Name Philip Whiteland
Age 62 this year
Where are you from
Burton upon Trent in Staffordshire. I’m married with one daughter, and a 5 year old grandson who ensures I remember the importance of play! I worked for one of the local breweries for 20 years and returned to study at that time, gaining my qualifications in H.R. at Nottingham Trent University (NTU). A few years later, I went back to NTU to study for a Master’s degree in Strategic Human Resource Management and went on to gain a lecturing post at NTU, where I worked until my retirement in 2014.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I’m working, painfully slowly, on a humorous novel.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember. I used to read voraciously as a child and I think I started to write stories to fill the gaps when I couldn’t find anything new to read.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think I always have. However, when I self-published my first collection of stories about growing up in Burton and it started to sell, I think that was when I first began to feel that my writing had finally gained some recognition.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I entered a story about my memories of my local recreation grounds when I was a child, for a local story competition. It didn’t win but it did make it into a compilation of stories entered. On the strength of this, I submitted some similar articles to the local newspaper, which they published. My first book, ‘Steady Past Your Granny’s’ was a collection of these stories along with one or two other pieces I had written over the years.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
It’s been referred to as self-deprecating humour! I’ve christened my writing ‘nostalgedy’ as it is supposed to be a combination of nostalgia and comedy. I did think about ‘comalgia’ but it sounds like a painful medical condition.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The titles of all of my books are phrases or sayings from my parents and grandparents. For example, the first collection ‘Steady Past Your Granny’s’ was a phrase of my dad’s which means ‘mind how you go’ but was particularly appropriate as we had to pass my grandmother’s house on the way home from the pub, so I used to make a real effort to appear sober and well-behaved as I was passing (an illusion that didn’t usually last).
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I haven’t written a novel yet and I don’t think I’ve got a message for anyone. I do tend to reject the ‘good old days’ mode of thinking. I don’t think the past is necessarily either good or bad, it was just different.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
All of my books, so far, are entirely made up of recollections from my childhood and adolescence. I hope that they evoke memories in my readers too. I don’t think you need to know the area in which I lived, or even the times when I grew up, as I think the experiences of growing up, going to school, forming friendships etc. are pretty common wherever you are.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I’m in awe of Bill Bryson’s work. He can make you picture the surroundings he finds himself in and the comprehensive research he conducts gives you a real understanding without bogging the reader down in unnecessary detail. Oddly enough, I didn’t discover his work until long after I started writing. My other literary heroes are Terry Pratchett, who has no equal as a writer in my opinion, P.G. Wodehouse whose style and humour still resonates over the decades and Alan Coren who is unequalled as a writer of humorous columns (I wish I was even remotely as good).
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I have most recently enjoyed ‘American Gods’ by Neil Gaiman – hardly a new author but I’m looking forward to reading more of his work. Oliver Tidy is an independent author of crime fiction that I enjoy reading. My favourite author is undoubtedly Terry Pratchett, for his humour and general faith in the human race.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Probably our local newspaper, the Derby Telegraph. They have published my articles every month for over ten years now, which has given my confidence to carry on.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
No, not really, although it would be wonderful to be in that position. I write because I have always written. I’m just fortunate to have an audience these days.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I think there are always things we would change if we went back and did it again, but you have to stop somewhere!
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I remember reading Tove Jansson’s Moomin books and A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh series and I just wanted to be able to create the same endearing flights of fancy.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
As a departure from the norm, I’m trying my hand at a humorous novel called ‘Bring Out Your Dead’. This involves a couple of characters who originated in some short stories of mine, Josiah Oakshott and Archibald Thurble. They are undertakers who are tasked with the job of bringing the remains of Sir Lewisham Carnock back from Spain. Things do not go according to plan! You can find the story so far on ABCtales at: http://www.abctales.com/story/philwhiteland/bring-out-your-dead-part-1
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Starting is the really difficult bit! If I can just get started, then things usually just flow, but I’m inclined toward being lazy and I’m a world-class procrastinator.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Only in my mind
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I can only really blame myself! I have a friend who tidies up my ideas and makes them more or less presentable. I don’t think any of them will win any prizes.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Just getting on with it.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
That you can remember far more than you ever imagined. I find that the act of writing about the past brings it all to life in my mind and I suddenly become aware of memories that have been buried for decades. It can be really illuminating.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead
As that would be me, as a younger man, I don’t think I would wish that on anyone! As far as my ‘work in progress’ is concerned, I see Archibald Thurble being played by David Lonsdale (he was David Stockwell in Heartbeat). I think Alistair Sim would make an excellent Josiah Oakshott if I could reincarnate him.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Don’t give up! Somebody, somewhere, wants to read what you have written.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thanks very much. If I’ve managed to make someone laugh or smile, then I’ve achieved what I set out to do.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
‘Three Men on a Bummel’, the less successful sequel to ‘Three Men in a Boat’ by Jerome K. Jerome. It must be incredibly difficult to follow up a classic such as that, anything else is more or less bound to be a disappointment.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Probably ‘The House at Pooh Corner’. I know I read the whole series rapidly and then was very disappointed to find that there were no more.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Not much makes me laugh out loud these days, but the description of bringing a cheese from Liverpool to London on a packed train in ‘Three Men in a Boat’ still brings tears to my eyes, as do a couple of scenes involving Bertie Wooster. I find cruelty to children and animals difficult to cope with and I’m a sucker for the ITV series ‘Long Lost Family’.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
I would like to have met Spike Milligan, Ronnie Barker and Alan Coren. I would just like to know how they crafted their, very unique, humour.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
How about ‘This Way Up’?
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I’m trying to collect all of P.G. Wodehouse’s books but it’s proving to be quite a task (he wrote at least 96 in his long lifetime). Likewise, I’m in the process of transferring all of my vinyl records into MP3 files but that is also proving to be one of the Labours of Hercules.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I’m addicted to NCIS, probably because I have a weakness for Pauley Perrette who plays Abby. Also, as I said before, ‘Long Lost Family’.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
I adore Fish and Chips and have to be physically restrained from eating them all of the time. My colour sense is more or less non-existent, but my wife has prised me away from a predilection for brown and beige. My favourite group of all time is The Enid, a progressive rock band currently celebrating their 40th year.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
It’s arguable whether I am a writer, but it must be nice to be able to draw and paint. I have no facility for either.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Yes, you can find a lot of my stuff at www.philwhiteland.blogspot.com
Steady Past Your Granny’s = http://getbook.at/Grannys
Crutches for Ducks = http://getbook.at/crutchesforducks
A Kick at the Pantry Door = http://getbook.at/AKickatthePantryDoor
Giving a Bull Strawberries = http://getbook.at/BullStrawberries
Amazon Authors Page = https://www.amazon.co.uk/Philip-Whiteland/e/B004SBQSHG/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1