Phillip Vega, author of Last Exit to Montauk

What made you decide to sit down and actually start writing this book?

Sitting down and writing a book was never on my radar. It just happened. In the latter part of a rainy August 2015 afternoon, after putting away the groceries, my wife turned in for a nap with the pups, so I sat down and flipped on the TV. Nothing caught my attention, which is amazing with all the channels we have, so I turned on my iPad, opened the Pages app, and something inside me “clicked.”

I suddenly found myself typing away. An hour or so passed and I was staring down at the first three chapters of my debut novel, Last Exit to Montauk.

From there, things just took off. The floodgates opened, and six weeks later, I had just under 800 pages written. It was like an obsession. I had to write and finish this tale that was playing out in my mind’s eye, like a movie.

Thankfully, I have a terrific editor and publisher, Janet Fix at thewordverve, who helped me “cut the fat” and focus on the heart of the story.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

I love this question! I can’t remember who said it, or where I heard it, but it’s the perfect answer to this question. “Simple. Get your butt in the seat and start writing, even if it’s for yourself.” It’s the best advice I either read or heard.

The second piece of advice is the same advice my editor/publisher gave me, which still rings in my ears as I write this: “Is what you’re writing, driving the story forward? If not, then cut it.” Janet Fix is the best!

Can you share with readers a little bit about your latest book?

The title is Last Exit to Montauk. It’s written in the first person and is a coming-of-age romantic tale of young love, based in the 1980s and summertime on Long Island. Though the main characters are in their late teens, this is not classified as a new-adult novel, though it certainly could appeal to readers in that category.

Instead, I see it as a love story for any age. And my readership thus far attests to that, talking about memories of first love, or Long Island, or summertime anywhere, or the icons of the 1980s—or all of the above.

According to my readers, Last Exit to Montauk had them laughing and crying in the beat of just a few pages. It has also received endorsements from some heavy-hitters in the book industry, which is sweet.

Tell us more about your main character. What makes him or her unique?

I think the whole setting is unique, in that the story is told from the male POV, and he’s a Hispanic teen on Long Island, not the barrio or slums of the city, in the latter part of the 80s. His mother, Ma, is a successful pediatric surgeon, and the narrator falls in love with a beautiful, intelligent blond girl from his prep school. I really haven’t seen these types of characters in other stories.

Who is your favorite character in your book and why?

That’s like asking which child is my favorite, and I have four sons. I love them equally—my children and my characters. Even the protagonists. The main characters are easy to love. Ma is a gem, as are the main siblings. And who couldn’t love Belle, the family dog? B and the narrator both are a given in terms of favorites. The twins are terrific too.

Regarding the Ferguson clan, the protagonists, while challenging to write, I felt for them as well. There was something so painful about their stories. I just wanted to take Mary, Kyle’s sister, into my home, and have my wife and me provide her with a loving environment. I felt for her.

There are so many Marys out there, who are lost and need love, guidance, and encouragement. I think we all have a little Mary inside us; at least I do.

Who is your least favorite character and why?

The protagonist to the main character, Kyle Ferguson, was the most difficult. Over the years, growing up on Long Island in the ’70s and ’80s, as a Hispanic person “of color,” I’ve dealt with my fair share of Kyles over the years. So, he was a familiar character for me, yet I found it challenging to write about him.

That said, as an adult, I understand him and the Ferguson clan. I understand their pain, as I previously mentioned. He was in pain, and lashing out was how he chose to express himself. No one ever taught him how to properly deal with his emotions. Like Mary, he lacked proper love, guidance, and encouragement.

The 1980s were challenging years. People were beginning to gain access to more information. The information age was in its infancy. All of a sudden we went from 13 channels, and the TV going dark at 1 AM to a multi-channel 24-hour cycle explosion. You could now watch R-rated movies in your home. I can remember having Murder by Death playing on HBO at the same time it was playing in the local movie theaters.

If your book was made into a movie, who would you cast?

Another great question, and one that is at the top of mind at the moment, because I’d love to see this translated to the screen. As I mentioned, when writing Last Exit to Montauk, the novel played out in my mind like a movie.

The process felt as if I were merely transcribing the events as I witnessed them occurring through the eyes of the narrator. All the five senses became alive, as I typed away. This is still the way I’m experiencing my other stories as well.

  • The cast list:
  1. Narrator: TBD
  2. B: Doutzen Kroes (if she were in her late teens/early 20s), Melissa Benoist, Josephine Skriver, Gabriella Wilde, Ana Mulvoy Ten or an unknown actress.
  • Ma: Alice Braga, Karen Olivo, Selenis Leyva, or Adriana Barraza
  1. Older brother: Adam Rodriguez
  2. Jean-Paul: TBD
  3. Hannah: TBD
  • Vi: Renée Felice Smith
  • Kyle Ferguson: Stephen Dorff, Matt Shively
  1. Mary Ferguson: Margaret Qualley
  2. B’s mother: Robin Wright

What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?

(Spoiler Alert) The hardest part was the chapter, “Shattered.” I had such a visceral reaction as I wrote this chapter. Also, the chapter, “Our Last Goodbye.” Again, I had visceral reactions.

What is your next project?

Since starting this new chapter in my life, writer/author, the dam has burst. Ideas have flooded my senses, and I now have a backlog of sixteen other stories in various stages. They just hit me. I’ll be sitting somewhere, and a story will start playing in my mind.

Just the other day, as I was driving to Orlando for vacation, my latest story just came to me and stayed with me throughout the vacation. If I tried lying down, the story would play. I had no choice but to take out the iPad and start typing.

I’ve never experienced this before and am still trying to manage it. I don’t know how authors like Stephen King, James Patterson, and JK Rowling do it. My hope is my story ideas will keep on coming, and I’ll keep on typing.

Who is your favorite fictional character and why?

Joshua, from the novel, Joshua: A Parable for Today, written by Joseph F. Girzone. It’s one of my favorite books, and one I can pick up anytime and enjoy. I love the character. It’s a modern tale of Jesus, and how people would react to him today. It’s a simple, yet beautiful tale of love.

My second favorite is Jack Ryan, because, well…he’s Jack Ryan!

My third is a current favorite, Jack Reacher. The one from the novels, not the Tom Cruise version, which is okay, but he doesn’t have the gravitas of Jack Reacher. In the novels, he’s more Chris Hemsworth or Alexander Skarsgård than Tom Cruise.


Want to learn more and connect with Phillip?

Website | Facebook |Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon Author Page | SmashwordsBook Links

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