I shall be engaging in a number of interviews with independent authors. May you find these informative, entertaining, and perhaps even inspiring to go out and locate their books!
This interview is with author Philip van Wulven .
Dear Philip, can you offer us a little insight into who you are?
I am a grandfather thinking and learning, I am a father growing and teaching, I am a youth laughing, I am a child, still wondering.
What is the reason that you started writing? When did you start writing?
I like words, spoken and written, always have, always will.
I always wanted to write, but never had time, with family and work coming before my own wants until the kids were all grown and wobbling along independently.
Inertia kept me in a groove of long work hours and lots of reading, combined with fixing stuff, gardening and golf and fishing and family, until I was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2004. I had endured a working life in factories, mills and other places involving machinery, because those are the places with jobs and money. Long hours and uncomfortable conditions meant money that I never got any great benefit from, personally.
The doctors told me I might lose the use of my right arm (if I lived). Now, an industrial millwright definitely needs two functional arms and hands, and a one handed typist can get by. Like everybody in similar situations I reassessed what I was doing against what I wanted to do, and writing popped up to the top of the list.
I took some University extension courses – Creative Writing – and tried some non-fiction to see if I enjoyed that. I didn’t. I could have earned money that way, writing abstracts, copywriting, but nah, blah.
Fiction is much more fun, so here I am.
Are you writing under a pen-name, do you use your own, or is your work out in both ways?
I write under my own name. I thought about that a few times, since I have a somewhat unusual name, but internet searches come up with ME rather more often that is the case for the many John Smiths out there, so I stuck with Philip van Wulven.
What is your best book? And what makes you think so?
My first, Eland Dances, has a lot of effort and emotion in it, a great deal of thought, endless rewrites, and a fair bit of my own life experiences. Of course, none of that makes it objectively better, but there is a certain favouritism influencing my choice.
Naturally, after the best book, what is your worst, if there is one? And why do you feel that way?
My first little short story collection, Heavy and Light Tales, includes some stuff that needs a rewrite and some that just needs to quietly fade into oblivion. I was learning to write with those stories. I am still learning, but now have a firmer base to work from.
How do you think your writing has changed over time? Did it change at all?
I know some of the rookie mistakes, and manage to avoid them more often. My confidence has grown, especially when I read other people’s stuff and can see the flaws in it.
And can you say that writing has changed you?
The way I read has changed, more than anything. I have always observed people and their behaviour, and paid attention to the world and its working.
What is the most daring thing you ever did or tried in your writing? In which book did that happen?
I tried to write some of my family into Eland Dances, but they changed into different people as the writing progressed.
And, if your feel up to it, what is the most daring thing you ever did in your life? Feel free to skip this one, not everybody is up to revealing much about themselves…
I took a Harrier jump-jet for a joyride, back in 1960something.
Gosh, what a fuss!
A year or two later I sucker-punched a gangster, one of the Kray twins.
I was a fast runner.
As an older teenager, I confronted armed men from both sides in the Rhodesia/Zimbabwe civil war, trying to keep their war out of Zambia, where I lived. Some of that (fictionalised) is in Eland Dances.
I survived, somehow.
Oh yeah, a few years ago, I plunged into the world of self-publishing.
The outcome is still in doubt.
Is there something you still want to have a go at, in your writing life? Is there a challenge you envision that’s worth pursuing?
I would like to write a really good science fiction novel.
Has your writing ever been compared to the writing of another (perhaps even famous) writer/author? And do you like that?
I have written some Sherlock Holmes stories, and had those favourably compared to Conan Doyle’s work. What’s not to like about that?
Do you have one or two favourite books (written by someone else)? If so, what are they, and why do they appeal to you so much?
Too many to list, but all have original ideas written in a story with substance.
Which book you ever read would you label as least readable book, so far? Feel free to comment as liberally as you want to the why.
If it is not readable I don’t read it, so this question is not answerable.
Is there a book that you know of that should never have been published, in your opinion?
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion
Is there a writer that you would love to co-write a book with? And what genre would you like to write in then? Something you’re familiar with?
No. Writing a book is not like digging a garden or raising a child, which can be done alone or co-operatively. Perhaps others can write as part of a team, but I doubt if I can.
I would like to write good science fiction, but lack a decent original premise.
Let’s see… is there something in the realm of ‘wise words’ you once picked up that you would like to share? This does not have to be limited to writing, there is more to life than writing. At least, I heard there is. 😉
When I was about seven years old my father, who I saw rarely, told me to “always speak the truth and nothing else” I took that seriously, and so did not speak at all for several weeks, until I managed to sort out that subjective truth was the closest I was ever going to get to The Truth, and so I could speak in such qualified terms as ‘I think that –’ or ‘I remember –’
This admonition got me in trouble a number of times, since people dislike truthful answers to questions, especially from children.
And as a last question, what is cooking with you? What’s your work in progress? Is there a tip of a veil that you can lift for us?
Secret Squirrel says ‘Sssh!’
If there is anything else you would like to share, for example a thought, some promotion for your book(s), then here’s your chance!
Read ‘em, and please don’t weep, unless you are a guinea pig.
Thank you, Philip, for your time, and for sharing your words with us!