In 1970, while students at Humboldt State University, Mike and Judy Phillips began what would become the One Way BookShop as a small, informal source of Christian books and materials for their fellow students. Over the next two decades God prospered those small beginnings, and now the bookstore is a thriving part of the Humboldt County Christian community.
Mike’s first published book was about his wife’s pregnancy and the birth of their twin sons. After several more nonfiction titles, Mike undertook a lifelong dream to renew the popularity of Scottish writer George MacDonald, whose teachings had been central to Mike and Judy’s spiritual growth. Mike began editing some of MacDonald’s lengthy novels, heavy with Scottish brogue, into shorter and more readable editions, with some of the work being done right at the bookstore counter between customers.
Through the years, God has continued to guide Mike in the production of books emphasizing strong spiritual values and unforgettable characters. In addition to being best sellers in Christian bookstores all across the country, Mike’s books have been offered through several book clubs, have been translated into a number of foreign languages, and have been published in over 120 editions in all, with sales of over 3 million. Mike is today recognized as one of the Christian bookselling industry’s most prolific and versatile authors.
Family is very important to Mike. He and his wife, Judy, have taught their three sons, Patrick, Robin, and Gregory, at home throughout their education. Home schooling enables the family to frequently accompany Mike in his work-related travels.
It has always been Mike’s desire in his writing that all who read his books will find a closer and more real walk with God through the characters and stories. Both he and Judy enjoy responses from readers and find great encouragement from the letters they receive. Visit him at www.FatherOfTheInklings.com.
Welcome to the blog, Michael. I’m so honored to have you here today. Let’s talk about your stories!
Which character in this story do you most relate to and why?
In a way all the characters in all my stories have elements of me in them, though none ARE me in a complete way. In “The Secrets of the Shetlands” I suppose I relate most personally to David’s thoughtful side, and to Ernest’s quest to discover the secrets of one’s inner life with God. I am one who feeds on life’s silences, on solitude. Obviously this is a recurrent theme in the three volumes of the Shetland series that cannot help but grow out of the isolation of the Shetlands themselves. David and Ernest exemplify these themes of quietude. Another fascinating dynamic also enters the picture, that is how sons and daughters relate differently to the spirituality of their parents as they grow. In their younger years they tend to take it for granted, then in youth they often become oblivious and unseeing of the deep currents flowing within their parents, then later in life they come to apprehend much in their fathers and mothers they were unable to appreciate before. Indeed, they often themselves grow to reflect their parents’ values and spiritual outlook. As a father of three sons, I have watched this process unfold in the life of our family. Thus the relationship between Ernest and Brogan in The Legacy, Book 3 of the series, was particularly fascinating for me to explore as I wrote the book.
Have you visited any of the locations from your book? If not, what places are at the top of your list to visit someday?
I have been to the Shetland Islands where The Inheritance, The Cottage, and The Legacy take place. I know “mainland” Scotland somewhat more intimately than I do the Shetlands, however. My wife Judy and I spend most summers in a small village in the north of Scotland called Cullen, the site of George MacDonald’s two Malcolm novels. Cullen is located only 29 miles from MacDonald’s home town of Huntly. When we are there we are aware of being in the heart of “MacDonald country” and I often work on MacDonald projects at those times. The atmosphere of Cullen inspires me! Otherwise, Judy and I are not great travelers. We have never been on a cruise nor visited any of the world’s exotic locales. We have no great traveling ambitions. Judy is a therapeutic harpist for several hospitals and memory and cancer centers here in California. Between her music and my writing, we have no time to travel.
I bet those places were incredible to visit!
How long does it typically take you to write a story?
Anywhere from a couple of months to years. If the creative juices are flowing, even a long book may be completed in a relatively short time. Probably the average is 2-4 months. This present series, “The Secret of the Shetlands,” originated sixteen or more years ago, but quickly stalled. After several years I assumed it would never get written. Then about six years ago, when we were in Scotland, suddenly a new twist on the story shot into my brain. After some time, it gradually coalesced, and I began writing on it again. Yet it was still a more lengthy process than most, getting all the pieces and different historical story lines to weave together. It has taken all of the last six years—working on and off and in the midst of many other projects—at last to bring the series to completion.
I can’t wait to read it. 🙂
I saw that you and your wife, Judy, homeschooled your children. I was homeschooled as well. Did you have a particular favorite subject you enjoyed teaching them?
Music and writing! And history…I love history and it was always fun to teach history like a story. Our sons are all now grown, all three are musicians, two are published authors. And all three, in their own ways, are students of history.
That’s wonderful! What would you say is the easiest part about being a writer and what is the hardest part?
Funny, it seems that this would be an easy question to answer. But for a few moments it stumped me. I can’t say what is the “easiest” part. I would instead describe those aspects that are most enjoyable to me. Maybe that’s the same as “easiest,” I’m not sure. It is easy to dream up scenarios, to think of stories and plots. Everyone does that. People say to writers all the time, “I’ve got a great idea you could used for a novel!” And maybe it is a great idea. But good ideas are, as I say, easy. Turning those ideas into books one word at a time is the hard part. That is indeed the hardest part, turning an idea into a book one word at a time.
However, I don’t think that’s what you were asking. What I “enjoy” most is editing. I think I may be an anomaly among writers. I’ve only met one other writer who shared that view. Most love the initial creative process of first draft writing. Not me. Getting initial scenes on paper is very difficult for me—like pulling teeth, as they say. My writing is truly horrible at that stage. But once I have something down on paper, I love going over it and gradually turning the horrible writing into…well, hopefully into something less horrible. The second draft is more fun than the first, the third draft more rewarding than the second, the fourth easier than the third…I’m sure you get the idea. I love that process.
But the truly “hardest” part about writing is the editorial process of publication. After having worked a manuscript over and over perhaps five or six times trying to get every word just right, in such instances to have to start over and occasionally re-work the whole thing, or parts of it, through someone else’s eyes—that’s hard. Yet the working dynamic between editor and author is an integral aspect of getting a book from brain-child to an actual title sitting on a bookstore shelf.
Wow, thank you so much for sharing with us today, Michael. I’m so excited to read more of your stories. Is there anything else you’d like to add? Any upcoming projects you can share with us?
Many readers of my fiction do not realize that I write almost as much devotional and non-fiction. I usually write on non-fiction and fiction simultaneously. It keeps me engaged spiritually on many levels. I love telling stories, yet the ideas in my books drive me more than the mere plots. My non-fiction is intrinsic to this process. I would hope a few readers might be interested to explore this side of my writing. I am currently engaged in the culmination of a near lifelong devotional study of the commands of Scripture. With a new year having just begun, readers may be looking for a new yearly devotional. My first two volumes are entitled The Commands (which are the commands of Jesus) and The Commands of the Apostles. Two of my lesser known new fiction titles might also be of interest:Angel Dreams and The Sword, the Garden, and the King. All these are easily available through bookstores, on Amazon, or at www.FatherOfTheInklings.com.
I’ll have to look those up as well. Thank you! Blessings to you and Judy both!
Michael has graciously offered to give away a copy of The Cottage, book 2 of the Shetland series, to one lucky reader! Enter below and it could be YOU!
Thanks for entering! Contest is open to US residents only and ends January 17, 2017. The winner will be notified by email. Happy Reading, everybody!