Huge congratulations on winning your Chill Award, Phill! You must be so happy that your work has been recognised in this way. Now, before we carry on, would you please introduce yourself to my readers, just in case they don’t know you already …
Thank you, Emma. My name’s Phill Featherstone and my home is in West Yorkshire, only a few miles from where the wonderful Brontë sisters lived and wrote. I’ve always been an avid reader, but I didn’t take up writing fiction until a few years ago. Paradise Girl is the third novel I’ve written, although it’s the first to be published.
So, your book has been awarded with a Chill with a Book Readers’ Award, what inspired you to write this story?
I live high on the Pennine hills, and although my home is secluded there’s always something to see in the valley below. Except one day there wasn’t; everything was still. It occurred to me to wonder what it would be like if everyone else had vanished and I was the only person left. How could someone cope in a situation like that? Kerryl Shaw, the Paradise Girl of my story, was born.
What does the award mean to you?
It’s a tremendous honour to receive this award. Writing a novel is enormously enjoyable but it’s a long and lonely business. And when you’ve got your book as good as you can make it and it finally appears in print (another long journey) you’re on tenterhooks to see what people think of it. Someone once likened the experience to taking your clothes off in public! I’m always grateful to anyone who takes the time to read my work, and to find that the Chill readers loved Paradise Girl is hugely rewarding.
What other titles have you published? Tell us a little about them …
I’ve collaborated with my wife, Sally Featherstone, on about a dozen educational activity books, but Paradise Girl is my first published fiction. I wrote two novels (the first two of a trilogy) before Paradise Girl but I’m not happy with them yet and they need a bit more work. They’re sitting in my ‘to do’ tray hoping to be resuscitated some time. Meanwhile I’m working on something else.
Are you working on a new book? Tell me about that …
My new book, which I’m hoping will be published later this year, is called The God Jar. It’s about a magical object that first appears in Elizabethan England in the hands of John Dee, ‘the Queen’s Magician’, then turns up in the 21st century, with dramatic results.
When not writing, what can you be found doing?
It depends on my mood, the time of year and the weather. I like walking in the spectacular countryside surrounding my home. I’m surrounded by upland hay meadows, and I work on conserving those and supporting the wildlife that inhabits them. Although I adore living in the country I also love cities, and I enjoy exploring new ones. London is my favourite and I’m constantly returning there to visit galleries and exhibitions and to go to the theatre. I read (of course), listen to music, watch films and TV series, and I play the saxophone (badly!).
Which three authors have most influenced your journey to becoming an author?
Very very difficult. Can I cheat? There are great writers from the past who influence all of us all the time through the very language we speak (and therefore the way we think). Shakespeare, of course; Jane Austen; Emily Brontë (although it could just as easily have been Anne or Charlotte) for starters. Present writers? There are so many good ones around at the moment – truly a golden age. Kate Atkinson, Margaret Atwood, Suzanne Collins, Philip Pullman, Hilary Mantel, Sally Wainwright, J K Rowling … is that more than three?
Why did you choose the genre you write in?
Paradise Girl is YA, and that genre arose out of the story. When I came up with the idea for the book I thought the situation would be more poignant if the lone survivor was young, someone with all their life before them. I decided it should be a girl because I thought she would be more reflective and better than a boy at expressing feelings (a terrible generalisation, I know, but that’s what I thought). I used to teach 15-18-year-olds and I find teenagers fascinating, so it was interesting for me – an older writer – to work on getting inside a much younger head. That was for Paradise Girl, but at least one kind reviewer said that she thought my book was just as appealing to adult readers. I don’t feel tied to one genre. My new book, The God Jar, isn’t specifically YA, although I hope young people will read and enjoy it.
Which other genre would you chose if you had to change?
Historical fiction, or modern science fantasy (Black Mirror stuff).
Quick fire questions …
Twitter or Facebook? Horses for courses. Twitter for shouting from the rooftops, Facebook for keeping in touch with friends
Tea or coffee? Coffee (my goodness, that was a straight answer – I’m slipping)
Marmite – yes or no? Yes
Marvel or DC? Do I have to choose? All right, DC.
Early riser or sleep in? Sleep in, no contest, but then I’m a night owl
Pj’s or ‘normal’ clothes when writing? ‘normal’, but very casual
Planner or pantster? Pantster. I try to plan, but as soon as I start writing the whole thing changes!
Book or kindle? Book (although I do love my kindle)
Pineapple on pizza – yes or no? Yuk!
And finally, … What is your favourite book of all time?
It would be easy to say something pretentious, like War & Peace, but actually for YA readers I think The Golden Compass takes some beating.
Thank you for joining me today and many congratulations again on your Chill with A Book Award!
Thank you, and thank you for the opportunity to respond to some terrific questions.
Paradise Girl is out now and you can get your copy over at Amazon and by following the links below, here’s the blurb …
A highly infectious and incurable virus spreads worldwide. Seventeen-year-old Kerryl Shaw and her family live on a remote farm and think they will be safe, but the plague advances. Despite deaths around them, the Shaws survive. However, this changes when a stranger arrives, and it soon becomes apparent he has brought the infection to their door. One by one the family succumbs, leaving Kerryl alone.
Kerryl is sure it’s only a matter of time before she, too, dies. She decides to record what she thinks will be her final days in a diary. She realises that it will never be read, so she imagines a reader and calls him Adam. As loneliness and isolation affect the balance of her mind, Adam ceases to be an imaginary character and becomes real to her.
Communications break down and services fail. Unexplained events build fear and menace: Kerryl hears her name called in the night; she’s attacked by stray animals; she’s molested when she visits the town; she sees a stranger outside her house, who vanishes when she tries to make contact; objects appear and disappear. The climax comes when she finds a text message on her phone. Who is texting her? How? She thinks it can only be Adam, because by now there is no one else left. Another text invites her to a rendezvous at the Bride Stones, a beauty spot popular with lovers, and she leaves for what she is sure will be a meeting with Adam…
You can keep up with all Phill’s news at the following social media sites and if you’d like some more information on the Chill With A Book Awards, click here. n bv
About the author …
Phill Featherstone trained as a teacher before reading English at Cambridge. After working in schools and as a local authority adviser he started and ran an education publishing company. He has co-written several books for teachers. He now writes full-time and lives with his wife in a Pennine farmhouse.
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