Phillip T Stephens

Biography

During my freshman year in high school, the principal called me into his office and said, "I hear you're hanging out with left-leaning radicals looking to undermine my authority and the authority of the teachers and the school." Now anyone who knew me, also knew I was the Baptist preacher's kid and I may have been a smart-ass but this was San Marcos, Texas in 1968. Shit kicker country. A town where we woke up to the sound of roosters and aroma of the stockyards. I wouldn't know a leftist from a hash pipe.

I said, "Not really, but if you'll point me to them, I'll be glad to join." Principals have no since of humor and so he took me at my word. He failed to point me toward any leftist companions, but he did assume I wished their association. Nor would I dissuade him of his delusion, for I discovered in that moment the safety of hiding behind false assumptions rather than emerging into the light.

You see, my parents, staunch fundamentalists (my father a Baptist minister and my mother a Presbyterian who married a Baptist minister) believed aliens were the devil's deception, like fossils and evolution. What a wonderfully cruel joke the aliens played on them when they left me on their doorstep on Christmas Eve.

Alien babies can't be distinguished from humans. My parents had difficulties adjusting to alien adolescence, but they preferred it to demon possession. Nonetheless, the many hours I spent writing human dialogue in an attempt to master human role playing evolved into fiction and made me the writer I am today. I'm still an embarrassment to my parents, but an adopted alien fiction writer is no less an embarrassment than any other fiction writer who can't get a real job.

(Phillip and his wife Carol rescue and foster Alien-Siamese hybrids in Austin, Texas hoping to rehome them, implant free, before the invasion. You can find many warm loving hybrids, indistinguishable from earhling kitties at austinsiameserescue.org.)

Smashwords Interview

What possessed you to start writing?
The need to lie. I think writing (or, originally, the urge to tell stories) stems from two basic needs, the need to explain things and the need to cover your ass. Since storytelling begins with the stories we tell children, they may both stem from the same urge.

We explain things to children by lying. Storks delivering babies, Santa Claus delivering presents, fairies, we parcel out lies as easily as pouring orange juice for breakfast.

My generation, a pitifully deluded generation, rebelled against our untruthful parents and decided to feed our children boring, so called "true" stories about sperm and eggs and gifts from parents. We thought we would raise a generation of empowered, introspective, self-reliant, autonomous free-thinkers.

Instead we raised a generation of neurotic self-centered Republicans waiting for the Rapture. They're starving for fiction. We did it in the same way we created wheat and nut intolerant children by denying them wheat and nuts. I think we need to return to the practice of raising our kids with lies to build up their bullshit immunities.

My dad was a Baptist minister and expected me to be on my best behavior because every little thing he thought I did would make him look like a failure to his congregation. I didn't particularly like being the model Baptist boy he envisioned so I learned to practice my lying early. I developed an addiction so severe I found myself spinning longer and longer lies. Soon I had to write them out to keep track of them, and those turned into stories and novels.

Like every addiction, I've never been able to break it and it drains my time and finances. Fortunately my wife enables me so I continue to pound away.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I first wrote seriously in 1969 in San Marcos, Texas, a college town (Southwest Texas State, the home of Lyndon Johnson). We lived thirty miles from the University of Texas. Richard Nixon had just ousted the favorite son from office and reneged on his promise to bring home our troops. My Baptist minister father moved us the summer before from Baytown, in the heart of the redneck Pasadena oil fields, to SWT, the Fort Apache of liberalism, surrounded on all sides by shit kickers.

When Austin stations played the Beatles on the radio, the DeeJays didn't make fun of them. We no longer picked up Conway Twitty and Patsy Kline, the Beach Boys and bland British pop, but , Jimi, Janis, and thanks to the campus station KUT, Monk and Miles. Even more to the point, I went to school with Negro kids and Mexican kids too. Only they didn't like being called Negros.

I drew a couple of truly awful comic books in junior high, and I even started a twelve page novel. But those were larks. My inspiration came during my freshman year when the principal accused me, the Baptist Preacher's Kid, of leftist leanings. I told him he was wrong but if he would introduce me to some leftists I would be glad to join.

The records office accidentally placed me into remedial classes when they switched my records with Stephen Phillips. My life was threatened by shit kickers every day, I rode the bus with Black kids for the first time, I was shaken down for lunch money for the first time, I suffered through my first "you're queer" jokes for the first dozen times, I joined the band and suffered through even more "you're queer" jokes, I saw my first student demonstration at the college which was only ten blocks from my house, got straight A's in my speech class and was recruited for the debate team which convinced my father had me on the road to hell because nothing breeds liberal commies like debate team.

Best of all, the national debate topic for my sophomore year was the Vietnam War and I loved it. My partner and I won our first two tournaments and I discovered that I’d declared war on my family, God and America and my high school administration. Without even knowing it.

Most of all I realized this shit was funny.

In my spare time I wrote an atrocious satire about a young radical who discovers the US government engineered the hippie movement to justify the CIA budget. He brings down the government, and realizes his new government is in bed with the guys who ran the old one. I still love the idea, but, let's face it, a high school sophomore, full of himself, with no creative writing training, couldn't write his way out of the joint he rolled that morning. And I couldn't. And, even worse, dope wouldn't make it to our high school until my junior year, so I didn't even have the excuse of being stoned.

I can honestly say that this small corridor of Texas—San Marco to Austin (where I later moved)—profoundly influenced my writing. Austin features a strong tradition of libertarian liberalism* standing in paradox to a bullheaded Bible belt mentality. I guess you could call it erudite bronco busting. Drive on I-35 any day and you'll see a Tesla Model S with a Darwin sticker on the bumper challenging a Ford F150 sporting "Honk if you love Jesus" for space in the same lane.

*No one wants to call it that, but it pretty much sums up old style Texas liberalism
Read more of this interview.

Where to find Phillip T Stephens online

Twitter: @stephens_pt
Wattpad: PhillipStephens

Books

The Hellelujah Trail
Price: Free! Words: 26,570. Language: English. Published: September 18, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Humor & comedy » Black comedy
Lucifer challenges a clueless optimist named Pilgrim to build Hellelujahland, a theme park to scare souls straight to hell. One small problem: Pilgrim spreads comfort and joy everywhere he goes, and happiness means bad news in hell. Download the free short story to celebrate the paperback release of the parent novel Raising Hell and sample the Smashwords eBook edition.
The Worst Noel
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 29,430. Language: English. Published: June 21, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Holiday » Christmas, Fiction » Humor & comedy » Parody
The only innocent soul in hell is sent to save a small town church and its century-old Christmas pageant. But Pilgrim knows that if Lucifer wants the church saved, it can’t be good. A holiday novelette from the author of Raising Hell in the tradition It's a Wonderful Life. Only this devil will never earn his horns.
Raising Hell
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 81,620. Language: English. Published: June 20, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Humor & comedy » Black comedy, Fiction » Humor & comedy » Satire
(5.00)
A clueless optimist ruins a perfectly good hell. When an innocent soul arrives in hell by accident, Lucifer does his level best to corrupt him before the Supreme Butt In corrects the mistake. Unfortunately for Lucifer, the new soul Pilgrim makes Pollyanna a prophet of doom and leads the damned on a mission to transform hell into the most enjoyable realm of everlasting torment possible.
Cigerets, Guns & Beer
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 115,560. Language: English. Published: June 20, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Hard-Boiled
Murder, sex, buried bank loot and rumors of UFOs. Dodd just wants to fix his car and get out of Sweet Water Falls. Too bad for him three more Dodds were killed robbing the Bank thirty years before and the money never recovered. Everyone thinks he's back for the loot they intend to kill him for the location of the money.

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