Philip Scott Wikel – “Selling Books” Author Interview, Ticket To Ride

Philip Scott Wikel – Author Interview

Where are you from?I’m originally from Goshen, NY, a small town upstate in Orange County. It’s an idyllic little village that’s been around since before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. I’ve also lived in several states including Northern and Southern California, North Carolina, and Hawaii and have traveled extensively in Mexico, Europe and Northern Africa. My dad had wanderlust and I guess I have it to. After my son turns 18, I’ll be on the road again.

When and why did you begin writing?

The first thing I remember writing was a re-working of the Easter Bunny story back in 2nd or 3rd grade. My mother was good with helping me to write poems early on as well. Throughout my life I just wanted to write longer and longer pieces. Clicking on the “word count” button gives me a strange thrill when I realize I’ve stacked up a lot of words. And not just any words, the thrill comes from knowing I’ve arranged them differently than they’ve ever been arranged before. Why did I start writing? It was just something that was in me to do, some kind of ailment that I can’t get rid of. It was and is my way of relating to the world. I don’t mean to be so vague, but there’s no other way to say it. Maybe I’m just delusional.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I suppose it must have been in high school. I wrote love poems for girlfriends and awful surfing stories which I sent to Surfer Magazine. None of them got published, however, my friends enjoyed them and I was known among them as “the writer.” It was better than having to buy a bunch of clothes to look “Goth” or “Mod” or whatever. A much less expensive image. A couple of pens and a notebook and I was instantly cool, no matter whether anyone read my stuff or not. I always wished I needed glasses so I would look smarter.

What inspired you to write your first book?

My first book began as a short story entitled Tradewinds. My intentions were to create a piece that defined the rite-of-passage from adolescence into early adulthood. My feeling is that nowadays young men and women have very little to guide them in their coming-of-age. I picked it up and put it down for years and it eventually became a novella which, combined with a second novella, became Ticket To Ride. I’m embarrassed to say how long it took to write.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I like to think that my writing style is wholly my own but I will say that I emulated Kerouac, Hemingway and Dylan Thomas. I believe that by doing this long enough my own style eventually emerged. Like Bono from U2 said, “every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief.”

How did you come up with the title?

I have a literary manager in New York who came up with the most recent title, Ticket to Ride. However, as I mentioned earlier, my first novella was called The Tradewinds, named for the winds that blow daily in Hawaii. I like the idea that one could follow the winds around the world, experience unfettered freedom, and get lost in the breeze (more evidence of my congenital wanderlust).

The second novella Just Another Day was written as a companion piece to The Tradewinds. In The Tradewinds I had introduced a female protagonist but hadn’t developed her story. Just Another Day is, for the most part, about her. It’s based on a Paul McCartney and Wings song entitled “Another Day” which tells the story of a lonely working girl. Livy Tinsley, my female protagonist, is a devoted fan of the Beatles and Paul McCartney and, since my two main characters meet on a train in Portugal, my literary manager felt Ticket to Ride (also the name of a Beatles song) was fitting as the title of the two novellas combined. Confused yet?

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Read something else, anything else. Honestly, I guess I wanted people to be able to walk away from this book and feel that there were no obstacles they couldn’t overcome. All things can be gotten through. It’s a coming-of-age novel and I wanted to, at least attempt to, re-define our rites of passage and try to clarify the transition from adolescence to young adulthood. Both characters deal with their father’s alcoholism, poor parenting, extreme peer pressure, and self doubt, among other things. I also wanted it to be sort of a fun yet thoughtful romp through a crazy period of time. I believe it can be read either way. It might best not to read it at all. it could scar you for life.

How much of the book is realistic?

