February Focus: Kennedy Phillips, author of Magus Elgar 2018

Kennedy Phillips is a fantasy comedy author from the USA. His most recent release, Magus Elgar 2018, contains some strong language.

Kennedy Phillips was Born in Philadelphia, PA, however he spent the entirety of his childhood living on a sailboat in Florida. He spent much of his life desperately trying to get people to laugh and smile, oftentimes doing so via pratfall or over the top performances. He went to college in the hopes of learning how to make movies, all while toying with his own small silly ideas on paper. Once he earned his BFA in Cinema Studies at the University of Central Florida and his MFA in Film at Chapman University, he picked up odd jobs as a freelancer for Sound Design and Editing, all the while biding his time to work on his own productions. Now Kennedy works as a Freelance Sound Engineer, Foley Artist, Video Editor, and Voice Actor to help fund the stories he wants to tell. Above tea and coffee, he drinks hot chocolate, though his vice has always been soda and when writing, he drinks whole milk and eats yogurt raisins.

Kennedy's favourite author is Terry Pratchett, 'because he proved that no matter how educated, no matter how refined your prose, no one is above telling a silly story,' Kennedy says. He is currently reading Loki Ragnarok, by Mark Binder, Damn Fine Story by Chuck Wendig, and Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer. He last reviewed a book called The Electric State by Simon Stalenhag.

Kennedy firmly believes that there is no one kind of person with a penchant to storytelling. He's found writers come from everywhere. 'I myself am not as much a loner, but I write all the time. Whether you’re the toast of the party or make a party with toast, saying only introverts are writers is like saying only bankers like books. At least to me, that is.'

He's always been a kid at heart and has no shame in saying he's watched animation and never fell out of fashion with it. Sometimes a scene will hit him or fire off his imagination and get him toying with the idea, twisting and reworking it until he makes it his own. 'Much of what I grew up reading fired the imagination with the strange and the surreal,' Kennedy explains, 'but my absolute favorite stories have been ones that subvert your expectation entirely.'

Oftentimes when he wants to tackle a strange subject, he really needs to read up on the articles and stories that inspired him to get there in the first place. How did they get to the place they did in their own respective writings? 'Oftentimes my research is more about what fascinates me within the tale to keep it believable, but fun', says Kennedy. He believes that in the end, no one has your perspective. So much of his life has been filled with adventure. He desperately wants to share those ideas and that perspective, if only because he thinks it’s very cool. 'Maybe someday someone will look at my stories and do something way cooler than I ever could, like change the world,' he says.

Kennedy says he is the absolute worst at scheduling his writing. What he hates the most about his writing habits is that he is always most inspired between 1 AM and 6 AM right as he's trying to sleep! 'Though when I do write, I end up writing about 15 pages of script, or about 3-4 pages of story in one sitting,' he says. 'I have been improving steadily.' He advises the easiest thing about writing a book is finally getting to speak in the character’s voice. He's always had a knack for dialogue. However, his definite kryptonite is plot structure. 'I am great at set pieces but threading it all together is my greatest challenge. I love to gush about my ideas to people. But when they start to pick apart where things make sense, I have to recollect myself and start building a flow chart. I don’t like it, but I also know that without it, my stories would be as ramble-y and incoherent as I am often accused of being.'

Writers block for Kennedy is more like ‘plot paralysis’. He is always having ideas on where to go and what to do, but when he gets hit with a block, it's always ‘wait that doesn’t make sense, what do I do now?” - this can last weeks if he's not careful. 'But what I always do to overcome it is talk. Talk it out and get some outside advice on what’s working and what isn’t. Usually I just need to say it out loud to realize what it is.' When he finishes writing his book, he immediately begins editing because he hates first drafts - they’re always terrible. 'I have a handful of trusted people to read my work and tell me what’s wrong,' Kennedy adds, 'I actually have a proofreader who has been excellent at cutting me to the core. The best judges of improving your work are often the ones that skip the ‘being nice’ part.'

Work from the ground up when it comes to world-building, Kennedy advises, saying, 'When you build your world, you need to ask a few key questions. Who is living there? How did the world come into creation? And how is that different from our world? If you can answer a few of those, quite a few things fall into place.'

