An Interview with the enigmatic Derek & Dave Philpott, authors of Dear Mr Pop Star
Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?
This isn’t a novel; it’s a second instalment of deliberately deranged and very funny letters to iconic rock and pop stars concerning the lyrics to their most popular songs, with equally witty in-on-the joke replies from the artists themselves. We did self publish the first installment many moons ago, but Dear Mr Pop Star is actually our first proper literary endeavour.
(Editor’s note: I think this still counts as a novel, even if it can’t be classified – or perhaps because it can’t be easily classified)
Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?
Actually, in our case, this really doesn’t apply. We write letters and then send them off to the pop stars concerned never really knowing how long it will take them to respond, if they ever do. We don’t just fire these letters off; we do so with prior consent from the artists after they’ve informed us that they would like to be involved in the project. Then it’s a case of waiting and hoping that they’re kind and inspired enough to respond.
I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?
We get our ideas on the fly – we could be in the car listening to the radio, or listening to the in-store radio station in Superdrug, or watching a repeat of TOTP on the telly and a lyric will strike us as ridiculous, or something we can easily misinterpret. Then it’s a case of jotting the idea down as soon we can before it escapes, so we find ourselves with scribbled notes or something hurriedly typed into a document on the laptop. The seed of the letter is then worked up into a more elaborate correspondence, generally just sat in the living room. It’s not a terribly formal process and honestly, because each letter is standalone and there’s no over arching theme to tie in, we’re able just to do it in a more casual manner.
When you write, do you have any sense of other people reading your words?
I have to fight the realisation of that inevitability or else I wouldn’t write a word!
Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?
We self-published our first volume of these letters and so we recruited a small but dedicated army of family, friends and fans of our work to do all the proof reading and editing and to make sure it all made some kind of sense! We were very lucky that so many people were kind enough to give us their time. We even did all the distribution ourselves and hand-wrote address labels. Looking back it was a mammoth undertaking. We’re relieved to say that this time Unbound, our publisher, is taking this work off of our hands.
I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?
There is definitely something quite special about a physical printed book, the weight of it and the feel of it makes it a bit more of ‘a thing’. We’re incredibly excited to get hold of a copy of the hardback edition of Dear Mr Pop Star, because so much work has gone into the cover design and the typesetting and it promises to be a magnificent thing of beauty. That said, having e-books makes life a lot more convenient and perhaps, for some, not having to carry a paper book around, it might encourage them to be more prolific readers and anything that encourages folk to read more and use their imaginations is smashing.As for where we source our material, we don’t! What we’ve put together is entirely unique; no one has ever done this before and so we’ve just had to play it all by ear.
I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?
I’ve always been fascinated by mystery and mythology. When I was younger I read a lot of books about the folklore surrounding the Loch Ness ‘Monster’ and similar cryptids, I still have a deep interested in such things, I am captivated by the rich ancient history of this country, such as Stonehenge and Avebury stone circles. I also love a good music biography, which I guess is no surprise considering the book we’ve just written.
Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?
Oh, Social Media is one of the most important parts of what we do! The wonderful little community of Facebook friends we’ve built up have provided us with invaluable input and insights. Also it’s amazing how many links to pop stars we’ve found just through FB; there’s always a friend of a roadie, a cousin of a drummer, or even a musician themselves who are hiding on there. When we first started writing we made a profile and we were shocked when we reached 100 friends. Then it grew organically via word of mouth as others caught on to what we do. Suddenly we hit a thousand, then two thousand and now we’ve got in excess of 4.5k. friends. We manage the page ourselves, because knowing your audience is essential and if they like what you do then they share your work with others. For us authors who rely on crowdfunding to make their work a reality social media is something to embrace.
Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?
It’s incredibly tempting, especially when you are doing a whole slew of interviews, as we’re doing now being so close to publication, but no! Everyone is entitled to equal time and consideration because every interview goes out to a whole new set of people and we believe in staying enthusiastic and energetic about what we do. We really believe that what we have in our book is pure gold and we’re so very keen to spread the word to everyone.
And finally… If one famous person who you admire were to read this book, who would you like it to be?
Keith Richards.. I think that anyone who laughs that much in interviews realises the absurdity and surreality of the industry he is ‘working’ in.