Giles Paley-Phillips is the British author of nine books, including The Fearsome Beastie, which sold over 70,000 copies. He is the winner of The People's Book Prize 2012 and The Heart Of Hawick Children's Book Award 2013, and has been shortlisted for The Rotherham Children's Awards 2012 and People's Book Prize 2016. He has played at Glastonbury with his band and made several TV appearances including Good Morning Britain and an author special of BBC2's Eggheads, and is a judge on ITV’s Share a Story. He currently co-hosts the podcast Blank with comedian Jim Daly. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
Hi Giles, thanks for stopping by to talk about your new book, One Hundred and Fifty-Two Days, which you are launching through a campaign on Unbound.
The story draws on your own memories of losing a parent. Do you find it easier to write about such and intimate experience than talk about it? Do you ever worry that giving book talks might bring up emotions or questions from readers that might feel uncomfortable, or do you welcome that connection?
I really welcome the connection, I have had so many messages from people empathising with me and telling me about their own experiences. I'm generally happy to talk about my experiences, but it has been made easier by writing this book.
Being such a personal subject, why did you choose to go with a semi-autobiographical novel rather than a biography?
I was a lot younger than the protagonist when my mum died, so I didn't have the memories of that time, but I did have a period in my life when I was trying to fathom the loss. That was during my teens and that's why I decided to base the character at that age.
In writing down the story, did your feelings towards those events, and towards death, change at all?
It certainly helped me to explore those moments and memories, and how I've dealt with my grief more than I had ever done before, and it was pretty bruising.
This book is written from the perspective of a teenager. Would you class it as YA or is there something in there for adults to take away, too?
It is something I've discussed both with my agent and with editors and now the publisher. It definitely has a crossover feel to it, so I think it will appeal to both YA and adult readers.
You co-host the podcast Blank, exploring those blank moments we face in art and life. You've written this book in free verse, and I was wondering whether you get as many blank moments writing in that style? Does free verse help you to free flow around those stumbling blocks?
I feel very at home writing in free verse. I've found less blank moments like this than I ever did writing in straight prose.
On the writing process, do your family read what you’re writing and offer suggestions, or do you wait until you have a finished piece to show them?
I usually wait till it's done before I let anyone look at it, just so they have the whole picture. Even if some of the colours are missing, they can still see the entire sketch.
What advice do you have for writers who want to write about personal experiences but worry about how family or close friends will perceive themselves in that writing? In this story, you talk about a distant father and a scatty grandmother. Do you worry about them reading that, or is it a story you could only tell after they passed?
I hadn't thought it before, but perhaps this book was easier to write after their passing. I think it's so important to be honest in your writing, even when you're making stuff up, I think you have to keep a level of authenticity.
You’ve chosen to crowdfund this book through Unbound. Could you tell us a bit about what that is and how it is useful to authors?
It's been a fantastic experience working with Unbound. They really believed in this project and they are really about bringing the story to the reader far more directly than a standard publisher.
I notice you are a patron of Action Aid. Could you tell us a little about how you became involved with them and why? How can people support them?
I'm very proud to be involved with Action Aid UK. They are an incredible organisation who work with women and children in poverty throughout the world. You can find out more about what they do and how to get involved through their website.
One Hundred and Fifty-Two Days is due for release early in 2020. You can find out more about the book and help to support it on Unbound.