Born under a bad sign, Gary Phillips (Fiction) must keep writing to forestall his appointment at the crossroads. He has written various novels, novellas, radio plays, scripts, graphic novels such as Vigilante: Southland, and published some 60 short stories. Several of his works have been optioned for film or TV including Violent Spring, set in the aftermath of the ’92 civil unrest, the graphic novel The Rinse about a money launderer, and his short story “The Two Falcons” from The Highway Kind: Tales of Fast Cars, Desperate Drivers and Dark Roads. Phillips has edited or co-edited several anthologies including the bestselling Orange County Noir, Politics Noir and the critically praised The Obama Inheritance: Fifteen Stories of Conspiracy Noir. He is the immediate past president of the Private Eye Writers of America.
BA in Graphic Design, California State University Los Angeles
Cowboys (graphic novel)
Monkology: 15 Stories from the World of Private Eye Ivan Monk (short story collection)
Peepland (graphic novel, co-writer)
Three the Hard Way (novella compilation)
Treacherous: Grifters, Ruffians and Killers (short story collection)
Warlord of Willow Ridge
My advice on getting from the dreaded first page to the last? What’s the ad tagline…Just Do It? It’s a cliché but it’s true. Even if you think what you’re writing is dreck, that it isn’t the story you have in your mind, you’ve got no choice but to get the words down. You have to have something to work with in front of you. My goal then as a mentor is to help the student write the story they want to write. Particularly as I write mostly in the mystery and crime genre (but am open to working with all sorts of material), how is the dialogue illuminating character without being expository and balancing that with advancing the plot; balancing the narrative segments; the pacing, the highs and lows of the story and so on.
I’m not much on books about writing but of the few on my shelf I always recommend Bill Johnson’s A Story is a Promise. This is a wonderful book about the art of storytelling and breaks down the various components. Bill also maintains a blog. Plots and Characters: A Screenwriter on Screenwriting by my late buddy Millard Kaufman is another book I recommend. You don’t have to have an interest in penning screenplays to get something from Millard’s book on the construction of these fundamental elements of story. Millard, a WWII vet, was nominated for an Oscar for his screenplays for Bad Day at Black Rock and Take the High Ground. He also wrote and directed this cool B prison movie, Convicts Four, that included where a crazed Sammy Davis Jr. manically kills some bed bugs in his cell – a scene that says something about the character and the setting.
Additionally, Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing. I believe you can download the rules but I think it’s nice to have a bound edition – my wife gave me an illustrated one for a birthday from William Morrow. You might not agree with all of Mr. Leonard’s rules, but they are informative, and he has published his share of books and short stories over the decades.