New novelist pens his first book with a Park City setting
Alan Yves Phillips is a writer and a storyteller. The story behind his new first novel, "Grey’s Christmas" is a relatively simple one at least as he tells it, initially. Ask him about how his novel came about, and he’ll deliver a little narrative starting with an idea and ending with a paperback.
"This particular book, three Christmases ago I started telling my kids an impromptu Christmas story," said Phillips.
As he told the tale, he noted, it seemed to take on a life of its own.
"So I started writing," he said, "and three months later, I had three chapters."
Those chapters proved to be the seed for the book. While they ended up in the middle of the novel, they provided a point from which Phillips could start and a character he could use.
The book follows about three weeks in the life of a fictional Park City resident, Byron Grey. An amateur skier with Olympic dreams stymied by losses of coaching and financial support, Grey finds himself in financial trouble. So when a set of circumstances offer him the chance to solve his problems, he jumps at the opportunity despite its nefarious nature. "Grey’s Christmas" details the twists that follow.
As the book’s jacket says, "It’s a tale of black and white, and the gray that often resides between when human beings are faced with life-altering decisions."
Reading Phillips’ prose, one can easily picture Grey trudging through the snows of Park City or walking around Old Town. Within the book, Phillips seems to have captured the town’s essence.
Originally, however the book was set elsewhere.
"Early in the book, it actually started out back East," said Phillips.
But he moved the setting back to the Wasatch because he knows the area, and it simply worked.
"The ski resort town fit the needs of Byron Grey," Phillips noted.
However, he said the work is not necessarily autobiographical.
"I think every writer uses some of his own experiences," he said, "how they interact with other people, how they might talk to one another."
Phillips lives a life fairly different from Grey’s. A Heber resident and Wasatch-area native, Phillips said he wrote his novel in his off time from his work as an engineer, technical advisor and writer a technical writer that is.
He said that while his jobs writing instruction manuals and training programs are quite different from the work of a novelist he has always maintained a creative streak.
While "Grey’s Christmas" is Phillips first novel, he has a history of writing, penning songs, poems and short stories. So the work fits with his past enterprises.
"I’ve been writing ever since I was 10," said Phillips, and [I] just enjoy creative writing.
While his career has occasionally distracted him from his more creative work, Phillips said that as he has gained more spare time and traveled more, he’s done more of his own writing. Ultimately, he said he enjoys each type of work.
"I find pleasure in both writing styles," he said.
He said he never has a problem switching from creative to technical prose, or vice versa. Each simply operates with its own set of rules.
Instead, different challenges faced him as he worked on his book. While writing each chapter was easy, he said it was far more difficult to organize the chapters in the proper order and make sure all of the details the times, dates and places matched up.
"The other difficulty is getting the book out there," he said.
Since "Grey’s Christmas" is a self-published book, he says, it requires a steady stream a promotion that is hitting its peak in the holiday season.
Phillips said he enjoys the rewards though. The best part is some of the responses, he said.
"When people come back to me with that feedback that it’s a good book," said Phillips.
He also said he plans to continue his writing career. After spending two-and-a-half years writing "Grey’s Christmas," Phillips said he’s currently working on a memoir. He has another story to tell.
"Grey’s Christmas" is available at Dolly’s Bookstore.
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