Name: Phil Martin
Where are you from? Manchester
Fiona: Tell me a little about little about yourself, your education family life etc:
I work fulltime as a magazine editor for a publication covering the global casino business. I’m single with no kiddie winks and I write in my spare time.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Phil: I’ve just launched two books online with Amazon. I’d written four thrillers in four years and have been trying to get them published the traditional way but frankly I’ve become bored with letting them gather virtual dust on my hard drive. Child Number Three and The Attached are both ready to be judged alongside any thriller out there. They can be found doing a key word search on Amazon.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Phil: I was interesting in creative writing at school but I guess then life got in the way. My whole career has been focused on writing but I began writing thrillers when something happened to me in Las Vegas around 2001. I was amazed at how quickly I could be sucked into the Nevada underworld and felt the only way I could cleanse myself of the experience was to write it down with an alternative ending. Stripped Bare was born which I will be releasing on Amazon very soon. Since then writing has been something of a private obsession.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Phil: I’d say the distinction to make here would be between being a writer and an author. I’ve always considered myself to be a writer but still struggle with being an author as I haven’t been published the traditional way, yet. I think I would feel like an author when I walk past a book store and one of my books is in the window before that I’ll struggle to think of myself as anything other than an aspiring author.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Phil: As mentioned above, it was when I suddenly found myself in what felt like a film script, spiraling out of control.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Phil: My books are thrillers centered on some aspect of the underworld. My books focus on normal people whose lives are changed by crime or by a chance encounter with a gang. I don’t write from the gang’s point of view nor do I write about superheroes or humans with superhuman strength, trained to fight or cope way beyond the normal means of you or me. My plots focus on relationships, breakups, breakdowns and self-discovery. They toy with psychology, spirituality, destiny and human compassion, all taking place against the backdrop of the criminal underworld with its drugs wars, revenge missions, gun laws and murders. My stories blend dark humour with likable villains. In terms of writing style I prefer the third person, word class my vocabulary as contemporary and if it’s not a style that turns pages there’s really no point!
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Phil: I tend to have the title in my head long before I start writing the book. It took me about a year to finish my first book and in that time I thought of three more that I wanted to write. By the time I finished the second book I’d thought of another four I wanted to write. That’s a lot of thinking time to find titles! My fingers are currently six books behind my head so there’s plenty of time to think of a title in my head. As a magazine editor I tend to think in headlines and intros anyway so the titles come fairly easily. Of course I always need a google search to make sure the title hasn’t been used before!
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Phil: Not really no. I want to entertain a reader with a gripping story that twists and turns and takes over their life whilst they read it but in terms of delivering hidden messages, no. I’m not looking to change anyone’s life just entertain them. The two ebooks that are out so far are quite spiritual in terms of takes on destiny and a slightly religious thread but at the end of the day they also involve very life like criminals!
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
Phil: The language and dialogue are realistic; the situations are nearly all completely fictional. I tend to keep my ears wide open and mingle with a lot of interesting people. I take everything onboard that I’m ever told and think I wonder how that story would evolve if they’d done this or done that. My stories are supposed to show how normal peoples’ lives can spiral out of control and so are meant to be realistic in that they could happen. If something does seem a little farfetched I tend to address it with an over cynical lead character. For example the Attached broaches the subject of modern day exorcism, which the lead character completely refutes, similarly in Child Number Three, the lead character embraces, but is then extremely dismissive of the concept of destiny.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Phil: It’s difficult not to be influenced to some extent by your own experiences but I’m pleased to say that I don’t know anyone who has had what happens to the main characters in Child Number Three and The Attached, happen to them. That would be quite disturbing.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
Phil: Rather unspectacularly I wouldn’t say that my life has been influenced by any book. My writing style has been influenced by authors such as Kevin Sampson and Irvine Welsh but my life has probably been influenced more by people, seeing how people conduct themselves etc rather than a book. I’d hope that rather than influence peoples’ lives my stories would entertain people. They’re not exactly guidelines on how to live a clean living life!
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Phil: Ha, well I’ve always wanted a mentor actually, someone to read my copy and be constructively critical, but I guess that happens when you have an editor reading your work. I did work with a former feeder to an agent, Betty Schwartz, who gave me the best advice, in fact the only advice I’ve ever had and that was to show the story happening rather than tell the reader what was happening. Aside from that Manchester author Mandasue Heller has always offered me some very positive words of encouragement, just to basically stick at it, and for that I will always be eternally grateful. Little comments at the right time can go a long way. Writing can be a very insular process!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Phil: The two last books I read were The Last Patriot by Brad Thor and Manchester Compendium, a street by street history of England’s greatest industrial city, by Ed Glinert. The problem with writing novels whilst you have a full time job is that it leaves very little time to read. The next book I’m due to start is Col Bury’s Manchester 6, also available through Amazon.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Phil: Col Bury! A Manchester-based author, who runs the thrillskillsnchills.blogspot.com. I’m always interested in anything happening in the city where I live and I like Col’s writing style.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Phil: I’d written four books in four years, then started number five and then decided to write number six concurrently. However I then decided that I needed to gain some exposure and get published before writing anymore. I’d previously written one book, sent it off to do the rounds with agents and publishers and then become engrossed in writing my next. They take over my life. Instead of letting another book take over my life, I’ve decided to take a break and launch a website, a blog and all four books before writing anymore. As all my books involve Manchester, I’m trying to drive people through to them by writing very contemporary poetry about Manchester life. Aside from this, Child Number Three and The Attached are crying out for sequels, Killing Doves could handle a whole series, five and six need finishing and I have another two ideas I want to develop, so my head is quite a full place to be!
