Phillipa McGuinness

Posted on Posted in Industry, Interview, Non-fiction, Phillipa McGuinness, Writer

Phillipa McGuinness has been Publishing Director at New South Publishing for 15 years, and the publisher was named Best Small Publisher on her watch in 2o16 and 2017. Prior to this she was Commissioning Editor at Cambridge University Press.

In addition to her decades of experience as a publisher and editor, Phillipa has published two books. In 2015 she edited Copyfight, a compilation of work by leading public figures about copyright. In 2018 she released her first full length work, The Year Everything Changed: 2001.

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TRANSCRIPT

Astrid: Phillipa McGuiness, welcome to The Garret.

Phillipa: Thank you.

Astrid: You’ve been Publishing Director at NewSouth Publishing for about 14 years. That means you were in charge at NewSouth when you received the Small Publisher of the Year in 2016 and 2017?

Phillipa: Yeah, that’s true. It was the whole team that received the award though, which was very exciting. Interestingly, now I’m not actually Publishing Director. I have stepped back a bit so I could write my own book.

Astrid: I cannot wait to talk to you about that, 2001: The Year Everything Changed. I have so many questions for you. You were also Commissioning Editor at Cambridge University Press for about a decade before you went to NewSouth Publishing. So, my first question, Phillipa, how do you know when you want to publish a book?

Phillipa: Oh, that’s such a good question. Sometimes, you know immediately. Like really, you read something and you think, ‘Oh, this is so good. We have to do this’. Sometimes, you can read something and think, ‘That’s a great idea, and it’s not being as well executed as it might be but I think we’ll get there’. Other times, I will start reading a proposal or talking to someone thinking, ‘No, not really. I don’t think that’ll be for us’, but then they really sell it, and you think ‘Actually I was wrong, that this is a great book. You’re a great author. We should do it’. Some things really reach out and grab you by throat sometimes, and other things you find you need to be persuaded.

Astrid: So, tell me about that act of persuasion. What did it take to get you over the line?

Phillipa: If there’s something that I feel really strongly about, I will go in batting for it with my colleagues. We have publishing meetings, acquisitions meetings, and it is a euphemism, but the discussion is robust. You know, I think probably there’s not a publisher in Australia who, at some point, hasn’t walked out of one of these meetings feeling disappointed that the author she really wanted to get up for whatever reason – whether it’s too much competition, or something that’s undercooked, or BookScan figures – her colleagues say, ‘No, we don’t think that’s for us’. But sometimes, you convince your colleagues to take a risk on someone who is unknown or young. Sometimes, there’ll be somebody who’s very well established and they seem to be doing the same thing, just seems a bit complacent or lazy, and you might think, ‘Well really, I should be publishing you, but I’m not sure that this is the right book or the right moment’. So, there are a whole lot of factors, but when all the planets line up, it can feel really great.

Astrid: I want to unpick a few of the words that you said. You said too much competition and referenced BookScan figures. Can you explain those for me?

Phillipa: Well, competition is often… If there’s a book about a particular subject, and one of your colleagues helpfully reminds you that there are ten other books about this person, or this event, or this trend, or whatever it might be and you’re busy arguing, ‘No, this one is different’. If there is too much competition, often you’ll say, ‘Okay, I accept that. We’re not going to create a new market or a new audience because they’ve already been satisfied by what’s out there.’

I think all publishers are influenced by BookScan. So they are sales figures, if anyone doesn’t know about that. They can be brutal, but you can decide not to allow your decision to be completely informed by BookScan. We do that quite often, but sometimes, you think, ‘Well, if that book by that author only sell that many, that’s going to make us think long and hard about what’s being presented to us here’.

Astrid: I can imagine. You referred to sometimes not going with maybe an established or well-known figure if you think they’re phoning it in, and taking on new authors when it feels right, when the time is right. What makes you take a new author?

Phillipa: I think it’s often a leap of faith. I’m an optimist, so in general, for me, making that leap of faith isn’t so hard, because I mainly believe that people can do it, that authors will get there, and I want to make them believe it. That’s part of my job. I think that’s part of every publisher’s job actually, to give your author confidence and belief in themselves, to cajole them until they deliver the damn thing, but also to act as a kind of a coach really saying, ‘Show me chapters along the way. Let’s see how you’re going. So yeah, but it can be a bit of a leap of faith, but sometimes, you just really believe in something. Something strikes you as being important, or new, or different, and as a publisher, when you can persuade everyone to come along with you, including the author, that’s great.