I’m a firm believer in writing what you know. I read a lot of historical fiction and I can see right through an author who hasn’t done his homework. My characters are both ten years older than me but since I’ve always been an “old soul” or just old, it wasn’t much of a leap to add a few years to my own person. What I didn’t experience myself I either garnered through the stories of friends, or pushed myself deep into my imagination to arrive at something entirely believable. I guess I’d have to say that it’s 75% me, 15% other people, and 10% imagination. Honestly, it’s all plagiarized.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

I think I answered this one in the last question. But I will add the following as examples: Most of the European portion is all me, however, I didn’t travel alone. I went to Europe with my best friend. And I never actually slept with a prostitute in Lisbon but I did stay in a pensione there. A large portion of Livy’s experiences are my own, however, I made my best effort to feminize them. I believe I’ve had enough girlfriends, and a sister and a mother, to help me to write from a feminine point-of-view. If I’ve failed in any way in this book it might be in grasping the fullness of the feminine experience. Do you think that last line might get me some dates?

What books have most influenced your life?

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, The Red and the Black by Stendhal, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, The Bone People by Keri Hulme, and On The Road by Jack Kerouac. Maybe even Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne. His sense of humor is phenomenal.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

The guy who writes Hallmark cards. Actually, Dylan Thomas literally set me on fire. Quite Early One Morning showed me that words could have a life all their own.

What book are you reading now?

I’m re-reading Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises and am finding it quite different from when I first read it 20 years ago. I’m actually quite disappointed with it in that it’s almost entirely devoid of feeling. I think I read a lot into it when I was 19. I think I also assumed that since it was Hemingway it had to be good. Who do I think I am, right? He’s one of the great “masters.”

If you had to choose one book to read the rest of your life, and nothing else, what book would it be and why?

It’s a toss up between Catcher in the Rye and The Fountainhead. Catcher in the Rye because I never tire of Holden Caulfield’s cynicism and no nonsense approach to life, and The Fountainhead for it’s definition of the true artist and being true to your convictions. I wish I was more like Howard Roark. He’s so damned cool.

Do you have something you are working on at the moment that you’d like to share with us?

How much abuse can people take? But seriously, I’m mostly writing bits for my blog but I’m also working on a sequel to Ticket to Ride. The sequel will chronicle the life of Dylan Blake, the son of my two main characters from Ticket to Ride. I’m only half-way through it. I have a million little notes I’ve written on scraps of paper that sometime soon I hope to add into that book. I’m finding it much harder to make sense of the decades of the 90s and this most recent one than I did with the 70s. I’m considering a collection of my blog posts as well. I’ve had some good feedback there. I also recently bought my first guitar and am hoping to spend some time with it soon. Then I can annoy people with songs instead of stories.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Whatever it takes to make it a bestseller. Really though, there’s a typo in Chapter 15 wherein there’s a poem I wrote for a real-life woman and I included a line about having a son. I meant to change the line to “the sun” instead of “my son.” Everyone who proofread it missed that. I also might have made it more sort of PG rated so it would be more appropriate for the YA crowd. My thirteen-year-old son wants to read it but, as street-wise as he is, I’d rather he wait a few years.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I think it was always there waiting for me to discover it. I don’t remember not being interested in writers and writing. I suppose it might have been a disease I was born with and I don’t believe anyone has found a cure.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Writing, or, at least feeling like I’m writing something that has never been written in quite the same way. I’m terrified of being redundant. There’s a famous quote that says something like writers have only one story to tell and they tell it over and over again. I suppose some readers enjoy this because they know what to expect of their favorite writers. I like to be surprised with something new.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I named my son after Dylan Thomas for the reasons I mentioned above. He literally set me on fire.

Who designed the covers?

