Phillip Vega is a new friend and author to me. I don’t know too much about him yet so this will be an introduction for you as well as me. He is very friendly and has a release party today so come join the fun and show him some support. Please help me welcome Phillip Vega to Roadie Notes……..
1. How old were you when you first wrote your first story?
If you asked my siblings, they’ll tell you I started making up stories at the age of four. I think I wrote my first story, like any other kid, in 1st grade. I couldn’t tell you what it was about, or the grade I received, but I recall writing something around then.
I did also “publish” a cookbook in 4th grade. The assignment was to get your parent’s favorite recipe, and everyone in class turned it in. At the end, we put them all together, and created a bound cookbook. My mom’s recipe was arroz con pollo, chicken and rice, a staple in any Latin household! Of course, it’s even mentioned in Last Exit to Montauk.
2. How many books have you written?
Aside from my aforementioned cookbook in 4th grade, Last Exit to Montauk is my first published novel. That said, as of this interview, I have approximately 13 other books in various stages, which has my publisher, Janet Fix at thewordverve, very excited! It’s funny, I’ve read other authors talk about this, and I couldn’t relate to it until now. I can’t imagine how Stephen King or James Patterson do it. Or even Cheryl Bradshaw and Lawrence Kelter. They’re the masters.
3. Anything you won’t write about?
At this point, nothing is off the table. It’s been recommended that I stay in my “wheelhouse,” so that I can build an audience following, but at this stage of my life, I am interested in a variety of things. So, while some of my works in progress are of the same genre as Last Exit to Montauk, I am venturing into other genres as well. I look at it this way: if you like the way I write, you’ll join me on our journey, wherever that may take us.
4. Tell me about you. Age (if you don’t mind answering), married, kids, do you have another job etc…
MY AGE?! How Dare You! (I’m kidding.) I’m 51, married to my gorgeous and saintly wife, Jeanette, for 24 years, this year. We have four terrific sons whom my beloved wife and I are extremely proud of. I do have a “day job.” I sell Enterprise Software and Services for an SAP business partner. I do keep both of my professions separate from each other.
5. What’s your favorite book you have written?
That’s like asking me which one of my children are my favorite. I love them all, for different reasons. Of course, I do hold my first book in a special place in my heart. I’m talking about Last Exit to Montauk, not the cookbook.
Last Exit to Montauk was my first real attempt at writing a book. Had someone told me in July of 2015 that in August 2015, I’d start writing my first novel, I’d have laughed out loud, as I walked away shaking my head. It just wasn’t on the roadmap for me. One month later, it was.
After a rainy day of grocery shopping with my wife, she turned in for a nap, and I sat on the couch and started typing away on my iPad. It was like an itch that needed scratching, you know what I mean? About six weeks later, I completed my first official manuscript, 625 pages and approximately 300,000 words long.
The final version is at about 340 pages and 114,000 words. Yeah, we did some whittling. The feedback I received from family, friends and my editor, who also became my publisher, were instrumental in completing and ultimately publishing Last Exit to Montauk.
6. Who or what inspired you to write?
Growing up, I was always a bit of a performer. I loved making people laugh. I still do. There’s nothing better in the world than hearing laughter from the people you love. As far as who inspired me to write, I’d say my 10th grade English teacher, Mrs. Simmons. She was the first person to ever encourage my writing. I was an average student at best, but she liked how I wrote and that made me want to keep doing it.
But that really wasn’t your question. You asked about who or what inspired me to write? First, I give all inspirational credit to Christ. For me, without Him, I have no inspiration. I’ve been blessed with so many inspirations. My wife, children, brothers, and friends all inspire me. Music is also a big inspiration. My tastes range from today’s hits to ’80s music to classic rock to Christian music to classical music. I can’t write without some sort of music playing. It just helps me get into my zone.
It’s funny. Once I started the process of writing a novel, the flood gates just opened and haven’t really stopped, which is why I have 13 other works in progress. In my mind’s eye, I saw Montauk play out in my head like I was watching a movie. The characters became real, and I became the vessel, telling their stories.
I’ve read articles about artists who claim their art was simply waiting for them to chip away at the stone or for the paintbrush to paint the canvas. It wasn’t them so much as uncovering a buried treasure. I feel the same way about writing.
Nature also inspires me. If it weren’t for that rainy Saturday afternoon, I wouldn’t have written Last Exit to Montauk. I’ll receive inspiration mowing or raking the lawn, going to the beach, trimming my bushes, or just lying in my hammock, staring at the sky.
7. What do you like to do for fun?
Again, I love to laugh! And of course, I write—yes, for fun.
I enjoy hanging out with my wife. She has the best laugh, and she “gets me,” you know? She’s my anchor to reality, and partner-in-crime. The Bonnie to my Clyde, or Heckle to my Jeckle, so to speak. I also enjoy going to the beaches here in the Tampa Bay area. We have some of the prettiest beaches in the world. There’s something so peaceful, calming, and soothing about going to the beach, hanging out in the water, listening to tunes, reading, people watching, and taking in a gorgeous sunset. My cellphone is full of sunset pictures.
I also like having dinner with friends, which will often turn into a laugh-fest. Did I mention, I enjoy laughing?
