Gary Phillips was born in Los Angeles in 1955, a month after Disneyland opened and five months after Charlie Parker died. He attended Cal State L.A. and has a B.A. in Design. Raised in South Central, Phillips grew up playing football in high school while reading comics, classic pulp and detective fiction, and the likes of Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines. He took inspiration from all this when he created his first, and best-known series character, Ivan Monk, in 1993.
Phillips has worked a lot of different gigs in his time: a graveyard shift security guard, a printer, a union organizer, co-director of the MultiCultural Collaborative (a nonprofit set-up to improve race relations after the ’92 L.A. riots) and as political director of a city council campaign. He has written on race, politics and pop culture for such outlets as the Los Angeles Times, Rap Pages, Black Scholar, American Prospect magazine, and zocalopublicsquare.org.
Phillips introduced his second series character, Martha Chainey, in High Hand (2000), and followed that with another book and short story. Besides writing several stand alones like The Jook, The Underbelly and Warlord of Willow Ridge, and editing anthologies such as Politics Noir, Orange County Noir and Black Pulp, his short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, The Heroin Chronicles and collected in Treacherous. Phillips has found success in the field of graphic novels, penning illustrated stories such as The Rinse and High Rollers. When not writing, he spends his time smoking the occasional cigar and pondering why his poker abilities haven’t improved. Phillips continues to live and work in Los Angeles and joined the faculty of Antioch Los Angeles in 2012.
Gary Phillips: My mom was a librarian for the city and my dad was a truck mechanic, with a 6th grade education. They both valued education and books as they were both part of that black migration to California, Los Angeles in their cases, seeking something better. So when I was in grade school, after finishing my homework, I had to read a story in a kid’s book. Pinocchio or Bre’r Rabbit, something. I hated it at first but started digging it after awhile.
RMF: You came of age in the early Seventies, just in time for underground presses like Holloway House: Iceberg Slim, Robert Beck, Donald Goines and the great Chester Himes with his “Mythical Harlem.” Did you discover those works then—or did you come back to them later?
GP: I discovered Himes’ Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson stories after seeing the two ‘70s-era movies, Cotton Comes to Harlem and Come Back Charleston Blue based on his books—Blue is based on The Heat’s On—with those Harlem detective characters. The movies portraying a more real Harlem than the Himes’ “Mythical Harlem,” as you noted. I did though discover Holloway House books because in my South Central neighborhood, you found Beck, Goines, Joe Nazel and others on the spinner rack at the local Thrifty’s drug store. You didn’t find a Holloway House book in a B. Dalton. Now, I was also into the Doc Savage reprints in paperback Bantam was doing then. This is a character created by pulp wordsmith Lester Dent and was the star of his own pulp in the ‘30s. The Bantam books had these great covers by James Bama and invariably I’d have one in my back pocket on the way to football practice in high school.
RMF: What were your favorite books and authors growing up?
GP: There are three books that instilled in me the wonder of words as a kid in grade school. My aunt gave me these books which she got from her Reader’s Digest book club, and I still have them today. They were From the Twilight Zone, a collection of short stories based on Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone scripts. Also, the Conan Doyle stories that include the first Sherlock Holmes story, ‟A Study in Scarlet,” and a Reader’s Digest edition of the collected poems and short stories of Edgar Allan Poe, arguably the father of the modern detective story. Later, I’d read Robert Louis Stevenson and Jules Verne, and in my teens Raymond Chandler, Joyce Carol Oates and nonfiction like Huey Newton’s (co-founder of the Black Panther Party) Revolutionary Suicide.
RMF: How influenced were you by TV and movies?
GP: Certainly TV and movies influenced me as well as comic books. Twilight Zone and Outer Limits reruns (recently watched “Demon With a Glass Hand” again by Harlan Ellison—it still holds up and, appropriate to noir, was filmed in the Bradbury building), Combat! with its realistic portrayal of the psychological effects of war, Shaft, Straw Dogs … The Outcasts. This great one-season-only TV show set after the Civil War where two cowboys, black and white, ride together but aren’t that crazy about each other. There was artist and writer Jim Steranko’s run on Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Neal Adams and Denny O’Neil on Batman, anything Jack Kirby drew, and Luke Cage, the Marvel Comics character tapping into the Blaxplotation era zeitgeist.
