Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Hi, Fiona. My name is Phillip Vega, and I’m as old as my tongue and a little older than my teeth—age 52.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I usually tell people that I’m from Krypton; however, for your audience, I’ll be serious. I was born in New York, raised on Long Island in a town called Stony Brook, and currently live in Florida.
Fiona: A little about yourself (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
My wife and I have been together for 27 years, married for 25, have four sons and two and a half dogs. It’s really four dogs, but I usually tell people two and a half: three are Chihuahuas and one is a German Shepherd mix who thinks she’s a lap dog, so there you go. For the last 25 years, I’ve been selling security software. Being a published novelist is a recent undertaking, as you’ll shortly see.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I recently released my second novel, The Captain & the Queen. It’s a coming-of-age love story, set in the mid-’80s on Long Island. It’s a love story between a middle-class Hispanic high school senior and his classmate, a wealthy, beautiful, blue-eyed, olive-skinned daughter of a Greek tycoon. Their relationship is tested against all odds as they become more than just friends. The question is: how long can it possibly last?”
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Writing novels for me was never on my personal bucket list or roadmap. It just happened on a rainy Saturday afternoon, August 2015. My wife and I came home from grocery shopping, she turned in for a nap, and I sat on the couch with my iPad to watch TV.
Naturally, nothing caught my fancy, and as I sat there, images began playing in my mind’s eye. It was almost like watching a YouTube video. It was the complete story arc for my first novel, Last Exit to Montauk.
As the “movie” played, something compelled me to open Word on my iPad and start writing what I witnessed. Before I knew it, I was three chapters deep. Six weeks later, I finished my first manuscript.
Since then, the creative dam burst, and as I mentioned, I recently released my second novel, am currently working on my third, and have over twenty-five manuscripts in various stages of completion.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I considered myself a writer after I sold my first book. As I previously mentioned, this wasn’t on the bucket list. Writing novels wasn’t on the personal roadmap. Even though I completed the manuscript for Last Exit to Montauk prior to my 50th birthday, I still didn’t know what I’d do with it. I never considered publishing it.
The only reason I started the process was because a friend, Carol, over dinner one night, asked what was new. We did the “how’s work, how’re the kids” thing, and I briefly mentioned that I just finished writing a story.
Long story short, after peppering me with questions the way a close friend does, she put me in contact with a published author friend of hers, who put me in contact with an editor, Janet Fix, of thewordverve. From there, it’s been a whirlwind.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I don’t know if I’d use the word inspired. It was more like compelled. The moment I began putting words to “paper,” I became compelled to finish Last Exit to Montauk, even though I didn’t know what, if anything, I’d do with the finished product. It was just something I needed to get out of me.
It was the same with The Captain & the Queen, even though I knew or now know the endgame. I now understand what’s happening, and what I’m going to do with the final product.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
For my first novel, Last Exit to Montauk, it was actually a road sign I drove past for about a year as I was driving to work on Montauk Highway toward Hampton Bays on Long Island, back in the 90s. Sadly, the sign is no longer there. As I sat and wrote this novel, the sign became part of my “vision” or “video” that played in my mind’s eye. I knew right away what I’d name my manuscript.
(Spoiler alert) It also plays a role in the book as well.
For my second novel, The Captain & the Queen, I toyed with a few titles, and one evening as I was writing, the title came to me in a “vision.” The moment I saw the words in my mind’s eye, I knew I had my title.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
Some tell me that I have a unique writing style. Both novels are coming-of-age love stories, set in the same universe and in the same time period, but focused on different characters.
In both novels, the male protagonists are Hispanic, from white-collar homes and told from the male point of view, which is different than most YA, New Adult, or Romance novels.
Also, since I’m writing from the male POV in both novels, my goal is to keep things relatable for the reader, regardless of who’s reading the book(s). Surprisingly, at least to me, both novels have female and male fans, based on the reviews.
The greatest challenge is keeping my personal politics and religious views out of my work. No one cares what my political beliefs are and how I define myself from a faith-perspective. Having said that, I also write “what I know,” which is why all my novels will contain strong female protagonists and white-collar Hispanic characters.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Certainly, both Last Exit to Montauk and The Captain & the Queen are homages to my adolescence. Like the characters in Last Exit to Montauk, I grew up in an upper-middle-class Hispanic home with two brothers and a physician mother. I went to a local prep school. And the locations mentioned in both novels are real. That’s as close to reality as the story goes.
The events in both novels are pure fiction, even though the locations exist. As a matter of fact, this past summer, I received an email from a fan who went on a “Last Exit to Montauk pilgrimage.” She went to the various locations mentioned in the book and took selfies with the book.
