Author Interview – Garrett Philips
I’m so happy to be interviewing Garrett Philips. He and I have done some projects together, and he is funny with a great outlook on life. I enjoy reading Garrett’s travel blog. He takes lots of great photos and tells a wonderful story about the trip.
Garrett Phillips is a humanist humorist or vice versa, born and raised in Canton, Ohio. He lived nearly thirty years in Atlanta and most recently resided in Los Angeles pursuing writing and podcasting projects before COVID-19 intervened. Currently in Richmond, Va., near family.
The author also created The Tree Fort Report podcast, which he hosts and produces since March of 2020. Phillips formerly occupied himself as an on-air morning radio talent, stand-up comic, courier, golf instructor, waiter, video blog host, and chauffeur, among other follies. He attended Georgia State University and always wants to hit a golf ball.
To keep up with Garrett and what’s new, check out his blog, follow him on Facebook and Instagram, friend him on Twitter, and subscribe to his YouTube channel. Take a look at Garrett’s “Prison Memories” Spotify playlist. Seventy percent of his time was spent where only Top 40 radio came in clearly. Good times were still had!
Please allow me to introduce you to, Garrett Philips.
Interview Conducted by Sherry Terry
TNR: Were there specific scenes in your true crime memoir that you find more difficult to write? How did you handle that?
Garrett: I filled in a lot of background information about my life, how I put myself in the position to need to start dealing drugs to dig out of debt. Needless to say, this stirred up many feelings of regret. I handled it by just plowing through it. I assume sitting around in prison regretting my life choices for three years before writing the book helped make it less difficult. I’d already been over it so many times already.
TNR: When did you decide to become a writer?
Garrett: You could say it chose me more than anything. The state of North Carolina provided and paid for three years of research for the book, so who was I to say no!
TNR: Did you let the book stew — leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit, or did you start the edits as soon as you type The End?
Garrett: That varied for me. The first seventeen months following my release was writing and editing pretty much every day because I didn’t have a real job. I lived with relatives who were willing to defer rent payments until later. Once I’d moved on and worked for a living, I definitely set it aside and came back to it later, with fresh eyes. If I were to write another book, I’d prefer to do it that way. Setting it down for a while seems like a good tool.
TNR: I agree. I always like to put it down for a while too. Do you ever get writer’s block and do you have any tips for getting through it?
Garrett: No offense to anyone that suffers it, but I don’t believe in it. As Anne Lamott says in her writing advice book Bird by Bird: The secret to writing is to put your butt in the seat. I think writer’s block is an excuse to not want to work harder. I say just sit there and bang out words, even if they’re garbage. Your delete key will always work and soon enough the good prose will flow again.
TNR: What’s your favorite method for coming up with names for your characters?
Garrett: Most of the time I just changed the names of real people slightly, like Lauren to Laura. Other times I liked to use cartoonish names like Stymie Thornmartin, just for the hell of it. A lot of the names I used are inside jokes that only certain circles of friends will get. I guess it was all to keep myself chuckling through a process (writing) that can get pretty mundane.
TNR: How are you publishing your writing and why?
Garrett: Self-publishing. I did it for the speed of getting it in print, mostly. As luck had it I finished my manuscript right when the COVID crisis hit. This provided both a captive audience and a lack of releases from big publishing houses. I was also naive enough to think that marketing and promotion would be easy because my book was just that good. Even if that were true, people have a dizzying array of options for entertainment and the attention of the general public splinters more by the day. Also, self-published books are of equal quality physically anyway.
TNR: Did you proofread/edit your book before you published it, or did you hire out the task?
Garrett: I have almost no formal writing training, so I spent a ton of time on a peer-to-peer critiquing site called Scribophile. You earn credits by critiquing the work of others in exchange for them doing yours. Not only is this a great way to improve skills by seeing the errors others make, it’s free proofreading and editing. Very time-consuming, though. Right before I published I had a couple of learned friends proofread and make a few edits, but I did most of it.
TNR: I love Scribophile! I won’t publish anything without sending it through there for critiqes. Were you happy with the results?
Garrett: The editing part was fine. God knows I’d worked long enough on the thing — five years — to get that part figured out. As for proofreading, I should’ve hired a professional. Apparently I’m not observant enough to do it well. I ended up re-submitting my manuscript to my typesetter three separate times for repairs of stupid little typos and inconsistencies that were my fault. Not to mention three separate submissions to (self-publishing distributor) Ingram-Spark, at fifty bucks a pop. I could’ve saved a lot of time and embarrassment had I just paid someone upfront.
TNR: Did your book go to market with a bunch of errors? Did you suffer major fallout from that?
Garrett: Yes, but laziness in marketing and promotion limited the damage. Only family and Facebook friends bought it, to begin with — like thirty copies total — before I really cleaned it up. Luckily I didn’t send it to major influencers for blurbs or anything. The lesson I learned is no matter how many dozens of times you may have read the thing over, read the whole again when the typesetter sends the pdf proof for final approval.
TNR: Do you think giving away books for free works? If so, why?
Garrett: Back when I assumed my book would “blow up” on its own I laughed at this notion. Now that it’s slow out of the box, giving the book away free makes all the sense in the world, if only to get reviews posted. Also, I’m only netting five or six bucks per book sold anyway. Word of mouth and possible reviews from ten people is worth a shitload more than sixty bucks. Then again, I’m still convinced that to know my book is to love it. Time will tell.
TNR: Do you respond to reviews, good or bad?
Garrett: The majority of experienced authors I respect say reading reviews is a bad idea, let alone responding to them. I’d be interested to see where the star rating is, probably, but getting into the nuts and bolts of why the reader did or didn’t like doesn’t concern me. If I intended on writing more books I probably would, but I don’t.
TNR: Why no more books?
Garrett: I’m simply not a technically good enough writer to be able to do it efficiently. And by that, I mean in fewer than multiple years per book. Or I’m too much of a perfectionist to live with a work that I think could be better. And obviously all of them could be better. It’s just too much time and effort for me.
TNR: You never know, you might change your mind. I wouldn’t weld that door shut. What is your favorite movie, and why?
Garrett: Any Wes Anderson. Royal Budapest Hotel is probably my favorite. The quirky storylines are awesome, as is the acting. But what really gets me is the unique cinematography. How everything on screen is usually in perfect balance, and how plays with the backgrounds and foregrounds in so many of the shots. It’s just so fun to watch.
TNR: What’s your favorite quote?
Garrett: “It’s always tempting to impute unlikely virtues to the cute.” The smart-ass (mostly) political writer P.J. O’Roarke once wrote that, and it stuck with me. The funniest part is the opposite should probably be the guideline. Good-looking people are probably airheads more often than the less attractive, who need to better themselves to advance farther.
Thank you so much for dropping by. I had a blast!
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