Phil Williams is an author of contemporary fantasy and dystopian fiction, including the Ordshaw urban fantasy thrillers and the post-apocalyptic Estalia series. He also writes reference books to help foreign learners master the nuances of English, two of which are regular best-sellers on Kindle.
Phil lives with his wife by the coast in Sussex, UK, and spends a great deal of time walking his impossibly fluffy dog, Herbert.
Thank you have for having me Timy, I have prepared a series of intricately linked questions.
Let’s ease ourselves in with some local knowledge. As a Budapest aficionado, can you enlighten us on any exciting haunts lurking underneath your city? I’m mostly thinking of the Buda Labyrinth because a character mentioned it in one of my books and I should learn more about it, but I’m always keen on discovering other underground domains…
Oh hell yes, Buda Labyrinth is freaking awesome! Hospital in the rock and nuclear bunker museum which is close to it is also cool. There is a bunker tour in another part of the city about which I heard good things. These bunkers were used during the 2nd world war. There is also a cellar tour under Pest from the same company. I’ve never went to these but I know someone who did and said they were great. There are also several cave systems you can visit near to Budapest and basically all over the country. One of the coolest is under a small town called Tapolca, which is filled with water and they take you around in a boat. I want to go there once, maybe in the summer. Basically, we have a lot of cool underground places.
On the subject of dark underground lairs, and seguing smoothly to books, what book has made you feel physically dirtiest to read?
I don’t think I ever felt dirty while reading a book. Why would I feel dirty? This is a weird question. But if I ever found a book like that, I’ll let you know!
Since we’re looking at the dark side of books now, do you have a policy for DNFing? Never, whenever or only when a full moon coincidences with the calends of a month?
I don’t mind DNFing a book. Sure, I feel bad, especially if it’s a review request or if I requested it from Netgalley, because I obviously picked it up because I found it interesting. Before I started blogging I didn’t DNFed books much, but I also read a lot less. One of the very first books I’ve read for the blog – it was my first Netgalley book I believe – was a DNF. But that book just pissed me off so much. Since thank, partly thanks to SPFBO, I learned to let books go more easily, because there are so much time I can spend on reading, I don’t have the patience to waste it on books I don’t enjoy. Generally I have two reason why I DNF a book – there is something in it that annoys me (that can be language, writing style, characters, plot) so much that even though there are aspects I might like, I just can’t read it. The other reason if I just feel like I can’t connect to the book and I just can’t find any joy in it. It doesn’t neccesarily means that the book is bad, it’s just not for me. Or I’m not in the right frame of mind at the time and need to go back to it later. I learned not to feel too bad about DNFing a book. It happens. I also don’t feel particularly bad about reviewing those books. If I rage quit, then I most likely will vent out my frustration in a review. In the other case I usually just quietly put it aside and move on. Sometimes as soon as 2 chapters into the book. Or 15%. Sometimes it takes longer to accept that we aren’t compatible.
Okay we can move towards positives, now. You’re currently expanding your freelance editing empire – what are your top editing tips for budding writers, to ensure they don’t send you utter drivel?
One thing that’s important for me is characters. If I don’t connect to any of them, you can have an awesome plot or a great writing style if I don’t feel anything. Even if I have to hate a character – either because they piss me off, or because that’s exactly their role in the story. So, fleshing out your character is a pretty important one. Another thing is, ask the question: what makes this book unique? If you find that something and don’t just try to write the next Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. It’s a huge cliché, but find your own voice and don’t try to please everyone. You won’t. I would also say to have a couple of pair of eyes on your manuscript, preferably not family or friends who don’t know a thing about writing and just want to please you. When someone gives you feedback, look at it, think about it and then decide whether you want to act on what they pointed out or not. It’s your book. Critique is important and they more than likely keep your best interest in their minds, but at the end of the day, it’s you who has to make decisions.
Now to really lighten the mood. You have respectfully dark and heavy musical tastes. What shamefully light and fluffy music do you listen to balance the scales?
