Author Spotlight: Phil Tucker
Joining us for today’s Author Spotlight is Phil Tucker!
Phil Tucker is a Brazilian/Brit who currently resides in Asheville, NC, where he resists the siren call of the forests and mountains to sit inside and hammer away at his laptop. He is the author of the epic fantasy series, Chronicles of the Black Gate, as well as the Godsblood trilogy and Euphoria Online. Connect with him at www.authorphiltucker.com.
Thanks for joining us, Phil! Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently.
I’ve almost finished Alec Hutson’s Crimson Queen and it’s the kind of fantasy novel that made me fall in love with the genre to begin with. Mysterious lands, a diverse and compelling cast, a complex and rich history, varied cultures, a driving plot – pretty much everything you could ask for in a classic epic fantasy.
It sounds great! Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
Oh man. I rarely play the same character class twice, but if I had to pick I’d go with a wizard. They get to fight from a safe distance, keeping their robes clean, and can deploy all manner of terrifying and powerful spells. Versatile, deadly, and often the backbone of any party, I’d don the pointy hat any day of the week.
Good choice! When you’re not trawling through dungeons, do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Why?
Type. I remember trying to write by hand not too long ago. I think I was writing a grocery list…? Either way, my hand cramped up and my handwriting quickly became illegible. The list looked more like the tracks of an ink-stained spider than anything else.
And how do you like to work – in silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps?
You know, I tried the shrimp thing during my early years, mostly for style points, but their incessant pleading gets old after a while. These days I write to music, though what I play depends on what I’m writing. Philip Glass for journeys or meditative passages, computer game sound tracks for general brainstorming, The Black Keys for action scenes, Brain.fm for days when I’m dragging – it varies.
Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit? Tell us something unusual about your writing method!
I’ve found that my books fall into place best when I’ve figured out my character’s emotional arcs. Where they’re starting from, what they want to achieve, what’s holding them back, and why. Then, regardless of where the actual plot goes, I can make sure it’s serving the character’s personal needs, so that it proves a vehicle for their growth. This intertwines plot and character growth so that they become inseparable, resulting in meaningful stories told about characters who grow and struggle to achieve their goals over time.
What are your most significant non-book fantasy influences?
HMM. The fights in Dragon Ball Z gave me a taste for constant escalation. The sweeping grandeur of the Lord of the Rings movies impressed upon me just how magical a fantasy narrative can be. Akira for sheer intensity and awesomeness. HeroQuest for getting me hooked on fantasy at a young age. Witcher 3 most recently for just being mindblowingly amazing. Samurai Champloo for its crazy style. Pan’s Labyrinth for showing me just how intense a dark fantasy can be. I could go on.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it?
I’m currently making my way through Neon Genesis Evangelion for research purposes. I’m toying with the idea for a series that would be a mash-up of NGE, BloodBorne, and Ender’s Game.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write or otherwise do any work. How do you choose to spend the day?
I’m surrounded by gorgeous mountains here in Western North Carolina. I’d load my family into the car, drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway to a new trailhead, and then set off into the wooded slopes to find the perfect picnic spot with a view over Asheville.
If you could choose one punctuation mark to be made illegal, which would it be and why?
Who would dare make the interrobang illegal?! Not me, surely. Not me.
In no more than three sentences, tell us a little something about your current work in progress!
A Kickstarter to fund interior art and the release in hardcover of a LitRPG trilogy that’s being narrated by Vikas Adam for Audible.com! Think Ready Player One mashed up with Witcher 3, with a dose of Warhammer Fantasy goblins and some old school Diablo 3. In short: a work of genius! Ahem. Kickstarter can be found here.
If you could co-write or co-create a series (like The Expanse, or the Malazan Book of the Fallen), who would you choose to work with and why?
David Gemmell. Tricky, I know, since he’s passed away, but if he could be revived or instantiated by a supra-human AI I’d love to write a novel with him. He was a formative influence on my own writing, and more importantly I think our styles would mesh sufficiently that we could work together without it being too awkward. Him or Jack Vance. Dream big or go home, right?
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
The most helpful would be to just write. It’s so basic that I ignored it for most of my 20’s, but so crucial that it should precede anything else. The least helpful would be to seek out a traditional publishing contract if I wanted to be considered a legitimate author.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
Constantinople during the reign of Theodosis. I’d love to see the first ceremony every conducted within the Hagia Sophia, to witness the horse races into the hippodrome, to watch the ships coursing across the Bosporus…
That or Florence during the reign of Lorenzo ‘Il Magnifico’. What a time! So many brilliant artists, such passion, such perfidy, and all set against the incomparable backdrop of Tuscany at the height of its power.
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
Brain.fm + the pomodoro writing technique. I can muscle through most road blocks if I break it down into sufficiently small chunks.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
The Face in the Frost by James Bellairs. It’s irreverent, hilarious, yet contains the single creepiest moment in any book I’ve ever read. For sheer fantastical exuberance and delight it can’t be beat.
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with what we like to call a ‘shark elevator pitch’? (It’s exactly the same as an elevator pitch, but with sharks.) (Well, one shark. Which, by the way, is currently picking between its rows of teeth to try and dislodge the remains of the last author who stepped onto its elevator.)
Ahem. So: why should readers check out your work? A shark elevator pitch of your own book(s) in no more than three sentences – go!
”Because – ah – my writing is, or at least tends to be – uh – I write fantasy novels that, well, I try to make them – oh god!”
Wow. Great job, Phil! Thanks again for joining us today. ;D
Phil Tucker is the author of the Chronicles of the Black Gate, the Godsblood trilogy, and Euphoria Online.