A few weeks ago I told you about a novella called Soldier Hill and its author, Phil Rossi. At the time I told you that there would be an interview and, more importantly, a giveaway in the future. Well the future is here. Phil is with me, and he’s going to answer a few questions. Ain’t that right, Phil?
PR: Absolutely. Thank you Jonathan for inviting me to share on your blog—great being here. It's a great blog, and I enjoy the privilege.
Thank you sir! Stroking my ego isn’t a prerequisite for appearing on the blog, but it sure is appreciated.
In addition to singing sweet nothings in my ear, Phil here was also nice enough to put up some swag for all you gentle readers. In the process he’s managed to raised the bar on the giveaway front. Instead of putting up one or two or any other finite number of copies of his work, he’s offering what amounts to an endless free lunch. If you want an electronic copy of Soldier Hill, all you’ve got to do is say the word. Comment on the post and tell me you want that puppy, and I’ll pass your info along the Phil. Or hell, tell him yourself. Next thing you know, you’ll have a nice little present waiting in your inbox.
Right now, though, there’s this whole interview thing we’ve got going. Speaking of which—you ready, Phil? I promise it’ll be quick and painless. Well, mostly painless.
PR: Ha—I hope it's painless for you. I'm out of house money. My three strikes are up. I read the review too, my man.
Q1) Alright, give us the “about the author” spiel.
PR: Been writing fiction on and off for some time. The 'off' time spent writing screenplays, and raising money to make independent films. Unfortunately, nothing materialized, and I never completed a feature--only a six minute crime/noir short film ('Ten Large') which could be viewed on my website, as well as on YouTube. That said, fiction is my strength, passion, and comfort zone. As my last film project was falling apart, intuition kicked in, pointing out the fiction route. Glad I'm here.
Q2) Well for what it’s worth, it fits you like a glove. Now, there’s my synopsis of course, but in your words, what is Soldier Hill really about?
PR: Honor and sacrifice in it's most core form. People that sacrifice are very special. They do it for love of country, and believe in what they are doing. It's private, sacred stuff, and should always remain so.
Q3) And what inspired you to write Soldier Hill? It seems to be a big change from your previous work.
PR: True events that seem so mind-boggling in retrospect. There was a tree outside a high school dedicated to a boy killed in
The tree was removed and discarded for an addition built onto the school. All
these years later, I'm still haunted and disturbed by it. Soldier Hill is not
meant to demonize those responsible. It's a mission to cleanse, and make it
right. How simple and direct this story is, I didn't make it up. The
inspiration and central events, anyway. Vietnam
PR: Now we're talkin' Jonathan! James Ellroy is the biggest. Once I discovered him, the doors opened up. A spicket if you will. I was like, wow--you could really do this? Write like this? It's so raw, forceful, economic, in your face, and upside your head. I love it. David Goodis, David Mamet, and Stephen King are some more that round out the list. But reading is a big part of the process. Discovering new writers, as well as stuff that's been around awhile.
Q5) My god, I love Ellroy. His prose is like a shovel to the head—and I saw a lot of that in your writing. Kudos to you. Anywho, I mentioned in my review that I didn’t think the book was really a YA tale. Yeah, it had teenagers as the protagonists, but to me it wasn’t written at the level of a YA reader. What do you think?
PR: I agree. Since the book is new territory, so is the marketing. I thought the YA angle would give it some footing, but I'm actually re-tooling my approach. Soldier Hill is a coming of age tale told by an adult in a reflective voice. This is who we were, what happened, and how it played out. It's told as a guy in his 40's, and the manner in which he would tell it.
Q6) The story is divided into short scenes—sometimes only a paragraph long. It didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book, but why did you decide to go this way rather than a more traditional scene structure?
PR: I'm really not sure, except that this is the 'journey' part for me. That gray area that I love to be in. Where everything is loose, and I'm relying on gut instincts. The rawness that brought me here. It could also be the screenwriting side. Arrive late, leave early. No rambling. If it doesn't move the story forward, it's holding things up. To me, that's the job, and the work. True, fiction provides more latitude, and readers like and expect that, but there's still a dynamic to it, not a liberty. Too many writers, I think, use it as a route to go on tangents, leaving the reservation, so to speak.
