Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Fab Firsts - Q&A with Phil Brady - Blog Tour

Fab Firsts is my semi-regular feature, that is highlighting books that are firsts. When interviewing authors, it will be about their first book, as well as other firsts in their lives.

If you are an author wanting to take part in Fab Firsts then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you.

I hope you enjoy this look at a variety of hopefully fabulous firsts,.

I’m Phil Brady and my first novel, The Meal of Fortune was published recently by Unbound.

1) Can you tell us a bit about your first book?

The Meal of Fortune is the first book I have had published.  It is actually the third I have written but the first two will probably stay in a drawer with a cool flannel over them to stop them getting to excited at the prospect of being published, now that The Meal of Fortune has made it into print.   This won’t be happening.  The Meal of Fortune is a comedy thriller in which the worlds of arms dealing, espionage and TV cookery collide.  It is the first in a planned trilogy parodying the media and society’s obsession with celebrities, against a backdrop of guns, gangsters and general mayhem.  It tells the story of Dermot Jack, a failing celebrity agent and MI5 officer, Anna Preston.  Their teenage romance didn’t end well and when they’re thrown back together years later in a bid to bring a rogue Russian arms dealer to justice tensions tend to run a bit high.  As if they haven’t got enough to worry about with the arms dealer, murderous hitman and a very cross East end loan shark to deal with.  It’s meant to be fast paced and provide a few laughs along the way; not really a book that takes itself too seriously.

2) What was your original inspiration to become a writer, and to write your debut?

I’ve always wanted to write since I read The Lord of Rings as a kid.  Back then the ambition was to create whole fantasy worlds with swordfights and dragons.  I guess I’ve grown up a bit (although I still like a bit of Game of Thrones).  I spent most of my twenties viewing myself as some kind of writer in waiting, gathering life experiences that I would one day write about.  Then towards my late twenties I suddenly decided to stop messing about and get on with it.  The Meal of Fortune, which is a cookery themed gameshow featured in the book was originally a gameshow format that I developed and pitched to TV stations (none of them were interested).  Years later I remembered it and thought it would be useful for the plot of my book.

3)  How long did it take you to write your first book?

Yes, hmmm… Can we skip that one.  Too long is the answer.  Too much messing about writing and re-writing and the not looking at it for months (and sometimes years) at a time.  In all it took me over 10 years from start to finish, although in my defence I have a full time job and have had two children in that time. That’ still too long though.

4)  If you could do anything differently in retrospect, what would you change about your debut, or how you went about writing it?

I think you can always go on tweaking and tinkering and there is a time when you just have to stop.  I still wake up with ideas of how I could change The Meal of Fortune.  Then I remember that it is finished and published and there is nothing more I can do.  The one thing I would definitely do different is write it faster.  Life gets in the way of writing.  There isn’t much you can do about that so you just have to go with it and be disciplined and make time.

5)   Was your first book self or traditionally published, and how did you go about making that decision?

I published with Unbound, a crowdfunded publisher, which is kind of half and half I guess.   Once Unbound have agree to publish your book, you then have to crowdfund the costs of publication.  This varies depending on format – e.g. eBook, paperback or hardback.   I cannot recommend Unbound highly enough.  The input I had from my editor Rachel was invaluable in shaping and refining The Meal of Fortune. Definitely check them out www.unbound.com.  They’re allowing a lot of authors who cannot find a traditional publisher to get published and I’m hugely grateful for the opportunity.  I spend over a year trying to get an agent without any success before I decided to give Unbound a try.  I was actually sitting in a cafĂ© with my two children when the email came in saying that they wanted to publish the book.  It was a pretty special moment (although it still doesn’t excuse looking at my phone when I am out with my kids!).  One thing that helped too was a change of title.  It wasn’t initially called The Meal of Fortune and I only changed the title just before I sent it to Unbound, maybe that swung it.

6)   Do you have any tips for other first time authors?

Probably the sort of tips that everyone gives, keep at it, don’t give up, be disciplined and make time to write.  And get ready for rejection.  It took over 15 years from me first putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) on my first novel to finally getting my third published. Some will get lucky but the mere mortals like me have to be in it for the long term. 

Tell us about your first…

7)   Book you bought

Can’t remember, the one that had the greatest impact on me as a child was Lord of The Rings.

8)   Memory

Burning my stomach on a radiator at our house in Scotland.  We moved from Scotland when I was five so I guess I must have been about four.

9)   Person you fell in love with

Properly?  My beautiful and fantastic wife Megan.  Then my two children when they came along.

10) Holiday you went on

A trip up to London with my parents when I was about seven.  I particularly remember the ice cream shop with 30 different flavours.  I think I’d only tasted vanilla and raspberry ripple before that.

11)  Prize you won

A spot the ball competition in a newspaper when I was about eight – £250. My parents put the money in the bank for me and wouldn’t let me spend it.  Not sure I every actually saw the cash but given everything they’ve done for me I’m quite relaxed about that.  Not sure I was at the time though.

12)  Album you purchased
Giles Smith’s talks about this in his brilliant book Lost in Music, saying that people always claim the first record they bought was something cool that reflects their musical tastes.  I’m not sure about albums but I used to tell everyone the first single I bought was Ghost Town by The Specials but it was probably Shuduppa Your Face by Joe Dolce or something by Shakin’ Stevens

13) Sport you enjoyed participating in

Football.  I still love it now and play although I am getting a bit old.

14) Embarrassing moment you can remember

Sadly there are just too many of them.  It was probably during that awkward adolescent period when I spotty and gawky and working out how to deal with girls.

15) Pet

We had a cat when I was very young.  I can’t even remember its name now.  It went missing when I was about five and I remember dragging my mum around fields and woods near our house to look for it.  She was very patient and humoured me, even though she must of known it was already road kill.

16) Time you were in trouble

I was about eight and some friends of mine and I picked some wheat from a farmers field (actually we took a whole black bin bag full of it).  The plan was to plan it plant the seeds in my friends garden and make bread.  It was only a sack full from a whole field.  The farmer didn’t see it like that.  Cue visit from the police and my friend’s mum tipping the bag of wheat over her back fence and everyone trying to act all innocent.  My parent said they weren’t angry, just disappointed.  Actually I’m fairly sure they were angry.

17)   ..choice of alternative career if you weren’t an author

I am not really sure I can call writing my career yet as it’s not the day job yet.  I work in marketing and PR and that’s been really enjoyable. But if I really could choose I’d be a full time writer.  I’m working on it.

18) …time you had any independence

I grew up in a small seaside village in Kent and then a small town in the Lake District.  As kids we had a lot of independence and would just go off on our bikes for whole days, only coming home when it was dark.  My children’s childhood is so different.  Lots of things organised and laid on but no real freedom to go and mess around in the woods, lights fires build go-karts and float old tractor inner tubes down the river.  Not sure things have got better.

19)  …toy that you recall loving

Probably my bike.  It gave me the freedom to go anywhere I wanted. There was probably some long forgotten bear or cuddly rabbit before that though. 

20)        … time you felt like an adult

Probably when I got my first real pay packet.  It was the summer before I went to University and my dad had got me a labouring with a company that was building a nuclear power station.  I’d only ever had a paper round before and earned about £6 a week.  Dad told he I’d get about £70 a week but when I got my payslip it was £370.   

21)        … time you realised you were good at something

I was always quite little at school. I could run fast but I was rubbish in a fight.  My tactic to avoid getting beaten up was to try to make the bullies laugh.  It worked.  Maybe that’s why I’ve always wanted to have a bit humour in my books.

22)        Dish you cooked

My mum thought I needed a stock dish before I went off to Uni.  She taught me how to make Lasagne (the height of Italian sophistication in Northern England in the late 1980s). I proudly offered to make it for my new flatmates on our first weekend at university and then slightly less proudly presented a greyish brown sludge about four hours later.  Hopefully I’m a little better at it now.

23)       … time you were really scared

Some other kids shot at me with an air rifle when I was about ten.  They were a long way away and I am not sure the gun could even shoot that far but it was pretty scary all the same.

Thank you so much Phil for taking the time to answer my questions. 

The world of arms dealing, espionage and TV cookery collide in this fast moving comedy caper.

Failing celebrity agent Dermot Jack thinks his luck might have turned when a mysterious Russian oligarch hires him to represent his pop star daughter. 

Disaffected MI5 officer Anna Preston is just as happy to be handed the chance to resurrect her own career. Little do they know that their paths are about to cross again after seventeen years as they're thrown together in a desperate attempt to lure a notorious arms dealer into a highly unusual trap. 

Hard enough without having to deal with the lecherous celebrity chef trying to save his daytime TV career or the diminutive mafia enforcer who definitely has his own agenda. Then there's the very impatient loan shark who 'just wants his money back'. 

And Anna's bosses are hardly playing it straight either. But one thing's for sure. There'll be winners and losers when the Meal of Fortune finally stops spinning. Oh, and another thing, Anna and Dermot are absolutely not about to fall in love again. That's never going to happen, OK?

Purchase from Amazon UK 

AUTHOR BIO:  I was first inspired to write when I read Lord of The Rings as a child. Back then the ambition was to create a whole fantasy world with dragons and sword fights. Sadly George RR Martin seems to have cornered that market, so I now try to comedy thrillers set in the (almost) real world instead. These feature spies, gangsters, vicious (if feckless) criminals, washed-up private detectives and daytime TV presenters. The Meal of Fortune is my first published novel. It is the first in a planned trilogy of comedy thrillers parodying society’s obsession with celebrity.

The follow-up, Tinker Tailor Solider Chef, sees the characters reunited in an attempt to foil a plot by the world’s most secretive intelligence agency (The Belgians) to bring the UK economy to its knees. The final book, centres on a referendum in Wales to decide whether the country should sell itself to an international technology giant for use as a conveniently located tax haven. It will be loosely based on the hilarious 80s film Local Hero.

My main rule in life is to never let tomato ketchup touch any food that is green. I am yet to work out any deep meaning behind this and suspect it is not the soundest of principles by which to live your life. But it’s better than quite a few I’ve come across down the years. Best not to get started on that one though.

I live in London with my fantastic wife and two remarkable children and didn’t vote for BREXIT
Twitter @philbradyuk

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