Marie Phillips, acclaimed author of God’s Behaving Badly a comic fantasy about Ancient Greek Gods living in modern-day Hampstead Heath, was born in London and has lived there all her life. She worked in TV before deciding to become a full time writer, when she grafted in bookshops to support her first work.
Hollywood soon came knocking, and Gods Behaving Badly has been optioned by Ben Stiller’s Red Hour Productions, to be made into a TV series.
What made you realise you are a writer?
Being a writer isn’t something that you are, it’s something that you do. I’m a writer because I write, it’s that easy.
Which book are you currently reading/What was the last book you read?
I’ve just finished ‘Henrietta’s War’ by Joyce Dennys, one of Bloomsbury’s ‘Bloomsbury Group’ titles, a set of reissues of whimsical early 20th century novels. It’s a sweet and funny evocation of WW2 told in letters, along the lines of the glorious ‘Diary of a Provincial Lady’ by EM Delafield. I’ve got the controversial ‘Tender Morsels’ by Margo Lanagan in the post on its way to me, and in the meantime I’m keeping myself busy with some short stories from the Borges collection ‘Labyrinths’.
What achievement in your life are you most proud of?
Getting my novel ‘Gods Behaving Badly’ published. Just behind that: learning to swim butterfly stroke.
If you were stranded on a desert island which three fictional characters, who would you like to be there with and why?
Mr Knightley from ‘Emma’ as love interest (so much funnier and less stiff than Mr Darcy), Jo March from ‘Little Women’ for friendship and to tell us stories, and Yossarian from ‘Catch 22′ to help us escape once we’ve all got bored of talking to each other.
What was the first book you ever bought with your own money?
I have absolutely no idea. It should be precious shouldn’t it? But I didn’t realise it was significant at the time. It was probably some boarding school novel, now residing in the bookshelf of one of my nieces.
What phrase do you find is the most played in your head?
I sing any two-syllable word to the tune of ‘Rawhide’.
What trivial thing irritates you the most?
What was the last thing that made you cry?
Dinner party disaster: four hungry guests, and an overcooked tagine that turned to slop.
What would you not be prepared to do, whatever the price?
Where to even begin? I’m not particularly motivated by money, so there’s almost nothing you could pay me to do if I didn’t want to. There are fairground rides people pay to go on which no money in the world would compel me to try. I’d just rather be poor than spin around upside-down.
Who’s your biggest celebrity crush?
David Tennant. Oh, lovely David Tennant. I saw him at a party once and was paralysed with yearning.
What is your favourite item of clothing, and why?
My cashmere pyjamas, a Christmas present from my mother. It gets very cold at my desk in winter, so I cosy up in them when I’m working.
If you were a greek god, which would it be and why?
They’re all ghastly. I’d be Aphrodite because she didn’t care that she was ghastly and she had the best sex.
Do you have a favourite word, what is it and why?
I like the sound of the word smoky. Soft and sinuous at the start, then the shock of the k, and a cheerful ee to end on.
What is the one thing you commonly say about yourself?
I’m running five minutes late.
What is the most interesting uncommon fact that you know?
Outside of Argentina, Finland produces the most tangoes per capita.
How did the Book Swap night come about, or, how did you get involved?
It was all Scott Pack’s idea, he decided to do a literary event in Windsor, he found the venue, came up with the notion of the book swap, everything. I was eating cake in his kitchen when he told me about it, and I invited myself to join in. He very graciously agreed.
What do you hope to achieve with the evening?
I love hearing authors speak, but literary events can be a little dry. We want to make this as informal, entertaining and surprising as possible.
Can you give one good reason to come along?
We’re asking everyone to bring along a book they don’t want to any more to swap for a book they do want. So at the very least you get to go home with a new book.
More, so much more, Marie Phillips can be found at www.womanwhotalkedtoomuch.blogspot.com
Marie Twitters as @mpphilips
Marie Philips photograph was taken by Alexandra Scannell.
The Firestation Book Swap takes place at The Firestation Arts Centre, Windsor. More details of Book Swap night can be found here. You can follow The Book Swap on Twitter: for wit, updates and special offers this is a must.
Robert McCrum, Obserrver collumnist, author and guest panellist, blogged about the evening
The Independent’s gardening collumnist, Emma Townsend, reviewed her experience of the evening