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Mandasue Heller. Like I said little things at the right time!
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Phil: I’d certainly like to give it a go although it would be strange suddenly having deadlines for my books etc and one deadline a year might be a little unstructured! I currently have one a month but still manage to get lost in the month.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Phil: By profession, I’m an editor so I’m not sure if the editing process will ever be over in my head. In terms of the story? I’m fairly confident that most people would be gripped by Child Number Three and The Attached. It’s kind of author’s privilege to take the story where you want it to go!
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Phil: I was encouraged to read from an early age so maybe it all started there.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Phil: I’ve put the first six chapters of Child Number Three on my blog and I’m just starting to do the same with The Attached. If people want to click through its philmartinauthor.blogspot.com, scroll down for the list of chapters. Otherwise, here’s the start of Child Number Three…
Even through the haze of her sleeping pill, Amy knew exactly why the police had come calling.
She kicked off her tangled duvet and sighed heavily as the all-consuming nightmare engulfed her again. The last few weeks had savaged her life; the holiday had done nothing to refresh her. If anything it had just cast further doubt on every aspect of her life.
“Amy, you need to get down here, it’s the police,” Joanna shouted again.
Amy glanced in the mirror, not to admire her holiday tan or run a brush through her tangled, dark hair, but to look at the lesion on her bottom lip. It stared back, throbbing in time with her heartbeat.
She knew it was about her test results. Her GP had said they’d investigate. It looked for all the world like a cold sore, yet Amy had never had one in her whole life.
Grabbing her dressing gown as her only necessity, she flung open her bedroom door.
“Amy, it’s the fucking police.”
Joanna stood startled blocking her way.
“I know Jo, I heard you.”
Amy prayed it had nothing to do with Morocco but deep down she knew. The man’s death had nothing to with her though; the police had said it was a freak accident when they’d cleared her to come home.
Amy strode past Joanna to see two plain clothed officers waiting at the bottom of the stairs with her other bewildered housemate; Carolyn.
“Miss Walker,” the male officer greeted as Amy walked down the stairs. “My name’s DC Foulkes. We were hoping you could spare some time to assist us in an investigation.”
“Are you arresting me for something?” Amy greeted, only half joking.
“Not at all but you might prefer this to be discussed in private.”
“Actually I kind of know why you’re here,” Amy said wincing apprehensively. “But I’ve not told my housemates yet maybe I should…”
She glanced at the concerned faces in front of her.
“I’ve not done anything wrong. It’s about the test results isn’t it?”
The nods from both detectives were weighted with concern.
“So the results have come back?” Carolyn asked. “It’s herpes isn’t it; a cold sore?”
Amy shrugged painfully.
“They’re not sure what it is, Caz. My doctor said it’s an infection but it falls into a pretty unique category and doesn’t actually have a medical name.”
As Amy paused, the female detective took over.
“I’m DC Mills,” she said shaking Amy’s hand. “Girls, am I right in thinking that you’ve all recently qualified as doctors?”
“Yeah, only three weeks ago,” Carolyn replied. “But what’s that got to do with anything?”
“Well, there’s no easy way of asking this but have you come into contact with many dead bodies during your course?”
“Occasionally,” Carolyn replied belligerently. “We try not to but unfortunately it does kind of come with the territory. ”
“And have you all been working in the morgues at all recently?” Mills asked. “It’s just that you all might need to come in for test too. ”
Carolyn’s eyes widened at the scope of the questioning.
“What?” she questioned. “I’ve been down to the morgues, we all have, but we’ve only just qualified. We’re taking six months off before we start working in A&E properly. Look, we’ve just got back from a holiday, what the hell’s going on?”
The mention of the holiday resonated with Amy but she couldn’t force her own theory from her lips; not yet.
The male officer took over the reins again; more assertive this time.
“We’re investigating a potential outbreak at the hospital. Amy’s infection is unusual, not at all life threatening but very unusual. It displays certain characteristics. There’s no easy way of explaining this. I’m afraid it’s shown up bacteria consistent with that found on decomposing bodies, the recently deceased… if you will. ”
The full absurdity of the suggestion slowly dawned on Amy’s housemates. Amy slumped down to sit on the stairs but stayed quiet to let their own realisation hit home.