I designed them myself. I’m a graphic designer by trade. For better or for worse, I don’t think I could have had anyone else design them. I guess I’m a bit of a control freak that way.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Returning to the place I left off. Getting back into character time and again to maintain consistency. I can be a bit of a chameleon. Being a chameleon keeps me from getting bored with myself and keeps me from being stuck in any kind of mindset or even caricature. I think a lot of people become caricatures of themselves by being always the same about everything day in and day out. I like to surprise myself with some new way of looking at things. It can be challenging to turn it off and be a consistent me when I need to for writing. Maybe some lithium would help.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I should probably stick to graphic design. Honestly though, writing only “what you know” can be a hinderance. Sometimes you have to settle for less than 100% on that one. Imagination can be a wonderful thing. I might better put in a call to the Wizard of Oz.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Become an accountant or something where everything always adds up. Honestly? Read, read, read. Read what you love, read often and don’t expect to find your way as a writer until you’ve read a small library of books. Reading establishes patterns of thought that will translate later to words on paper.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Mom, go easy on me. Seriously though, to future readers: Be patient with me. I may not hand you the story in boldface print but if you spend some time with me you might find something you can use. To current readers: Thanks for taking the risk. Choosing to read a new novelist is a gamble that many don’t feel they can afford. Books aren’t cheap these days unless of course you’ve managed to get a hold of some form of e-reader.

If you could mirror the career of any other author, who would it be and why?

I’m torn between living like J.D. Salinger and Bono from U2. Of course I’d have to be as famous as either one of them before I’d actually be faced with that dilemma. What a fine dilemma that would be.

If you had to choose something besides writing, what career would you choose and why?

I’d like to be Adam Sandler. He seems to be having a great time all the time.

I find great joy in creating. If not in writing then in graphic design. So far, graphic design pays a lot better. Perhaps if I spent more time writing I’d find more opportunities to make it my livelihood. Although I’m afraid of any kind of writing career other than being a novelist. I believe novelists have the best opportunities for creativity. Deadlines can quickly snuff out inspiration. In newspapers, this morning’s headline is this evening’s trash. I admire those who write for newspapers because there’s a great need for them but I like things with lasting significance. I actually did some news writing in the past. Woodward and Bernstein are 2 of my heroes but I don’t foresee anyone breaking stories like theirs ever again. With government and all that, it’s kind of been done, people are desensitized or immune to that sort of thing now. I know I’m going to step on some toes here but I think the big news stories have all been written. But what do I know, right?

Do you have a muse? 

Muses come from anywhere and everywhere. I wish I had one that would never fail me but I find that eventually I have to move on to new sources of inspiration. Just like I hate to write the same thing twice, I don’t think I can tap the same fountain more than once. I never know where it’s going to come from, I just hope that it does. Today I went to the store and a beautiful Latina woman asked me what I was doing for fun on my day off and that question sent me to my laptop where I wrote my blog post for the day. It’s all very random. Knowing I might have something to share is one of my motivations. Writing for yourself is one thing and writing for the sake of writing is another. I’ve heard it said that we write to know that we’re not alone. I suppose it’s good to feel you have an audience and that you’re not “screaming into the void.” Did I say something or was that an echo?

What is the interview question you always dread being asked? Can you give us the answer?

I fear no question. It may be my vanity but I love this process.

What is your favorite interview question, and what is the answer?

It would have to be what I am trying to accomplish through my writing because I like to feel that I have something to say. Sometimes I wish I was like Stephen King or James Michener with respect to their ability to crank out one giant book after another. But I don’t write that way. I’d like to be like an exclusive vintner, creating limited edition wines as opposed to going the Gallo route. At this point, I might even settle for fermented cider, as long as people can hold it down. What’s the old saying, “what doesn’t kill you, will only make you stronger.” Drink Ticket to Ride at your own risk.

If you were to assign an MPAA rating (PG, PG-13, etc.) to your book, what rating would you give it and why?

Rated R for a sex scene, some drug use and some inappropriate language.

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Ticket To Ride, Book 2, Chapter 2: Just Another Day

pxdxaDisco08Book 2, Just Another Day 

Livy Tinsley, 1975

Every day she takes a morning bath, she wets her hair, wraps a towel around her as she headed for the bedroom chair, It’s just another day. – Paul McCartney, Wings


8 years later,  the 70s drug culture had made it’s way into the mainstream and Livy, having bided her time in the normal workings of school, and life as a teenager and, having tapped the strength her mother never had, she’d avoided most of the traps of adolescence, promiscuous sex, drugs, smoking, drinking. Her mother never did any of these things, she just kept quiet, not strong, just abstinent, shivering. Livy’d avoided it all consciously, making choices, but she’d not defused the bomb. ‘Just another day’ she’d think remembering the song by the same name from her, now mythical, Paul. A few more days and I’ll be gone, gone from here. The here that will never be anywhere except here. The here that crushes but never produces diamonds, just the pressure to leave, to squeeze me out of the way, in time to avoid the speeding Lorry with my name on it.