Astrid: Now, forgive me for maybe a presumptuous question, but if you do take a leap of faith and the BookScan figures turn out spectacular, obviously you’ve been vindicated by the choice of the market. What happens if the sales aren’t what you expect or want?

Phillipa: You go on. You live to die another day.

Astrid: Does that impact that author’s ability to get another contract?

Phillipa: I think it depends. Not always. Probably sometimes it might make publishers – whether it ends up being us again or someone else – think twice, but things happen. Sometimes, for whatever reason and with the best will in the world and a great cover, a great book, great marketing and really good publicity campaign, it doesn’t all come together.

Astrid: Tell me about the zeitgeist. Do you try to be ahead of it? Do you try to create it?

Phillipa: I wish I had the power to create it. Sometimes, you find yourself being part of it whether you wanted to or not. I think it’s about the ability of just listening out, of paying attention and thinking, ‘What’s new? Who are the interesting voices? What’s grabbing people’s attention?’ and taking it from there.

Astrid: You specialise in non-fiction, current affairs, politics, history. When commissioning non-fiction, what do you look for in an author? Is it professional experience, life experience, academic profile?

Phillipa: Sometimes it’s all of that. If you’re publishing something that is quite technical, you want somebody who’s got expertise, a really good track record, runs on the board. If it’s memoir, you want somebody who’s being authentic and honest. If somebody is writing, for example, history and they’ve discovered something that’s extraordinary from the archives but don’t know how to tell a story, don’t really know how to use that, have no sense of narrative, that can be unbelievably frustrating. So, I guess I’m looking for people who can do the right thing by their subject. That’s how I’d summarise it.

For me, something I find devastating can be when somebody has really good material but they’re not serving it as well as they might. That is just dreadful. That’s when you step in and say, ‘You need to do another draft’, or ‘You need to have more confidence. You need to write this more boldly, because if you don’t, you’re not going to get the readers you deserve.’ Sometimes people will step up and they’ll go, ‘Yep, I get it. I’ve got to take a risk’. Sometimes they won’t, and I find that really hard.

Astrid: Have you ever commissioned work and then not published it?

Phillipa: Yes. I haven’t had very many experiences in my career – which is long now, I’ve been doing this for a long time – where I’ve actually cancelled someone’s contract, but I have done it. I really think that was for the greater good, but it was pretty traumatic to do it. There have been other times where I have sent a manuscript back and said, ‘Come on, this needs a lot more work’. Most of the time, an author will step up, but sometimes there are other cases where authors can go very quiet. No response to emails, the deadline passed months or years ago, and then everyone can accept that it’s not going to happen. For whatever reason, they cannot write that book. Sometimes, in that situation, cancelling a contract can be a relief for everyone. It seemed like a good idea at the time and for whatever reason, the book didn’t work out.

Astrid: In your roles as publisher and editor, what are the most common mistakes you see, and are they always new writers or a writer at any stage of their career?

Phillipa: No, they’re not always new writers. I think that often, very experienced writers do get complacent. There’s one author I can think of where I heard myself say to somebody who I think is completely brilliant, ‘This is really close to what you said in your last book. Is that really what you want?’ I think he was shocked. He hadn’t realised and said, ‘No, it’s not. I need to rework that.’ But I think often, and this can be for any author no matter at what stage of experience they are, not listening to what other people are saying. If you say, ‘This part, it doesn’t work as well as the rest’, I’m not always going to be right. There’s no editor who is going to be right all the time, but it’s worth listening and challenging your assumptions if you’re an author. I think that the best authors are those who are open to alternative ideas and suggestions. Even if they don’t take them up, I’ll respect that, but you want them to take them seriously.

Astrid: Of course. Everybody needs feedback.

Phillipa: Yeah, ain’t that so. [Laughter]

Astrid: Now, non-fiction is different from fiction in that many works are commissioned rather than already written and then pitched.

Phillipa: True.

Astrid: Do you accept pitches?

Phillipa: Yes.

Astrid: Tell me about that. What makes a terrible pitch?

Phillipa: Something that doesn’t grab your attention. You know, if you’re getting to the end of the first or the second or the third paragraph and you still don’t really know what they’re trying to do, that’s a real problem. One thing I say to authors all the time – it seems like the most obvious thing in the world, but apparently it’s not – I say write the pitch, or the proposal, or the précis, or whatever it is in the same voice that you want to write the book in.

