by Linda Della Donna
Meet Philip F. Harris.
Prolific, as well as credentialed, Philip F. Harris's bio reads like a page right out of America's Who's Who.
Among his numerous credits, Harris attended The American Univeristy in Washington, D. C., completed graduate work at the University of Northern Colorado, and Howard University, including several years working with three governors, serving as Assistant Director of the Maine State Planning Office. Harris even held a post on the White House Task Force for the Development of National Rural Policy and later worked as Rural Policy Coordinator of the Federal Regional Council of New England.
Harris has written controversial novel, "Waking God," co-authored with Brian Doe.
Recently I caught up with Philip F. Harris and asked for an interview. This is what he had to say:
What is the secret of your success? You seem to have it all, Phil. Care to share?
Everyone has it all, they are just not conscious of it. Most people dread going to work or even getting up in the morning. I view each day as a blessing from the universe with new opportunities to express myself and to create a new reality. There is time to do these things because I require that there be time. You mention the 'secret' to success-I would strongly advise all to see the film and/or read the book called 'The Secret.' Everyone is a success in potential, no exceptions-people just need to understand that the universe holds nothing back from us-it is we who block our own happiness. When I retire at night, I create an image of what I 'have' accomplished the next day. When the next day comes, it flows accordiing to that image because in my mind it is something that has happened. Not something that will happen.
Do you have a set writing schedule? What is your typical writing day? Do you have one?
NO! I let the uninverse guide when and what I will write. I do not force chapters and do not write in a linear way. A middle chapter may preceed an early chapter if that is what I am inspired to write. Sometimes I will sit to write one thing, but end up doing something totally different. I do not outline because I feel that an outline is too prescriptive and too many people try to stick to an outline and miss opportunities for new ideas or concepts. Somehow it all seems to come together. I tend to write mostly in the evening as it is quiet and there are less distractions. Again, before I retire, I give thought to things I might want to write the next day or during the week. This allows the ideas to percolate in the gray matter and I often awaken with new insights or ideas. Anyone who knows e will tell you that if I force myself to write on a particular topic or chapter, it tends to be inferior and appears forced. That is not my best way to write.
Phil, please share with readers a little bit about your personal life. Are you married? Do you have a family? Has living in Maine affected your writing?
Everyone is supportive and they all think I am a little wacked. My wife refers to herself as a book widow. Actually my children are grown and on their own with their own famililes. Jessyca lives in NH, Greg in RI, and Matt is here in Maine. We have 4 horses, five dogs, one barn cat, and 4 birds. Writing in Maine is idylic. We live on 120 acres and I am surrounded by woods and the pasture is in the middle, sort of like an island of solitude. I am only twenty miles from our rocky coast, which is pure inspiration. My novel, "A Maine Christmas Carol" is set in Hallowell, Maine. It is a quaint little town on the banks of the Kennebec River and an ideal setting for the contemporary retelling of the classic. For those who don't know -- the story replaces old Scrooge with 16 year TJ who, after losing his father in Iraq, turns to drugs to cope witht he pressures of modern society. I am sure Maine will appear in more stories.
Do you believe in writer's block? Have you ever experienced it? If so, what did you do to work through it?
Block can occur and there are on-line writing groups that are set up for this purpose. I do not really get blocked because I do not plan what I am going to write. That is the problem with an outline. If you set to write a specific chapter in an outline and the ideas do not flow, it is easy to jam up the brain. I may have an idea of what I want to write when I sit to do an article or chapter, but if some other idea happens, I go with it. If a person is blocked with a character, or a concept, I think the thing to do is to just start wrting whatever comes to mind, whether it is relevant to the topic at hand or not. If you are blocked about a character, then just start writing about someone you know or heard of that may be similar to the one you wish to write about. You can always go back and change names. If a character doesn't come to mind-write a setting. The key is to get the juices flowing and let the story start to take on its own life and write itself.
Your recent novel, "Waking God" is co-authored with Brian Doe. Can you share that experience? How did the idea to write this book happen? How long did it take to write? Would you say coauthoring a work makes the process simpler, or more difficult? What went into the process and the decision to work with another author? Was it a positive experience? Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? Is there something other writers need to know who may be thinking about coauthoring a work?
