Linda T. Phillips1.  Tell us about your latest book.

Thanks for asking. My first non-fiction book is now in print and on sale. The Real Border Crusade, one family’s journey, is the story of what my family went through fighting the immigration system. A border between countries was not strong enough to divide our family. A true life saga of our family’s struggle to reunite loved ones torn apart by government bureaucracy. This book was most difficult to write because with every word the aching of my heart intensified and tears just wouldn’t stop. To this day this book is difficult for me to read without crying.

On a lighter note, my very first romance novel That Redhead from Level Crossing is going through the dreaded editing process even as we speak. The storyline is about a young girl coming of age in the 60’s. Sound familiar? This young girl’s adventures are a culmination of all the girls I grew up with in a small Texas town. Of course the names have been changed but each character was a composite of people I knew and some I didn’t know but just heard rumors that flowed through my little town.  The Real Border Crusade by Linda T. Phillips

Like most writers, butting heads with our editor is a grueling state of affairs. When we writers sweat blood over getting the scenes and words just the way we want them, it is hard to have someone else’s opinion break that mindset. Most writers are ego ridden and very protective of our words. Some writers will tell you this is not true, but when it comes to changing someone’s work they tend to drag their feet in the sand and balk at changing the tiniest little comma. Nonetheless, in the end, I would say that maybe I win about half of the battles with my editor. Fortunately I work directly with her and she is the best in the business. She understands me and my writing style which is a very unorthodox way of writing. I shoot from the hip and have no structure or schedule; nor do I have any organization (except in the cobwebbed mind of mine). Writing when the mood strikes and continuing to write until I can’t hold my eyes open is my favorite method of putting words to paper. Eventually when I do sleep my words come to me in dreams. Unfortunately I am much better in my dreams. The words are perfect and the public devours every expression I have yet to put to paper. However, when I wake I still remember most of what I thought was so ingenious and am able to salvage a few choice remnants of my dreams.

A Day in BugsHollow by Linda T. Phillips2.  “A Day in BugsHollow” is your first children’s book. How did you come up with the idea?

Writing has always been a part of my life but I have never been one of those people whose dream it was to write a book. That was the last thing I would ever have wanted to do. I never kept a journal and only kept a diary one time after learning early on in life that it was possible that little book could get into the wrong hands and prove to be very dangerous. You see, even as a young teen I embellished since my life was pretty boring back then and when my diary just happened to fly open to a certain page while my mother was putting something away in my room, well you can figure out the rest of the story.

When I went to work as a proofreader for Entry Way Publishing I had completed three years of online courses in graphics. Drawing was another way to express myself and I loved learning to draw on the computer. One day I was talking to the owner of the publishing company VicToria Freudiger and this is how the conversation went:

VicToria: So what else do you do?

Me: Well, I would like to submit my portfolio of illustrations to see if maybe you could use me as an artist for your company.

VicToria: Sure, email me what you have and let’s take a look.

Me: I also write a little and maybe I could work some in that area too.

VicToria: That would be great. Why don’t we start with you writing reviews for some of our books that are ready for publication and see how you do.

I was sent a book and read it and shortly after that wrote my first review. Fortunately I was ‘in’, according to VicToria.

A few days later I received a call from VicToria. She had an idea for a children’s book and asked me if I would be interested in working with her and another graphics illustrator just to get my feet wet. I agreed. While working on the storyline VicToria suggested if I had some idea for a story to go ahead and write a page or two. After taking the assignment on, I went overboard as I usually do and sent a couple of stories to her. I ended up writing complete stories using bugs as characters. The phone rang shortly after my submitting the stories to her and I will never forget her words, “We need to talk!” I immediately retreated into my shell because I was afraid she was going to tell me to stick to drawing instead of writing. But that wasn’t the case. My meager stories were not what she was envisioning for the book we all three were working on, they were more complete vignettes, much longer than VicToria had in mind for her book, so she encouraged, plodded and persuaded me to write my own book. Of course it didn’t take long for me to plunge headfirst into writing and as I wrote each vignette I added my own illustrations. I owe so much to VicToria. She saw something in me that I had never dreamed possible and for that I will be eternally grateful.

