We’re here with another amazing interview and once again we managed to get some answers out of someone whose book we both can’t wait to read! Book blogging just has some really cool perks, huh?
If, like me and Charlotte, you’re super excited for The Gravity of Us (coming out February 4th!!), read on! It’s always nice to get to know the author a little better before reading their book, especially when they’re as enthusiastic & lovely as Phil!
Let’s start at the beginning. How did you first get into writing?
Technically, I started writing fiction at fourteen. This was incredibly bad Legend of Zelda self-insert fanfic, though. While I will always be supportive of fanfic writers, mine was so freaking awful and I refuse to count that.
So, fast-forward a decade. I worked in PR for a few years, which meant I was writing a ton of speechwriting, press releases, op-eds, and news stories. I loved being able to say I wrote for a living, but the “stories” I wrote and pitched for my day job weren’t so exciting.
Around this time, I fell back into a love of reading. So, after reading every YA dystopian series I could get my hands on, I had a moment of clarity: I could take my storytelling and writing skills and put them toward something creative, something I cared more about. So, in late 2012, I started writing YA books.
What are your favourite genres to read and write?
I actually like reading in all genres, and I think mixing it up really helps me understand the industry as a whole. YA Contemporary—especially queer YA/C—is such a small piece in a larger puzzle, that it’s really nice to jump around age groups and genres.
When it comes to writing, I’m sticking with YA and MG contemporary for now. MG is new territory for me, but in YA I’ve dabbled in fantasy and sci-fi, thrillers and spec-fic, you name it. I just know what I do well, and for now, I want to keep writing stories of teens changing the world (or their world) in unique contemporary settings.
And are there any genres or tropes you wouldn’t write?
I’ve tried, but I just can’t… do… poetry. So, I wouldn’t expect a novel in verse from me anytime soon. I do love to read it though!
How do you get inspiration for your books?
It’s always easier to write a story when I get to infuse my own passions into it. I’m a weather nerd and grew up obsessed with the movie Twister, so one of my early shelved novels featured a teen storm chaser. Similarly, in The Gravity of Us, I was able to bring in my love of the 60s space race, and really space exploration in general, and build it into a contemporary novel. Writing takes a lot of effort, and it’s exhausting, but it should also be fun and rewarding. So, building in things you’re genuinely passionate about and worrying less about salability or trends is always going to give you a better experience as an author.
Do you have a writing playlist? And if you do, does it focus more on the lyrics or melodies, vibe of the songs?
Video game soundtracks are really my go-to playlists, and Square Enix has made this even easier by releasing all their Final Fantasy soundtracks on Spotify. *praise hands emoji*
But I’ve found that recently, as the world gets more and more distracting and I have more and more responsibilities clouding my mind, I work best after pulling up an ambiance piece on YouTube and looping it for the full writing session. Actually I’m listening to this beautiful Animal Crossing-inspired original piece while I write this! I need something soothing and repetitive to focus… though if I am writing a scene with a little more tension, there are a few dramatic pieces I always turn to. 😉
What’s your writing process? At what point do you let other people read your drafts and who are they?
This has changed a lot over time. But generally my process is:
- Write first draft, going back to clean things up as I write. (I’m just not one of those people who can write without looking back!)
- Do another full read-through, fixing scenes as I go, until I am happy with this draft.
- Send to two close critique partners, get their feedback, and implement it.
- Send to my agent and get his feedback.
- Have my husband and a few other beta readers take a look.
- Make those changes and send it all back to my agent, who will hopefully give it a stamp of approval and ready it for submissions.
That said, my next draft will probably go to my editor earlier on in the process. It’s a new experience for me, so we’re still working that out!
Summarise your upcoming book in up to 5 words and a meme.
I’m not going to do the “five words” if that’s ok! But:
Which three authors would you say influenced your writing the most?
If (when!) your books were to be made into movies, who would you like to direct them?
