Name: Phillip Matthew Roberts
Where are you from: was born in a little town called Richmond but grew up in the central Kentucky region, primarily Frankfort and Lexington.
A little about your self i.e. your education Family life etc: My adoptive mother is a math teacher and my adoptive father practices law in Kentucky. Spent a number of years at Morehead State University until I realized a library card would suffice for my creative needs.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Most recently a small respectable press, Wildfire Publications has released a book of my poetry called, “Lost and Found.” A collection of 100 poems that I feel best represents my voice.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing seriously at the age of eight after reading a children’s version of the Book of Job and found myself inclined to talk to the old bedraggled fellow. This quickly inspired me to write badly imitative stories of others whose influence was undeniable. As to the reasons why I cannot say except that I was called to the blank spaces of a page with an innate desire to fill it with make-believe things that happened.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Not sure that I do but if friends and acquaintances use this term I will not argue with them but merely accept their compliment.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I finished my first novel not long after having watched a movie called, “Bill” starring Mickey Rooney and reading Daniel Keyes’ “Flowers for Algernon.” Something about the underestimated underdog made me want to create similar characters who were marginalized for different reasons. My take on these themes had a darker bent and delved into the life and curious circumstances of a man named, Bishop Tabor who’d elected to become a mute and, at the story’s opening, is introduced as a patient in a mental hospital.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Honest, divergent, unmitigated… I also enjoy both the highs and lows, mixing elevated intellectual ideas and literary allusions with plain spoken, salt of the earth characters. When it is done well I hope it is engaging and rewarding for the reader as my greatest fear as an artist is to waste the valuable time of an attentive audience.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
For the collection of poetry, “Lost and Found” I’ll quote from the back book cover: “Since childhood I discovered I’m a prodigy at losing random items–expensive and cheap: jackets, mittens, socks, watches, toys, book bags, lunch boxes–you name it, once upon a time, I left it behind somewhere. Most items were retrieved by a dutiful adoptive mother although, one item took nearly thirty years to reclaim. Whether one refers to it as “sanity” or the “soul,” I find either term applicable because after the various abuses at the age of six I was beset with questions that plagued my mind. Ones neither satisfactorily addressed by parents or therapists but did find their way into my broken, unmetered lines where, through laborious revisions and assiduous focus, I finally discovered a lasting peace that assuaged all my wrath.”
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
That with love all things can be forgiven.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic ?
The poems enclosed in “Lost and Found” all derive from various, real world hardships though admittedly, I’m prone to imaginative exaggeration so will rely on savvy readers and their valuable insights to help address this question.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
They are based entirely on my life and those individuals I met in various cheap tenements, psychiatric hospitals or out on the lonesome homeless streets.
Fiona: What books have influenced your life most? a mentor?
Innumerably many but foremost I’d say any selection from the oeuvres offered by, Samuel Beckett, Jorge Luis Borges and Louis Ferdinand Celine.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Unashamedly, “Lost and Found” by Phillip Matthew Roberts but primarily because I want to locate any typos or mistakes, which are inevitable with any given text.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Jennifer Egan’s, “A Visit from the Goon Squad,” and “The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel.”
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Writing is assuredly an ongoing process that will indubitably outlast my faculties and life. I’ve amassed scattered stories and poems in boxes that currently outweighs my plump bodyweight. Collectively I’d approximate nearly 600 pounds or more worth of both bad and decent examples of my own attempts at sundry genres.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
As a gnostic monotheist I’ll simply say, the one that cannot be named or that entity recognized by the phrase: “I am that I am,” or “I am the one who is with you.”
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I see it simply as my only choice as I’m entirely uninterested in any other career.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Yes. Specifically page 84 where I discovered the typo: “peanut buyer,” when obviously I intended “peanut butter.” This of course is entirely my fault and I apologize openly for this overlooked mistake.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
My enthusiasm for the arts happened early in my life as I was almost always drawn to beautiful and ugly things. The first time I heard a lovely piece of music or saw a sublime painting or an enthralling movie I instantly wanted to imitate it. After numerous failed attempts at drawing and clumsy piano playing I discovered an adoration for words that has since sustained me and my enthusiasm for them hasn’t waned.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Yes, happily… A novella tentatively titled, “The Republic” that takes a sardonic look at modern life set in an unspecified future and a second novella, “The Recruit” that delves into an alien’s unfamiliar existence on this little, blue and white marbled planet, code name Jack Smith sent to earth along with other surreptitious agents who monitor the ongoing progress and often humorous lack thereof with regard to humanity’s precarious future.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Yes, pausing long enough to finish one piece before jumping to the next one. It’s difficult for me to look back when my mind is always actively searching for something new and different.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Not sure I have a favorite but I do find Charles Bukowski reliable, especially when I need a dose of stoicism and encouragement for my own efforts as a writer.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Not yet but I will.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The delightful and multiply talented, Susan Joyner-Stumpf.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Limiting the number of poems as I had to select 100 from an existing 500 that I’ve written, revised and reworked in a way that I feel could be shared with a potential audience.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
That hard work, patience and a willingness to hone my skills and to be honest about my shortcomings is in itself gratifying and am grateful that others have expressed interest in my craft.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Be mindful of the greats, remain humble and stay at it until you find your own process and have honed your own voice and then repeat.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? T
hat’s easy: thank you, sincerely.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
“Where the Wild Things Are” written by the unmistakable and memorable, Maurice Sendak.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Woody Allen’s comment on The Holocaust, “6 million dead? That’s a record meant to be broken,” and the tearful scene at the end of “Never Cry Wolf,” when the main character plays a mournful song on his oboe in hopes of reuniting some cubs with the main pack after their parents had been hunted down. I also find Samuel Barber’s, “Adagio for Strings” rather moving too.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would like to meet and why?
Richard Feynman because not only was he one of the smartest physicists and men to have ever lived but was also one of the most humble.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
Who’s ready for a sequel? If I have to explain then the comment isn’t nearly as humorous as I intended.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Cinema, good food and making women laugh and blush.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Haven’t watched TV for over a decade however, I do catch a lot of shows on DVD and among some of my current favorites are “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” “Portlandia,” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music:
Sushi, natural light as seen through a prism and am inclined to a lot of contemporary classical, primarily: Arvo Part, Philip Glass, Steve Reich and John Tavener. I also enjoy a lot of psychedelic rock, mainly: The Dandy Warhols, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and Portishead are all among my favorites and am always in search of new great music.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
To have been a surrealist or impressionist painter.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website?
If so what is it?
I use my personal Facebook page to post my most recent works both poetry and prose fiction and anyone interested can find additional information if they search on Facebook with: Book Launch of Phillip Matthew Roberts.
Phillip is holding a book launch on Facebook on the 16th of January 2016 at 11.00 MST here https://www.facebook.com/events/211931879149911/