To me, it’s like why would you do it any differently? But when I read a pitch from someone who is saying, ‘This is going to be a book with an upbeat tone, and the writing is going to be lively and accessible’, and they’re telling you all that, but you’re reading their proposal and thinking this is the dullest thing I’ve ever read. It’s written in really formal, stilted language, how are you going to transform that from the proposal to the final book?

Astrid: Yes, so you need the pitch to be alive and to jump out at you. The words to sing, I guess.

Phillipa: Totally.

Astrid: What is the one thing you always want and you will forgive a multitude of sins if they have this one critical factor?

Phillipa: A good idea.

Astrid: [Laughter] Fair enough.

Phillipa: No seriously, because sometimes if you think, ‘Wow, how interesting’, then you think I can work with this writer even though he seems to be committed to the passive voice or whatever. We can fix that, but this is a killer idea. This is really interesting and people are going to want to hear about it.

Astrid: I gave a lecture on the passive voice this morning. I’m glad to hear you say that.

Phillipa: We’ve got to keep fighting that fight, that’s true. [Laughter]

Astrid: No passive in professional writing. Now on The Garret, we interviewed Michael Webster earlier in 2018. He’s the chair of The Small Press Network. He spoke about book sales in Australia and was very complimentary on non-fiction book sales in Australia as opposed to fiction. Can you discuss that? And I have one critical question, is it possible to make a living as a non-fiction writer in Australia?

Phillipa: That is a critical question. I think the non-fiction figures are really interesting because if you unpack them and delve deeper, often you find that cookbooks and sporting biographies say, are skewing non-fiction in general.

Astrid: The Barefoot Investor.

Phillipa: Correct, correct. Yeah, I love The Barefoot Investor, fantastic. If he is dragging people into bookstores to buy his book, maybe they’ll buy one other while they’re there. It’s all good. It’s not always either or.

But sometimes I think yes, it is easier to sell non-fiction particularly if you’re doing something that’s topical. I think we’ve already had two books announced about the Thai cave rescue, and I would say both of them, if well written, will do well because that’s a hell of a story. It’s still fresh in everyone’s minds and those books will come out pretty quickly, but there’s non-fiction and there’s non-fiction.

There can be really dry non-fiction that’s mainly about imparting information, not telling a story. Unless that information is crucial – if you’re a student and you’re doing structural engineering and you need information about building a bridge, sure, you’ll buy that, but it’s specialised. It’s the riskier narrative non-fiction that I think is really competitive. That’s probably what most people want to write. A lot of people read it. Whether you can make a living from that I think is probably tough, but if you’re a non-fiction writer who can publish a big book every few years and freelance, work as a journalist, yeah, you can probably get there, but it’s not easy. The idea that you might make an easy living from producing one non-fiction book every three years that sells reasonably well, that’s a long shot.

Astrid: Do you think it’s possible to produce one a year?

Phillipa: Wow, you’d have to be very organised and very diligent and very focused, but it might be, yeah.

Astrid: Phillipa, changing tack a little, you edited Copyfight in 2015, a compilation from Australian public figures about copyright in Australia. Did that lead you partly to publishing your first non-fiction book 2001: The Year Everything Changed?

Phillipa: The short answer, I think, is yes.

Astrid: Tell me.

Phillipa: Well, I had published, I don’t know, tens, hundreds of books by other people over many years. All of a sudden, I had my own project and I could wrangle it, really, however I wanted. I could invite writers I really respected and work with them. I wrote a fairly substantial introduction to that book, it was about six or seven thousand words, and I really enjoyed it.

Astrid: So how did you come to be the editor with your name printed on that book?

Phillipa: I had been thinking that copyright was a pressing cultural issue that people weren’t really discussing. And that’s partly because it seems so boring. I joke and it’s true. You hear the word copyright and I think people hear it in the same way we hear words like superannuation, or infrastructure, or something. Your mind closes off, but really, I thought it’s about how we consume culture, whether it’s film, or games, or music, or books or newspapers. And that has completely shifted so that now people think so much of that should be free, and the creators aren’t making money. What is that about? What has happened? How have we made a world where big tech companies make all the money and the people producing the content don’t? So that was my starting point, and I thought well, I want to get creative people together talking about that. Then for me, the crazy thing is that I think… I’m just thinking about timing, but my husband became head of The Copyright Agency about maybe four or five months after the book was published.

