Q & A with Phyllis Humby

Meet contributor Phyllis Humby

Writer and blogger Phyllis Humby lives in rural Camlachie, Ontario. Her passion is writing suspense/thrillers with schemes and twists and spooky elements. She was a Fringe reader at Eden Mills (Ontario) Writers’ Festival 2013 and is a member of Crime Writers of Canada.

In December 2013, her psychological suspense short story, “Whiskey Nights,” captured second spot in the YMM national short story competition. Read the story here.

CommuterLit: What appeals to you about the suspense/mystery genre?

Phyllis Humby: I love the rush. The erratic twists and turns. A thriller gets my adrenalin pumping and boosts my energy level. A mystery enhances the brainpower. That’s always a good thing. And there’s nothing better than being surprised by a turn of events in a story. It gives me a laugh-out-loud kind of feeling. It’s not only a good story line that creates a great read. Characters are all important to me. Ordinary people can become unhinged in extraordinary situations. It is their precarious reactions that build suspense in a story. Dimensional characters are fascinating.

CL: What goals do you have for your blog?  How does it help you further your writing career?

PH: A couple of years back, I read an article by an agent saying that if they received an interesting query, the first thing they did is Google the author. If the writer did not have a strong internet presence, the query hit the slush pile. Serious writers establish themselves online. Like it or not, that was the birth of my blog.

It was frustrating to find out that it takes more to get into the business than writing a good book. Writers have to sell themselves to sell their work. I understand that philosophy better now. The internet has enabled me to network with some great writers that I may not have had the opportunity to meet. The more we know, or think we know, about an author, the closer we feel to them. How could we not buy their books?

My blog is described as Musings of a Writer, which allows me to discuss just about everything – my impressions of the writing world, a current project, book reviews, or interviews. One online article declared that a writer should never blog personal things about themselves. Get a journal, they said. I was stymied for a bit because I’m a very open person about my feelings, my life, my writing. Then I realized that I received the most feedback after posts to which other readers and writers can relate. No subject is off topic.

Actually, my blog was the conduit for becoming a columnist for a monthly magazine. One never knows how one thing might lead to another.

CL: What themes in your stories do you tend to visit again and again and why?

PH: I didn’t think I had a theme until someone was doing an anthology on the paranormal. Paranormal? No way. Then I checked my archive of short stories and realized that in almost every one there was something supernatural. An out-of-body experience, an after-death experience, a cannot-be-explained-any-other-way experience… So I guess there’s a common theme in my stories. Think of it this way: I love a good mystery and what could possibly be more mysterious than something we cannot explain.

CL: What books/authors are you currently reading and why?

PH: Since I’ve narrowed my genre to crime/suspense, the majority of my pleasure reading is of that genre. I’ve always been a huge fan of Lee Child, Michael Connolly, James Patterson, Robert McCammon, Stephen King (some of his books/all of his writing).

There are many Canadian authors whose writing I admire very much. Jean Rae Baxter’s short stories keep me on the edge of my seat, and I admire Linwood Barclay’s ability to create mystery through clues and twists and turns. That’s good writing. I’m attending a conference soon and I’m reading some of the authors that I’m hoping to meet. Vicki Delaney, Janet Bolin, Gail Bowen, and… a tower of others. When I look for a break from suspense, and sometimes I do, I reach for Elizabeth Berg. A lighter read that satisfies my hunger for well-rounded characters and an emotional release.