It totally blew me away. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine someone doing that. It inspired me to create a “selfies” contest on my websitewww.phillipvega.com and my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/AuthorPhilVega. The top three winners received autographed copies of my novels, and I will create characters using their names in my next novel. I love my fans.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I travel for a living, selling software across the country, so yes and no. It’s not an integral part of my process, but when I have free time, usually in the evenings after I finish working, I will write a few chapters. I prefer to write in my home office with a tall cup of coffee on my desk, either sunflower seeds or gummy bears in a dish, and a YouTube page I created for myself to “get me in the mood,” playing ’70s through early ’90s music on my speakers or my headphones, depending on time of day.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
For Last Exit to Montauk, my publisher, thewordverve, worked with one of her designers, Robin Kraus. For The Captain & the Queen, my publisher used in-house talent, Angie Lovell. I absolutely love both covers, and both have won awards, so I guess I’m not alone.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes, there are a few underlying messages I intend on incorporating into all my novels. The first is love is a journey, so enjoy it. Secondly, I’m looking to turn the Hispanic narrative on its head. I want my readers to walk away from my novels with a different perspective of the “Hispanic experience.”
We’re not all migrant workers. That’s not my background or reality. I grew up in a primarily all-white, upper-middle-class neighborhood home on Long Island. My parents didn’t cross the border illegally. They had good-paying, white-collar jobs and became a successful part of our society.
My motherimmigrated to the US from the Dominican Republic after WWII. She was valedictorian of her medical programand became a respected physician in New York and on Long Island.
My father, born and raised in New York, of Puerto Rican heritage, worked for the US Federal Government at the Office for Civil Rights in New York City.
They were my two brothers and my example growing up, as my wife and I are examples to our four sons today. While I sell software full-time and write novels part-time, my wife is a schoolteacher.
She and I have two sons serving in the US Air Force, another in college, and another working as a pastry chef. And yes, having a son as a pastry chef is as awesome as you’d imagine.
These are the types of experiences I share in my novels and hope by doing so, it will help change the narrative as it relates to Hispanics in this great country I love.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
I have broad interests. Like many, I love JK Rowling, Stephen King, Nicholas Sparks, and Timothy Zahn. What I love most about their work is it transports the reader to another world. In JK Rowling’s example, she transported us to Hogwarts and the wonderful world of Harry Potter. Who doesn’t love Harry and crew? Timothy Zahn does a great job taking George Lucas’ Star Wars world and expanding on it. As you read his material, you can hear the tie-fighters flying in the background.
Nicholas Spark’s love stories have become a fabric of our society. Who hasn’t read and/or watched The Notebook and came away changed for the better? Stephen King scares the holy hell out of you, yet does it in a way that keeps you coming back for more. As a matter of fact, his world, Castle Rock, Maine, inspired mine, in that most, if not all, of my novels will travel through or take place in Stony Brook, New York.
Lastly, anything by Neil Simon. Hands down, the man was a genius!
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
That’s simple: Janet Fix. She’s become my editor, publisher, confidant, and good friend. The funny thing is, I didn’t know her prior to 2016. I could have passed her in the supermarket and wouldn’t have known who she was.
As I mentioned, becoming a published novelist wasn’t part of my roadmap or on my bucket list. It just happened. Throughout my journey, she’s always been the voice of encouragement. She was the first person, outside of family, to have a visceral reaction to Last Exit to Montauk.
She initially thought it was a memoir. Her visceral reaction surprised her and her daughter. When I told her it was fictional, she told me we must work together, and since the beginning of 2016, we have been.
A close second is my street team, I affectionately call, Team V! They’re the best!!
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, I do. It’s now on my roadmap and on my bucket list. I know I’m at the beginning of this journey, but it’s my ultimate goal. Once my youngest son completes college, I’d love to give it an additional year at the day job, go out with a successful bang, and start writing full-time. As I mentioned, I have over twenty-five manuscripts in development. All I need is the time to complete them. Also, the “visions” haven’t stopped, as my wife can attest.
Just two weeks ago, she and I driving home from Miami, and a “vision” started playing in my mind’s eye. The minute we finished unpacking the car and received the thumbs-up from my wife, I went to my office and started typing. I love every minute of it.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No, I wouldn’t change a thing. My editor and I work very well together. I don’t know if it’s because of my professional/business background, managing contracts and creating marketing collateral daily, but I don’t take edits personally.
Janet told me early on that her goal was to help me craft my story. Make it the best it can be. If that means cutting things or making minor changes, that’s okay. If there’s something we disagree on, we discuss it and come to an agreement. I love working with her and love the entire editing process, which makes her laugh. I guess most writers don’t enjoy people editing their work, but I understand the business reasons for it and the end result we’re trying to meet.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Most definitely. As I wroteThe Captain & the Queen, I learned how to get myself in the mood. To put myself in “the zone.” For me, it’s usually music. It not only calms the savage beast but helps me find my zone. I’ve also learned to get up and walk away, hit control/command-S, save the work, and do something else for a while. Get out of my head or out of the way, so the work can flow through to the page.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot since I started writing. It’s also something I plan on pursuing. Transforming my novels into film, whether on a Netflix-type platform or the big screen, is on my bucket list. And something in my gut tells me it’ll happen.
