Books Magazine

An Interview with a Writer: Philip Womack

By Periscope @periscopepost
Philip Womack, author of The Liberators and The Other Book.

Philip Womack

Philip Womack was born in a thunderstorm in 1981 in Chichester. He was educated at Lancing and Oriel, Oxford, and is the author of two children’s fantasy novels, The Other Book and The Liberators. He is currently working on a number of projects. Incidentally, according to Tatler, he is Byronically handsome and giggles like schoolgirl.

First of all, how old are you?

I am as old as the sun. In other words, I am thirty. Just.

Did you always want to be a writer?

I always wanted to be a writer, yes, but since grown ups spend most of their time telling you a) that you can’t be a writer because it’s not economically viable and b) that you need experience to be a writer, I thought I wanted to be other things as well. A diplomat, when I was quite small; I even trained as a lawyer (for about five minutes) when I left university. I think the answer to that question is that I always was a writer and whatever else I did I would have written. I wrote my first story when I was four, which was, I think, about a mouse chasing a cat, although it has since been lost to posterity.

When did you start writing?

When I was about eight or nine I embarked on an epic story about armies of pixies fighting squirrels. I kid you not. I didn’t get very far. It sort of ate itself. I wrote it on a computer with a green screen. That’s how old I am. I basically was always writing one thing or another, whether it was creative writing pieces in school, or some kind of grander project which inevitably came to nothing. I do not mourn the loss of my vampire novel, written when I was a feverish fourteen year old.

What/who are your favorite books/writers?

Ah, that trickiest of questions. Hmmm. I love Philip Sidney, an Elizabethan who wrote one of the first novels. More recently, Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf, Aldous Huxley. I’ve recently become a massive fan of the novelist Henry Green. Contemporary writers that I admire are Edward St Aubyn, HIlary Mantel, Claire Messud and Julia Leigh, amongst others. Favourite books include King Lear, but there are too many really.

What kind of thing do you write? 

I’ve written two fantasy novels for older children. The Other Book concerned a, well, magic book that the evil Lady Anne was hellbent on retrieving from the hero, Edward Pollock. The idea behind it was that books and children have a very special relationship, and that it’s quite hard to distinguish fantasy and reality when you’re young. My second, The Liberators, discussed freedom, set against the backdrop of a chaotic London, in which the young Ivo Moncrieff had to stop a sinister cult hell bent on removing people’s consciences and turning the world into a nightmare. Yay! I try to weave some kind of subtle message into the plot.

If you write in different mediums, which is your favourite? Why?

I am a fervid book reviewer for many papers; at the moment it’s mostly The Daily Telegraph. I do enjoy crafting a good review – you can often, even in such short and sadly neglected pieces, discuss interesting and profound themes. And you can make jokes. Sometimes.

Can we read any of your work online? Can we see you perform anywhere anytime soon?

Ummm…. I have a weblog ( I hate the word blog). Most of my reviews are posted on the papers’ websites. I am currently obsessing slightly over Tumblr. I’m doing a chat about The Liberators in Cranleigh at the end of April.

How did you get your book deal?

In the most serendipitous way possible. I was walking down Piccadilly in the rain, when I bumped into a girl I hadn’t seen for a while; she asked me down to Dorset for the weekend. Also staying there was a girl who worked at Bloomsbury. She asked me about my book and I said it wasn’t ready; she asked me to send it in anyway. The rest is history.

Do you have any advice for young writers?

Never wear red ties on a Tuesday.
Advice is hard to give as it’s so difficult, every writer’s path is different. I think the best thing I can say is learn how to criticize your own writing. Read, learn, observe, develop. You can’t be a writer in isolation.


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