When! Let’s say when. That sounds nice, lol. Realistically, I know I’m not going to have much of a say in it. But, let’s see.
The directors who stand out are… Jamie Babbit who directed But I’m a Cheerleader and a few episodes of Looking. Jonah Markowitz is up there as his movie Shelter really changed my life—it was really one of the first queer stories I got to see where the ending was happy and hopeful, and it really wasn’t until then that I realized that queer people could have happy endings. Of course, Greg Berlanti is a given due to his work on Love, Simon and the many amazing projects he’s produced. And, though she’s technically not a director, Stephanie Savage created The Astronaut Wives Club, and produced many episodes of Gossip Girl and The O.C.—if anyone can fully “get” what I’m going for with The Gravity of Us, it’s her!
And for something that is also very important to us & what we put a lot of emphasis on when blogging. What does ownvoices LGBT representation mean to you?
I always loved reading, but growing up I never got to see myself in these books. I mean, I saw myself in Hermione as she got picked on for being a know it all, sure, but I never saw a gay kid on the cover of any books. I could never pick up a romance and actually see myself on the page. And I genuinely believed I never would.
But now, there are so many fantastic queer books on the shelves. I mean, my book has two boys holding hands on the cover! I feel so lucky to be able to write the books I’d have needed most as a teen, and I’m even more thrilled that these books are more commonly being written by members of the queer community. There’s still a lot of room for improvement, especially regarding intersectionality and rep beyond cis gay stories, but I think we’re well on our way.
Rec us some great LGBT books you’ve read recently! One can never have enough recommendations!
I’m reading The Best at It by Maulik Pancholy right now, and I’m really enjoying it. Other books with queer characters I’ve recently read and loved: These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling, I Wish You All The Best by Mason Deaver, Bloom by Kevin Panetta, Odd One Out by Nic Stone, and Immoral Code by Lillian Clark.
What’s one piece of advice you would like to give your younger self?
I’d tell him to get a therapist and to push back on his parents when they let their own hangups with mental health treatment get in the way. I don’t blame them, to be clear—that’s just how everyone was in my rural upbringing in the 90s/00s. But I hate that it took me until my mid-twenties to focus on my mental health, and I can’t believe the years I wasted in so much pain due to an ever-present mix of anxiety, depression, ADD, and so much self-inflicted shame. But I’m glad I’m getting there now, and I don’t think I’d have ever gotten close without reading YA books (as an adult!) that looked past harmful mental health tropes and showed me that help was out there and that I could have a better life.
If you could have dinner with one member of the LGBT community, dead or alive, who would it be?
Um… Dan Levy! He’s a brilliant actor and writer, and he’s such a great advocate for the LGBTQ+ community.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Phil Stamper grew up in a rural village near Dayton, Ohio. While it could be seen as a boring lifestyle to some, he kept himself entertained through playing the piano and writing stories that stretched his imagination. He has a B.A. in Music from the University of Dayton and an M.A. in Publishing with Creative Writing from Kingston University. And, unsurprisingly, a lot of student debt.
When he first left his home state, he landed in Washington, DC with no job prospects, $800 in graduation money, and the promise of a walk-in closet to live in. (He’s a Gryffindor, if that wasn’t clear.) Not long after—and he’s not totally sure how—he was jumping headfirst into a career in non-profit PR and sleeping in a real bed. He loved writing for a living, even if hewas writing press releases and news stories… and hundreds of emails to annoyed journalists. But after a while, the dry writing started to get to him, so he thought he’d finally work on that book he always wanted to write…
Years later, with a new degree and two new cities under his belt, he works in publishing development for a major book publisher in New York City. He lives in Brooklyn with his husband and their dog. That book he always wanted to write never sold, and neither did the second or third. Butat the intersection of hard work, talent, and luck, his fourth manuscript sold to Bloomsbury Kids. With the tension of the 60s space race and the warmth of a charming love story, he couldn’t be more proud to present his debut novel, THE GRAVITY OF US.