Linda Vigen Phillips: I was born and raised in a small town in Oregon, and while it has some of the most majestic beauty on earth and an ideal climate, I couldn’t wait to see what was on the other side of the Rockies. After college I set out to save the world with my BA in Sociology, and New York City seemed like a good place to start. Then I met my husband, stopped saving the world to start a family, and started paying attention to the poems that kept popping out at all hours of the day and night. The rest is history, though not the kind that happens overnight, I might add!
YAG: Crazy is a novel in verse. Can you describe your decision to write the novel this way, and tell us about some other verse novels that inspired you?
LVP: The book evolved from a collection of about twenty adult poems that were destined to be included in a chapbook until a friend of mine suggested they should become a novel. There was never any question in my mind that the novel would stay in verse form. My father’s love for poetry influenced me early on, and I filled many childhood diaries and journals with my own versions of poetry. The verse form seems to be what I do best. I’ve trashed three versions of a recent novel that I was trying to write in prose. So I think I’ve found my comfort zone, at least for now. Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust was the single most influential and inspiring book during the writing process. I literally kept it by my side and used it to prime the pump repeatedly. I also love Ellen Hopkins, but her style is becoming more influential with my WIP than it was with Crazy.
YAG: Crazy is told from the perspective of a young person whose mother suffers from mental illness. That seems like a difficult subject to write about. What were your reasons for taking on this subject, and what were your biggest challenges?
LVP: My mother suffered from bipolar disorder and she was having episodes during most of my growing up years. I knew it only as a series of “nervous breakdowns” and did not discover the exact diagnosis until I began writing the book. Of course the book is semi-autobiographical, and probably the biggest challenge, and the reason I’ve done so many revisions, was stepping out of the story enough to be able to write it objectively. I had to come to the point of reminding myself “this is now fiction, and yes, I can change this, that, or the other thing if I choose to.” That was both freeing and terrifying.
YAG: What’s been the most memorable part about your debut year so far?
LVP: I’m sure I should say something far more profound than this, but the best day so far was the first day, Jan. 1, when I saw that the calendar year now matched the year I had been waiting for for so long: 2014. On New Year’s Day when everyone else was hung over or stretched out on the couch watching football, I was dancing around the house and posting triumphantly on Facebook and Twitter. Even though I still had nine months and twenty days to go to launch, I felt like the fairytale was really coming true!
YAG: As a fellow debut, I know that once the creative juices start flowing, there’s no stopping them. What’s next for you?
LVP: I’m working on another story based on real events. There are three students, two from the same family, here in Charlotte, NC who are suffering from Batten Disease. Children usually acquire this rare genetic condition between ages five and ten, and often don’t make it to their twentieth birthday. I taught in the same school where these children once attended, and I am talking with the families to gather information. My protagonist will be the older sister telling the story--in verse, of course!
web and blog: http://www.lindavigenphillips.com
Barnes & Noble
Facebook: Linda Vigen Phillips (regular page, not author page)
Linda Vigen Phillips is a retired teacher living with her husband in North Carolina near two sons and two grandkids. CRAZY, a novel written in verse, is her debut book, drawn from her own experiences coming to terms with her mother’s mental illness while growing up in Oregon.