3.  How did the main character come to you?

Sometimes when an idea hits me I jot it down on a notepad. Designing a wall paper with post it notes, so I will have a larger canvas to jot down my thoughts, may very well be my next project. Notes are stuck everywhere because if I didn’t write thoughts down they would be gone as fast as they came. Pinpointing when a character enters my mind is like finding a needle in a haystack. With A Day in BugsHollow I wrote several parables relating to fears young children have and how they could conquer those uncertainties. Using my own experiences as a child I chose to write the stories about the inhabitants of BugsHollow. The characters came to me after the stories were written. Bugs were on my mind at the time so it seemed appropriate to use bugs, children seem to relate better to bugs and animals and I had one story pertaining to my two GrandPrincesses at that time who had just discovered ‘monsters under the bed’. I decided that two of the bugs would be love bugs, purely fictional bugs but interesting little bugs none the less. With the second book in my series of children’s books, and after the birth of my third GrandPrincess, I chose to write one story which turned out to be the adventures of three little Ladybugs from BugsHollow. The girls love LadyBugs and so do I. And that as they say was the beginning of the second children’s book Do The Daffodils Know My Name? Moral of that story was even though we are different we can join together and help each other in time of need as our heroines learned throughout the story.

4.  What is your process for illustrating the story?

There is no regular process for me. Sometimes when sitting with a sketchbook in hand I just draw and create something on paper that might work in a story. Immediately storing that character or scene in the back of my mind allows me to put that drawing on hold just in case I might need it someday. There is no method to my madness; it is just whatever is the handiest for that moment. Most of the time when I am illustrating for others I have to read their stories. When I finish reading sometimes the idea just comes to me. I try never to talk directly with a writer when working on their book. Somehow talking to a person will cloud my thoughts and I don’t get a clear perspective as to what I want to commit to paper. Sometimes when first hearing about the book during that initial discussion with the art director about the new author’s story, I learn more about the book and thoughts begin to fly all over my mind. A good deal of the ideas just come to me without any thought at all. ‘Having an idea just come to me’ is how I like to work best, and usually if I trust my instincts an illustration appears to me with very little correction.

Do The Daffodils Know My Name by Linda T. Phillips5.  Are you a plotter or panster?

I write what I feel so if that makes me a panster writing by the seat of my pants, then so be it. My imagination is my playground and whatever enters into that uncharted territory is fair game. Sometimes I struggle with the right words but never with the right thought. The thoughts are always there; they just need prodding sometimes and with a little help from my experiences, visions begin to unravel slowly but surely with a vengeance. My most favorite time is when the thoughts flow and I get on such a high that I feel invincible. Those are the good times and happen most often during the late night or very early morning hours when my mind is free of any boundaries and I allow my thoughts to race. I am one of those people that survive on very little sleep because I guess I am always afraid I am going to miss something. The fight with the sandman occurs most every night and most times I win. I may pay for it later in the day, but I am always fulfilled in the fact that the creative juices have flown. There is such joy when I have accomplished what I set out to achieve – a story I can be proud of and a happy author is the final goal.

6.   Describe your writing space.

My writing space can be anywhere actually. There is no particular space to get ideas, but when they start coming it is usually while sitting at my computer at all hours of the day and night typing away. As far as my illustrations, sometimes I sit and draw something out by hand and scan it to the computer, but mostly I sit at my computer and draw. I do not use a laptop for any reason, my mouse is my best friend and I have to have everything just so before I can ‘draw’ on the computer. The early morning hours are the clearest time for me to be creative, I don’t know why, it just is and I can write with a fury while waiting for the sun to come up. There are no other distractions except the occasional persistence of my dog needing to go outside and check on the neighborhood. But most times even my faithful friend knows when I am on a roll and is reluctant to bother me.

7.  Why do you write?

Writing is my passion, my expression and my explanation of my world as I see it. So when you visit Planet Linda you will see what I am talking about, and hopefully you won’t get sucked into my literary vortex and be lost forever. My hope is that you’d find yourself pleasantly amused and enjoy the pages I would love to share with you. Most often I write about the things  I know and I write how I talk, this is probably what one would call ‘my style’. I shy away from self-help books for writers or any instructional books on writing since I don’t want to clutter my mind with someone else’s ideas. Becoming a cookie cutter writer is a huge fear, meaning borrowing thoughts from others. My desire is for the words I write to be my thoughts only.

8.  Where do you get your ideas?

You know, that is probably the easiest question you’ve asked me. Many of my ideas come in dream form. My dreams seem to be like the old movie reels that you see on TV with the flickering and spinning faster and faster. I dream in color of course and my dreams also contain smells. I keep a pad and pencil next to me while sleeping and if I am fortunate enough to wake during the night, the ideas are immediately jotted down as best as I can remember them. If I don’t wake until the wee hours of the morning, I still try to jot down all the thoughts that have gone through my head in the middle of the night.

9.  Tell us about where you live — we love to travel.

I live in a not so small anymore Texas town that is growing too fast for its own good. I miss what my town used to be, a place where everyone knew you and progress was not the top priority. I miss the little corner stores that have now been replaced with shopping malls and mini concrete jungles. I miss the security of being able to leave my windows open and doors ajar without fear of intruders. I miss children riding bikes and playing in the neighborhoods, which has been replaced with parents fearing for the lives of their child if they get too far away from them. The simplicity of life has gone by the wayside and I doubt it will ever return. My children and grandchildren will never know that luxury of being free and roaming the streets and alleyways freely without fear of harm. I miss the fact that fear has consumed us and we have had to adapt to the loss of innocence.

