Skip to main content

Gin Phillips.

Ryane Rice/Globe and Mail Update

Gin Phillips is the author of several novels for adults and younger readers, including The Well and the Mine and Come in and Cover Me. Her new literary thriller, Fierce Kingdom, which was just published by Random House Canada, is about a mother and her four-year-old son trapped in a zoo with a gunman on the loose. Phillips lives in Birmingham, Ala.

Whose sentences are your favourite?

I almost never love a book if I don't love individual sentences. So all of my favourite authors write sentences that blow me away – I always read with a pen, and my books are filled with underlining and smiley faces and exclamation marks. But to single out a few: Elizabeth Strout for purity; Ann Patchett for lyricism and texture; Toni Morrison for power.

Story continues below advertisement

Which fictional character do you wish you'd created?

Newland Archer. In recent years, Age of Innocence has nudged itself into position as, depending on the day, my favourite novel. I love Newland – his curiosity and perception and his occasional brutal honesty with himself. He's compelling and struggling and well-meaning. I love his mind. (It does not hurt to picture him as Daniel Day-Lewis.) Also – on a completely different note – Beryl Peoples in Richard Russo's Nobody's Fool. I have a soft spot for English teachers, and she's my most-loved fictional one. I find goodness much more interesting than evil, and any character I really fall in love with is someone who is at least trying to do the right thing.

Which book do you think is underappreciated?

Anything by Penelope Lively – to name a few, How It All Began, Moon Tiger and Making It Up (which is a brilliant "anti-memoir.") I find her astonishing, and I don't understand why she's not a household name outside of England. I love her sentences and her immense empathy and generosity towards her characters.

Which books have you reread most in your life?

Jane Eyre wins by a mile. I didn't read it until college, and I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning for several nights, completely captivated. I reread some books because they're brilliant and I want to dissect how they work, but I reread Jane Eyre because it makes me happy. My favourite scenes leave a whisky-ish feeling in my chest. I have a vivid memory of a girl in my college class arguing that Rochester was a misogynist and reprehensible because of locking his wife in the attic, and I believe I said, possibly too emphatically, "He ran through a fire to save her! He lost his freakin' hand and his eyes! He paid for his mistakes!" Something to that effect. I've also reread the Harry Potter series more than once, and I keep coming back to the beautiful Empire Falls by Richard Russo. Both of them make me happy, too.

What's the best romance in literature?

Story continues below advertisement

Well, not to harp on the whole Jane Eyre thing, but Jane and Rochester. I do enjoy a happy ending. But also Fenno and Malachy in Julia Glass's Three Junes. I found their story incredibly moving – and also funny and smart and complex. I thought of them long after I finished the book and feel a real-life fondness of them both, which is always the sign of great characters.

What's more important: The beginning of a book or the end?

I'm going to vote for the end. I think constructing a great beginning is much easier. Anyone can do a catchy beginning. But the ending – that has to bring together all the threads that have been hanging loose. It has to be satisfying and yet not too tidy. It has to feel a bit surprising and yet also feel like there was no other possible ending. There are far fewer books where I love the ending than where I love the beginning.

Sookocheff says she doesn't plan to switch to digital illustration because she would miss the "accidents that happen when you're mucking around with paint" Globe and Mail Update
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter