Hi Gillian, Welcome to Anna's Book Blog! I'm glad to have you here. To start off can you tell the readers a little about yourself? I was born in Glasgow, Scotland, moved to Aberdeen when I was ten; spent 12 years living in Barbados, and now live in the north-east Highlands of Scotland with my husband, 11-year-old twins and a lot of animals. I’ve been writing since I can remember, but professionally since 1990. I write crime, fantasy, horror and anything else that comes into my head.
Firebrand is the first book in the Rebel Angels series, can you tell us a little about it? I never meant to write Firebrand! I’d written what’s now the second book in the series, Bloodstone, but I knew it just wasn’t right. I tried writing a sequel, but that didn’t solve the issues... It took me a while to realise that a character who was a fairly minor villain first time around had actually taken over the series. It was his story and no-one else’s, so I had to go back in history and write Seth’s back story. And that turned into a 100,000 word novel, which was Firebrand. Once I realised that, I could rewrite the other books as they were meant to be. It’s the story of two warring Sithe clanns, who live in a parallel dimension behind a Veil. Their queen wants to destroy the Veil and rule our world (thereby destroying the Sithe dimension); Seth and his clann want to stop her. In Firebrand, Seth and his older brother are exiled to the full-mortal world, where they face the 16th century Scottish witch-hunts; Seth also has to face a few facts about himself and his own prejudices. On their return, they find they still have battles to fight. The next three books take place a few centuries later, with the war over the Veil still ongoing.
What is your writing day like? I’m a slow starter. I’ll have a coffee, and a shower, then another coffee; then I’ll check Facebook and Twitter... and finally, around 11 o’clock, I’ll settle down to work. After that, though, I work straight through to school run time, with a short break for lunch; then I’ll work from 4pm till I’m finished for the day. That might be at 6pm or I might go on till the small hours.
When your not writing what kind of books do you like to read? I read a lot of children’s and YA books, partly for a review blog I contribute to (Awfully Big Reviews) but mostly because I really enjoy them. Children’s and YA have some of the best writers around at the moment. I also love crime - Sophie Hannah, Nicci French, Ruth Rendell and PD James are my favourites - and the fantasies of Robin Hobb and George RR Martin. (I’m going mad with frustration, waiting for the next books in A Song of Ice and Fire.)
What are 3 things that are "must haves" for you when you sit down to write a book? My electronic cigarette; I gave up smoking more than twenty years ago, then foolishly took it up again. This gadget has got me to give up the real thing again, though I’m kind of addicted to the electronic one now. Coffee, lots of it; I get through mugs and mugs of the stuff. And some scribbled notes; I don’t plot in any depth, but I like to have a few scenes written down, or a character sketch or two. Like a lot of writers I love to walk, and that’s when I think up ideas and scenes to get me started. I’ve often forgotten my notebook, and had to text myself from my phone.
If you could give your lead characters one piece of advice, what would it be? I’d tell Seth to relax, and stop being so suspicious of everyone’s motives. They’re not all out to get you! Give them a chance and you might like them! And I’d tell Conal to give Seth a bit of a chance, too, and trust him. I know you understand him better than most, but he’s still got more potential than you think...
The U.S. cover of Firebrand has quite a different look compared to the U.K. version. Do you have a favorite? That’s a tough one... because I love them both! I’ve been really lucky with cover designs. I adore the energy and motion of the US cover; and I love the way Lawrence Mann, the UK artist, depicts Seth. He gets better and better looking with every cover. I’m always trying to persuade Lawrence to take more of Seth’s clothes off. I’ve got him down to a t-shirt now... But I can’t choose a favourite between the covers. They’re too different, and both too gorgeous!
[For those who would like to see the U.K. cover it can be seen here.]
What inspired you most while writing Firebrand? When I realised I’d have to go back four centuries to tell Seth’s story, I did a lot of research into the Scottish Reformation and the witch-hunts. While that made for some horrible reading, it was also really inspiring and gave me lots of ideas. The Scottish witch persecution was hideous - much worse than the English version - and there was plenty for me to throw at my characters. I went back to some primary sources, like the Daemonologie of King James VI and I; I even found a price list for a witch-executioner, which was chilling. I’m very inspired by landscape, and I like to walk for miles imagining scenes - a lot of Firebrand’s setting came from the Hebridean island of Colonsay, which is one of the most beautiful places I know. The remains of Seth’s father’s dun are on the west coast there, looking over the Atlantic Ocean. But mostly, I suppose, I was inspired by Seth himself - he wouldn’t leave me alone till I’d told his story, and he always put me right when I misunderstood him :-)
If you could cast your hero, which actor would you pick? Ooh, isn’t that a game every writer likes to play? I’ve seen a few good Seths. My first image of him came from the movie Stage Beauty. I saw Billy Crudup in a silk apricot frock and I thought “That’s Seth!” (Seth has never forgiven me for the apricot frock...) And if you shaved off Billy’s moustache in Almost Famous, he’d be perfect as Seth there too. But Aidan Turner would be pretty good too. He was a vampire in the BBC series Being Human, and is now Kili (or maybe Fili, I can’t quite remember) in The Hobbit. Whatever, he’s the best looking dwarf in the movie. Even beside Richard Armitage, who’s the dreamy Thorin.
What is next for you? I’m doing some rewrites on the second Rebel Angels book, Bloodstone, and on Book 4, Icefall, for the UK publication next year. There’s a contemporary crime story I’m keen to get back to, provisionally titled Spitting Distance. I also ghostwrite on a few series - I love being one of the Erin Hunters, writing a fantasy series about dogs called Survivors. At the moment I’m writing the fourth instalment, and will be touring the States in May to promote Book 2 (A Hidden Enemy). And for the same company I write a children’s fantasy adventure series called Rookery Island - my next project is the third book. It’s a packed schedule at the moment but that’s how I like it :-)
Rebel Angels #1
By Gillian Philip
February 19, 2013
At the end of the sixteenth century, religious upheaval brings fear, superstition, and doubt to the lives of mortals. Yet, unbeknownst to them, another world lies just beyond the Veil: the realm of the Sithe, a fierce and beautiful people for whom a full-mortal life is but the blink of an eye. The Veil protects and hides their world... but it is fraying at the edges, and not all think it should be repaired.
Discarded by this mother and ignored by his father, sixteen-year-old Seth MacGregor has grown up wild in his father's fortress, with only his idolized older brother, Conal, for family. When Conal quarrels with the Sithe queen and is forced into exile in the full-mortal world, Seth volunteers to go with him.
But life beyond the Veil is even more dangerous than they expected, and Seth and Conal soon find themselves embroiled in a witch hunt --in which they are the quarry. Trapped between the queen's machinations at home and the superstitious violence of the otherworld, Seth must act before both of them are fed to the witch hunters fires.
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GIVEAWAYThanks to Tor/Forge I have (1) copy of Firebrand to giveaway. To enter leave a comment along with your email address. Open to U.S. residents. The winner will be announced on February 27th. Good Luck!