Astrid: Oh, what a coincidence.

Phillipa: I know, and so we, for a while there, became Mr. and Mrs. Copyright, but for me, one of the key things was the enjoyment and the stimulation I got from having my own project. I thought, ‘Hhmm, I would like to do that again’.

Astrid: Yes. Now, we are definitely going to talk about the content of The Year Everything Changed, but before we do, NewSouth Publishing didn’t publish your first book. Viking Penguin did. Can you tell me about that?

Phillipa: So NewSouth did publish Copyfight, and that was because I applied for funding, and because I wanted to be able to pay all the contributors. But I thought it’s just going to be too awkward for everyone if my employer, the publishing house I work for – and I’m not the only publisher, I have a really close colleague, Elspeth Menzies, who said she would have loved to have published it, she would have been great and NewSouth would have done a fantastic job, but it would have been too incestuous. So, I decided that I needed an agent, because I know a lot of the other publishers and I didn’t want to be pitching my own work directly and negotiating a contract myself. How weird would that be? So, I felt like it had to be at arm’s length, but I’ll tell you something really funny about the moment I got my agent.

We were having a meeting where she was pitching to me. She was saying, ‘Well, I’ve got this author that might be good for you or this person coming up’, and I was listening and interested. All of a sudden, I thought this is the moment. It was terrifying because I felt really vulnerable, and it felt like… I had to take a deep breath and show some courage and say, ‘Tara, I want to pitch something myself to you.’ We joke about this. The first thing she said was, ‘It’s not a novel, is it?’ [Laughter] I said, ‘No, it’s not a novel. It’s non-fiction.’

So that gets back to your earlier point that in general, I think for agents, even selling non-fiction to publishers can be easier than for a first-time novelist.

Astrid: Yes. So, your book is both personal and global. It is a story of 2001, and it is your personal story of 2001. We have Tampa and the Pacific Solution. We have 9/11 and the War on Terror. We have John Howard again. We have the collapse of Enron and Ansett, all the rest of it. But of course, we have your own family story, the stillbirth of your son, Daniel. How did you go about weaving the personal and the global, and keep such suspense when we all know what happened in 2001, and you told us your personal story on the back cover? Because you did it very well.

Phillipa: Well, thank you Astrid. Thank you. I don’t know. There’s no magic formula, but what I realised when the idea came to me was that I wanted the book to have emotional honesty. I wasn't going to write it in a completely dispassionate way, even the big picture things, because nobody could have stood watching on television, or for some unfortunate souls, in person, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre collapse and not feel anything.

And I thought, I’m not going to write this in a dispassionate way. It’s not my style as a person or a writer, but I can’t write about this year and not write about my experience with losing Daniel. I thought well, this is recent history. Most of the people reading the book were there. They remember it. We all experienced this through the lens of our own emotions and recollection. And that, I guess, was a thread that I tried to pull throughout the whole book to give it a sense of immediacy, to be honest, where I was going back and discovering things that happened in the world that I had forgotten or never knew about in the first place. I guess my voice, I suppose, is what I hope will carry readers through, so…

Astrid: It does carry readers through. For those who haven’t read the book, it’s roughly structured as an essay or a chapter per month with a beginning and end that bookends your personal story.

You had me laughing at various points. Your analysis of Donald Bradman as an Australian icon or not had me laughing out loud. I loved it. But then your reflections on 9/11 made me very sombre and remember things that I had probably deliberately forgotten. For example, the images that were published in the first 12 hours and then taken down and never referred to in the media again that year, things that we forget. It was living history, and you brought it alive to me.

I would like to ask again, if I can, Phillipa, about how you did build the suspense, because the closer I got, reading October, reading November, reading December, I was wanting to know what happened to you, the person whose recollections I’m following. You give the truth but it’s just so… I was waiting. I was in suspense and that is an extraordinary feat for any writer when you know what happens in the end.

Phillipa: Yeah. I think that the detail of my own story is so full on.

Astrid: It is.

Phillipa: It’s really, really full on, and I think in any book, when you’re reading and you get a bit of a sense of the author, and then you know something bad is going to happen because she told you in the first line, but you start to care a little more, the stakes get a bit higher because the author isn’t just anyone. Now she’s someone you’ve spent 50, or 100 or 200 pages with as she’s telling you all this other stuff. Then all of a sudden, kaboom, you go from hearing about Donald Bradman and Nicole Kidman and Ansett flight attendants and 9/11, the pilots and the flight attendants – I am very interested in flight attendants actually – and all of a sudden, it’s really intimate and raw.

