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Phillip Frey’s short story writing method...

READERSVOICE.COM: You have acted in the Shakespeare Festival and the Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center in New York, and probably have seen a lot of plays in New York and elsewhere. What are some of the lessons you learned from these experiences which you applied to your novel writing?

PHILLIP FREY: Funny, I never thought about that before. I suppose the lesson learned was from hearing and learning dialogue. As you know, Shakespeare’s plays are dialogue-driven. There is practically no narrative, no direction for the actors to follow. Everything about the characters is discovered through their dialogue.

Also, I suppose my fiction writing style comes from my experience as a screenwriter. I had worked for producers for many years, and there came the time when I threw it all away so that I could devote myself to narrative fiction. In Dangerous Times, you might have noticed how the chapters are like scenes, getting right to the point, and, for the most part, letting the dialogue or the characters’ thoughts tell us where we are and what the characters are doing.

RV: Your short stories have interesting characters, like the girl who wore a dress made out of drapes, and the tragic guy with the hat collection, and the narcissistic movie actor. Do you think up an interesting character first, or start with an emotional scene or memory and create a story backwards from that, or do you have some other method in writing short stories?

PF: Good question. Most of the short stories were developed from people and/or circumstances that I have experienced, or heard about. I usually start with a character and his or her circumstances and start writing. Sometimes it goes nowhere, but most of the time it works out. It comes back to trust, meaning that even if I don’t know where I’m going I know that one thing will lead to another.

RV: How old were you when you moved to Los Angeles from Ohio, and where did you live there and how did you support yourself?

PF: During my junior high and senior high school years, I was a child actor at the Cleveland Playhouse. The day after I graduated high school, I moved to Los Angeles because I wanted to further my acting career. My parents permitted this as long as I would live with my aunt and uncle. My uncle had a very successful hardware store at the time, and he and my aunt had a roomy house with a spare bedroom. While living with them I worked in the hardware store while attending the Theater Arts Department at Los Angeles City College. I performed in many of their plays, and learned every aspect of theater. It was a mighty valuable experience.

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– copyright Simon Sandall