The Short Version
For many years Fi Phillips worked in an office environment until the arrival of her two children robbed her of her short term memory and sent her hurtling down a new, bumpy, creative path. She finds that getting the words down on paper is the best way to keep the creative muse out of her shower.
Fi lives in the wilds of North Wales with her family, earning a living as a copywriter, playwright and fantasy novelist.
Writing about magical possibilities is her passion.
The Bullet Point Version
- Raised in York.
- Literature graduate.
- Has lived in 17 houses or flats so far but hopes the next one will be her forever home.
- Based in North Wales, just over the border from Chester.
- Mum, wife, copywriter, playwright, novelist, and servant to a dog called Bailey.
The Long Version
Is a writer born or made? What do you think?
Here’s the evidence:
Chapter One – It all began with the books.
I grew up in a house of books, and as an only child to parents who were the age of most of my friends’ grandparents, I was allowed to read any of the books I wanted to.
My father’s books included play scripts, history books, and whatever non fiction publications caught his eye. My mother loved novels, mainly thrillers, but on occasion the kind of fictional life drama that pits an individual against dire circumstances.
I was an early, quick and greedy reader. I had my own bookcase in my bedroom. My parents filled it with fairytales and children’s classics (I distinctly remember an ancient hardback copy of Peter Pan) but I would read these books as quickly as they landed on my shelves.
I don’t know whether it was to avoid buying more books for me, or just to put a stop to my nagging, but my mother very quickly allowed me to accompany her to the local library. At the door, she would hand my library card to me (I seem to remember it was a denim blue colour) and then we would part. She would disappear into the fiction aisles and I would head for the children’s section.
Our village library was small, and so the amount of books it could hold was limited. Luckily though, the children’s section was repopulated with new books on a regular basis so I never bored of what I found there.
I wasn’t really into picture books, even when I was of the age they were aimed at. I always liked the colourful covers but I think they just weren’t long enough to hold my attention. I could read nine or ten of them in the time it would take me to select five precious paperbacks to take away with me.
Back home, I would dive into my chosen fictional worlds and before a couple of days was up, long before I was due to return to the library, I would have finished them all.
Chapter Two – My father was a story teller.
I don’t know whether it was his Celtic roots (as a jet-haired Scot) or the eventful life he’d led, but rarely a week went by without my father telling me a story of his past.
He had a relaxed way of storytelling, with a wry smile at the happy tales and a serious look at the sad ones.
He told me of the day the then-boy him had spent handing out leaflets on the decks of the Loch Lomond steam boat, or Rosie the work-horse whom he was allowed to ride back to the farm. There were stories of his father working on the estate of Balloch Castle, and his mother’s devotion to her church, St Mungos in Alexandria. There were the war-time years he spent in hospital as a teenager and his resulting decision to leave Scotland as a young man.
All of this, he would share with the child I was. I didn’t mind when he re-told his tales, which he often did. It became a family tradition, and one I continued with my own children.
Chapter Three – Colourful folks.
I was brought up in York. My mother was from Leeds. My father, as I’ve told you, was a Scot. My life, certainly as a child, was spent ricocheting between these three points.
In Leeds, I would meet the people of my mother’s past – friends, my godmother, and elderly folks that knew her parents – and to me, they all seemed so vibrant and completely wonderful.
There was the old lady who lived in one room with her grown-up son, a ratty terrier and various cats, having filled the rest of her large terrace house with junk and finds.
There were the ex-farming couple who had built their narrow house themselves, squeezed into a gap in a terrace of houses. She was tall with rosy cheeks, big arms and a warm, overflowing sense of humour. He was small, quiet, and a man of the earth. I rarely saw him without his flat cap on.
Even at the most ordinary household, my Auntie Audrey’s, the kitchen was constantly noisy and full of steam from the pots on the hob and the soggy clothes on the ceiling-hung airers.
The Scots were just as colourful. There was Mary who would take the child-me into her room of dolls, each doll in a different national costume, and send me home after each visit with a gift, the uncle who would catch crabs in the harbour and later serve them to us for tea, and the aunt who would tell me of Nessy the monster’s love of marmalade and toast.
How could I possibly have a less than colourful view of life with all these characters in it?
Chapter Four – I almost died.
I was eight years old and heading home from school. Normally, my mother would have collected me but today I’d been told to meet her at the hairdresser in the village.
The path outside the school was narrow, single file width, but I was in a hurry. The quicker I got to the hairdresser, the more likely my mother would be to buy me some sweets from the newsagent on the way home.
I’ve never been able to remember what happened. Did I step off the path to get past the boys in front of me, or did I try to cross the road? Which ever it was, my next memory was a couple of weeks later. It took that long for my mind to recover from the car that slapped my body against the wall of the school building. My body took longer. I spent Christmas, New Year and my birthday in hospital while my broken arm, fractured pelvis and the golf-ball sized lump on my fractured head healed.
The first few weeks of my stay in the Victoria Ward were spent in bed, surrounded by a huge metal frame with weights that nearly every visitor knocked their heads on. There was a ‘cage’ support over my legs to stop the sheets dislodging the massive scabs on my legs and the tops of my feet from the wounds there. My right arm, elbow to knuckles, was encased in plaster. I was a bed-locked prisoner.
My parents visited me every day but for the most part it was just me and my new friends, a handful of children who were also patients on the ward. Still, being bed-bound, and I wasn’t the only one of the children who couldn’t leave their beds, there was only so much playing that we could do.
Once I’d read the books my school and parents had brought me, I was left twiddling my thumbs, well, just the one – the other was secured in plaster. I was bored, and as my hospital friends mostly left the ward to go home, I began looking for something to do.
We had a teacher who would visit us occasionally on the ward. I vaguely remember learning about 1066 and Henry VIIIth. When my parents were told that there would be lesson plans to fill out, they brought in some pencils and a pad.
With my right arm in plaster, it was impossible to use that hand, so I began to write with my left hand. The result was scrawly and all over the place, but it was writing nonetheless.
I wrote about the children on my ward. I wrote a letter to my favourite teddy bear. I wrote a list of what was in my bedroom. It didn’t matter what it was, any old rubbish, I wrote it down just the same. If I didn’t have enough to read, I wrote myself a story.
When I left the hospital, my mother said I was a different person. I was. I wasn’t her cossetted, spoilt little girl anymore. I’d learnt independence. I’d learnt what it was like to be away from home. I’d met some adults who weren’t trustworthy and whom we kids had had to look after each other against. I’d come to appreciate how lucky I was to have loving parents and a home to go back to.
And I had become a writer.