Interview with Phil Whitney

What is your e-reading device of choice?
I started e-reading by downloading a Kindle app onto my laptop a few years ago; since then I've acquired a Kindle Fire and also downloaded several other e-reading apps onto my devices. I still like the feel of a physical book but, a lot of the time, e-readers are just so much more practical.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
When I wrote my travel guides it was all done for me by the publishers and i never really thought about marketing until the first draft of my first novel was almost complete. I have now developed a facebook page ( and have taken tentative steps with Twitter and Linkedin. This is, however, an area in which I hope to improve over the next few months.
Describe your desk
When I'm in Italy, my desk is a converted table facing a window with a stupendous view over a beautiful Tuscan valley. I use a laptop when I'm in Italy and this has centre stage on my 'desk'. The rest of the space is usually covered with notebooks, reference books, photographs of locations I'm writing about and usually a large cup of tea. Occasionally the tea is replaced by a glass of red wine, but I try not to let this happen too often.
In England, I usually write on a desktop on a standard computer desk. The cup of tea is almost always there almost lost amongst a heap of papers.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
Although I was born in Lancashire, most of my childhood was spent in Derbyshire. After leaving school, I spent eight months hitching around France, doing odd jobs whenever possible and then spent four months working for British Rail in London, before going to University in Leeds. Derbyshire has only briefly appeared in my first one and three quarter novels but the part of Lancashire where i was born gets a chapter in 'Relative Values'.
When did you first start writing?
When I went to Italy after finishing university, I intended to write a book about the History of Art in Florence but soon got sidetracked into writing guidebooks and translating medical research papers for publication in English. While teaching in England, much of my time was spent in teaching and helping older students to write in a variety of genres, often writing exemplars to illustrate points. I've also written several political leaflets over the yers and edited many more.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The book I'm currently writing was inspired by a very short report of soem arrests in Italy, which read about in the English newspaper last December just before I finished the draft of 'Relative Values'. There were very few details in the report and this made me think up possible scenarios for how they had got to that point.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I like to think that if I kept trying, I would eventually be picked up and promoted by one of the major publishing houses but patience has never been one of my strongpoints. I believe in my writing and want to be able to get it out there as soon as possible. I was initially dubious about indie publishing but the more I read, and the more research I did, the more convinced I became that once you've identified and weededout the pure vanity publishers, it's a sensible route to go down.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
I'm still sorting out the cover image at teh moment, so it may be a little premature to talk about Smashwords contributing to my success. what I can say, at this stage, is that Smashwords seems to provide me with all the tools I need to make a success of self-publishing.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Sometimes writing can be a hard slog, but at others words just seem to come pouring out and fill the page in front of you. that's pretty satisfying, but possibly the best feeling is when you reread something you've read after a few weeks and find that what you wrote has turned out to be even more effective than you thought at the time.
What relationship do you want to have with your fans?
I obviously want my fans to enjoy reading my stories but I also want them to engage with the issues that the novels touch on. Most of my main characters have fairly strong political views and I'd be delighted if anyone who has read my books wanted to engage with the issues; I'm quite happy to be challenged about my characters' views on my facebook page - and also on twitter, once I'm more used to using it.
What are you working on next?
I've written over eighty thousand words of my second novel, which will probably be called 'Affairs of state', which means I've got approximately forty thousand still to go. I know exactly how the story ends but at this stage, it's a little bit like going on holiday - I know where I'm going but the sat-nav in my brain is telling me that thgere are several alternative routes to get there.
Who are your favorite authors?
There are so many! I'm waiting with bated breath for the next novel by JK Rowling which is due out in September, and I'm hoping that Andrea Camilleri still has a few more novels left in him. Donna Leon is my favourite American author, while Sebastien Faulks, Joanne Harris, Louis de Bernieres, Ken Follett and Gianrico Carogiglio are also writers whose books I never miss. I was an avid reader of Michael Dibden's novels befiore his untimely death and think it's a shame that Marcel pagnol didn't write more boks and plays. The greatest writer ever, however, is undoubtedly Tolstoy; I've read War and Peace five times over the years and always find something to amaze me.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
The good thing about being a writer is that whatever you do that isn't 'writing' can be justified as researching. I like to travel, which introduces me to new locations; I like to keep abreast of the news, so I have an almost infinite source of prompts for future writing projects; I like to cook and drink good wine which means that my characters also enjoy good food and quality wine.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
No, but I remember when i was at Primary school in the 1960s it was the time of the classic war films and my favourite author at the time was WE Johns with his Biggles stories. I'm fairly sure that most of the stories I wrote were war based, and in the majority of them I was an intrepid aviator. Toward the end of the sixties, many of the stories I wrote would also have featured football - that's 'soccer' to my North American readers.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I can remember my father used to read to me before I went to bed. I remember that he started reading Treasure Island to me but, after a few days, I picked up the book myself and continued on my own as I was too engrossed in the story to wait for him to come home. Having read to my own children, years later, I can understand how disappointed he must have been.
Published 2015-07-29.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Unwilling Helper
Series: Italian trilogy. Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 123,210. Language: English. Published: April 6, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
A journalist and a former police officer attempt to track down a missing refugee - a search that takes them from an idyllic Aeolian island to the heart of Tuscany. People-trafficking, the sex-trade and corrupt officials are major obstacles to their quest.
Affairs of State
Series: Italian trilogy. Price: $6.99 USD. Words: 146,340. Language: English. Published: December 2, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » General
Paul and his Italian wife, Rosa have been living happily in Florence for nineteen years when a dinner invite to Rosa's younger sister leads them into a dangerous world where political corruption and organised crime meet. 'He thought of all the times he'd despaired at the lack of real action being taken against the general level of self-interest, exploitation and corruption in Italian public life'
Relative Values
Series: Italian trilogy. Price: $6.99 USD. Words: 143,050. Language: British English. Published: October 23, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Historical » General, Fiction » Alternative history
In 1934, young Max Caddick, blacklisted in England for his left wing views works his way to Italy to view the great art works. There, trouble arises when he becomes involved with the daughter of a leading fascist family. Fifty years later when Paul Caddick travels to Italy to teach English and try to find his Italian family he is surprised to find his enquiries met by silence and hostility.