Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Interview with Phil Earle, author of Saving Daisy

Today I'm very pleased and honoured to have Phil Earle stop by for an interview! 

Just as Being Billy was one of my favourites reads of last year, so Saving Daisy is one of my favourites of this year.  Phil's books are emotional and can be painful to read, but they are also raw and honest and beautiful too.  I've absolutely loved the characters and the stories that Phil Earle has brought and I look forward to reading more.  Over to you, Phil... 

To find out more about Phil Earle, or Saving Daisy, please visit the following websites:

Hello! I'm so pleased to have you here on the blog.  First, how would describe Saving Daisy to anybody who hasn't yet read the book?

I’m terrible at summing up my books in a sentence, which is ironic as my day job involves doing just that about other peoples books.
To put it in very simple terms, I guess you could say that it’s sort of a mixture of ‘Before I Die’ meets ‘The Shawshank Redemption.’ They are certainly two things that influenced it anyway…

There's been a lot of talk in the past year or so regarding books for teenagers that deal with dark or difficult themes (#YASaves), how important is it to you that teens have access to books about self-harm or depression?

It’s a really difficult question to answer, as to me there’s nothing more off-putting to a reader than having a book flashed before you that screams ‘ISSUE BOOK’!!! Dealing with depression and anxiety, or fighting the compulsion to self-harm are incredibly personal experiences: no two people will ever have the same reasons, so I’m wary of saying ‘This is how it is…my book is the answer’.
What ‘Saving Daisy’ is, is a fictionalised account of my experiences with depression, and if readers recognise elements of their own experiences in it, then that’s fantastic. What I think is more important, is that books like ‘Daisy’ have hope, as again, that’s my experience of depression. It’s a terrible, isolated, terrifying illness, but it can be beaten. That’s one of the messages I really wanted to get across.

Daisy's favourite film in the book is The Shawshank Redemption in which she talks about her reasons very beautifully, what is your favourite film and why?

One guess…Yes, it’s probably ‘Shawshank’ too. If I ever find it on the telly, I can’t go to bed until the final credits roll. It mirrors how I feel about books with hope. Andy goes through decades of pain in the film, yet he never gives up. He chips away at that prison wall for decades, never letting go of the idea of life outside the walls.

I'm curious about what research was involved in writing Saving Daisy? 
None. As with ‘Being Billy’, it was all inspired by kids I worked with. I first worked with young people who self-harmed in my twenties: it was an experience that never left me. I found it difficult to understand what drove them to do it, especially as their reasons were so varied. I’ve found that I write to make sense of things in my life. It’s over a decade since I worked with these girls, yet their stories never left me. 

When I was a teenager, I read a book about self harm which saved my life, has there even been a book which had a similar influence in your own life?

There are definitely books that I return to for comfort. Novels like ‘SE Hinton’s ‘The Outsiders’ or David Almond’s ‘Skellig’. I think I choose them because they have such enormous heart. That’s the most important thing to me in any book. Without heart, a book’s an empty experience for me.

 My absolute favourite character in Saving Daisy is Adebayo, I'd love to know more about her?

One of the greatest things about ‘Daisy’ being published, is that people have loved Ade. It makes me grin every time people mention her, as she is based on someone very important to me. I didn’t set out to write about my dalliances with depression, it kind of happened half way through, but when it did I went with it. Ade is based on the psychologist who I saw when my head fell apart. His name is Jonny John-Kamen, and he has become a really important part of my life. All the ideas that Ade employs with Daisy, Jonny used with me: in particular, the constant use of logic that gradually beats the guilt out of her head.
Jonny is a great, great friend now, so much so that our first son carries his name. I love the fact that the book became something of a love letter to him.

There were a lot of really emotional scenes in this book and Daisy really goes through a lot, was there any particular scene that you struggled to write or kept returning to?

Not really. The fact that Daisy is female built a safe distance between me and her. I really put her through the wringer, but I think it’s really important that writers do that to their characters. You have to love them, but you also have to make them suffer. Without that suffering, it would be a pretty bland read…

One of my favourite aspects of Saving Daisy (and also with Being Billy) is the kernels of hope that your characters have to hold on to, either in their relationships with other people (Ronnie, Adebayo) but also figurative like with the window that Daisy's mum makes.  How much hope is there for children like Daisy and Billy going through similar experiences?

There is hope for these kids, but sometimes it’s hard, or seemingly impossible, for them to find it. They have faced such atrocious things in their short lives, that it’s hard for them to build trusting relationships with adults.
What I know, because I’ve seen it first-hand, is that these young people have more resilience and bravery than 99% of people who had a ‘normal’ upbringing. I would have curled up in a ball if I’d faced the trials they had. But not them, they stood up and told the world to keep on coming. That’s why I love these kids, and that’s why I wanted to write about them. They set an example to us all.


  1. This is such an interesting post, and one I think I'll look forward to coming back to once I've read Saving Daisy.

  2. Thank you both for the wonderful interview. Very insightful and interesting to read!

  3. Thank you so much Phil for answering my questions and for writing such emotional books :)

  4. A 2013 list of books about self-harm was posted on the Cutting Depression website. I hope this helps you and your readers:



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