It is my great pleasure to welcome an author who’s work I only recently became very familiar with; Gillian Philip. If you have been following my reviews on her Rebel Angel series, you will see how much I love everything about this fantastic series, which currently stands at Frost Child (e-book Prequel), Firebrand, Bloodstone, and the latest, Wolfsbane.
Hi, Gillian, welcome to Book Chick City. Many of the readers will know how obsessed I am with The Rebel Angel Series, but could you tell them, in your own words, what it’s about?
Hi Gemma! The Rebel Angels series is about the Sithe of Scotland, the kind of fierce, human-sized faeries who are a lot more like the De Danaan of Ireland than delicate Flower Fairies. My main characters come from a clann who are rebelling against the Faerie Queen because she wants power in the full-mortal world, and will destroy the protecting Veil – and her own world – to achieve it. The series title comes from the old Highland legend that the faeries were the fallen angels who were thrown out of Heaven (the ones who fell on land. The ones who fell in the sea became the selkies, or seal people, and the ones who were caught in the sky became the Northern Lights).
Where did you get your inspiration for the series? Was it always intended to be a series or was it supposed to be one stand-alone book?
I suppose, like many series, it started out as a one-off. There’s a small loch near my sister-in-law’s house where I used to walk, and an image lodged in my head of a boy and a girl wading into the water and disappearing. That turned into a book about Finn and Jed (who are now first introduced in Bloodstone), but I got hopelessly sidetracked by the other characters and their motives. My first manuscript wasn’t much good, but I was so involved with the characters by then, I started to write a sequel. And when I finished that, I wrote a prequel… and so it grew!
How much research has gone into creating these books?
I tend not to do research before I start to write, but go back and fill in the blanks or make corrections later. That’s how I wrote the original Bloodstone, and because that was mostly set in the modern world, most of my research consisted of walking miles around the places I wanted to use as settings. I did also swot up on Scottish myth and legend, which was no chore – I love those stories. But for Firebrand, which is set in the 16th century and partly in the ‘full-mortal’ world, I had to do a lot of historical research. For the first time, I absolutely loved the research side of things – it was such a fascinating period, politically and religiously, and I found myself going back to some quite terrifying original sources about the Scottish witch-hunts.
I know that we will be getting one more book after Wolfsbane, but is that the series concluded or can we expect more from Seth and his world?
Again, I think I’ve been ambushed by the characters! I was fairly determined to keep the series to four books, and the current story arc will definitely come to an end in Book 4. But I wrote a very short prequel to the series, called Frost Child, and made it available on Kindle; now I find myself wanting to expand that into a full-length novel. It’s about the doomed relationship between Seth’s parents, but I’d also like to investigate Kate, the Faery Queen, and find out what happened to her in the centuries before Firebrand. Also, I was flicking through a newspaper recently and found myself hypnotised by a photograph of a young woman. I’m not entirely sure yet who she is, but she’s definitely Sithe, definitely lives in the modern world, and has a story to tell… so yes, I think the Sithe will be back at some point.
Is the series planned out? Has any character or storyline taken you by surprise on how it developed or changed?
It was never planned out – it was one of those stories where, as they say in The History Boys, it was just one [damn] thing after another. I have a rough draft of the final book already written, but something happened unexpectedly in Wolfsbane that’s going to force a rewrite. I actually love it when stories do that… In fact, the whole series took a major turning in the first book when I discovered that it wasn’t Finn and Jed’s story at all – or not principally – it was Seth’s. He barged his way to the front and demanded top billing. Stroppy faery.
Where and when do you like to do your writing? Is there a favourite place you like to go?
I’m lucky to have my own study, which overlooks a beautiful valley – we built the house two years ago, so I got to plan it myself! It’s stuffed with books but it’s always chaotic – I don’t have to hoover the carpet because I can never see it.
Who have been the biggest influences in your writing?
That’s a tricky one, because I spent years wrestling with my style and finding out what I wanted to write. I kicked against writing fantasy and crime for ages – I thought I was destined for romance (the fictional kind). But eventually I accepted that fantasy and crime were what I’d always loved to read, and that those were what I should be writing. (I know that makes no sense, and I don’t know what kind of weird logic I was following, but I got there in the end.) I guess my biggest influence from my younger days was Alan Garner; more recently I’ve loved Malorie Blackman’s unflinching writing, and Bernard Cornwell’s gritty approach to history. A newer fantasy idol is Cornelia Funke; her characters are so complex and engaging.
Whose help is indispensable when you are trying to thrash out your next novel?
I’m very antisocial when I’m thinking about a new novel. I have to go out for long walks and avoid everybody. Either that, or I bury myself in newspapers and television reports – so many stories are even stranger than fiction. But I’m definitely not fun to be around.
What has been your biggest achievement, so far? What was it that made you say “yes, I’m now a fully-fledged writer”?
Oh cripes, I think I’m still fumbling around learning to fly. But (a) the time I sold my very first short story to the People’s Friend – that was when I finally felt I could admit to friends I was a ‘writer’ – and (b) the first time one of my novels got a review from a complete stranger.
On to a few fun questions. If you were stranded on a desert island, what five things would you want with you?
Photos of my kids; unlimited notebooks and pens; my electronic cigarette; an iPad loaded with my favourite movies. And loo roll.
How would you describe yourself in five words? And how would others describe you in five words?
Me: Needs a better edit button.
Others: Needs a better edit button.
What is next on your agenda? Any projects you can share that we can look forward to reading?
I’m writing an episode of Beast Quest, which is a big thrill for me because it was one of my son’s favourite series when he was younger. At the same time I’m also ghostwriting a new series for Working Partners called Rookery Island. I’m starting a new YA crime novel of my own, which has the working title Spitting Distance; and I’d really like to get going on the expanded version of Frost Child!
Thanks for your time, and the very best of luck with Wolfsbane.
Thanks Gemma, and thanks for a fantastic interview!
Gillian lives in the north-east Highlands of Scotland with her husband, two children, three dogs (Cluny, Milo and Otto), two psychotic cats (the Ghost and the Darkness), a slayer hamster (Buffy), three chickens (Mapp, Lucia and Mrs Norris) and a lot of nervous fish. Oh, and some stick insects. She has taken a solemn vow not to get any more pets, though she will probably break this vow.
We have a lovely signed copy of Firebrand to give away. This giveaway is UK only and ends 18th Sept 2012. To enter please leave a comment for Gillian then fill out the form below.
THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED