M.A. PHIPPS is an American author who currently resides in the picturesque English West Country with her husband, daughter, and their Jack Russell, Milo. A lover of the written word, it has always been her dream to become a published author, and it is her hope to expand into multiple genres of fiction. When she isn’t writing, you can find her counting down the days until the new season of Game of Thrones.
When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? How did you start?
I’ve wanted to write for as long as I can remember. My dad has always been a big reader and encouraged my love of books and writing. I was incredibly busy with extracurricular activities in my adolescent years, but I would write story ideas on scraps of paper in class, at work—basically anywhere I had the opportunity to do so. I worked on bits here and there, but it wasn’t until I graduated university that I had the time to sit down and work on something properly. I began seriously writing in 2011.
Can you tell us a little about what kind of book(s) you’ve written so far?
My current published works are the first two books in a YA dystopian trilogy called Project W. A. R. They were inspired by George Orwell’s 1984, which I read in high school, as well as events that transpired during World War II. They take place in a futuristic society that prohibits the arts (and basically anything that makes us different or unique) and as a result has suppressed human emotion to the point that standing out can be grounds for execution. The story follows Wynter, a 21-year-old girl who is taken into custody by the feared research facility known as the DSD when it’s discovered that she has a rare condition which allows her to see the future (about as different as you can possibly be!).
What genre(s) do you write in? What is it that you love about them?
I want to test my limits and push my comfort zone by writing in as many different genres as possible. I think I tend to lean toward YA fiction because it has a sort of hopefulness to it, and I enjoy character growth (and when better to show character growth than during our main years of development). I also love incorporating some sort of fantastical element into my fiction. A term I’ve heard that I love is magical realism, and I’d like to think that even with the supernatural elements I include in my writing, that I’m still able to keep my stories grounded in reality.
You have two books out now with a small press. Can you tell us about your path to publication?
It’s been a long road. I began writing seriously in 2011—my first book I ever wrote is a YA fantasy. I originally queried agents with that and Ultraxenopia (the first book in my YA dystopian trilogy) but I ultimately decided to self-publish Ultraxenopia in 2015 to introduce myself to the industry, build a platform, and get a feel for what I was doing. More than anything, I knew I needed reader feedback to really grow as a writer. After a few months of being self-published, I was picked up by a small press which helped tremendously in terms of learning about the industry, about marketing, etc. With the help of a professional editor, I grew in my writing and re-released Ultraxenopia in January 2016. The second book, Type X, released this past August.
Congrats! So, what are some of your go to genres when reading and who are some of your favorite authors? What is it you love about those genres?
My favorite genres are young adult, sci-fi/fantasy, and thrillers—kind of a big difference, I know! I don’t really have any particular favorite authors so much as authors that have left an impression on me or influenced me in some way. With fantasy, I am very fond of Philip Pullman and Garth Nix, and with thrillers, I bow down before Dennis Lehane. Shutter Island was brilliant.
Ohhhh yes! Love him! Now the process questions. Are you a pantser, a plotter or somewhere in between?
Oh, I’m a plotter. I like to plan everything out so I know exactly where I’m going with the story. With my Project W. A. R. trilogy, there are quite a lot of twists and turns, and characters briefly mentioned who then come back in a big way later. Planning makes it easier to keep track of everything and make sure I’m answering as many questions as possible.
When you first get an idea, how long until you know you’re ready to begin writing and what does that progression look like?
It varies. I have notebooks (yes, plural), full of ideas and excerpts. Sometimes I have an urge to work on one thing and I’ll write little bits here and there, until something else takes hold and I absolutely HAVE to write that. Honestly though, I don’t truly begin a book until I’ve planned it out, so if I’m in the planning stages of something, that is 100% what my inspiration is telling me to work on.
What does a typical writing day look like for you/what is your process?
I’m definitely much more of a night owl and work best in the late hours, so I tend to work in the evenings, cuddled up with a cup of tea and a blanket (and of course my laptop and notebook) on the sofa with my dog. I then set up a playlist (always instrumental music—lyrics distract my brain when I’m trying to write) and set to work. I have a specific playlist for each book with songs that pertain to each chapter, which I’ll put on repeat depending on what chapter I’m working on. I typically write out all the dialogue in a chapter first so I can look at the conversations with the added extras and make sure it flows and makes sense.
What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned on your writing journey so far?
My editor is brilliant and believes in me, which is amazing. She’s helped me learn so much in terms of technique and just silly things I was doing in my writing that I didn’t even realize. I think she’s definitely helped me to become a better writer and seeing the difference between my writing now and when I started is sometimes a shock (in a good way). I’ve also learned a lot about marketing and making connections, which is obviously vital to get your work in front of readers. This whole journey as a whole has been one giant learning curve.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers about writing? What about the process of trying to get published?
Never be afraid to ask established authors for advice—most are very willing to provide pointers—but don’t get offended if they don’t respond. We are very busy, after all! In terms of trying to get published, I’d say start early and build that platform. I look back and often wish I had tried to get short stories published when I was younger or done anything really to get experience early on, but it boiled down to the simple fact that I didn’t know to try. The internet has so much out there nowadays that can provide insight into what to do. Take advantage of that.
Anything else you would like to add or talk about?
I’ll be offering some pretty cool exclusive content through my newsletter every month (starting this month), which I think will be of particular interest to those who have read the first two books in my Project W. A. R. trilogy.
Thank you so much! Where can people find out more about you and your books?
ULTRAXENOPIA can be found on
TYPE X can be found on