Q7) Couldn’t agree more. I love a story that just freakin’ starts and forces the reader to play catch-up. And speaking of story (mainly yours), there are many themes present—don’t judge a book by its cover, remember the fallen, assholes will eventually “get theirs” - but what would you say is the central theme of the book?
PR: Without being preachy, life counts. It's precious for all of us, no matter what we decide to do with it. Something reinforced while taking acting workshops to help with my writing/directing. Not to judge people/characters. Find the threads in them and learn to identify. Instead of calling a character a loser, call them an underdog. It makes a world of difference, for me anyway. This might be an actor's method to find a character, but why should it be any different for a writer? For me, this is what it could be--it's the starting gun. From here, this point of truth, the work should only grow up. During the journey, you connect with the material and characters on so many levels and areas. When you do, it's exhilarating--no feeling like it. I don't know if I answered your question correctly, but since the central event was already there, I had to search and build Soldier Hill from that.
Q8) In a certain respect, many Americans were eager to forget what happened in the Vietnam War, which plays into the events of your novel, what with the memorial tree needing to be saved and all that. Many people have compared the current
to . When it’s all over, do you think Vietnam Afghanistan will receive the same treatment as when it’s
all over (whenever the hell that happens)?
Do you think Vietnam
will be eager to forget the men who fought in this war, or have we turned the
corner on that shameful aspect of our past? America
PR: That's a very good, and interesting question. I really don't know. There are many parallels between the two. I got alot from the
fall-out as a kid growing
up in the 70's and 80's. Mostly that we never lost a war, and many of the guys
fighting in Vietnam
were sons of World War II vets. This, unfortunately added to the frustration
and hurt. Returning vets were scapegoated for losing a war they didn't
orchestrate or manage. It was a very sad, painful, and confusing time for the
country. I hope we learned from it, and don't repeat it. Not just now, but ever.
Q9) What will you be working on next?
PR: I'm anxious to get back to crime, and actually contemplating a venture into graphic art. It's a fun story, and I want to roll the dice and open it up. Also, I'm working on another coming-of-age novella as well. That said, Soldier Hill remains a priority from the marketing end. Getting it reviewed, talked about, and sold. This whole social media thing is huge, and exciting, but alot of work. It takes time and effort to get it out there.
Q10) Very cool stuff. Now, last but not least, what keeps you writing? It’s an often thankless job, and, when you have a job, and a family, and a mortgage, it can sometimes be hard to find the time to do it in the first place. So what motivates you to keep at it?
PR: I have to confess, I don't have much of a life. To the outside world, I'm what you call, an educated derelict. I have a college degree and drive a taxi to pay the bills. It provides the freedom and flexibility to write. Writing isn't a hobby, it's a business. I'm usually up around 8 AM, at the computer until noon. My shift could run 9-12 hours, depending on how busy we are. I bring my stuff with me, so in between dispatched fares, I read, write, and make notes. Days off are spent in my 'office'. Writing, and running the 'business'. I squeeze in a bike ride, shopping, and relax in the evening with a ball game. Limited vacations, and once a month, a day off to head into the city or to the ball park. Exciting stuff, right? And I can't get enough of it. Go figure.
Love (of writing) does crazy things to a man. I understand completely. Well, that about does it. See? Quick and mostly painless. I told you so.
PR: Thank you Jonathan. Really. You're review, and your blog has been a very rewarding experience. Your insights have been very supportive and helpful as well. I really enjoyed our correspondence, and very glad you agreed to the review. I'm also looking forward to following your blog, and soliciting future reviews.
If anyone would like to learn more about Phil Rossi or his work, you can email him (at firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit him at any of the following:
And for God’s sake, take advantage of the free lunch, would you? One little comment is all you need to get your free copy of Soldier Hill—no widgets to fill out or prayers to send up to lady luck.
Who ever said that nothing in life was free?