LOUISE PHILLIPS is an author of psychological crime thrillers. Her debut novel RED RIBBONS was nominated for the Best Irish Crime Novel of the Year 2012, and her second novel, THE DOLL’S HOUSE, won the award in 2013. LAST KISS, her third novel was also shortlisted. Louise’s work has formed part of many literary anthologies, and she has won both the Jonathan Swift Award and the Irish Writers’ Centre Lonely Voice platform, along with being shortlisted for the Molly Keane Memorial Award, Bridport UK and many other awards. She teaches crime fiction writing at the Irish Writers’ Centre in Dublin, and in 2013, she was the recipient of an arts bursary for literature from South County Dublin. This year, she was awarded a writers’ residency at Cill Rialaig Artist retreat in Kerry, and she was also a judge on the Irish panel for the EU Literary Award.
Louise, with your latest novel, The Game Changer, just published, your fourth psychological crime thriller, can you explain what it is that draws you to write in that genre?
I’m not one hundred per cent sure. My writing tended to be dark, and I was also drawn to writing about human fragility, a fragility which went beyond the so-called ‘good guys’ or victims, but also asked the why, when it came to people doing harm to others. Humanity is complicated, and when good and bad collide, we can learn a lot about ourselves
And having published four books in four years. how long does it take you to complete each book?
My experience to date is four months writing the first draft, having spent some months letting the idea play around in my mind. Once my editor has read it, I will then get an email with suggestions. It will be about 600 words of feedback, and I usually spend another six weeks to two months doing structural edits. The next phase is line edits and then copy edits, and you could add in another month or two for those. That gets us up to eight months, and allowing for holidays and Christmas, you’re at nine+ months. Fire in a month or two of publicity events, launches, book signing, you’re at eleven months all going well. Actual answer – One Year!
So you write every day?
When I’m writing the first draft, I write practically every day. It is both an exhilarating and daunting time. It will take me four months to get the first attempt done, and no matter how much I repeat Ernest Hemingway’s words that ‘the first draft of everything is shit,’ the doubts never leave. I try to harness them to drive me more.
Thinking back, Louise, when did you first begin to write?
I began to write in my teens, mainly as a result of having an amazing English teacher. He quite literally changed my life. We all need someone like that to cross our paths and thinking about it now, not only do I feel lucky; I also think about people who didn’t get chance.
And your first publishing break?
I was in my late forties when I began to write really seriously, going to workshops, joining a writers’ group and submitting short stories and poems to competitions. I did get short stories and poems published within a couple of years, but it was five years before I heard that my first novel would be published. It was a very productive five years
Thoughts on the importance of literary awards?
They help to raise the profile, but more importantly, they can alleviate some of the self-doubts. It’s a peculiar industry. There will be ‘good’ moments and ‘not so good’ moments, but irrespective of awards/competitions, a writer will write.
And do you enjoy the social media element so necessary for authors these days?
Social media is another form of communication. It is here to stay, although it is not for everyone. I enjoy it, especially when I get feedback from readers. Interacting with others is a good thing. It’s what we humans do.
Any advice for aspiring writers?
Want to tell us a little about The Game Changer?
It’s a story about the sins of the father, and how they can ripple through to the next generation, secrets, lie, the darker elements of group behaviour and danger being closer than you think, all form part of the narrative. The intro line is….What if you went missing and couldn’t remember anything?