INTERVIEW: Gregory Erich Phillips, A Diversified Life From a Literary Family

From a prolific literary family, Gregory Erich Phillips tells aspirational stories through strong, relatable characters that transcend time and place. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

Q: You started writing at age 14. ‘Love of Finished Years,’ your grand prize-winning novel, came out in 2017. What happened in the intervening years, and how did you hone your skill to a point where you could write complete novels?

 The first novel I wrote, at 14, was pretty terrible, but by doing it, and finishing it, I created an early habit and belief in my ability to write complete novels. In the years that followed, I think each book I wrote got better, but they still weren’t good enough. When ‘Love of Finished Years’ won the Chanticleer grand prize, it validated all those years of work and told me that I had gotten my craft to the point where it was ready to go out into the world.

Q: It is often quoted that you came from “a prolific literary family.” Could you elaborate on that for our readers and how that impacted you both personally and professionally?

My dad had a very successful career as a novelist. My brother is also a published author. Through my dad, I got a great understanding of the business and the writing process from an early age. That is why I started so young. And my dad has given me invaluable lessons on writing craft through the years.

Q: You have been quoted as saying that writing allows you to ‘explore the world in ways you might not otherwise be able to have the courage to.’ Could you elaborate on how writing offers you these avenues or is it just a better way to better understand yourself, your emotions, and how you relate to people (you mentioned in an interview that you relate better to women, and all three of your protagonists are female)? 

This question dives into what I like most about the novel as an art form. As a writer, it allows me to explore perspectives and experiences beyond my scope of actual lived reality. I try to pull readers into characters that do the same for them, and thus, the novel can broaden understanding in both readers and writers. Writing has made me a more empathetic person, and I hope my books do the same for those who read them.

 Q: What’s the worst part of the whole writing process for you, and how do you overcome that?

The worst part for me has to be self-promotion, whether in marketing or in pitching to agents and publishers. It’s just not natural for me. The best way to overcome that is to believe in my work and believe that people will want to read it as long as they know about it. That motivates me to get the word out.

Q: Covid helped you complete your latest novel ‘A Season of Light’ which shares much with current news headlines, from Ukraine to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. How did Covid help you finish this novel that you started in 2015?

Covid provided an opportunity to make ‘A Season in Lights’ a deeper and more impactful novel than it otherwise would have been. I had a completed version of the novel prior to the pandemic, but I really wanted to tell the story of how the pandemic, and particularly the shutdown of Broadway and all performing arts venues, impacted performing artists, not only financially but in terms of their entire identity. Having a novel written before these events allowed me to write what became the final chapters with the same authentic shock and uncertainty that we all felt in the early months of 2020. It was a unique experience as an author because I was writing those chapters in the present moment as events were unfolding in New York City.

 Q: I understand that you are quite a proficient Tango dancer, which is not an easy feat to master. How did you learn it, and what was the appeal to you? 

I love all forms of dance, but tango is special to me because of the intimacy of both the partnership and the connection of the movement to the music, which is much more fluid than the other partner dance forms. The first time I saw the dance and heard the music I was hooked! I have also found the tango community to be a wonderfully tight-knit community worldwide. Many of my best friends I’ve met through tango.

Q: You are also a musician. What instrument do you play? How do you find music helps or hinders the writing process?

I play piano and violin and I also sang in choirs for many years. Music and dance are artistic outlets for me that really do contribute to my writing. I bring lessons learned in all three of these art forms to the others, and they all stimulate me in unique but compatible ways. With my writing, I draw from my life experience, and ‘A Season in Lights’ is the perfect example of how much my music and dance experience contributed.

Q: On your website, there is a photo of you on a sailboat. Do you sail? 

I don’t, but I love being on boats with people who know how!

Q: Is there anything you wish to share with our readers I have not asked you? Any events or accolades to note?

‘A Season in Lights’ has won several major awards, including the Somerset Award for contemporary and literary fiction, the Book of the Year by the Write Review, and most recently, first prize in the Book Excellence Awards. 

As an author, these awards give validation and encourage me to keep on writing.

Learn more about Gregory Phillips at:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3lGeOEf

Website: https://gregoryerichphillips.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gregoryerichphillips

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gregoryerichphillips/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/by_gep


Read the entire JUNE 2022 issue HERE.