That Redhead from Level Crossing by Linda T. Phillips10.  How did you meet your husband? — We love a romance.

My mother had a hand in the infamous connection with the man who has been the love of my life for almost 43 years. I was away at college and she wanted me to come home for the summer, so she wrote to me several times and explained there were a lot of nice young people in the new town where they had just moved and there was an especially good looking young man working in the grocery store where she now shopped. When I came home she deviously sent me to the store and I did meet the ‘blonde giant’ as she called him. Four months later, Larry, that ‘blonde giant’ and I were engaged and six months later we were married. The thing that was most odd about our getting together was that I never wanted to get married and certainly never wanted children. My plans were on the grandiose scale to be sure. I was majoring in Speech and Drama with a minor in Journalism. My plans were to be either a famous actress or rock star whichever came first or to be an international reporter travelling all over the world reporting the injustices that were occurring worldwide. I had also dreams of becoming a private eye. I was certainly ambitious back then but I gave it all up for the love of a young man that God had chosen for me. How else could I explain falling in love so quickly.

After six years of marriage we had our first child. Our son was this amazing little creature that took my breath away every time I looked at him. Five years later we had our second son who was just as special and just as loved as our first son. Now we have two of the most incredible daughters-in-law and three precious GrandPrincesses. Life for me took a u-turn and I can’t imagine my life without any one of them. God certainly was good to me.

I try to celebrate each day as it comes. I recognize that God is in control. I thank him daily for the life He so richly gave me and the family and friends that surround me. My life may never be rich in material things but I am abundantly rich in the love and support of my husband, my children, my grandchildren, and the amazingly wonderful parents God gave me.

11.  What is your favorite southern food? (or saying)

I guess since growing up in the south and still residing there, I have several sayings. ‘Whatever your little heart desires’ is probably my most used colloquialism. ‘Well Rats’ is  one I use quite often. That is my expression for everything good, bad or indifferent. I wish I could remember when I first started using that saying, but I don’t. Seems that one has been around for a long time. One of my most favorite sayings of all times is one that I borrowed from my favorite reporter and long time idol, Molly Ivins, and I believe this saying needs no explanation, ‘Well behaved women rarely make history’.

As far as foods the one thing I don’t think I could live without is ice cream. Now I know that is not entirely southern but my fondest memories are sitting on top of the old crank ice cream freezer while my Dad turned the handle waiting for my mother’s famous peppermint ice cream. My folks usually brought out that old freezer whenever we had company, family gatherings or picnics at the lake with our family and friends. This was a treat beyond belief and to this day I still think peppermint is my favorite flavor. Blue Bell Ice Cream has come darn close to capturing that childhood memory for me but why oh why is it only seasonal.

Another fond memory was after a day at the beach with my family. We would top it off with a trip to this little quaint root beer stand that had big oak barrels filled with the nectar of the gods. This nectar would get poured up in frosty mugs that were kept in the freezer with a dollop of homemade vanilla ice cream added – talk about refreshing after an afternoon of swimming in the ocean. Most times, since we knew the proprietor, (we frequented that stand often) the dollops of ice cream ended up being large double scoops. He certainly knew how to make his customers happy.

12.  What’s next in your writing life?

Next??? There is always something in my mind’s queue. To say I have an active imagination is probably an understatement. I always have something going, whether it develops into something of interest or not. First on the list is a sequel of course to my romance novel That Redhead from Level Crossing and hidden way back in the recesses of my mind is the third children’s book, just in case I happen to be fortunate enough to have a fourth grandchild. I will probably publish that book anyway since I love my BugsHollow characters and want them to have more adventures. Plus on any given day Entry Way will likely send me a new writer’s book to illustrate, which will be another opportunity for me to grow as an illustrator. There’s one more thing that comes with being able to illustrator other writer’s book is the fact that as the drawing comes to life, I am also able to go in and edit the writer’s words; or often, the writers end up editing their own work because they see something in my drawing that they prefer being drawn out in their words also.

I hope that I will continue to be an asset to Entry Way Publishing by being a proofreader, an editor, a writer and an illustrator. I am fulfilling a vision that I just never felt possible but am today able to realize will be a part of ‘my forever’.  Visit website http://www.lindaphillipsworld.com/

Thank you Maggie Bishop and Dames of Dialogue for allowing me to share my story with you and your readers. To be invited into your world for a even short time is a great honor.