RMF: You were an all-state football player in high school and that fact informs some of your fiction. What stopped you from pursuing that professionally?
GP: Yes, well, I was only all-city. Well, there’s a whole lot of high school standouts who never make the pros. Ha.
RMF: Were there any particular teachers or classes that inspired you?
GP: I had some pretty good teachers in grade school on. At 61st Street Elementary, and I can’t remember her name now and I think this was in the 3rd grade, but what I remember is this teacher encouraging me to write more of a short story I’d done for a class assignment. I was thrilled. I was hooked.
RMF: In The Jook, Zelmont Raines plays pro football and your authentic descriptions of that world and lifestyle are some of the best things in that novel. Do you know a lot of professional athletes?
We pay serious coin to go see a pro game, be it baseball, b-ball or what have you. Never mind the cost of a ticket, but there’s parking costs, buying food at the stadium and what have you. But we pay this because we get excited when our team wins or our boxer scores a knockout. What is this thing we project on them? We excel because they do?
GP: Funny, I don’t know any pro athletes. But like many of us, I find them a fascinating lot. We pay serious coin to go see a pro game, be it baseball, b-ball or what have you. Never mind the cost of a ticket, but there’s parking costs, buying food at the stadium and what have you. But we pay this because we get excited when our team wins or our boxer scores a knockout. What is this thing we project on them? We excel because they do? Too there’s the role of the female athlete, and the athlete of color in a world dominated by rich white male owners. Mike Tyson burns through $300 million. But how could a kid from the streets, no schooling, no role model once his mentor and trainer Cus D’Amato dies, survive in an arena where they can steal more from you with a pen than a gun, to paraphrase Woody Guthrie. Sports is such a socio-political territory meshed with Shakespearean characters.
RMF: How much of an influence has your wife Gilda been? I’m thinking specifically of the Jewish mobsters speaking Yiddish in the graphic novel Cowboys.
GP: Hilarious. It’s actually a black mobster using Yiddish phrases in Cowboys ‘cause these two older Jewish couple were an influence on him growing up. Suffice it to say while I was reading Captain America comics as a kid, Gilda was reading Balzac.
RMF: There are genuinely funny moments in almost all of your books. How important is humor to your work?
GP: I like to think I have a wry sense of humor. You can’t write hardboiled stories, tales of goofballs who invariably get themselves in deep trying to pull off a caper or genuinely bad people doing bad things, and wallow in that. Cops, EMTs, nurses and such invariably develop a gallows sense of humor what with dealing with dire situations and the aftermaths of violence. It’s a coping mechanism, a way our psyches have to create a defense to all this. I think that’s where this sort of humor springs in my work.
RMF: Our mutual friend, author Robert Ward (Red Baker, Four Kinds of Rain, Total Immunity) told me ask you about the first time Gilda made chicken for your whole family.
GP: Heh. Okay, here it is. I knew intellectually that you could prepare chicken without frying it. But you know, we’re black folks from the South. Hell, us and white folks from “down home” pretty much only eat chicken one way. Though it could be grilled like at a barbeque, so okay, that’s two ways. But I have to say when Gilda and I first started living together, I was taken aback when I came into the kitchen once and she was boiling a chicken. Truly a moment of cultural disconnect. But I am happy to say that today not only do I enjoy more roasted and grilled chicken, but chicken salad as well.
RMF: Music also plays a big part in many of your stories. What kind of music do you like and do you listen to music while you write? Do you like rap music?
GP: One of my Ivan Monk books is called Only the Wicked. The story takes my private eye to the Mississippi Delta in pursuit of a fabled lost album by Charlie Patton. Patton was a small man with a lion’s growl of a voice and strummed a mean guitar. A short story of mine is called ‟Can’t be Satisfied” from the Muddy Waters song. Various characters of mine will have a particular song playing on their car stereo or playing as they enter a club. Blues, jazz, rock, R&B, even a little classical now and then, it all infuses me and my work. I might even listen to some techno when I’m writing. I’ve got a couple of Yma Sumac CDs, theremin music … I’m fairly eclectic in my tastes. As to rap, I like some of it, but mostly find the songs about blinging, getting over and how many women you’ve bedded tiresome. Old school Public Enemy, Paris, Mos Def, now they have something to say.
RMF: Do you play an instrument yourself and do you think good writing has something in common with basic rhythm and harmony?
GP: I wish I could play an instrument. I’m tone deaf. But for sure, writing is analogous to music in terms of rhythm and harmony, pacing and contrast.
RMF: Your crime novels have been praised for their literary quality—is it hard to straddle that line and weave it into genre fiction? Or do you not consider yourself a genre writer? Who’s your target audience—or does that vary from book to book?
GP: I wish I knew who my target audience was/is. It’s pretty much anybody who buys my book. I am firmly rooted in genre. Having said that, I don’t take that to mean I try to write down or try to write with my nose in the air either. For instance, it’s certainly the case that socio-political issues undergird my Ivan Monk novels. That’s intentional. His first outing, Violent Spring, was set in the aftermath of the ’92 riots or civil unrest here in L.A. Conversely, in this recent ebook novella of mine, The Essex Man: 10 Seconds to Death, it was written as a bit of a riff, a homage to ‘70s era paperback vigilante series like The Destroyer, The Baroness, et al. This ebook phenomena has ushered in, among other things, an era some are calling New Pulp.
But even in The Essex Man, while it’s more of a romp than the Monk books—and I don’t think the latter are all doom and gloom—I’m cognizant of the role of women in that type of genre writing, while also slipping in some commentary (the PR for the book says the villain is in the Ayn Rand mold) hopefully in an entertaining way.
I’m looking to start another ebook in a couple of weeks and for this one, I again circled back to this new pulp business. A good deal of characters from the 1800s into the 1920s and ‘30s are now in public domain. In some cases you have writers penning new stories of characters who emerged from the penny dreadfuls, the Depression-era pulps and defunct comics companies like Bulldog Drummond and Miss Fury.
Anyway, this character, Arthur J. Raffles in 1893 or so, was created by E.W. Hornung, the brother-in-law of Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes. Raffles was of the lineage of the so-called gentlemen thieves such as Fantômas and Arsène Lupin. The idea that he was of the upper class and stole from the upper class fascinated me. I won’t be using Raffles in my story set in modern times, but will reference him as well as such matters as Wall Streeters ripping us off legally for untold sums and the Occupy Movement to tell my tale of my gentleman thief, McBleak.
RMF: What’s your family life like—is it hard to find time to write?
GP: Our kids are grown and have their own lives. Our son still lives at home but it’s not like when they were in high school and we had to coordinate getting one from her softball game and getting the other one to his basketball practice.
RMF: What’s your favorite place and time to write? Computer or typewriter?
GP: We have a converted den in our house. When we first moved there in the late ‘80s, it was my dad’s bedroom as it has its own bathroom off the area where the washer and dryer are. When my dad Dikes passed in ’93, it became the place we put most of our book cases and at some point an office Gilda and I shared. But as she mostly worked outside of the house, I boarded the space you could say. So I sit in front of my PC, a print of Edward Hopper’s “Early Sunday Morning, 1930” on the wall above my computer. There’s a photo of my dad sitting with a contemplative look on his face in his mechanic’s overalls looking down on me from the bookcase to the left of my desk. My favorite time to write is early. It used to be at night after getting home from, say, my community activist work or when I was a running a nonprofit, but I’m not that young anymore.
RMF: When brainstorming a mystery, do you come up with an ending and engineer backwards?
GP: I rarely have an ending in mind initially. In fact, my books and short stories usually begin due to some odd or interesting occurrence I’ve read or heard on the radio or TV. Warlord of Willow Ridge, my most recent novel, came about after I read an article in the L.A. Times about a housing sub-division that had fallen on hard times.
So I’ll make a note then that rattles around in my head with some other ideas. For instance, the aforementioned McBleak idea began as a notion of making him some sort of vigilante. But having The Essex Man already on tap for an ebook potential series, I wasn’t keen on riffing on the same beat twice, to use the music bit. But in the back of my head had been an idea for some time on writing the caper story from the point of view of the criminal—a la those wonderfully bent books Donald Westlake writing at Richard Stark wrote about his professional thief character, Parker.
