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Thursday, 12 May 2016

ℚ♫ Argos - Phillip W. Simpson

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with author to talk about Argos (, Month9Books, LLC, 276 pages), a Young Adult Mythological Historical novel.

Author Q&A | Synopsis | Teaser | About the Author | Giveaway & Tour Stops


Hello Phillip; welcome back to BooksChatter!

Last September you spoke to us about Minotaur, and we have been looking forward to Argos :-)

Once again Phillip has shared with us his music playlist - enjoy!


"From that selection, Block Rockin' Beats by the Chemical Brothers is good to write fight scenes to."
What compelled you to write Argos?
"This was a labor of love for me.  I have always loved dogs and stories of dog's courage and loyalty.  Hearing or reading these never fail to make me cry.  Particularly stories of dogs like Greyfriars Bobby and Hachikō.

Greyfriars Bobby's statue in Edinburgh Hachikō waiting at the station
And then there's the story of Argos - probably the most famous and loyal dog of all time.  In Homer's Odyssey, there's literally only one page dedicated to the death of Argos and for me, it was the most moving scene in the whole book.

Argos in the Odyssey

I had to write this book, not only for myself but for all the dogs I've loved throughout my life.  I had no choice in the matter."
I really do struggle with such sad animal stories...
I loved the dedication and quote at the beginning of your book:

To all the dogs I've shared my life with and loved: Patch, Timmy , Whiskey and Raffles.  The best companions a man could ever want or need.

"...Argos passed into the darkness of death, now that he had fulfilled his destiny of faith and seen his master once more after twenty years."
Homer, Odyssey, Book 17, lines 290-327 
So wonderful and tragic at the same time... so that leads us to the next question...
How much of yourself is reflected in this book, and how?

"I think my knowledge and background is reflected in the book.  My undergrad degree was in Ancient History and Archaeology and my Masters (Hons) was in Archaeology.  I’ve worked in museums and been on archaeological digs.

I’ve also been a teacher for the last 14 years and often manage to weave in some myth and legend into my lesson plans.

And I absolutely love dogs."
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating this book?
"I had to rewrite bits and pieces where I made Argos ‘too human’.  In other words, I would put something in where Argos feels like ‘clapping for joy’.  But dogs can’t clap.

There were also references to hands which I had to change to paws.  And things like smiling.  As far as I know, dogs can’t smile.  And dogs are color-blind.  Surprising?  Maybe not.  Interesting? Possibly."
Definitely interesting.  But I do think there is room for debate on the smiling issue.
I think dogs (and much less noticeably cats) can and do smile - they have a myriad of facial expressions and a relaxed happy smile is within their range - my friend's dog, Daisy, has the best smile I have ever seen!  And dogs also grin!  And here are a few shots of Daisy (Fenris Photography) and her fantastic smiles :-)

Yes, apparently dogs are kind of red-green colour-blind, so they certainly perceive colour differently from most of us, but even worse than that, it would seem that they are very near-sighted (20/75 is often quoted) and with substantially less ability to perceive contrast  - astonishingly so.   However they can view motion better than we can.
from https://drsophiayin.com/blog/entry/can-dogs-see-color-and-how-do-we-know/

Dog Vision allows you to upload images and get an idea of how your dog is likely to see it.  It is certainly fascinating.  I can't help wondering what science will have to say about all of this in another 20 years...

The first thing that draws me to a book is its cover.  Can you tell us about your cover for Argos - why you chose that concept and who the artist is.

"My publisher chose the cover.  I know the artist (UK based artist Mat Dawson) and this was his second attempt at it but I think it’s far superior to his first effort.

full artwork by Mat Dawson

I love this cover because it's evocative and moody (much like the cover to my last book, Minotaur).  It also begs certain questions: why is a dog in a boat being rowed across a river by a heavily cowled boatman?

Those who are familiar with the classics will know the boatman is Charon and the river is the Styx.  Therefore the dog is in Hades.  But why?  A dog has no place in Hades so what makes Argos so special?

I love covers that make the reader ask these types of questions."
Why should we read Argos and what sets it apart from the rest?
"Because this is told from a dog’s perspective.  I always find it much more interesting to take the perspective of an underdog (ha!) or a minor character.  Any book that takes this sort of perspective is certainly different."
Can't argue there!

Can you tell us something quirky about Argos, its story and characters?

"Most of the story adheres to the accepted myth.  Including the characters.  I did make up a few (such as the Master of the Kennels) but for the most part, I stuck to the accepted truth.  If you read the Odyssey, you will recognise most of the characters."
Who would you recommend Argos to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?
"Anyone who loves dogs and ancient Greek myths.  Either or both.

There’s no extreme violence, sex or swearing other than ‘sack of wine’ which was a common insult back in those days."
If you could / wished to turn Argos into a movie, who would be your dream team?
"I’m a bit stumped with this one.  I think it would be a great Disney movie but I’ve got no idea which director to use.  I’d love to say J.J Abrams because I love his work but him doing Argos would be a little outrageous.

Dream cast:
Argos: big strong dog with friendly face
Odysseus: Eric Bana
Eumaeas: Mark Addy (a.k.a King Robert Baratheon)
Penelope: Charlize Theron
Telemachus: Kit Harrington (as a young man)"

Outrageous is exactly what that question is all about ;-)

What has been your greatest challenge as a writer?

"Time.  It’s always about finding time.  I treat it like a job and it’s all about routine.

When I’m teaching full-time, I only write in the holidays so I aim for 4k words per day.  I always read and edit the previous day’s work first.  It helps me focus on the next scene.  It’s exhausting but ultimately rewarding."
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?  What has been the best compliment?
"I have been told that I use too many adverbs and that I tell not show enough.  Fair enough too. I overuse certain words like ‘just’.  I’m conscious of these shortcomings however, and try to use them sparingly.

Best compliment is that I write great action scenes."
What is in store next?
"Last year, I finished another historical novel called TITAN.  This was the novel I wrote for my Masters in Creative Writing.  It’s an origin story.  It tells how Zeus went from a young man living in a cave on Crete to become the King of the Gods.  I have a number of perspectives going with this one (including Prometheus – who gave fire to humans).

I’m just about to finish the sequel, EARTHBORN, which carries on the story and retells the story of Zeus and Prometheus’ war against the giants.

After that, I’m taking the rest of the year off from writing.  I’m exhausted!"
Phew!  I know that feeling... if I could I would take a whole year off just to rest and read!

And as a final quirky thing, to get to know you a little bit better... do you have a pet or something that is special to you that you could share with us?


Lovely picture, thank you so much for sharing it with us! We of course remember Raffles, who is featured at the beginning of this post.  Is that Whiskey?   And that must be little Jack :-)

Thank you for sharing them with us!  

Argos
Available NOW!

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