She’d not closed herself so much to not enjoy platonic intimacy, mind to mind, eye burning into eye. Make love to me with your mind she’d think. Reach above your crotch and make love to me, make love to me with your soul. I want to know it.

Physical intimacy hadn’t happened. Not because girls her age weren’t doing it, but because she saw men as weak, lecherous and sometimes vulturous and didn’t want to need them. To other girls in her world they were just the other, north and south, magnets, easily defined as not female, male, the other half in the equation, the equation that makes 1+1 equal 2. Clear, Concise, Pithy to them, not her.

Her father was a weak alcoholic who condescended regularly to her mother and would write her off with a creative compound profanity. She never witnessed respectful intimacy between her parents and only knew them to be intimate when dad was drunk. Mum didn’t seem to like this.

Her application for college would be her ticket out:

“Thank you for this Livy,” Mrs Brompton said.

“No, thank you Mrs Brompton. If you hadn’t alerted me to this, I would’ve never known what was possible.”

“I’m just an English teacher Livy. I know when someone has potential in my subject.”

“It’s more than that Mrs Brompton. In my world things don’t happen like this.”

“The world’s changing sweetie,” she replied, “and I believe fate will smile on you. I’ve alerted Professor Thornton to your arrival. Now just follow his lead.”

“I wish you could come with me.”

“This is as far as I can go at this point. The rest is up to you. Oxford is waiting”

Hours later, upon entering their street, Trudy declared:

“Let’s celebrate Livy!”

“Celebrate how?”

“We’ll go to the Tower!”

“All right love, but we’ll keep it short and we’ll keep it cool.”

Livy worried for Trudy. Trudy liked the Tower in a different way than she. The Tower was “it” to Trudy; to Livy it was a place to blow off a little steam and then get back to things. The night life could swallow you.

The Tower Disco, throbbing. The throb of it. The bass and the lights, speakers to the ceilings, speakers like their own futuristic city, alternately blowing you away, then sucking you back in, with some Captain Fantastic DJ with the fucked up Elton John-esque sequined son of Liberace thing happening like Saturday-Night-Fever-in-training, screaming things like “Oh Baby” and “Swing that thing.”

Livy and Trudy had come here a couple of times. Doormen didn’t care about age. “The more birds the better, gives the lads summat to stay for” the bartender from Blackpool would tell them.

Post-modern lautrecean moulin rouge Livy thought. City life on coke.

“You birds up for a toot,” some guy who looked like Barry Gibb shouted in the faces of the girls.

“A toot?” Trudy yelled back.

“Come on little girl, cocaine, a bit of the white stuff.”

“Not me thanks.” Trudy said.

The ticking stopped in Livy and there was a pause, “I’m in.” she yelled to Barry.

“Right then, let’s go love.”

And he pulled her toward the “gents.” Livy didn’t flinch and flew behind him through the door and past the faces of the rooms’ inhabitants, some clamoring to fix themselves and others just smiling like henchmen. Trudy protested all the way to the door until Livy turned to her and said, “Sod it Trudy. I’m in for it. Don’t make a meal of it lovey. You coming or not?”

Trudy grabbed her hand and the three went through the door together. Inside they found an empty stall and “Barry” chopped the white rock into small even lines. The girls watched as if witnessing a master potter. The room was red. The stalls were black. The smell of all of the piss that hadn’t made it into the toilets mixed with cheap cologne and cigarettes was everywhere and in their noses but the girls had had a couple of drinks and their sense of smell and other things were dim. That was initially to be all, two drinks, but here they were mesmerized by the razor blade craftsman chopping rock. He rolled a pound note and handed it to Livy.

“Here you go love.”

“What do I do?”

“Like a straw love,” he said, motioning to put it to her nose.

The light flickered and Livy and Trudy both looked to the ceiling.

“Here’s to it,” she said and snorted one of three, feeling it burn high in her nose and then begin to cool and drip into her throat. She felt like a rabbit and wiggled her nose, “Blimey!,”  she said and handed the rolled note to Trudy. Trudy followed suit and smiled.

“Oh my,” she said, “that’s delightful.”

Barry smiled and looked both the girls up and down and then pulled a joint from his pocket and lit it. The smell of it was foreign and drowned out the smell of the piss for a moment. Trudy felt sick but curious and extremely enthusiastic.

“This’ll take the edge off of that girls,” he said handing the joint to Livy.

Livy put her lips to it and the smoke got in her eyes as she sucked on it and breathed it in. Her lungs burned and she began coughing as her eyes started to water.

“Good one love,” Barry said, taking it away from her and handing it to Trudy. Trudy drew on it deeply and didn’t cough. She held it in like he had, then let it out slowly. She still felt queasy but the coke and the pot were beginning to mask it. She felt like doing some more. Barry chopped some more and they cleaned it off the back of the W.C. Barry started to think he might be getting some rumpy tonight.

“Let’s dance,” Trudy exclaimed, in an exaggerated and high-pitched falsetto. The three exited the stall and headed back to the dance floor.

Three songs had played when Livy first opened her eyes. Ball spinning overhead like a fly’s eye refracting beams of light shot from behind the DJ. The constant thump, better, the throb, pounding into and through her body, she was lost, drunk, high, swirling like a dervish and gone. People around her disappeared as themselves and became a sort of extension of the storm that she was the eye of. They were moving slowly away from her center becoming less what they were and more like ghosts, apparitions, and poltergeists. She opened her eyes as the music slowed to the end of the song. Their faces stared back at her, hollowed out, gaping mouths, dark and toothless. She couldn’t see Trudy nor Barry until she heard a familiar giggleshreek that made her turn toward the wall wherefrom people were emerging through passages of yellow light. Trudy was smiling on her way into the loo with Barry. She looked more beautiful at that moment than Livy ever remembered seeing her. Another song started. Livy started to dance unaccompanied, trying to break back into the space she’d been in a minute before but her storm was played out and she felt tired. Better get Trudy and go.

She slalomed across the floor, suddenly very weary of the place, and the faces. As she reached the door she felt the pressure of a hand across her chest. Looking down no one was there. Stopkeepmoving she thought. She took a few more steps like one might if walking on broken glass, wanting to get past it but almost paralyzed by thought of slipping in it. From one of the stalls came the sound of Barry’s voice, “bluh-dee hell” as he tried to catch Trudy on her way down to the floor. Her head hit the side of the stall, her body twisted and slid down until her head found its way free and hit the floor like a pumpkin, shattering her cheekbone. Her eyes were closed tightly in a grimace, then they loosened. She lay still. Barry reached down as best he could, around the side of the toilet. Livy covered the last ten feet in what seemed like one great stride and she was on the floor and pulling at Trudy, trying to get her into an open space on the floor. Air she needs air. She pulled Trudy’s head into her lap. “Trudy love, wake up lovey!” Her voice began to break as a knowing came over her, immediately followed by a disbelieving. The two went to war; the knowing could see it was over but the disbelief had to try. She screamed for help and started doing her best to give CPR. Trudy’s nose had flattened against her face, the bridge having given way, and she was like a limp kitten in Livy’s arms. Barry’s voice saying that someone had given them powdered bleach made her want to kill him.

“She’s dead,” the girl next to her said in her ear, removing her hand from Trudy’s heart.

“Oh God no. Not my Trudy… not my Trudy… oh my lovey… my little girl,” Livy said, rocking back and forth, holding on to her until one of the big doormen came in and made her let go.

“The paramedics’ll be here in a minute love. You’ve got to let her go now.”

“You can’t have her. I won’t let you… that’s my girl… that’s my Trudy.”

The Tower had gone silent except for the rain beating on the windowsill at the far end of the bathroom.

Ticket to Ride: 5 Star Review

“Adulthood wasn’t easy when everyone around you wanted you to destroy what adulthood was. “Ticket to Ride” by Philip Scott Wikel is a novel telling the story of Morgan and Livy coming to adulthood during a time where revolutions of all types were coming ahead and so many messages were going around, no one knew who to follow or believe. “Ticket to Ride” is an exciting read with its own take on the 1960s and 1970s, very highly recommended.”

– James A. Cox, Midwest Book Review

13 (for my son)


by philip scott wikel

My son is growing, changing, struggling, reaching, thinking, dreaming, believing, hoping, and, hopefully, knowing where he is. At 13 it’s as if you’ve found yourself on the map. It’s not a map that you made of course, but it’s the map you find that you’ve been placed. There’s a dotted line on the map and that is, you suppose, the line you’re meant to follow. You sit and look at the lines and remember some of the places the lines lead to and you remember when you walked these streets with no singular purpose other than to just keep walking, keep feeling the sun on your face and feel the warmth in your legs as they chug away at the asphalt and dirt and cement and then, maybe, up a tree, not necessarily to get a better look but maybe just because the tree is there and you feel the deepest need to climb it.

Continue reading “13 (for my son)”

Not Holy Faith #longreads

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Intro to Not Holy Faith

Here’s another from my childhood. It’s about letting go and growing up; growing up in the best sense of the phrase (not the growing up that makes you hard and cold), but the growing up that embraces change and looks forward to the freedom found therein.

As always, your comments are welcome.

not holy faith

by philip scott wikel

Life is happening to everyone.
The connotation of this statement might be that we are somehow victims.
How to take hold of it?

How many times have you tried or thought you were trying only to come full circle. Life is happening to everyone. But like the little girl who knows the right time to move into the circle of the turning rope, there seems to be a process wherein you can join in and jump.

I was once a little boy with a blue Schwinn “Stingray.” It had training wheels and I had wavy, dirty-blonde hair smoothed back with Vitalis. It was spring 1970, Goshen, New York. I was four and, down the street, Miss Summer’s garden, which seemed to encompass the known world, was in full bloom; wildflowers and bees, pollen and posies.

That Christmas my brother would show my sister and I the hiding place for presents. And I would, for the first time, feel a certain sense of unease about the world; how what was, may not be. This bit of uncovering wouldn’t be fully realized until nearly seven years later when, on Christmas Eve and needing to pee, I caught my father stuffing Christmas stockings with candy. It seemed we both felt the loss at the same moment; he mine, I his, me mine, he his. I don’t recall either of us saying anything. Just eyes meeting, his mouth slightly open, neither of us breathing, the fantasy dimmed. The holiday became something else. Belief became dependent on faith, not holy faith, but the faith that warms the motions we go through in ritual. When the veil’s lifted you can either smile or deny. I turned away for a while.

At age seven we took the training wheels off of my bike. My father held the seat and ran behind me. I could feel how his hand steadied the bike. My hands sweated against the blue plastic handle-grips. My eyes didn’t want to look beyond the handlebars but I was aware of the old maples that lined the street and all of the houses of all of my neighbors moving by me. And my sister, having already learned this, sat comfortably on her banana seat leaning against the curb.

“I’m going to let go,” my father said.

“No,” I replied in a voice that seemed small to me and probably even smaller to my father.

“You’ve got it,” he said as he let go.

I could feel myself pedaling wildly now. The handlebars struggling back and forth.

Leaning. Gravity. Crash.

My father caught up with me and reached down to help me up.

“You OK little man?”

“I guess.”

“You did well kid. C’mon let’s try again.”