I think that builds suspense in a way, but the structure of the year did that for me. When the idea came to me, the first thing I thought of was 9/11, Tampa, John Howard, all those things. Then, as I say in the prologue, I thought, ‘Oh my god that was the year Daniel died’. And I thought if you were writing a novel and you had your main character bury her son on the last day of the year, on New Year’s Eve, you would think that is so contrived, but actually, that's how it happened. So, in that moment, with the duality of being a writer and a publisher, but also as I was thinking of the idea, a character in the story I was telling, I thought, ‘There’s your narrative arc right there’.

So yeah, I think that all worked to build suspense, but Astrid, when I read memoir, you often get to the end and you read someone’s story and you think what happened next? How did they go on? And what I like about this – you’ve really got me thinking about this. I hadn’t thought about it very much – the fact that I wrote the book is its own story. Like I was thinking if you were a reader and you thought, ‘Well, that happened to her and the world in 2001, but here am I reading this book in 2018. I guess she’s okay.’ That’s, I guess, part of the story.

The other question is you could say, ‘Well, I guess the world is okay, because as messed up as everything is, something as a direct result, I would argue, of the events of 2001, but as messed up as it is, we’re still here.’ We’re talking now. Somehow, life goes on. I think humans have this incredible resilience, and that’s part of the story.

Astrid: That is part of your story. Resilience is something I wanted to talk to you about. Obviously, part of this book is very personal and now, you have been talking about it publicly. You’ve published a book. What is that like to have such an intimate part of your own history on stage?

Phillipa: It’s really intense. I went in with my eyes open. The chapter about Daniel was the first chapter I wrote after I signed the contract. I wanted to be sure I could do it. I thought I’ve said I’m going to write about this. I’ve never written about this before. I haven’t really talked about it very much, very widely. I have to write that first. So, I did and then I put it away. And 18 months later, before I was going to deliver the book, I revisited that chapter in Melbourne, actually. I spent a weekend in a hotel room around the time of the Melbourne Writers Festival last year just going over it and getting pretty upset actually, but I thought ‘No, I do want to tell this story’. So, I had my eyes open, and my publisher was so supportive. I would say almost loving, Meredith and Catherine, through all that. It really gave me strength.

But all of a sudden, the book is out in the world and you’re doing publicity. That’s a completely different ballgame, because you’re really vulnerable. I had a lot of support from my husband and family and friends and publisher, but you’re on your own and people can ask you anything, and they do. On social media, people can respond in whatever ways they’re going to respond.

I had a very intense moment on the day the book was published. I was coming back from the ABC studios in Sydney where I’d done a couple of interviews. I was on the bus and I looked at my phone and Twitter seemed to be going crazy. I just thought, ‘What’s happening?’ Because the interviews weren’t live, they were pre-records. And I realised that the extract from the final chapter, which is the most personal chapter, it’s about me losing Daniel, had gone up live on The Guardian website. I didn’t know. I knew it was going to happen, but I didn’t know when. So, I’m getting all these mentions and comments and tweets and I froze because I thought what if that’s hostile? You just don’t know. It’s out in the world and anything can happen. I’m looking through the tweets and in general, they were really supportive.

Astrid: Good.

Phillipa: I got home and I actually burst into tears. I thought, ‘Oh god, what have I done? What was I thinking?’ This seemed like a good idea, but in that moment when I was in the thick of it, I thought oh, maybe not. But the comments kept coming. Adam, my son looked. I said, ‘Can you look at the comments on the actual Guardian website?” Which is moderated, but still. And it was overwhelming. I was so touched. I was really blown away, people sharing their stories. I was getting tweets in French from French families saying, ‘This happened to me. I’ve never read anything that describes what happened to me so closely. I’ve hardly been able to talk about it.’ I just thought, ‘Oh, maybe I have done the right thing.’

Really, I’ve gone from hardly talking about my experience of stillbirth to talking about it a lot, and I still don’t find it easy. I can feel my voice wavering and…

Astrid: I’m tearing up for everyone not in the room.

Phillipa: Yeah, but I’m glad I did it.

Astrid: It is a very powerful chapter, and I think that you deserve just praise and love for sharing something that isn’t talked about but happens.

