I’m starting a new blog post every Wednesday called “Writer Wednesdays,” when I will feature one indie author.
This week I’m showcasing Phil Yeats.
Phil Yeats is a retired scientist experimenting with creative writing. He has a keen interest in environmental science and dabbled in yachting and golf before turning to fiction. Phil is the author of a slowly growing number of published short stories and one poem. Several were written using the pen name Alan Kemister to keep a minimal degree of separation between his real science and the fictional variants in the stories. He’s interested in both science fiction/dystopia and mystery genres. His only published novel, A Body in the Sacristy, is a mystery featuring a detective in a fictional town on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. More information about his writing projects is available at https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com
I asked Phil:
Q: If you could be any author, who would it be and why?
A: Never thought about this, so not willing to give a spur of the moment answer.
Q: What is the first book that made you cry?
A: Lots of stories have made me a bit weepy but I have no idea what might have been the first.
Q: What are your favourite literary journals?
A: I have read issues of the Malahat Review and the Antigonish Review and occasionally others, but don’t have a favourite.
Q: What are common traps for aspiring writers?
A: One of my major faults, and one I see in other beginners, is wordiness. It is too easy to qualify and amplify everything we write. Better to purge all the unnecessary detail.
Q: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
A: I do very little research before I start writing but am quite happy to interrupt myself in mid-sentence to search the web for answers to any questions that come up.
Q: What is your favourite childhood book?
A: I don’t remember childhood books before reading Hardy Boy books when I was ten or so. After that old British mysteries – Leslie Charteris and Margery Allingham were my favourites, along with Jules Verne and other old standbys in the science fiction world. I don’t think I was a very adventuresome reader.
Q: What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
A: The hardest part for me is knowing when to stop the revising process. I feel I go back critically rereading my books making changes that are of dubious value.
Q: Does writing energize or exhaust you?
A: Working on something new is a boost. Rewriting/revising is frustrating even when I know I’m making improvements.
Q: What is your writing Kryptonite?
A: Revising with no specific purpose in mind.
Q: Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? If you write under one now, why did you do so?
A: My one and only book was written using a pseudonym. I began writing science fiction dystopia stories with an environmental theme while I was still actively working in a related field. I wanted to maintain a separation between the real and fictional science. I am no longer working, but I’ve maintained the pseudonym because I like remaining at a distance. It is presumably bad for sales, but I’d rather my old colleagues didn’t recognize me.
Q: Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
A: Probably not, and I suspect that is one of the reasons I’ll never be a writer of stories about people in highly emotional situations. I realize this failing and stick to mysteries and sci-fi stories that are more technical. I struggle when I have to write an emotional scene.
Q: If you could start over again in your writing career, what would you do differently?
A: The flippant answer would be to say I would have chosen to do something else, but it wouldn’t be true. I realize I will never be a literary writer, but I enjoy what I’m doing. I should have started a few years earlier – mid-sixties was a little old for an endeavour with a long learning curve.
Q: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
A: Not going to tackle this one – way too many things that should be changed.
Q: What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
A: Don’t think I’ve learned that lesson. I remain stuck in the scientist’s mantra that says knowledge of how things work brings power. I still struggle expressing that knowledge, so it would appear I have not experienced language as power.
Q: Do you want each of your books to stand on its own (if you’re writing more than one, that is), or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
A: I’m working on a series of connected mysteries where I want to build on the continuity of the central characters and the basic stage set. But I’m also working on another project that will be stand alone. So, I’m on both sides of this particular fence.
Q: What are your favourite three books and why?
A: My favourite books are dystopias, ones with no happy ending – Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is probably at the top of my list. But I also like stories that are just good stories. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is one of those. And recently, I read and liked Rachel Cusk’s Outline, so you see a rather eclectic mix. I don’t read a large number of books, and I don’t try to analyse them.
Q: How often do you write?
A: Several hours most days if I count all that endless revising.
Q: Why did you decide to self-publish?
A: Two reasons. First, I wasn’t confident any publisher would pick up a book I wrote because I don’t want to write the sort of topical book that attracts a sufficiently large audience. Second, if a publisher did take on my book, I would feel obliged to put the effort into marketing that the publisher expected. I’d rather not have that obligation.
Q: What challenges have you faced in publishing?
A: Relatively few. I’ve submitted a number of stories to anthologies and journals. More have been rejected than accepted, but I’ve had enough acceptances to keep me interested. I learned the basics of self-publishing my novel by helping in the production of two anthologies and listening to authors with experience. The challenges appear to be more with promotion than with publishing. Getting my book known by the few people who might want to read it has been a challenge I have not surmounted.
Q: What book(s) have you written?
A: I have only published one book – A Body in the Sacristy, by Alan Kemister (my alter ego). It is the first of what I hope will be a series of Barrettsport Mysteries set in a fiction South Shore Nova Scotia town. Book Two, Tilting at Windmills is virtually complete; three others are partly done. I’m also working on a science fiction story with a climate change focus. It is tentatively titled The Souring Seas. I have several other partially completed manuscripts that I’ve abandoned. Some might be worth resurrecting.
Phil’s first published book, A BODY IN THE SACRISITY, is available on Amazon.ca.
It’s also available on Amazon.com; locally at Carrefour Atlantique, downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia; and from the author.