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An Interview with Carmi Philander


As both a passionate reader and writer, I’m at my happiest when I’m not confined to the real world, either a novel or a pen clasped in my hands. I’m a fan of pretty much every fictional genre, from YA to poetry. At fourteen, I had published a children’s book of twenty-five short stories, yet I haven’t really received much recognition as an author—not on a significant scale, that is. I’m currently entering myself into as many writing competitions as possible, hoping to slide the spotlight onto my work, to inspire others to chase after their dreams no matter their circumstances. There’s nothing that would hurt me quite as badly as to witness others—especially the youth—wasting their time by daydreaming instead of doing what God intended them to do. I pray that I may reach success and that my generation would follow suit.

What inspired you to start writing this book?

My story was inspired by the following prompt (which was provided by the Open Novella Contest of 2024, hosted on the popular reading and writing platform Wattpad): “You wake up on a seemingly ordinary day to discover that your thoughts are not private. There is someone else in your head with you.” A pretty cool concept, hey? So, my initial intention was to spin a psychological thriller that would revolve around a schizophrenic female MC, but then I decided to take a more unexpected route by crafting a sci-fi novella in which my traumatized protagonist must combat a lethal computer virus and voila…

Tell us the story of your book’s current title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

In all honesty, it was my cousin (he sometimes helps me to oil up my mental gears and iron out the creases in my storylines when I’m burnt out) who suggested that I name my book after the virus that my characters are trying to eliminate—TROJAN. I was against it at first since I felt it was too short and bland, but I didn’t have a better option. So, the title stuck and I don’t think I’ll choose another.

Describe your dream book cover.

I’ve actually already designed a mediocre cover featuring my freckled, flaming-haired FMC along with a few small significant elements relevant to my story. It doesn’t look all that bad, but I know that a qualified designer would be able to bring my ideas to life more accurately.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

I’m not thoroughly familiar with any music that would correlate with TROJAN, but if I were to at least pick a handful of lyrics that would effectively introduce my story, then it would definitely be from the song “The Search” by NF: “…the mind is a powerful place/And what you feed it can affect you in a powerful way/It’s pretty cool, right? Yeah, but it’s not always safe/Just hang with me, this’ll only take a moment, okay?/Just think about it for a second, if you look at your face/Every day when you get up and think you’ll never be great/You’ll never be great, not because you’re not, but the hate/Will always find a way to cut you up and murder your faith”. Those rhythmic lines pretty much summarize one of the themes in my story—the dangerous power our brains possess.

What books are you reading (for research or comfort) as you continue the writing process?

I’ve temporarily divorced my TBR so that I can focus a bit more on my writing. But once I’ve scratched off my most important writing goals, I’ll probably dive into an adventurous fantasy novel or an intriguing murder mystery.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

I’m still in my last year of school, so I’ve never had much time for a job. And a not-so-famous fact about me? Before I ever took writing seriously, my greatest dream was to become a world-renowned pencil artist.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

I think it’s safe to say that my relentless work ethic is what ignited my passion for writing. I was twelve when I wrote my first book, but only two years later did I have the urge (did I work up enough motivation) to edit my stories, forcing myself to build on each plot until it was flawless. That is when I discovered what writing truly means to me. And I only grow to love it a little more every single day.

Where is your favorite place to write?

I’ll turn any place into a writing space (the bathroom, the classroom… the grocery store), but my favourite office would have to be my beloved bedroom.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Writing IS my ritual. An hourly routine that I would never be able to carve out of my veins.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

A quote from one of my characters in TROJAN reads as follows: “Misfortunes can sometimes lead to improvements… For every evil, there is a good.” Basically, what it means is that although bad things happen, those adversaries could very well pave a way for positivity. We don’t always have to paste a bandage over every defect just because it appears to ruin our definition of what perfection is. I want my readers to realize that there is no need for humanity to adorn our cerebral walls with a miniature circuit, because the mind is already as powerful and as beautiful as it is.

And to me, a perfect reader is someone who sees beyond the vivid imagery and fictional characters that easily conceal all of those 3 AM writing sprees and caffeinated narratives and next-morning deadlines. A perfect reader is somebody who appreciates the ink-stained hands behind the creativity and values every word that leaks from my soul. It’s a person who savours the ink that flows from my pen, who is moved by my diction, swept up in the pages of my book—fascinated and captivated throughout the telling of my tale. And a perfect reader shows consistent support, whether they do it by purchasing my future books, commenting on my work, sharing my content or simply by encouraging me to continue writing.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

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