I’m delighted to be hosting Tony Phillips today chatting about his debut novel, The Fires of Orc.
Find out the authors who have influenced his writing, the best part of his writing journey and more.
Here’s more about The Fires of Orc:
In the wasted world, what does an old man remember? Before the fires he was part of something, something that would last. So he thought. Looking back fifty years to the destruction of 2032, he knows the end was inevitable. Power, greed, ambition and murder were the order of the day – and then the fires. A survivor remembers how the dawn of quantum computing signaled the end of democracy, how lust, vengeance and scandal lit the fuse, and how a hardened few started over, rebuilding tomorrow from the ruins of yesterday.
With equal parts prophecy and prose, The Fires of Orc is a complex tale of intrigue told from a frighteningly foreseeable future. Fans of George Orwell, Philip K. Dick and Ursula Le Guin will recognize and appreciate the scope of this post-apocalyptic thriller.
Available to purchase in digital and paperback formats.
Welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.
Please summarise The Fires of Orc in 20 words or less.
The Fires of Orc, is taken from William Blake’s 1793 poem, America: A Prophecy, which foretells the rise of America as a world power.
If you could choose to be one of your characters, who would you be?
The few characters in my book who avoid a tragic end, of whom only one survives to tell the tale, don’t really offer any enviable models for life, which is part of the point, I suppose. The book is a story of moral relativism and lives spent in pursuit of an end to justify any means. Innocence can’t survive in the world I’ve created. Still, I suppose if I had to be one of my characters I would be the narrator, whose first-hand experience told in hindsight is the major storyline of the book. In desperate times, one may commit any number of foul deeds to achieve a greater good. But in the end, surviving is its own justification. That, for me, is the narrator’s only real achievement. He survives.
In truth, there’s more than a little bit of autobiography in the narrator character. I don’t know if that can ever be avoided. An author is in his or her story, intentionally or otherwise. Although I’ve faced nothing in my life that tested my conviction as deeply as the narrator is tested, I have had to ask myself many times whether and to what extent I am willing to commit small wrongs for the sake of a greater good. If we are living in end times, I believe I’ll be around long after most others are gone, and I confess I’m willing to go further than most just to survive.
Who would you cast in the role of your characters if your book were optioned for a movie?
I have an actual dream cast in mind and I envisioned that cast as I wrote the story. It was a highly visual experience and I saw the story as a film throughout the writing process. Were I casting my own film I would choose:
Young Narrator: Miles Teller
Old Narrator: Christopher Plummer
The Candidate: Simon Baker
Lydia: Chloë Grace Moretz
The Landlord: John C. Reilly
Do you have a most creative time of day Tony?
I’m absolutely at my best in the wee hours of the morning. I don’t know exactly why that is, but I think it has mostly to do with the absence of other activity. I write throughout the day with noise and distraction all around me. That’s fine for cranking out routine grist for the mill. But the most creative part of myself, the most inspired and most literary, that comes out when the world goes to sleep. I’ll write thousands of words some nights, while my wife and two dogs sleep. I’ll find myself still at the computer as the sun’s first light shows grey through the blinds. I typically love the work I’ve done overnight, whereas I’m not even always fond of the stuff I do during normal business hours.
Which authors have influenced your writing?
It gives me some hesitation to list my most influential authors, only because I don’t belong in their company. They are influencers, idols, models and exemplars of what I aspire to be. But they are gods all, members of the literary pantheon, whereas I am an earthbound mortal struggling to emulate their divinity. They include John Steinbeck, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, Theodore Dreiser, Cormac McCarthy, William Faulkner, Somerset Maugham, Truman Capote, Hermann Hesse and many others.
Do you have a favourite book?
I read Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath every few years. I have done so since I was a teenager. It is, in my opinion, the single best example of the American literary voice of the past century. The first two paragraphs alone are the high-water mark of American prose. If I were to name a runner-up, it would be McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses.
Can you share with us what you are working on now?
I recently finished a historical coming-of-age novel. It’s the story of a single day in the life of a 15-year-old boy in West Texas in 1934. It too has more than a touch of autobiography to it. It’s an altogether more hopeful and uplifting story than The Fires of Orc and it was a welcome change, giving me a chance to immerse myself in something positive and close to my own experience. The story is set three decades before I was born but its characters are all very familiar to me – none an actual person from my boyhood, but all an amalgamation of real people who touched me in real ways.
Finally Tony, what has been the best part of your writing journey so far?
Without question, the best part of being a writer is hearing from readers. Writing, for me at least, is performance art. I can’t dance. I sing with much more enthusiasm than talent. I’m a marginal athlete with an uncanny propensity for injury. To my very deep chagrin, I’ve never been asked to act or model. But I have an unquenchable urge to put myself on display and seek external approval. The head pat from approving readers is my life’s greatest reward.
Thank you for being my guest.
Wishing you success with all your writing projects.
Tony Phillips has written for print and online periodicals for more than a quarter-century, building a readership that have come to expect a note of sarcasm and critique from him, regardless of genre, media or subject matter. Tony is a former weekly columnist with San Diego CityBeat and has authored nonfiction and fiction works including novels, short stories, commentaries and poetry.
His books in print include The Fires of Orc and 2016’s How He Won: What Happens Now and What to do Next, a technical and strategic analysis of the Trump Presidential campaign’s path to victory.
Tony studied philosophy at San Diego State University and California State University Long Beach. He was a faculty member at China’s Hunan First Normal University and has taught young adult and professional students at institutions in Mexico, Korea and the United States.
Tony’s literary passion is American modernism. He writes in multiple genres with a passion for crossover stories that blend the best of sub-genre themes with traditional American literary fiction tracing back to the previous century. In addition to his work as an author, Tony is a community activist and entrepreneur. He founded Kouros Phillips Development, Inc., in 2013 with the mission of providing grant writing, fundraising and related support to the nonprofit and public education sectors. To date, his firm has secured more than $50 million in contracts and awards for two-dozen client organizations, educational institutions and public agencies.
Read all posts in the dystopian genre on Jera’s Jamboree.