Posted September 22, 2014 by in Interviews

Author Interview with Philip Freeman

Philip Freeman

Philip Freeman

Author Philip Freeman grew up in a military family, moving all around the world before settling in Texas, where he did his undergraduate work in Classics at the University of Texas at Austin. He went to graduate school at Harvard and earned a PhD there in Classics and Celtic Studies. After that, he taught at Boston University, Washington University in St. Louis, and for the last ten years at Luther College in the beautiful hills of northeast Iowa. Freeman’s first work of fiction is coming out next month and is titled Saint Brigid’s Bones.

Q: Your educational background is in Celtic studies. What drew you to this field of study?

A: I was always interested in mythology and old stories. I grew up on Greek and Roman tales, but when I first heard about Irish and Welsh stories, I was amazed at their richness. I found that very few people studied Celtic languages and literatures, so I thought it would be great to combine them with more traditional classical scholarship.

Q: You’ve written several academic works related to your field of studies. What are some of them?

A: I’ve written over a dozen books, some of which are purely academic works that very few people will ever read (such as a linguistic study of the ancient Galatian language of the Celts of Asia Minor). But some others that have gained wider notice are biographies of Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great, as well as translations of Cicero.

 Saint Brigid

Q: Saint Brigid’s Bones is your first work of fiction. How did you develop the idea for this book?

A: I was in Ireland on a visit a few years ago and went to the town of Kildare where Saint Brigid founded her monastery in the fifth century. While there I began wondering how to tell the story of this amazing time and place, this age between druids and Christians, to a wider audience. I thought that a mystery novel featuring a young nun with her life torn between these two worlds would be a great way to do it.

Q: How difficult was it for you to move from academic writing to fictional work? Can you tell us a little bit about that process and any particular challenges you faced along the way?

A: Writing fiction was the hardest and most enjoyable thing I’ve ever done. I have tremendous respect for fiction writers now. When I’ve written non-fiction biographies before, the story is already there for you. But in fiction you have to create the characters and make them work with each other. It took me three years and many revisions to write Saint Brigid’s Bones.

Q: What have been some of your successes (any awards) in the publishing world?

A: Several of my books have been favorably reviewed in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and other media. My translation of Cicero’s How to Win an Election was a book of the week in the New York Times. I won a honorable mention in the biography category for Alexander the Great from the Society of Midland Authors in Chicago. And Saint Brigid’s Bones was just named debut mystery of the month by the Library Journal.

Q: Saint Brigid’s Bones ends with a few possibilities for the future. Will it be part of a series or a standalone book?

A: The first draft of the next book in the series has already been finished and turned in to the publishers. It’s called Sacrifice and features Sister Deirdre racing against time to catch a serial killer murdering the nuns of Ireland in the manner of the ancient druid sacrifices.

Q: Do you have any plans for upcoming conferences or signings?

A: I have a signing here in Decorah, Iowa at our local bookstore on October 18th, but am always open to travelling and speaking/signing books.

Q: Who are some of your favorite authors/books?

A: Agatha Christie, John Grisham, Gore Vidal, Homer, Dante, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Barbara Kingsolver.

Q: What are you reading these days?

A: The autobiography of Frederick Douglass and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

Q: What advice would you give to individuals interested in breaking into the writing world?

A: Find a subject you’re passionate about, read Stephen King’s On Writing and E.B. White’s Elements of Style, find a good literary agent and editor, be prepared for setbacks, and never stop writing.



Saint Brigid’s Bones: A Celtic Adventure

New From: $13.15 USD In Stock

Mollie Smith Waters

Mollie Smith Waters teaches American literature, theater, and speech at a small community college in rural Alabama. Her hobbies include reading, writing, traveling, and walking.