But I also knew I didn’t want to try and imitate Westlake per se, but come at the idea from a different angle. That led me to think about Raffles, a one-percenter who steals from other one-percenters, given the one-percenters usually rip us off, what would motivate him to do this, and so on. Once I’ve figured out the character, I can then build out to construct the story. In this case, it’s a caper story, but will have mystery elements.
RMF: How important is narrative for you vs. character?
I think for me it works best when the internal drive, the want of your various characters have them set in motion external events, then I get to figure out how the other characters react to that. The serpent eating its own tail sort of construct.
GP: I struggle to maintain the balance in any given story. I suppose I bow more to narrative and plot than character. But I don’t want the characters there to simply serve the plot. I think for me it works best when the internal drive, the want of your various characters have them set in motion external events, then I get to figure out how the other characters react to that. The serpent eating its own tail sort of construct.
RMF: What L.A. landmarks do you think people should visit at least once?
GP: Hmmmm, I would say the HMS Bounty bar and grill on Wilshire, Hank’s this dive bar on Grand Avenue, downtown L.A., the Bradbury Building also in downtown L.A. (it’s a working office building and access is restricted, but I think there are organized tours), Raymond Chandler Square in Hollywood, Yamashiro’s and the Watts Towers. I could go deeper like where the shootout was between the cops and the L.A. branch of the Black Panthers in my old neighborhood on Broadway but there’s no plaque there commemorating the incident.
RMF: You’re a big guy and your fiction can be very violent—ever been in a fight?
GP: I have been in a few physical altercations way back, and was even shot at once – inside as house was being shot into. But I proudly keep my AARP card in my wallet and think pure thoughts these days.
RMF: This leads me to another observation: The action in your novels is non-stop; they’re never boring. Do you have any personal codes such as “never go three pages without either a sex scene or some sort of physical confrontation”?
GP: Funny you should ask me that. I like to believe I have the proper quotient of sex and/or violence appropriate to the story. In my two Martha Chainey books as an example, there’s action but no sex. She’s rather chaste. In Warlords, there are some tense situations, but they happen at different levels, more to show this aging outlaw, in his forties, is not the same man he was in his twenties and thirties. Lee Child in his Jack Reacher books has some rugged, drawn out scenes of violence, torture and what have you, but there’s never any swearing.
I was reading this review of Mad Men as the 6th season opener is tonight. The piece by Mary McNamara, the L.A. Times’ television critic, talked about the “internal metabolic rate of “Mad Men” remains doggedly slow…” You could spend five minutes of screen time watching Don Draper select a hat to wear and depending on how it’s handled, that can be interesting. In Warlord I have a scene where the antihero, O’Conner, is at the supermarket. He’s observed being somewhat perplexed by the various kinds of lettuce available to buy. Not a cat who went shopping a lot before.
Maybe that’s my new mantra, less wall-to-wall action and more contemplation and self-reflection.
RMF: You’re very politically and socially aware and it informs your fiction to some degree—that is, you’re very subtle about laying it between the lines. Is that something you’ve always done?
GP: I wasn’t always so subtle. More like in my early work the politics and social commentary was slathered in there. But I’m a genre writer, I want to entertain and have you turn the next page. My characters often have points-of-view different from mine and this should come out in what they say and do, but certainly not as polemics or long-winded boring speeches. My observations invariably make their way into my stories. But more it’s about can I do the sleight of hand, give the reader one thing to look at and layer in the other stuff. Show don’t tell, right?
RMF: What impact did growing up in South Central and working as a community organizer have on your writing?
GP: The South Central I grew up in was a working class area then, and somewhat now. Mr. Guy at the end of the block worked for the railroad, Mrs. Lewis was a public school teacher, and Mr. Caldwell next door worked for the Gas company. My dad was a Teamster and as I mentioned, my mom was a city librarian. It was the ghetto, and you had better step lightly around those cops out of the infamous 77th Division. Many a horror story was heard at my neighborhood barber shop about how brothers got jacked on the streets and in lock up by the cops. Those Boys in Blue were the boogiemen.
Matters of police abuse were my introduction to getting involved in community organizing. From that I gained experience in electoral campaigns, anti-apartheid work, Central American and Cuba solidarity efforts, renter’s rights, the gang truce post the ’92 riots, and so on. What this did was give me a variety of people I interacted with over a period of time, from the sincere to bullshit artists. This has helped greatly in drawing on those colorful folks in developing my characters … and plots.