For Last Exit to Montauk:
- Robin Wright as B’s mother
- Viggo Mortensen as B’s father
- Selenis Leyva or Luna Lauren Valez as Ma
- Adam Rodriguez as the older brother
- Virginia Gardner or Blake Lively as B
- Prince Royce or an unknown Puerto Rican/Dominican actor as the male protagonist/narrator
- Eva Longoria, Jessica Alba and/or Robin Wright producers
- Director: Robin Wright
For The Captain & the Queen:
- Lorena Rae as Callie
- Ryan Guzman or maybe an unknown as the male protagonist
- Cole Sprouse as Matt
- John Stamos as Callie’s father
- Same production team
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Get your backend into a chair and start writing. Write what you know. Find an editor you can work with and trust. Relax and find your own way to get in “the zone,” then sit back and allow the words to flow from your mind to the page.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Yes. Thank you. Thank you for reading my work. Thank you for your tremendous support and feedback. Thank you for entrusting me with your time and for investing your money in my novels. Thank you for joining me on this journey. I can’t wait to see where it takes us next. That and it’s okay to laugh at ourselves.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I just finished reading a book called Moonshine Lullaby by Rozita Berry. It’s a coming-of-age novel about a girl named Tanya, sent to live with her father in the country as her world-famous country music singer mother kicks off another world tour. It was a great novel.
I’m also reading The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz,Personal by Lee Child (a Jack Reacher novel), and Intoxic by award-winning novelist Angie Gallion. I was recently introduced to Angie Gallion’s work and absolutely love the way she writes. I can see why she’s an award-winning writer.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I do. It was A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin, in tenth grade. Yes, I’ve read other books growing up, but those were primarily for school. Aside from comic books, of which my collection is extensive, Earthsea was the first novel I picked up and read cover to cover for the sake of reading a book for pleasure.
That book opened the world for me to other novels and works of fiction from Stephen King to Tom Clancy to JK Rowling to many others. I can spend hours in a bookstore, as my wife and children can attest. I just love the smell and feel of a new book, ya know?
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Mel Brooks makes me laugh, as do Billy Crystal and Howard Stern. Whacking my pinkie toe into the corner of a table makes me cry. Seriously though, my family makes me laugh. Situation comedies make me laugh. Life makes me laugh. Life also makes me cry. People suffering makes me cry. People in pain makes me cry. Personal failures, at times, make me cry. Sometimes my manuscripts and novels make me cry.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
This is a very long list. The top is Jesus. How many people in the history of mankind has made such an impact that His birth literally defines timelines? I’d love to meet Him, sit at His feet and just be still.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Laughing, eating pizza, and hanging out with my wife, not necessarily in that order. I enjoy yard work, which is ironic, since it’s the one thing I hated doing as a teenager, yet find it so very relaxing and cathartic as an adult. Just me, my music or podcast playing in my headphones, the sunshine and nature. That or sitting on the beach, watching the waves roll in as I absorb the sights, smells, sunshine, and sounds.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I’m nostalgic for the ’80s, which is probably why my novels take place there, or at least pass through there. Shows like Stranger Things, NCIS, Modern Family, Blue Bloods, the DC shows like The Flash, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow on the CW, and of course, Seinfeld, Big Bang Theory, and The Odd Couple.
Movies—I’m a comic book junky, so I’ve seen all the Marvel and DC movies, including the animated ones. I’ve seen all the Star Wars, Star Trek, Alien(s), Terminator(s), and the like. Also, a good love story as well, like The Notebook or The Princess Bride. The Godfather, Goodfellas, and The Fifth Element. When these three movies are on television, I sit down and watch, regardless of where in the movie it is.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Favorite food is pizza. Favorite colors are red, white and blue, plus green, gray and yellow. My favorite music is classic rock from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. It’s the music I grew up listening to and helped shape my life.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Okay, now that would make me cry! Strike that, I’d weep…a lot! If money weren’t a challenge, I’d travel. It’s something my wife and I enjoy doing together. We’d go back to Italy, France, Austria and visit Spain. There are also places in the US we’d love to visit as well. I’d also do yard work and sit on the beach, while listening to my music and/or podcasts.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
Simple. I’d spend it hanging out with my wife and sons. We’d start the dayenjoying homemade banana pancakes, crispy maple-flavoredbacon, coffee, and orange juice. We’d then head to the beach, absorbing the rays, splashing around the water, and listening to life.
From there, we’d grab a quick lunch, which would include ice cream, and then walk around town, taking in the local sights. We’d end the day having pizza and wine, laughing about the day and our lives, and then I’d kiss my children goodnight, letting them each know how very proud I am of them and the young men they’ve become. I’d then turn in with my wife, making love, holding her and telling her how much I love her and thanking her for a wonderful life together…till my last breath left my body.
Or, with my luck, I’d spend it stuck in traffic.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Pay no attention to the laughter…
The adventure continues…
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
- Amazon: amazon.com/author/phillipvega
- Barnes & Nobles: https://bit.ly/2xHn26B
- thewordverve: https://thewordverve.com/authors/phillip-vega