Rose Phillips is a two-year Evernight Teen veteran, with the books CUTTING TO THE CHASE and COLOR ME GRAY, the latter of which is special because, in her words, "I love the main character, Mags. We meet her in the first book, Cutting to the Chase, but we truly get to know her in this one. It was hard to put her in a dark place because I liked her soooo much."
Dark, tumultuous, and fraught with hardships? Sounds right up my alley, personally!
DEIDRE: I'm so thrilled to have you here, Rose!
ROSE: Right back atcha! I love having an opportunity to talk with fellow authors and about my novels.
D: What draws you to YA in particular?
R: I spent twenty years in education working with and listening to my target audience. For several years, I was an Intermediate/Senior literacy consultant working with struggling teens. I followed that up with a stint as an administrator in an inner-city school. Both experiences were eye-opening, joyous, and heartbreaking. So much raw emotion from those years lingers. The collective voices of my students are woven into the fibre of my stories.
D: You definitely have a lot of experience with the hardships of modern youth, and it seems to resonate with your readers.
R: Surprisingly, to me at least, I’ve heard that from older readers as well. One in particular stands out for me. Her niece was struggling with self-harm and she just didn’t get it. When she read Cutting to the Chase, she said a lightbulb went off. She now feels like she can better support both her sister and her niece. I don’t write message oriented or how-to-help books, but there is something super affirming when someone can gain some empathy and understanding from my stories.
D: Being able to touch lives like that and shed light is an underrated skillset in authors. Your characters have to be strong and jump off the page to hit that hard. Speaking of, what about them? Do your main characters have anything in common across your stories?
R: Vulnerability and strength. It is only when they recognize the latter are they able to face the challenges that come with the first.
D: What about themes? Do you have similar themes across your stories?
R: Hope is a strong theme in my writing. I deal with difficult subjects. Cutting to the Chase deals with self-harm and Color Me Gray deals with the practical and emotional fallout and toll of date rape. They are not easy reads because they shouldn’t be. They are hard journeys for my characters, as they are for those facing these issues in real life. And while there are no quick magical solutions in either of my novels, the reader is left with a sense of hope as the MCs poise themselves for the next stage of their journeys beyond the page. One of the pleasures of writing Color Me Gray was giving readers a glimpse of that forward movement for Lizzy, the MC in the first book, Cutting to the Chase.
D: Which themes are you most passionate about?
R: Raw, real themes. I want to explore the harsh side of growing up, of figuring out life, of not being raised in the perfect environment or having that environment implode—to expose the pain. We don’t hesitate to share life’s shining moments—to the point where we polish up the mundane minutia of our lives and post them as though they truly glisten. We don’t hesitate to share our laughter. But our hurt? Our tears? We tuck them away, hide them from others in shame. Yet, they are as much a part of what makes us human as all of the good things in the world. I think understanding that, sharing that, makes us more whole.
D: Is there a book or author that’s changed your life?
K: Ironically, when I was running around the county as a literacy consultant promoting the benefits of reading, I had actually lost my own personal joy in it. I was reading a lot, but all of it for work, and focused on trying to figure out a “way in” for students who were hanging on by a thread. It was difficult to leave that at the door when I got home. These kids had tough lives and far too much on their plates.
One day I pulled a book off the shelf that had been sitting there for several years. It was a long-ignored gift from a friend. I started reading it and I couldn’t put it down. For each delicious hour I read, the world disappeared. It was just me and these characters and this romping adventure. It was the best release of stress and, more, the often lyrical turns of phrases, the pulsating tension, and the daring to go into subject matter many would avoid, inspired me to return to my own writing.
The book was Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. It’s been one of my great pleasures to meet and talk with her several times at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference as well as to participate in a writers’ forum she has been a part of since she first started out. She is a very supportive writer, encouraging and nurturing, and always willing to give feedback and sage advice.
D: That's amazing that you've had the opportunity to meet with the very author who inspired you! She sounds lovely.
R: She is very gracious. As are many of the writers I have been fortunate enough to meet on this journey. I find the writing community crazy supportive.
D: What are your ideal writing conditions?
R: I sit on my couch in the living room with a fantastic view of Salt Spring Island. Yep, I sit on an island and look at an island. I listen to instrumental music because, as a singer, if there are vocals, my mind pulls away from my writing and towards the lyrics. A cup of coffee and a few squares of chocolate always kick off a session. And my cheerleading duo, two little Lhasa Apso, snuggle in beside me. The conditions can’t get any more ideal for me than what I already enjoy.
D: You definitely can't beat a good view or moral support. How long have you had your puppies?
R: They are going to be thirteen in January. So, technically they are little old ladies but they still behave like pups.
D: Tell me a little about your WIP.
R: Chloe has OCD and anxiety, a secret she has managed to keep from friends for years. She is trying to navigate life after the death of her boyfriend, who died of a heart attack while training for track. Needless to say, her issues have escalated and she’s struggling. When she meets Derrick, she thinks maybe she can contain what she thinks of as her “crazies”. But she’s not the only one good at keeping secrets, and as the truth about Derrick, and about her track star boyfriend, are revealed, Chloe slowly unravels.
D: That sounds gorgeously intense. Do you ever struggle writing such intimate stories?
R: At times I do because I hurt along with my characters. I certainly cry with and for them. Quite often my husband will walk into the room, take one look at me and ask “What did you do to them now?” Of course, the flip side of that is I also get to experience their happiness when they manage to grasp hold of it.
D: The covers for your Evernight books are so different but also stunning.
R: Jay Aheer is a terrific cover designer. One of the things I truly appreciate about working with Evernight Teen is the solicitation of input for the cover. Jay took my suggestions for both books and wove magic around them.