Today we sit down for a chat with multi-genre author Philip L. Levin, MD. Phillip has written seven children’s books. He’s edited four anthologies of short stories, biographies, coastal histories, and memoirs. His novels include cozy mystery, contemporary romance, young adult fantasy, science fiction. He’s also writtena memoir about his time as a medical missionary in Kenya and a poetry collection. Learn more about him and his books at his website and blog.
When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
Both my parents wrote, one a teacher and novelist, the other a scientist who published several scientific articles, edited a magazine, and later in life became a poet.
I’ve been a writer my whole life, from elementary school where I created comic strips, through high school as the paper editor, as a publisher in my college dorm, to medical school, where I sold articles to pay my tuition.
How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
My first work was published in my high school paper, followed by dozens, then scores, and now hundreds of pieces in newspapers, journals, anthologies, and online. My first novel was published in 2007 when I was 53 years old.
Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
Most of my articles and stories are traditionally published, as is one of my novels. After a negative experience with the novel publisher, I decided to self-publish.
Where do you write?
My favorite place to write is on my back porch, overlooking the forest and river, the birds in the bath and at the feeder, and the glorious sunsets of Biloxi. I often write at work during downtimes and also write on vacations.
Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
I prefer writing with light Jazz in the background. I can’t concentrate on my work when there are lyrics.
How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
My first novel was set in the town where I lived. A few of the subplots were drawn from the news around me, but mostly the plots and characters were fictitious, or at best amalgamations of many people.
My second novel was based heavily on my own life. Its plot tells of a father who, following a personal tragedy and divorce, brings his 16-year-old son from the north to the Mississippi Coast to remake their lives.
Describe your process for naming your characters?
Names identify a person’s gender, age, and culture. I often search the Internet for appropriate names.
Real settings or fictional towns?
In general, I use real towns and settings. In Underwater Gods, I created the underwater city of Atlantis, which is, of course, totally fictional. However, the human lives in Southport, North Carolina.
What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
The merfolk of Atlantis are alien creatures who have adopted much of the DNA they’ve created in their biosphere work into their own structures. They can choose to manifest these genes, so many of them look like foreign beasts, or have at least some of their characteristics. They have Beaver genes in their eyes to create a second eyelid to see under water. My merman pilot has hawk eyes. A cook has a bear’s nose. All the merfolk have both gills and lungs and, perhaps the quirkiest, telepathy.
What’s your quirkiest quirk?
As a resident, I often worked thirty-six, forty-eight, or even sixty-hour shifts. I learned to take naps anywhere and anytime, even in the elevator, standing up and leaning into the corner. Ever since, I can sleep under any lighting, with any background noise, and in any position, including sleeping standing up. It takes me seconds to minutes to fall asleep, and I can wake up fully alert.
Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
I presume this refers to my writing because I’m twice divorced. As I mentioned before, my traditionally published book was a disaster, economically and artistically. Yet I suppose it was a learning adventure. My first novel publication was awful, too, and I rewrote with a new cover and republished within a few months. So, in both cases, I did take a do-over.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Dirty dishes in the sink. From a writing aspect, not identifying characters in the opening page.
You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
From a physician’s perspective, I’d need water, food, and clothing/shelter. From a novelist viewpoint, I’d want my laptop, access to the Internet, and electricity. From an imaginative concept, I’d like a Star Trek replicator, mermaids, and eternal youth pills.
What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
The time I worked as a microfilm operator was the most boring, with little intellectual, emotional, or ego-strengthening time.
Who’s your all-time favorite literary character (any genre)? Why?
The scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz was clever, loyal, kind, and gentle. He led his companions on a rescue of Dorothy and never faltered in his determination.
Ocean or mountains?
I love them both. I live on the beach and enjoy travels to the mountains.
City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
Suburban. I enjoy vacations to either but wouldn’t want to live in either environment – too crowded or too isolated.
What’s on the horizon for you?
I am seventy years old, after all. I still enjoy writing and editing and YouTube creation and anticipate continuing my creativity into the foreseeable future.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
I never expected to be a bestselling author, not that I’d object. My bit of modest success, selling 1000 books a year, helping other authors, and my myriad of other writings, has been truly joyful and fulfilling.
While searching for his lost father, 18-year-old Michael finds Atlantis, the air-filled underwater world of the merfolk. An alien race that came to Earth 3 billion years ago to create a biosphere, they’re considering wiping out humanity due to our destruction of the planet with our climate change. Mermaid Kaphia and Michael fall in love and must work together to rescue Michael’s father and find a way to reverse climate change.
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