Twitter chat with Phil Earle
By Tara King
Author of Saving Daisy and Being Billy, Phil Earle recently joined us for a lively #KidsBookClub chat on @tescomagazine twitter.
The YA author uses first-hand experience to write about troubled teenagers, creating stories that are heartbreaking, inspiring and impossible to put down.
Phil worked as a care worker in a children’s home in his early 20s, before becoming a bookseller at Ottakars and then working in children’s publishing. His honest and emotional stories come from what he knows, making his characters and storylines so believable and ensuring that these books will be re-read again and again.
You can read the full transcript from our quick-fire twitter chat.
@TescoMagazine Coffee, biscuits and creative juices at the ready! @PhilEarle joins us at 1pm for a twitter chat!
@Babbleaboutbks What advice would you give to children just embarking on their own writing journeys?
@PhilEarle My advice is to read as much as you possibly can and to only write about things you care deeply about.
@clairemaccy do you write on such gritty themes? Why do teenagers need to engage with them?
@PhilEarle I write about them as they reflect the life experiences I've had and the jobs I've undertaken. I don't think there are any taboo issues for YA. They are brave and strong enough to be exposed to gritty issues.
@clairemaccy Is it difficult to write like a girl? Were you worried people wouldn't believe you?
@PhilEarle I wasn't worried. If you write regularly everyday it's a lot easier to capture a voice - male or female.
@playbythebook What does Phil think makes a book YA rather than simply for grown ups?
@PhilEarle For me it's to do with a teenage voice, teen protagonist. That's the starting point.
@priyaauthor Do you write one book at a time or do you always have a few on the go?
@PhilEarle Usually one book at a time, especially if it's for the same age audience.
@PhilEarle Writing everyday is a great discipline, even if you’re working on something different. It keeps the voice in your head.
@priyaauthor Wow, that's incredibly disciplined of you! I find that hard. I need to take breaks and come back to stories.
@tamalyn1 Phil, will you be writing about something a little happier next?
@PhilEarle I will always write hopeful books but an editor once told me you should always be cruel to your characters as it's their fight that creates the tension and keeps the reader coming back for more.
@Sewappetising what got you interested in writing… from a boy's perspective?
@PhilEarle I was trying to make sense of the lives of the young kids I cared for in children's homes. They have faced situations that would floor many of us but they never gave up.
@tamalyn1 I just wanted to say thank you for Being Billy. I read it by accident and it really touched me. Good luck with more books.
@maximka25 Which book characters were your inspirations when you were growing up?
@PhilEarle Flat Stanley, Roy of the Rovers and many super-heroes. I struggled to read novels. Comics were my passion.
@liveotherwise where do you stand on teen speak in a book? Read one going on about ‘ollies’ /skateboarding which really grated.
@PhilEarle Slang can be dangerous in books as it dates so quickly. What is relevant today might not be tomorrow.
@ElizOurStory Aren't most books written, written in their 'current' time?
@PhilEarle Themes are universal but language isn't. If you want your book to have longevity then avoid slang.
@WeSatDown What is the most memorable comment you've received from a reader?
@PhilEarle I was contacted by a care worker who said Daisy's battle with self-harming led her to address a child's similar problems. It started a conversation which really helped this young girl. It was very special to hear this.
@maximka2 Do you associate yourself with your characters like Flaubert who said "Madame Bovary, c'est moi"?
@PhilEarle Yes absolutely! Daisy's story in many ways is my own as I spend time dealing with depression. I hadn't meant to write about my own experiences but that's the beauty of writing - it takes you in unexpected directions.
@annabella200 Did you enjoy writing stories as a child?
@PhilEarle No! I didn't write a story until I was 25 and started work as a children's bookseller. That lit the fire.
@liveotherwise Do you think there's a reason YA books are often depressing? Can't gritty also be uplifting?
@PhilEarle Yes absolutely. I would argue that gritty is often uplifting but within the realms of believability. I want to write truthful books.
@liveotherwise I think truthful is really important
@1356ZCF How long does it take you to write a short story?
@PhilEarle The first draft takes a couple of days and another day to fine-tune?
@juneking Your dialogue is so good have you thought of writing a TV drama?
@PhilEarle I'd love for Billy to be adapted for TV or film as I grew up loving gritty Northern dramas. I loved the films of Ken Loach, Mike Leigh and more recently Shane Meadows
@June_King Kes is amazing film. Keep writing books that inspire boys to keep reading as there are so many other distractions
@babbleaboutbks Do you have a special place to write like Roald Dahl and his shed at the bottom of his garden? #KidsBookClub
@PhilEarle I have to write on the bus to and from work as I have 3 kids at home
Claire What made you write for children and not adults?
@PhilEarle I don't really read adult books. I love the purity of children's stories. you can't afford to waste a word.
@adasmiskiewicz What's the secret of writing a successful children's book as opposed to one for the adult audience.
@PhilEarle Try not to over-analyse it. A good story is a good story regardless of the age it's pitched at. If you desperately want to aim at a YA market you can always edit to your heart's content.
@WeSatDown When you say 'children's books', what age (or experience) range do you have in mind?
@PhilEarle I think my readership is age 11 upwards. I hope there's enough of a story to entice adults too.
@Babbleaboutbks How did your time working in a children's home shape the story of Being Billy?
@PhilEarle Those kids are still in my head 15 years on from working with them. I wanted to celebrate them. I would never have written the book without that experience.
@Babbleaboutbks Did you read loads as a child and who was your favourite author back then?
@PhilEarle I read very little as a child. I didn't have the confidence to finish a book. I love comics
@Annabella200 Do you think your stories would transfer well to stage plays?
@PhilEarle Yes I think so. There's a brilliant book called Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray which is now on stage #KidsBookClub
@tescomagazine A huge thanks to @PhilEarle for joining us today for our twitter chat. Thanks for all the fantastic questions and lively chat #KidsBookClub.
@maximka25 Thank you for the opportunity to talk to the great author, it was a very inspired discussion. Bravo!
Read Phil Earle’s exclusive short story The Friday Night Disguise - written for the Kids’ Book Club