8. Any traditions you do when you finish a book?
Does shaking my head and looking stunned that I actually finished writing a book count as a tradition? Seriously, though, I’m still new at this whole “writing a book” thing, even though I have many in the queue. I guess my tradition is kissing my wife, popping open a bottle of red wine, putting on a little music and (unintelligible)…I mean, going to the beach to watch the sun set.
9. Where do you write? Quiet or music?
I usually write in my home office. I’ve tried doing it at the beach or at Starbucks, but I can’t really get in the zone there. Too many distractions, I suppose.
Nope, never quiet, even when I’m editing. When I’m editing, I need to be super focused, so I turn down the music, but never turn it off.
I even play music while I’m working my day job. I’m fortunate enough to work from home, as well as travel for my job. Regardless of where I am, you’ll most likely catch me listening to Howard or music on Sirius XM, my iPhone, or playing YouTube videos. I created a playlist for myself, which I’ve made public on my webpage, http://www.phillipvega.com, for others to enjoy. I call it: Music That Inspires. It’s as eclectic as I am.
I have Clapton, Lauren Daigle, Mumford & Sons, the Stones, Chuck Mangione, Bowie, Chris Tomlin, and Billy Joel, to name a few. As with most Long Islanders, Billy Joel is a staple. I’ve seen him in concert many times, and he never disappoints, which is my hope for Last Exit to Montauk.
10. Anything you would change about your writing?
I tend to write the way I think and/or speak. Sometimes when I’m sharing a story with someone in person, I’ll go off on a tangent. I’m one of “those” people, not that there’s anything wrong with that. So, if I were to change anything, it would be less tangents and more sticking with the main story.
11. What is your dream? Famous writer?
What’s my dream? To make it to heaven and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21) I think we were all put here for specific reasons. Perhaps mine was to become a successful writer. I’ll never know for sure. I know this for certain. Very few times in my life, has the path been so clear to me. When I met my wife, I knew right away she was the one for me, much to her chagrin. Like I said, she’s a saint! At the end of the day, my dream is to be happy. If that means I become a famous writer, then so be it. Is that a goal of mine? Yes, but it’s only one of my life goals. I’d also like to travel with my wife, see my children flourish, and enjoy grandchildren and great-grandchildren someday.
Another dream: seeing my work transformed into a movie. Have it play out on screen the way it played out in my head. There are a few people in Hollywood reading the novel right now, so who knows? Maybe Ron Howard or Rob Reiner will be directing Last Exit to Montauk and it’ll be on the silver screen in 2020. Like I said earlier, nothing is off the table. Hey, a man can dream, right?
12. Where do you live?
In a house. Man, what a weird question. Seriously, I live in the Tampa, Florida, area. I grew up on Long Island, NY and moved to Florida as a newlywed. I’ve lived here longer than in Stony Brook, where I grew up, yet still consider that home, although I’d probably never move back. I love the weather too much on the West Coast of Florida.
Yes, I have two and a half dogs. Okay, I have four dogs, but three out of the four are Chihuahuas. The fourth is a German Shepherd mix. Can you guess which thinks she’s a lap dog, and which one is the alpha?
14. What’s your favorite thing about writing?
Becky, Everything! I love when I’m in the zone, and it all just pours out of me. I can literally be sitting at my computer, typing away, and before I know it, hours have flown by. If it weren’t for my wife bringing me back to reality, I’d sit in my office all day and night, typing away. Again, the flood gates have opened. I remember watching an interview with Barbara Streisand a few years ago, where she was talking about always hearing music playing in her head.
That’s what I’m going through right now. Ideas are just flooding my senses, and I love taking those ideas and watching them transform into something on “paper,” you know? I just love the whole creative process of it. I love telling the story.
15. What is coming next for you?
Well, my novel, Last Exit to Montauk debuted May 2, just in time for the summer reading season. So, I’ll be focusing on promoting my novel. On May 7, Oxford Exchange in Tampa is hosting their 3rd annual book fair. I’ll be one of over 30 other local authors showcasing our books. After that, Saturday, May 13 at 12 PM PDT/3 PM EST, my publisher Janet Fix and I are hosting an online release party on Facebook. Our commander-in chief for that event is the great Leslie Whitaker, who is a master at these types of launch parties!
After that event, I’ll be hitting the road, promoting my book, when I’m not working my day job. And of course, I’ll be writing . . . always writing. It’s a very real part of me now.
Thank you for interviewing me. This is my very first interview for my novel, and it means a lot to me to be able to speak to my audience in this way.
I hope people go out and purchase the book, available at all major online retailers. I’m looking forward to their feedback!!
I want people to enjoy my work. I’ve received so many visceral responses from early readers. People are laughing, crying, and relating to the book. Tom Hanks was in a movie with The Great One—no, not The Rock, whom I also love. I’m talking about Jackie Gleason. Their movie was called Nothing In Common, about a relationship between a father and son. To this day, I remember the tagline to the movie. “It’s a comedy, and a drama, just like life.” To paraphrase their tagline, regarding my book, “You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. It’s just like life.”
You can connect with Phillip Vega here:
• Last Exit To Montauk Release Party