RMF: How important is the theme of social justice to your work and how does that manifest itself in something like Citizen Kang?
GP: Interesting you should mention Citizen Kang. That was an online political thriller serial about California Congresswoman Cynthia Kang I wrote on the nation.com website leading up to the 2008 elections. The good congresswoman finds herself embroiled in a conspiracy that she seeks to unravel, providing she can stay alive. The classic thriller set-up. In the context of that, given she’s a lefty, she espouses specific beliefs about the role of the public sector. But again, I didn’t want her being preachy, though you know, with a politician, you have more license to have her pontificate on various issues than you would another type of character—thus a bit more latitude in that business about not using a story as a soap box. But really the point is social justice can only be achieved by righting wrongs. Wonder Woman does it with her fists and Lasso of Truth, Cynthia Kang has her brains and dedicated staff.
RMF: One of the best things about your writing is the street slang. How much of that do you pick up naturally, how much do research? Do you ever consult, say, The Urban Dictionary? Do you ever invent slang or colloquialisms?
Several years ago I figured out there was no way for me to keep up with the ever-changing argot of slang. I sort of pepper it in my work now, mostly keeping current by watching a few of those God-awful reality shows with self-centered twenty-somethings in it and listening to rap radio.
GP: Several years ago I figured out there was no way for me to keep up with the ever-changing argot of slang. I sort of pepper it in my work now, mostly keeping current by watching a few of those God-awful reality shows with self-centered twenty-somethings in it and listening to rap radio. Or I actually enjoy this send-up show about all that, a sitcom on BET called The Real Husbands of Hollywood that the comedian Kevin Hart is in and created. He makes up his own slang and so do I. I think it also helps I routinely read a few comics and all things pop culture. Sites like comicbookreasources.com so keep up with my geekdom side regarding current geek and nerd terms. And no, I don’t use Urban Dictionary. I need to hear the slang coming out of somebody’s mouth.
RMF: You broke into the graphic novel realm with Angel Town, Cowboys, Pulp—among other titles. How does that collaborative process work? Do you start with just an outline or a completed novel?
GP: I actually wrote two mini-series for Oni Comics, Shot Callerz and Midnight Mover prior to Angeltown. The process is I pitch an editor, usually with a one or two page outline of what the idea is. They usually reject it, but occasionally they like it. Invariably there’s tweaking and re-writing of the idea. Then if it can move up the food chain and get approved, you and your editor discuss possible artists for the graphic novel, mini-series, or ongoing series (well, I’ve yet to get one of those). I write a full script, that is I describe the visuals for each panel on the page, the sequentials, and the words in the captions and dialogue balloons that go with each panel. The script is edited by the editor, more re-writes, then off to the artist. The artist is often the penciler and sometimes adjustments are made when the penciled pages get back. But then someone has to ink the pencils, a letterer letters the book, then someone else colors it or maybe puts in grey tones. For a semi-disposable art form, a lot of assembly-line work goes into making comics.
Which gives comics a kind of yakuza-like status. It’s low brow, guttural, yet all this attention is paid, often times quite lovingly, to make the product as dynamic as possible. The ones in “the life” take it very seriously, yet also know how it’s seen as this goofball juvenile pursuit by those outside the field of fans and creators.
RMF: Your series characters include Martha Chainey and Ivan Monk. What goes into the creation of a sustainable character of that type? Do you have a particular favorite series—either yours or someone else’s?
GP: A sustainable character, or in Hollywoodese, a franchise character, has a bit of mystery to them. There are spelled out incidents in their background, as well as to give them a touch of mythic quality, there maybe a few gaps on their biography. Times when they simply disappeared or were wandering. They also, at least in crime and mystery fiction, better be able to take a licking and keep on ticking. In the old days, private eyes like Mike Hammer could get the crap beat of out them, shot and stabbed and dropped off a building, and after a few days of bed rest and orange juice, they’d be good to go. Fortunately nowadays, once some physical or psychological trauma happens to your hero, there’s more realism. Those incidents tend to reverberate in their lives as they go forward.