“That’s ridiculous,” Carolyn suddenly snapped. “The lesion’s on her lip. What exactly are you suggesting? That Amy’s been kissing dead people in the morgue?”
“That’s not what we’re suggesting at all,” the female officer assured. “But her GP has raised the topic of necrophilia as a potential line of inquiry.”
The word alone threw a veiled silence over the hallway.
Amy paused for a second to review her possibilities, glancing again at the anxiety etched into her housemates’ faces but she knew, she’d made the connection.
“Look,” she began tentatively, “it might not be the morgues at all. Something happened on holiday. ”
Every face in the hallway turned her way. Amy looked at her feet and then again at her friends for support.
“In Morocco,” she continued, “a local man tried to kiss me. I met him for a meal and he got me drunk then he threw himself at me. There was a struggle and I pushed him off but I remember him slobbering all over me as I fought him off. He bit my lip as he tried to kiss me but I got away, he chased me but I got away. When the infection started, I thought it was a cold sore. We all thought the same.”
“Are you saying someone tried to abduct you?” the female detective asked.
“I think she’d remember that,” Joanne interrupted.
“I’m not sure, maybe,” Amy answered as a tear welled heavily in her eye. “He seemed pretty keen on getting me back to his place but everything’s hazy. I wasn’t sure if he drugged me.”
“You’re not sure if he drugged you?” Foulkes quizzed.
“Well he hardly advertised the fact,” Amy snapped back.
An uneasy silence shrouded the hallway again, this time left to the female officer to break.
“And did you report this?”
“No,” Amy said cagily. “We just wanted to come home and forget about it. I’ve had so much going on recently and couldn’t deal with it and I’ve not been thinking straight. I just accepted I’d somehow caught a cold sore virus…from him”
“We cut our holiday short because of what happened,” Carolyn piped up as an offer of support. “Jesus, do you think it could be related? Oh my God, do you think it could be him kissing dead people? Do you think he’s infected you?”
The girls looked at each other as the colour drained from Amy’s cheeks.
“Well, whatever’s happened, it sounds like you’ve had a very lucky escape,” Mills offered in support.
“From what?” Joanna questioned unable to take the suggestion on board. “Are you saying Amy was kissed by some crazed, serial killer, someone who keeps his victims’ bodies afterwards?”
“All we’re saying is this bacteria is very, very peculiar. But it does sounds like you could have been next on his list. Amy, we’re going to need you to make a statement about this… ”
The detective’s words were wasted. Amy’s mind was elsewhere, floating away in a cloud of confusion. Instinct told her the encounter was threatening; there was no doubt the man was creepy but next on the hit list of some sexual deviant? Her world slowly collapsed inwards as the shock and adrenalin nullified her defences but deep down she already knew. The next piece in a terrifying jigsaw had just slotted into place but the puzzle was more horrifying than anyone could have imagined; a lot more horrifying.
She kept the thought to herself but if Amy was right, she hadn’t just been next on his list; she’d been the first, over two decades ago.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Phil: It’s not a natural process for me and I rewrite and rewrite. I certainly wouldn’t have coped in the days of the typewriter or the quill! I think getting dialogue right was perhaps the hardest challenge but I think I’ve got there.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Phil: No not at this stage. I travel a lot with the day job, which sees me writing my books on a laptop in some very strange places.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Phil: I design and produce all my own covers although I have had the help of a graphic designer who helped me ‘neaten’ one of the cover girls up! To be honest it’s been really excited designing my own website, getting the photo shoots done, formulating my own marketing campaign and having total control over the book covers. I’m not a control freak whatsoever but I have enjoyed the freedom to be creative away from the words.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Phil: Being patient as it’s such a long process and my head moves so much more quickly than I can actually getting the words down! Also putting it to one side to hold down the day job. Then there’s trying to shut off at night when the ideas are flowing. I have no idea how authors shut down at night. That’s definitely a skill I have yet to learn.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Phil: From writing Stripped Bare, my first attempt, I learned everything I know about how to write a novel! It was very difficult. I got a lot of things right but probably more wrong. It needed a lot of editing!
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
There are lots of guides on how to write a blockbuster but really you have to teach yourself. The first book can be grueling. Aside from that just keep plugging away, don’t give up the day job and be in it for the enjoyment of writing rather than the money. I think once you’ve completed your book and its various edits, that’s where the fun starts. The days of sending bundles of paper to the slush piles of agents have long gone. You need to be far more proactive in getting noticed these days and that means websites, social media and self-generated publicity.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Phil: I’m at the start of my career so I don’t have an army of readers. What I’d say is, if you like thrillers, stories that twist and turn and actually go somewhere, have a look at mine and rest assured that you’re following someone from the very beginning of their career. You will be able to mention me as a new writer and be able to sound very knowledgeable about new writers for a long time yet!
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done ?
Phil: Well I still have the day job!
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I do, it’s philmartinauthor.blogspot.com. Tt’s full of funny poems and free chapters!