In his story of Magus Elgar, Casters are a means of expressing the various ways we get through creativity. Whether through raw talent, or vigorous study, anyone can cast. It’s just a little easier for those who have the raw talent. But those that work hard at it can be truly great. Even a single sentence can be an incredible story. When asked what advice he would give to primary school students who wanted to be creative writers, he said, 'Don’t be scared. Your story is yours. And while some kids might not get it or understand it at first, that doesn’t mean you should never show it. Be proud that your idea is yours. And it’s a great way to work through your feelings.'

Kennedy believes that writing is a great way to externalize your feelings and opinions on what you’re going through. But it’s more than that. It’s taking aspects of your identity, small snippets of your personality, cutting them up, massaging them, and making something entirely different out of them. 'None of my characters are effectively me, but they are aspects of me. Things I love. Things I hate. It’s ultimately helped me better understand myself.'

'As much as I’d hate to admit it,' Kennedy explains, 'I find myself gravitating toward something with an interesting cover. Though often the cover doesn’t ultimately factor into my overall opinion of the piece, it definitely paints a strong first impression. So I’d say it has a relative impact on the sales.' He also states that anyone who produces their book of poor quality are often not subjecting themselves to the rigors that a traditional publishing company would demand of them. That can be problematic. Especially since the only person paying attention to the tiny details of your work is ultimately you. He also says that everyone’s first attempt at a story is terrible, no matter how you spin it. The best books in the world began as garbage. But it’s up to you to understand that, and find the pieces that are less so, and rescue them from the 1st draft dumpster.

Kennedy says that he's found things he doesn't agree with can be a little challenging to write about, and he is always terrified of misrepresenting the ideas he's trying to present. Everyone’s got their own viewpoints on how the world works, and those that he disagrees with the most, can even surprise him when he has to write as them.

He views success as being able to make a living off your talents and capabilities. Right now, he doesn't feel very successful. 'Sure. I’ve been nominated for an award by the Audio Publishers Association, but until my story is completely told, I won’t be satisfied.' On the topic of how to become a bestseller, he says 'your guess is as good as mine. As far as I know. Everyone that made a bestseller made a faustian pact at some point in their life.' But he also advises that it helps to remember: Everyone thinks they’re garbage. And everyone has an opinion. Just because you don’t agree with them doesn’t mean there isn’t a kernel of wisdom you can extract. The harshest criticisms he's ever received has ultimately strengthened him. 'Don’t be afraid to get your butt kicked'.

The question: ‘Why would anyone care about your story?’, Kennedy got a lot when he was creating his world. Many people assumed there would be no one interested in listening simply because they weren’t enthused or understood the story. He imagines other writers might be aggravated by this because that’s not a question that engages. That’s coming from a person who isn’t interested in a story. That’s someone that’s trying to sell a product. 'Yes. That’s a very important part of the process. But I don’t like to think about my works as products to sell, even if I need to put food on the table,' he says.

Kennedy's book Magus Elgar is aimed at young adults age 8-35 who love fantasy, Harry Potter, Monty Python, and Terry Pratchett. Here's a little about the book:

Magus Elgar is an 11 Episode Audio Drama inspired by the works of Terry Pratchett. Within the Multiverse sits a fantastic magical realm. A place we call Hearth. Join Magus Elgar and his colleagues as they face the strangest magic they've ever encountered: Science! After an accident that leads to tools of science hurtling across Hearth, reality begins to tear as the Scientific Tools Augmented with Magical Power (STAMPs for short) bridge magic and science in ways mankind was not meant to know! Will Magus Elgar and the Magical Anomaly Interdimensional Locators be able to recover them all? Only MAIL can save us from these dreaded STAMPs!

Kennedy can be found on Facebook @maguselgar or through his website: Www.maguselgar.com, which has both a subscription option and a contact form for your convenience.

Dear Rachael...

This was a very thorough interview that made me think quite a lot about why I am the way I am as a writer. Hardcastle’s website may be a bit sparse, but she clearly knows what she’s on about!