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Rod Philbrick Meets the Tinycawlers

Update from "Freak the Mighty" Author

SEACOASTNH: We hear you had a run-in with a puppet on an Irish morning talk show?

PHILBRICK: Yup. There¹s a popular Irish show called "The Den." Sort of Sesame Street with a strong dose of irreverence for pop celebrities and politicians. As a guest you sit behind a desk and when the red light comes on, two totally wild rag puppets fly out of nowhere and start attacking and humiliating you on camera. I just laughed and agreed with all of their insults and within a couple of minutes they were telling me how much they loved my book‹this would be The Young Man And The Sea‹and recommending it to the kids who watched the show. It¹s the only time I¹ve ever been recognized on the street or by taxi drivers, after holding my own on ³The Den,² and talking with a turkey made of feather dusters.

SEACOASTNH: You¹re still traveling around the U.S. to speak to teachers and students? You were in Alaska last year and may travel to Chile? Does this give you a chance to get feedback from fans?

PHILBRICK: It mostly gives me a chance to whine about how much I hate air travel. But it¹s great fun meeting kids who¹ve read my books.

SEACOASTNH: What kinds of letters do you get from the kids themselves?

PHILBRICK: The majority of the mail is homework, both for the kids and for me. But a small and precious percentage of the letters originate outside of classroom assignments, from kids who have been turned on to books, or who want to be writers, or who simply want me to share their enthusiasm for story-telling. And that¹s a great honor for an author, to be told your book made a difference in someone¹s life.

SEACOASTNH: What¹s happening with your latest published books and what are you working on now?

PHILBRICK: My latest book for young adults is The Young Man And The Sea, published as Lobster Boy in England. It's been optioned for a film by London producers Viva Films, who persuaded me to write a screenplay. Too soon to say if it will ever be filmed. Director John Goldschmidt is now looking to put together a consortium of investors, and hopes to shoot the thing in Nova Scotia. No idea when or if that will happen. The tentative budget is eight million‹you know anybody with extra pocket change?

SEACOASTNH: And you continue to work on screenplays?

PHILBRICK: It¹s an addiction. I have a few in circulation, including Stop Time, the tale of a young photographer who comes into possession of a device that stops time. Nine Levels Down is based on my adult thriller of the same title, and Star Pattern, in which the NBA meets DNA. My stories and screenplays are represented in Los Angeles by Paul Kohner, Inc., but I¹m beginning to think that some of my young readers will have to grow up and become the next generation of filmmakers before any more of my books are made into movies.

SEACOASTNH: But you haven¹t given up on writing for adults?

PHILBRICK: Nope. An adult thriller, Taken, comes out this summer, under the pseudonym Chris Jordan.

SEACOASTNH: That is part of a three-novel contract with Mira, a division of Harlequin. Can you tell us about this book and how it reached the current publisher? Is this an adventure exclusively for female readers?

PHILBRICK: I wrote Taken on spec‹that is, without a contract‹and it was eventually picked up by Margaret Marbury, the editor-in-chief at Mira.Fortunately she couldn¹t put it down, and offered to publish it if I would agree to write two more thrillers under the same pseudonym. No, the stories are not intended to be exclusively for female readers, although the protagonists are female, written in the first-person, and unfortunately that turns off some of the more knuckle-headed male readers.

SEACOASTNH: And in the pipeline?

PHILBRICK: I'm working on another young adult novel, set at the time of the Civil War. I have no idea how long it will take to complete The True Adventures of Homer Figg, but hopefully not as long as the Civil War itself! I also have another adult thriller due.

SEACOASTNH: Has dividing your year between Kittery, Maine and the Florida Keys changed the way you write? Is one location more productive?

PHILBRICK: No, both locations are equally non-productive, because both locations have good fishing.

SEACOASTNH: Yet your vita sounds amazingly productive. Have you evolved a solid writing discipline in your mature years? We hear that you still prop a keyboard up on the kitchen table?

PHILBRICK: Actually it's the dining room table. Works just fine, by the way, although I remain envious of those writers who have rooms of their own. You¹re right about the self-imposed discipline. Back in the bad old days I had to write at least three novels a year to make a bare living. That meant five pages a day, minimum. Nowadays I¹m down to three pages on a good day, with a lot more goofing off.

SEACOASTNH: How many hours a week are you at the keyboard? And are you actually writing in your head while fishing? If so, you could deduct the boat as an office tax expense.

PHILBRICK: My guess is, I average twenty hours a week in front of the machine. Four hours a day with weekends off. That doesn¹t count answering mail. Yes, I do a lot of writing in my head while drifting down the Piscataqua, but no, they won¹t let me take that particular deduction.

SEACOASTNH: What have you learned about writing that you didn¹t know five or ten years ago?

PHILBRICK: It's the same old dilemma I've been struggling with since I was twelve years old. The best writing tells the story without getting in the way of the reader. Which, of course, makes it much more difficult for the writer who wants to show off his stuff, and must instead learn to simplify,simplify.

SEACOASTNH: As should we all. Thanks for the update.

 

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