Phillipa: Yeah. Well, thank you. It happens to women and women don’t talk about it because we’ve got to be brave and stoic, but yeah, it happens more than I’d ever imagine. Well, I should say especially since the book came out, the number of people… Oh my god, Astrid, the number of people who have come up to me and said, ‘That happened to me. It happened to my mother. I haven’t talked about it’, including some really prominent people. It’s just devastating. So yeah, I’d be completely overwhelmed if I really let myself think about that and dwell on everyone’s pain, but we do go on.

Astrid: We do. It’s actually wonderful to hear a good story of social media and that online community being able to read about themselves and comment.

Phillipa: Yeah, it really has been positive. For me, with this book, and to be really honest, in general, social media has been a force for good. I know there’s a lot of crap, but just getting support like that from strangers, it feels really profound.

Astrid: I’m so glad to hear that, Phillipa. You’ve spoken about being vulnerable and promoting your book. Going back to your entire career and your profession, are you going to do anything different when you talk to authors published by NewSouth?

Phillipa: I said this publicly and people laughed thinking I was joking, but I was serious. I think the experience of writing and publishing my own book will make me tougher with authors… in a nice way.

Astrid: Of course.

Phillipa: I’m an empathetic publisher. It’s not like I’m not able to listen and work and be human with my authors, but I think it makes me want to push a lot of authors to take more risks. When I say tougher, it doesn’t mean I’m going to cancel someone’s contract if they’re a week late. It means I’m going to push people harder to do the best work they can. That’s on the writing side.

On the other side, I will not be so glib when I say to authors, ‘Just enjoy publicity’, because you can enjoy it. I’ve enjoyed probably most of it. I’m quite extrovert and I like talking. So, in a way, publicity is right up my alley, but even I find it exhausting. It can be stressful because you never know what some radio announcer who’s just come on and someone’s handed them the press release for your book and they’re trying to come up with a few questions, they can ask you anything, anything at all. And I’m not experienced enough to be able to just go with it all the time, although I’ve learned a lot, but it does make you vulnerable. So rather than saying to my own authors, ‘Just enjoy the ride’, when it comes to publicity, now I’m like, ‘No, it can be really hard’.

I’ve got an author at the moment whose book is very personal. I know that people won’t always ask him the right questions, and it’s probably made me more protective that I would have been otherwise.

A lot of writers are not extroverts. The thought of appearing at a writer’s festival, even speaking at their own book launch, can be absolutely terrifying. And because publishers rely so much on authors to get out there, I think now I’ve got a greater respect for the time that that takes and the effort. Because even if you’re doing a ten-minute interview, you know your phone is going to ring at that time, and it’s going to be live, then it whizzes by you hang up and you think, ‘Wow, what just happened?’ But you can’t always go straight back to what you were doing. You need a bit of time to unwind, for your adrenaline to calm. So yeah, publicity has given me new insights into what all publishers ask authors to do.

Astrid: Final question for you, Phillipa. As both a writer yourself and a publisher, what’s your best advice for emerging writers of non-fiction?

Phillipa: Read. No, really. The best advice for any writer is to read. I was talking to somebody recently and I said, ‘There’s a book that I think could work as a really great model for yours about a completely different subject, but the voice and the approach is just perfect’. And she said, ‘Well, I can’t read anything else while I’m writing because I don’t want it to influence my own voice.’ And I almost said… Can I swear on this thing?

Astrid: You can.

Phillipa: I said, ‘You are a fucking idiot’, because here you’ve got somebody saying this will help you. You’re not that experienced and you’re not going to just go, ‘Well, am I not going to read?’ It mystifies me, so my advice – actually to everyone, whether they’re a writer or not – is to read more, because why wouldn’t you? It’s a gift.

The other thing, and this is probably one thing where I am going to be tougher with my authors, it is about timing and just sitting down and doing it, like being really disciplined. All this stuff about ‘Oh, I need to have the perfect conditions and the perfect light and the perfect chair. My mood needs to be just so and my tea needs to be this hot.’ It’s all bullshit. You’ve just got to sit down and do the work.

Astrid: Just got to write.

Phillipa: Yeah. There’s no magic formula. You’ve just got to do the work. But I really think if you read a lot, and you read good stuff, doing the work becomes easier because reading should inspire you.

Astrid: It should. Phillipa, thank you so much for coming on The Garret.

Phillipa: I’ve loved it. Thank you for inviting me, Astrid.