This evening we were very privileged to be invited to the launch of a fantastic (and marvelously ambitious) new book club based at Carterton Community College, in the company of the author selected as its first read, the mighty Phil Earle (author of Being Billy).
Calling it a 'book club' doesn't really do the scope and ambition of this project justice. The idea of its founder Chris Davies, an English Teacher at the school, is to use the school's brand new library to act as a community hub, encouraging as many people to borrow, read and discuss the current book as possible. Carterton has some unique challenges - and opportunities - as a town and books (particularly the right kind of books) can bring people together from all walks of life.
(There is a brilliant write-up and interview with Chris in the Oxford Mail which explains a bit more about the background).
Author Phil Earle is an inspired choice for the first book, and he spent an intense day talking to students before explaining at the launch about his life as a writer, and his unusual route to becoming one. Phil was a reluctant reader in his childhood, preferring comics and graphic novels, and even now no-one buys him a book because he's "dead picky...they know I probably won't read it".
Appropriately for a town closely involved with military repatriations from nearby Brize Norton, Phil's next book 'Heroics' focuses on the story of two brothers, one of whom is posted to Afghanistan, and Phil did a reading from the book, due to be published in April of next year.
The club is an inspired undertaking, and Mostly Books is extremely proud to be involved. We will be racking our collective brains over the coming weeks and months to suggest books and possibly authors who might be able to get involved. In the meantime, we would definitely urge people to get involved - whether they live in Carterton or not - to read the book, and post comments to the CartertonCC Book Club Twitter feed here. The next club meets on 24 October at the library...
Of course, we took the opportunity to ask Phil a few questions about his writing life...and some surprising and very different answers he gave too...
Five Questions with...Phil Earle's Writing Life
1. What are you working on at the moment?
I'm currently working on 'Heroic' due out in April. It's a story of two brothers, inspired partly by the repatriations at Wootton Bassett, but also partly from SE Hinton's 'The Outsiders'. I guess at its heart is the theme of brotherhood, 'what wouldn't you do for your brother?'.
2. What is the best writing tip you’ve ever been given?
Love your main character, but be horrible to them. It sounds cruel, but the more mean and nasty you are, the more your reader will love them!
3. What’s the best thing and the worst thing about being a children’s writer?
The absolutely best thing is school events. You get to meet children, speak to them - I love doing them. You spend months and months writing the book by yourself, it's great to finally get a response.
The worst (Phil thinks hard at this point). I think it's if the opposite happens, that people aren't reading it, if you know the book isn't reaching the audience it should.
4. Do you have a writer’s survival kit, eg a place, thing of snack essential before you can start work?
The Bus. In fact, a bus - the X68. I do most of my writing on the bus, at home it just doesn't seem to flow the same way!
5. What was your biggest breakthrough?
It was the moment I got Billy's voice. Four chapters or so in, without a plan. To me that's the special joy of writing, I'm not a planner. Well, I write a synopsis at the beginning, which I then don't look at again or destroy. But no, once I knew that Billy's story was going to be told, and turn out the way I wanted it - that was my breakthrough.