Friday, April 23, 2010

Author Phil Bowie Interview

This is another author I was so happy to be able to interview! Last year before I had moved to North Carolina, I had visited the Cherokee Native American Reservation in Cherokee, NC. As I was going thru one of the stores, I was immediately stopped at its book section. There were a crap load of this one authors books named Phil Bowie. The cover art was appealing. I flipped them over in a frantic state of mind eager to find out what it was about. I thought, "JACKPOT!" Then for months I couldn't remember the name of the author or the books. It was beginning to frustrate me badly.

Then I began doing book reviews, quite frequently as you have noticed, and had just finished Vicki Hinze's "Forget Me Not." (Phil and Vicki are both Medallion Press authors!)  If it weren't for Vicki sending me an extre gift of her novel "War Games: Kill Zone," I would have never found Phil I doubt. In the back of her book had Phil's ads for the books I was searching for, for months! I immediately logged on to his site and emailed him. Much to my surprise he responded back in lightning speed. He has since sent me autographed copies of all three novels, and blessed me with this interview for you all. Thank you again Phil. I can't wait to begin the novels and send you the reviews.

Why did you choose to include Native American culture/characters in your John Hardin series?
I've long been fascinated by Native American cultures, in particular the Cherokees because they once were spread over such a large area, parts of what I believe are now eight states. They had a refined system for governing themselves, with seven distinct clans and women included in their councils. I also admire their art--exquisite pottery, wood carving, and basketry. And my lady Naomi is part Cherokee.

You seem to be a man of many talents! Pilot, captain, author, biker and you work at a college. Is it safe to say you are a fearless man?I don't consider myself fearless. Far from it. But I've always been attracted to adventure in my reading and in life. Even did some skydiving when I was young and immortal (30 jumps), although it terrified me. Flying a Cessna tests various skills and judgements, provides a sense of freedom, and offers breathtaking perspectives of our enthralling planet. Riding a motorcycle also offers freedom, a sense of personal power, and immersion in the elements--you can smell the flowers and the fresh-cut grass, and sense every temperature change. My Dad and I built a 14-foot runabout when I was in high school, and also a racing hydroplane, working in our basement from plans. That led to a lifelong interest in all kinds of boats and an eventual master captain's license. Now, delivering yachts and running a trawler for NC State University provides fun and extra income. I think life should be a great adventure, and we each should experience as much of it as possible. And a variety of experiences can only enrich my fiction.

Have you received a review or praise from someone you least expected? What was your reaction?Can you tell us a little about your "Vices" project?
Top gun best seller Lee Child kindly gave me a cover plug for my first yarn, GUNS. My publisher then sent me to SleuthFest 08 in Fort Lauderdale, where Lee was the keynote speaker and guest of honor. By the hotel pool one evening, he said he would write a story for an anthology if I would. Later on in the conference he said, "Why don't you come up with a theme for it?" That led to me acting as the editor. I chose the title and theme VICES, and a number of fine authors agreed to join the roster, each choosing some vice to build a story around. My agent is working on selling the anthology to a publisher, but this crazy business sometimes moves at about the same speed as a glacier. I'm optimistic we'll find a buyer, because we have such a stellar roster of authors. Each of my three books has been endorsed by a top author--Lee Child, Ridley Pearson, and Stephen Coonts, respectively. I was surprised and grateful these guys would take time out of hectic schedules to read my work and kindly offer plugs. But that's typical of authors I've met who are at the top of the game. Almost without exception, they've been most cordial and helpful. Really fine people. If I ever make it anywhere near the top of the mountain, I hope I'll remember to pass that kind of help along to other struggling writers. I also have a folder filled with kind notes and e-mails from readers from as far away as Sweden, and that's most gratifying. It's what really keeps me going late into many nights.

What is it like for you when you go on your book tour/signings?
The first thing I learned after my book was bought by a publisher, the contract was signed, I cashed the advance check, and it finally appeared on bookshelves, was that I was expected to go out there and sell the thing. At first I disliked book signings. It felt pretentious to sign my autograph, and I had no idea how to sell books to passersby. Soon, though, it became a challenge. I experimented with some displays and signs I made myself, and my publisher supplied some graphics and eventually a really nice roll-up display. I developed a simple spiel, and tried to engage every reader who walked by my table. You never know how a signing will go. A big chain store might not work so well as you might think, especially in a bigger city where people are assailed by all kinds of advertising and pitches every hour of their lives. You tend to get lost in all that clamor. A small out-of-the-way store can often be better. I went to a Waldenbooks in Southern Pines, for example, and as soon as I saw that it was a tiny store in a strip mall, I regretted driving so far, but that afternoon I sold 78 books, which was all the store had stocked. I like doing signings now. You just never know, and it's always a challenge. And it's great to meet a wide variety of fascinating folks

The novel you're working on set in your hometown- is there any truth to it aside from the actual city?
My new novel is about a federal probation officer who's also an amateur astronomer. I have a good friend who is a probation officer, and I've long been intrigued by astronomy. I don't know of a similar protagonist in suspense fiction, so the character is fresh, unlike just another P.I. or ex-cop. I set it in my hometown because that's where many of my readers live, so it ought to boost sales. And I think New Bern will be interesting to any reader elsewhere. I've long admired people like Carl Sagan and Neil Degrasse Tyson, who have worked to enlighten us about the cosmos, and I wanted to spread a little of that wonderful knowledge myself, if possible, hence my hero's astronomy hobby. The novel is titled DENT and focuses on the crystal meth trade, which is no more prevalent in eastern North Carolina than it is anywhere else. It's a menace to our society everywhere, and apparently its use is growing.

Is there a book you just can't get enough of?
I read voraciously. In fact, I just finished up as a judge in the Best Hardback division of the International Thriller Writers awards program, so I got a lot of free books in and got introduced to a number of excellent new writers. In no particular order, I like Lee Child, Gregg Hurwitz, Janet Evanovich, Laura Lippman, James Lee Burke, John D. Macdonald, James W. Hall, Wilbur Smith, and a long, long list of other fine authors whose works I snatch up as soon as they come out.

When you travel do you hit bookstores seeking out your novel's displays?
It's nice to know my books have been sold in many bookstores and folk are checking them out in libraries, but I tend to focus on new projects much more. I'm trying my hand at several short stories right now for various anthologies and contests. I think it's a special art. There's just no space in a short story for lengthy backgrounding or character building, so you have to write tightly, economically, with not a single unneccessary word. In many ways good short stories are harder to write than novels, though a novel is certainly a long, lonely slog. I'm ruminating about doing a novel set largely at sea right now.

If I were to look at your bookcase(s), what would I see?
If you were to look anywhere in my house, you'd see books--shelves stuffed, boxes in the closets and in my shed stuffed. I need to have a book yard sale, but how would I choose which ones to let go?

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