Interview: Philip Becnel, Author of Freedom City

Hey Bookworms!

Today I had the opportunity to have a chat with Philip Becnel, author of the anti-trump satire, Freedom City. 

Before continuing, let me introduce him to you! 

I was born in San Francisco and raised in Cotati, California, but I spent my formative years in New Orleans and then Northern Virginia. I now live in Washington, D.C., where I've been a private detective for almost twenty years.

FREEDOM CITY, an anti-Trump satire about resistance to American fascism, is my debut novel, but some years ago I published two nonfiction books about investigating: Introduction to Conducting Private Investigations and Principles of Investigative Documentation. I've also published articles in a variety of legal and popular journals, including Time Magazine.

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Now! Let's head on to the interview now, shall we? 

What inspired you to write Freedom City? What was the first spark?

After months of fuming about all the bigotry and corruption of the Trump presidency, I re-read The Monkey Wrench Gang, a book by Edward Abbey that really kicked off the environmental revolution in the 1970’s. The book is about some oddballs who wage a guerilla war against companies that are destroying the environment. The topic is dire, but the book is written in a way that readers can actually laugh at the absurdity of the situation. When I re-read that book, I thought, ‘Someone needs to write something like that set in the Trump era’—and that’s what I did. 

How did you come up with the title of this book?

Without giving too much away, ‘Freedom City’ is the name given to a fascist encampment on the National Mall. Politicians and generals like to come up with names for things that are semantically the opposite of what the thing actually is. Think, the ‘Defense of Marriage Act.’ I was going for something similarly Orwellian—a name that fascists would likely use for their home base to make it seem benign. The title is a play on the so-called Statue of Freedom, which currently stands atop the U.S. Capitol building and which was actually completed by a slave named Philip Reid.

Do you prefer reading eBooks or paperbacks?

I read a good amount of both, but I generally prefer paperbacks. For the past year or so I’ve been re-reading my favorite books and also a lot of non-fiction philosophy, which I can get from the library or a nearby used bookstore.

What kind of endings do you like in books, happy or heartbreaking?

I am very desperate to feel something about anything. An ending can be happy or heartbreaking, but it’s got to move me somehow. I suppose my ideal endings are the profound ones—endings that challenge how I previously looked at the world—with a slight preference for happiness.

Have you ever turned a real life person into a fictional character with the intention of killing them off? 

[Laughing maniacally] Freedom City starts at the unveiling of Donald Trump’s posthumous memorial, so that’s exactly what I did. However, Trump never actually makes an appearance in my book, which is more about his followers and his legacy. 

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m a pantser by nature, but I plotted Freedom City. I knew that I wanted the prologue to occur chronologically after the epilogue, and the only way to make this work was to plot the entire book out methodically. 

Which character from Freedom City did you have the most fun writing? Why?

I think Beach Sands was the most fun to write. He’s a middle-aged, alcoholic lawyer with some unconventional sexual proclivities. Beach gave me a vehicle for writing some outrageous things that I’d never say out loud, such as ‘My only problem with the P.C. revolution is there aren’t any fitting pejoratives anymore. I tell you, the only good thing millennials ever did was bring back beards.’ I mean, I don’t really believe that, but sweeping statements like that make me laugh. 

Do you have a specific writing nook? Or do you write wherever inspiration strikes?

I have a desk on which I keep a sword and also a bayonet from an Argentinian AK-47. My desk chair is a repurposed barber’s chair, which feels sort of like a throne. Above the desk is a shield with a photograph of Emmanuel Zapata.

What do you listen to while writing? Or do you prefer silence?

I actually can’t write with music playing or anything. I’m an only child. The weapons on my desk are there to enforce solitude. [Laughing]

Which book's release are you excitedly waiting for?

I devoured the Song of Ice and Fire series, and like millions of others I’ve been anxiously awaiting The Winds of Winter.  I want to read that book so badly that if Ruth Bader Ginsburg and George R.R. Martin were both drowning and I could only save one of them, I’d seriously be tempted to let the Supreme Court sink into the abyss.

What's the most embarrassing thing that happened to you as a writer?

A lot of stuff has certainly humbled me as a writer—like query rejections and occasional lukewarm feedback—but I can’t say I’ve ever been embarrassed about anything. I just had an event in Chicago where the turnout wasn’t as great as I hoped, but I don’t take that sort of thing personally. 

Do you like summers or winters better?

Winters, for sure. I grew up in part in New Orleans, where the summers are brutal. They’re milder where I live now in Washington, D.C., but they’re still uncomfortably humid.

If someone left a one star review for your book, what would be your reaction?

This actually happened! Some guy—I think his name was ‘Anthony’—left me a one-star review on Goodreads. It was pretty suspicious since the guy hadn’t reviewed any other books—only mine. I’m fully aware that Freedom City will be extremely offensive to anyone who supports Trump, so it’s really not too surprising that some people would try to sabotage me.

If you could swap your world with a fictional one, would you? If yes, what world would you rather live in?

Good fiction requires conflict, and I’m not sure I’d want to live in a world with constant conflict. My life is already fraught with conflict. When I’m not writing, I’m a private detective—and the only things worth investigating are inherently contentious. I suppose I might want to live in a children’s book or something, maybe a book with friendly animals who can talk to each other, and lots of hugging.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

I could say ‘working independently’ or something like that, but for me it’s the feeling of accomplishment from writing a book that I really think will become a cult classic some day. I mean, I might step in front of a bus tomorrow, but there are enough copies of Freedom City out there now that the book is bound to stick around long after I’m gone. This sense of immortality has permeated my life, such that I’m now drinking more and caring less about the things that used to incense me.

It’s not a bad life.

Thank you for coming over to my blog! I wish you all the very best for your book!

Want to know more about Freedom City? Here you go!

Author: Philip Becnel
Genre: Contemporary fiction


FREEDOM CITY is an anti-Trump satire that pays homage to The Monkey Wrench Gang.
After Donald Trump unceremoniously dies from natural causes, four misfits from Washington, D.C. who call themselves the Fearless Vampire Killers sever the heads of Confederate statues and wage a comedic guerrilla war on post-Trump America. When President Pence enlists droves of fascist volunteers to crush the “alt-left” uprising, the rebels must risk their lives to run the fascists out of D.C. 
What follows is not only a battle for survival—but a desperate search for remnants of what once made America great. 

That's it for today! See you tomorrow! Happy reading! 

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