Co-authoring can be a challenge. I think one of the keys is not to write with someone just like you. A person with a different perspective and background is helpful since they bring differing viewpoints and experiences to the story and characters. Brian teaches English and is very mechanical. Initially my handing him chapters from 'Somewhere' in the book drove him nuts-He is an outline person-or used to be-He has now been enlightened. I came up with the concept for the book and he came up with the title. We are very synergistic. We did not assign each other characters or chapters, they just sort of happened. We would then shift characters and this added a nice dimension to the story. It helped to round out personalities. The nice part is that you do not have to do the whole story by yourself when you co-author-That works if it does not bother you. If I had something going on I knew Brian kept the work in process and vice versa. We are alighed philosophically and that is why the venture works. Keep in mind that "Waking God" is a trilogy and we are working on Book II. It took about a year to write "Waking God." We both lived in NY but now I am in Maine. Thank God for the internet-It keeps the writing flowing between us. It is nice to write on your own but it is also nice to co-author. It is a sharing process and the occasional disputes over plot actually strengthens the story. So, yes, I would recommend it but iron out general ideas in advance and above all, be open to the other's suggestions and ideas.
Philip, your professional and educational background is impressive. In what way, if at all, has this contributed to your writing?
We are the sum total of our experiences. The greater the experience, the greater the outlook on life. We all write what we know. Our characters are always some reflection of those we have known, loved, hated or admired. Even stories that come from the depths of out imagination in some way reflect or mirror some aspect of what we have known. All of our backgrounds are impressive, different, but impressive!
Tell readers, please, about your writing, how long, was there any one experience that brought you to the writing desk, why did you become a writer, and how did you decide to become a novelist? Did you find your writing niche? Or did your writing niche find you?
My first attempt at writing a novel was in the late 70'S. The story was great but the writing sucked. It read more like a government report than a novel. Do not be disappointed if the first attempt is a bomb. I hve a very strong mystical and philosophical background that, while beginning in early childhood, did not blossom until the 80's when I underwent numerous spiritual revelations. It was then that I learned to free my mind of linear thought and to use my imagination. But even then I was more interested in speaking and not writing. It was truly not until "Waking God" that I decided to put pen to paper. It is now an addiction. It has taken my life's experiences up until now to finally put together what I have to say. I write because I have something to tell the world whether it be in a novel, an article, a blog or an essay. Perhaps like good wine, I have finally ripened. My niche is not totally defined and I hope it never is. I will write on social, spiritual, political, environmental and religious issues for that is where my heart is. Perhaps that is a niche!
What are you working on right now? Can you share? Care to tell us a little something about All Things That Matter?
In addtion to Book II of "Waking God" I have been spending a lot of time with the blogging and articles. Other book concepts are in the deep recesses. I am working on possible biography of a 62 year old female endurance racer (horses) and a biblical basis that supports the concepts of "The Secret." 'All Things That Matter' is the title of my blog and my radio talk show. Basically, it is about issues that affect us all which are sometimes overlooked by the more mainstream media. It's fun because I write what I care about.
I discovered your quote, "...Reality is merely a reflection of what is occuring in your mind," what would you advise a reader about to make a change in their life?
Every aspect of our life is but a mirror of what lies deep in thought. Either consciously or, more often, subconsciously, we mold the pattern and energies of the universe to bring into manifestation what we call reality. Thoughts become things-No exceptions. If you start to read a book and you don't like it-You don't finish it and get a new one. The same holds true with life-If you do not like how it is unfolding-change your mind and create a new one. I would refer your readers to my blog for more details on this.
Have you a favorite writing tip, Phil? Care to share?
When you sit to write, close your eyes and experience the scene you want to write about. If it is winter, feel the cold and the wind, smell the snow, describe the dirty slush and the clothes you are wearing, etc. Do this for characters, as well and most will find this a rewarding experience.
One last question, phil. I like to end an interview with a funny story. Got one?
"A Maine Christmas Carol" was scheduled to be released on December 12th (2006). I was informed by my publisher on November 30th that due to health reasons they were closing down. I won't go into details, but the novel had been published as an ebook by EBOOKSONTHE.NET. They said that their hard copy division, Cambridge Books, would be willing to pick up the contract for the print version. I asked if it could be out for December 12th. They laughed. The kids at school knew of the book since the story actually begins at the high school. Several students had even pre-ordered the book. When I told them the story they were sad and asked for the address of the new publisher. On December 21st while I was in class, a student came up to me and asked if I could sign his copy of my book. I told him when it comes out that I would, but it wouldn't be for several months. He then produced a print copy of the book-I was floored. I did not know it was out. As a matter of fact, I did not get my copies for another week. I am not sure that is a funny story, but it was a bit embarrassing and very inspirational. I had held in my mind that the book would be out before Christmas and, like I said, thoughts become things!
Thank you, Phil. Here's wishing you much success with "Waking God"!
Learn more about Philip F. Harris by visiting - http://philipharris.blog.com and www.internetvoicesradio.com.