15 Dec 2015

Author Interview with Richard Phillips


Andrew Wiiliams. Mavis and Syd's boy. Hasn't he done well? Booming business, lovely wife, beautiful kids, bloody great house. What more could he possibly want?
And then an old photo turns up and Andrew's world is turned upside down.
A story of lost love and lost bearings, 'A Polaroid of Peggy' is 'Bonfire of the Vanities' meets 'Love Story' with a dash of 'Mad Men' thrown in.
Funny and poignany by turns, it asks the the most fundamental of questions: what really matters in life? And finds the ansewer is distinctly muddled.

Hi Richard! Can you tell us a little about your latest book?
My latest book is my first book! Well, the first one published anyway. It’s the story of a lost love - a what might have been story. It’s also a mid (to late) life crisis story about a man who seems to have it all until the discovery of an old photo undermines everything. It takes places in New York in 1979, London in 1999 and then in the present day. Carol Birch, author of Booker Prize Shortlisted 2012 Novel, ‘Jamrach’s Menagerie’ said, ‘ Richard Phillips has a gift for that great combination of humour and sadness that works so well."
I’ll settle for that.

What inspired you to write it?
I had the basic dea many years ago but I always saw it as a film script. (It is based on one true moment in my life – whenI met a girl in a lift in New York. But the story is complete fiction.) Then one day I just sat down and wrote it as a novel. No idea what brought the urge on.

How did you come up with the idea for the cover?
As the whole idea, and the title, is about an old photo, that had to be the basis of the cover. And the New York background fits the story.

If it was made into a movie, who would you like to play the main characters?
Good question. Well, the main character – although not me – has certain similarities. I have often been told that I remind people of Jeff Goldblum. Not so much because of looks as his manner – and particularly the character he played in The Big Chill, which isn’t entirely flattering. So maybe him if he could do an English accent and had his head shaved – as I do! Rosamund Pilcher for the wife perhaps, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus for the lost love.

Is it part of a series or is it a stand-alone novel?
Right now it’s on its own, but I might try another with the same main character. Maybe a prequel set in the sixties.

What is it about this genre that appeals to you so much?
I am sucker for a love story.

What made you want to become an author?
I’ve always been a writer – though mainly a copywriter in advertising. My claim to ad fame is that I wrote the BT ‘ology’ campaign with Maureen Lipman – if anyone remembers it.

How do you come up with character names?

Names are a huge part of the story. Not giving anything more away. You’ll have to read it to find out why.

Do you struggle to come up with book titles? Do they come before, during or after you've written your book?

Didn’t struggle with this one – but I came up with it after I had written the book.

Name one of your all-time favourite books?
Here are a few:
Master Pip by Lloyd Jones, An Equal Music by Vikram Seth, Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch ( and not just because she’s said nice things about my book), Middlesex by Jeffrey Euginedes. Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, Headlong by Michael Frayn, the entire Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O’Brien – and amongst the classics, I am a big Dickens fan, whom I only really discovered when I was writing my book.

Who, or what, inspires you?
Truthfully, it’s the need to avoid boredom.

Where is your favourite place to write?

Starbucks in Queens Park, NW London. Sounds corny but I like having people around me when I write even though I am totally lost in my own world.

What is your favourite movie that was based on a book?
The Godfather Part 1. (My all time favourite film whether based on a book or not.)

Name two of your favourite authors.
Think I’ve covered this but if I had to pick two writers whose name would always persuade me to buy a new book: Michael Frayn and Joyce Carol Oates.

Tell us a random fact about yourself.
I used to host a radio show – unpaid! And I loved it. Hoping to do it again.

Who would play you in the movie about your life?
George Clooney. Why not aim high?

Tell us an interesting fact about where you live.
I have astroturf in my garden.

What are your (writing) plans for the future?
First of all, I have a blog. Please take a look and press the follow button if you like it:
Second, I’m toying with a number of ideas for a second novel. One of these days, I might stop toying and get on with it.

Tell us one thing that's on your bucket list.
Being on Desert Island Discs. Fat chance.

Favourite myth / fairytale?

That Jeremy Corbyn would make a good prime minister.

Who/What did you want to be when you were a kid?
An adult. But I honestly don’t think I’ve succeeded.

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