LOL. Occasionally I like to listen to Disney songs. There, I said it. I have a soft side too.
That’s enough about light things – now you’re a supervillain – what’s your superpower and how do you use it to do terrible things?
Oooh. Let me think. You know, I don’t think I need superpowers. I mean, I’m a queen, I already rule over people, what else would I need? Maybe mind reading. Yeah, that would be nice to know when those damned courtiers lie to me. Or rebel against me. I can’t have that. I’m not called Queen Terrible Timy for nothing. Now, I don’t want to abuse my powers, and turn my subject against myself, so I’m trying to rule fairly. Who else will work in my place so I could have a luxurious lifestyle and do whatever I want while everyone else slaves away?!
Continuing the theme – what’s your kryptonite?
Anything with flower patterns. I’m not a huge fan of flowers.
Plot twist: back to books! What author’s books have you read the most of? Surprise follow up: would you trade having read all those books for [the superpower from question 6]?
All these plot twist. Aren’t you an author, by any chance? Hmm, I think the winner should be Rob Thurman. I’ve read her Carl Leandros series, which has 10 books. And 2 other books from her. She is mostly the one to blame I’m here today. That series really hooked me into Fantasy, and I’ve read and loved the Harry Potter series. But I think it was Cal who opened the door for me into this genre and also book 3 was the first book I read in English which wasn’t a reread. That series got me into reading books in English and it was hard at first, but I really loved that series and only the first two books are available in Hungarian, so I didn’t have much chance.
And no I wouldn’t trade it for a superpower. I don’t think a book ever made me feel like book 9 did. I would never ever trade that for anything.
And now the question we’ve all been waiting for – would you rather have knees with mouths that swore profusely every time you bent them, or a second head that kept starting up conversations with strangers? You have to choose.
How many people do you know who were waiting that question? I’ll go with the swearing knees. I mean, every time I stand up I swear like a sailor anyway. Would be a nice change to rest my mouth and let my knees handle the swearing. I hope there is a mute button though, because it would be annoying as hell to wake up every time I bend my knees during my sleep. Or during walking. I don’t need sleepless nights or weird looks.
Finishing on a serious note. You’ve been sighted at a few cons recently, by me. Do you have plans for any in 2020?
What keen eyes you have! Seriously though, I most definitely will attend BristolCon in October. Other than that? I don’t have any plans. I’m thinking about EdgeLit or visiting London for an event or two if I can afford it, but I don’t make any promises.
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Check out The Ordshaw series starting with the first book, Under Ordshaw!
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This was really fun. 🙂 I love flipping the script and having authors interview bloggers for a change!
I also don’t think a book has ever made me feel dirty? Like, there are books I found creepy and disliked, but I just stopped reading them. Didn’t change how I felt about ME. Hmm. I wonder if this is a thing, though?
I hadn’t heard of Rob Thurman but I’ll look up the series. The idea of a series that got you reading in English is a big sell. They must be so good!
It’s a fun concept, isn’t it? 🙂
Yeah, feeling dirty is… weird. I don’t know if that’s a thing.
Ah, the Cal Leandros is something I’d call… dark UF? I think what I loved most about it was the fact it wasn’t romance, the sarcasm, the dark humor and the relationship between the brothers, Cal and Niko. Not everyone likes the series as Cal gets to be really annoying with his self-loathing, and not every book in the series was equally good, but I was just so damned invested in the characters. And some of the pranks Cal pulled on Goodfellow. It also worked with a lot of mythological creatures and I love that stuff. Fair warning though, the 11th book which was meant to be the last was never published, and book 10 ends with a cliffhanger. So, if you ever get around to it, stop at book 9. Which I originally thought was the last and holy shit the emotional hell I went through with that one… Another warning: it gets bloody quickly. There is a lot of fighting and monster killing and swearing. It’s a bit violent. Not completely grimdark, but I guess as close as an UF series can get.