes from reading novels. Read in all types of genres. Read all types of writers. Make notes of what worked in the novels and what didn't. Then develop a full understanding of the craft. I suggest reading Sol Stein's books on writing (best I've encountered). And once you have the basic tools of understanding, then sit down and write the book. So many aspiring writers reach out to me, seeking advice, and I'm stunned to learn they haven't actually written anything yet. Writer's write and dreamers dream. If you want to be a writer you have to do the work. You have to write.

How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)



Whisper my name three times and I will appear. (Just joking)


LaShaunda said...


Thanks so much for the interview. Its exciting to see your career grow. The agent advice is so true.
All you need is one.

Many blessings to you.

Farrah Rochon said...

Great interview, LaShauna and Phillip!

I just bought this one for my 15-year-old sister. She loves the TRU books, and this is one I'll probably read myself.

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