Spenser and Hawk from the Robert Parker books are series characters I’ve enjoyed. Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op (an unnamed private detective for the Continental Detective Agency out of San Francisco) is another. Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski and the aforementioned Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson are characters I’ve stuck with as well. There’s also Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer books. Parker, the professional thief in the Westlake books, is another character whose capers I always enjoy reading.
RMF: Please talk about Orange County Noir and how that came about. Will there be another volume?
GP: As I wrote in part in my intro to the anthology: “… beyond being a GOP stronghold, Orange County brings to mind McMansion housing tracts, massive shopping centers with their own zip codes where pilates classes are run like boot camp and real estate values are discussed at your weekly colonic, and ice cream parlors on Main Street, U.S.A. exist side-by-side with pho shops and taquerias.” How could this not be an ideal setting for noir stories of what goes on once the fireworks have died out over Disneyland and conjuring up what might wash up on one of the OC’s (and I learned that natives do not call it The OC) 42 miles of uninterrupted beaches?
I would love to do an Orange County Noir 2 but no such offer has been forthcoming from the publisher though I know the first volume did well.
RMF: Can you talk about the influence your father has had on your work, including Freedom’s Flight?
GP: Like a lot of WWII vets, my dad wasn’t all that expansive about his experiences there. But every now and then he’d tell me some story, like how when the soldiers would come out of the jungle from a patrol, they take off their shirts and stand in a circle using their lit cigarette to burn leaches and other bugs off each other’s backs. Or how this doctor on the ship going overseas noticed how he walked funny and did an operation on the water to remove the bones from his two small toes relieving the pain. These are great asides you can only get from someone who had been there. So yeah, him and his two brothers, also in the service, definitely influenced the desire to write Freedom’s Fight.
I’d also hear stories my dad and others would tell sitting around the kitchen table playing dominoes with his friends, often vets themselves, having a beer and not just talking about army experiences. But what it was like going to the nightclubs on Central Avenue, the Stem, the hub of black L.A. back in the day. Those stories came alive for me and I wove them into the Monk books.
RMF: Please talk about your latest project, Midnight Mover.
GP: Midnight Mover is a webseries project that grew out of that comics mini-series I previously mentioned. It’s about Danny Shaw, an Afghan war vet, returned home, listless, quietly suffering PTSD. He becomes a chauffeur and bodyguard for aging porn stars trading on their minor fame running an escort service. With a set-up like that, you know there’s only noir weirdness to ensue.
RMF: Are you ever tempted to genre jump and write something completely out of your wheelhouse?
GP: There’s some “genre creep” that shows up in my short stories. Those Twilight Zones have certainly affected me and there’s a few times I’ve ventured into TZ territory in some of my stories. As I mentioned, I write in the new pulp arena and invariably science fiction elements find their way into your work when you’re writing the adventures of larger-than-life heroes like the Spider (more of an antihero actually) and Richard Henry Benson, The Avenger. I would, though, like to tackle a “straight” science fiction novel one of these days.
RMF: Any books that you re-read again and again?
GP: No, I don’t re-read books. I hang onto them. I often look through a novel I’ve read and re-read specific passages, but not the whole book. Having said that, I have lately been yearning to re-read some Dickens so I might get around to that.
RMF: What’s on your nightstand queue right now? Do you read more than one book at a time?
GP: I’m a plodding reader. Long ago, I used to read more than one book at once, but I stick to one book at a time these days. I’m currently reading The Black Count by Tom Reiss. It’s an enthralling nonfiction book about the father of Alexandre Dumas, Alex Dumas. Son of a slave and a marquis, this black man goes on to become a general in Napoleon’s army. Like out of one of his son’s novels. A fascinating look at race and race relations in France at the time as well.
RMF: What are ten books Gary Phillips thinks everyone should read?
GP: In no particular order: Red Harvest and the Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett, Native Son by Richard Wright, The Handmaiden’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, The Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James, Writing in an Age of Silence by Sara Paretsky, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, The Goodbye Look by Ross Macdonald, Shadow and Act (collected short stories) by Ralph Ellison, and City of Quartz by Mike Davis.
RMF: What advice do you have for writers?
GP: Write … then stop and think about what you wrote … then re-write. Keep doing that over and over.