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Inspirational Indie Author Interview: Robin Phillips. Author Shines Light On History Through Books On Role-Playing Games

Inspirational Indie Author Interview: Robin Phillips. Author Shines Light on History Through Books on Role-Playing Games

My ALLi author guest this episode is Robin Phillips, who writes books about role-playing games and military history. It's a subject that has fascinated them since childhood. Robin, writing under the name of Russell Phillips enjoys writing about history, but not just the major events. They specialize in discovering and shining a light on little-known battles and turning points in history. They also use their self-publishing expertise to help other authors.

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Inspirational Indie Author Interview: Robin Phillips

On the Inspirational Indie Authors Podcast, @howard_lovy features Robin Phillips, who writes books on role-playing games and specializes in shining a light on little-known battles and turning points in history. #RPG Click To Tweet

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Inspirational Indie Author Interview: Robin Phillips. About the Author

Robin PhillipsRobin Phillips is an established indie author (writing under the pen name Russell Phillips). They run a successful author services business that has helped over 100 authors publish their books. They also write military history and RPG books, with a particular interest in unusual or less well-known actions. You can find him on his website, Mastodon, and Facebook.

About the Host

Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 35 years, and now amplifies the voices of independent author-publishers and works with authors as a developmental editor. Find Howard at howardlovy.comLinkedIn and Twitter.


If you’re a published indie author who would like to be interviewed by Howard for the Inspirational Indie Authors podcast, you need to be a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors.

Then contact Howard, including your membership number, explaining why you’re an inspirational indie author and what inspires you.

If you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization.

Howard Lovy: My guest this episode is Robin Phillips who writes books about role-playing games and military history. It's a subject that has fascinated them since they were a child. Robin, writing under the name of Russell Phillips, enjoys writing about history, but not just the major events, they specialize in discovering and shining a light on little-known battles and turning points in history.

I'll let Robin Phillips tell their story.

Robin Phillips: Hi, I'm Robin Phillips. I'm a military history author, although recently I've started writing RPG books as well, and I have one novel that I co-wrote with a friend.

About five years ago, I started an author services business called Author Help, which is my main job now.

Howard Lovy: When Robin was growing up, they were a voracious reader.

Robin Phillips: Yeah, I grew up in South Yorkshire. I've always been a reader. I've been interested in military history for as long as I can remember. As a kid, my standard Saturday used to be that I would get on the bus to the local town, go to the library, take back the books I'd borrowed the previous week, get another set of books, and then there was a cafe in the library so I would go there for my lunch and start reading the first of the books I'd borrowed.

Howard Lovy: And Robin has been so interested in military history from a young age, they can't remember now why and how they became immersed in it.

Robin Phillips: I've been interested in it for so long that I can't remember when I first got interested.

I think, to be honest, I was born in 1970, and I suspect part of it was just that there was a lot of war films on the TV around that time. It's varied over the years. As a kid, I was really fascinated by the technology and over the years I've become more interested in the history and the people aspect, and how people react to things, and that sort of side of things.

Howard Lovy: It wasn't until later in life, in fact, when they were 52 years old last year, that they realized that they were autistic, which is characterized in part by obsession with one topic.

Robin Phillips: Looking back on it now, a lot of my childhood makes a lot more sense with that knowledge, but we had no idea at the time. When we started thinking that I might be autistic, I asked my wife what she thought my special interest might be, and she just looked at me and she's like, you've written a dozen books about military history, what do you think?

Howard Lovy: Robin's family did not have the money to pay for college, so they eventually found jobs repairing electronics and appliances, and that eventually led to opportunities to write for magazines.

Robin Phillips: I was writing articles rather than books. There's a specialized magazine for TV engineers, called Television, and I wrote some articles for them. That was my start, and then I started writing articles about military history for war games magazines. So, yeah, for a long time it was articles; it never occurred to me that I could write anything more than that.

Howard Lovy: Robin explains just what is meant by role-playing war games.

Robin Phillips: It's a pretty niche hobby. People look down on it and call it playing with toy soldiers, and there's an element of truth to that, but it's a more serious version of that.

It's something I started when I was about 10 or 12 years old, something like that. My brother-in-law gave me a book about this, and that's where I started. But yeah, it's using miniatures, so like model tanks, model infantrymen, that kind of thing. In a sense, it's like chess, and I don't mean to insult chess players, but it's more complicated. But role-playing games are, people sometimes use figures, but a lot of people don't, it's all in the description and what's known as theatre of the mind. Whereas, with war games, there's a heavy emphasis on the figures and exactly where units are in relation to each other.

Howard Lovy: From articles, it wasn't a big leap for Robin to begin writing books.

Robin Phillips: The novel that I co-wrote with a friend is an alternate history. That's a cold war turned hot sort of thing. So, it's set in 1982 and it's a {inaudible} to invade West Germany. But most of my books are, there's a few textbooks, and there's several histories about specific actions during the Second World War, and there's one about the Falklands War, that was my first one actually, and one about the Iranian Embassy Siege in 1980.

Howard Lovy: But Robin really enjoys shining a light on little known battles and heroes.

Robin Phillips: There was an atrocity during the Second World War at a Czech Village called Lidice, and I'd never heard of it. When I first heard of it, I'd been living in Stoke on Trent for probably about 10 years at that point. Stoke on Trent has a connection, and I knew nothing about it. I discovered it because I was at a local museum with my son, and somebody asked me if we'd like to see a film about it, and we said yeah, and she gave us a quick rundown of the atrocity and I thought, yep, I've heard of several like that, but the Lidice atrocity was particularly brutal. What surprised me, that I've never heard of, was that after it happened, the miners of Stoke on Trent and the surrounding area set up a campaign to raise money to rebuild the village, because the village had been completely obliterated. There was literally nothing left there. And they did this incredible thing, some of the miners gave a day's pay from every week's wage, and I was just like, why don't people know about this?

I went home and mentioned it to my wife and the first thing she said to me was, so you're going to write a book about that event?

I was like, yeah, I guess I have to. Things like that I find particularly interesting, either things that aren't generally well known, or if it is a more well-known thing, then unless I can bring to light something new then it's just. There were lots of books about things like the Normandy landings, and there's no point in me writing a new one unless I can add something. If I'm just regurgitating what's already there, then there's no interest in that.

Howard Lovy: After self-publishing his books for a number of years, Robin decided they knew enough to help other authors achieve the same thing.

Robin Phillips: In 2018, I wasn't happy in the day job, and we happened to be in a situation where we could afford for me to take a risk and start something like Author Help.

So, I left the day job, started Author Help, and basically by that point I'd been self-publishing for something like seven years, and I'd built up a lot of knowledge and I knew people who, you know, because you get to know editors, cover designers, people like that. So, I talked to them about potentially working as subcontractors to help with the things that I couldn't do myself, and yeah, we've gone from there and it's worked really well.

Howard Lovy: So, between their career writing books and helping other authors, Robin has achieved a goal that they say anybody can achieve if they put their mind to it.

Robin Phillips: When I first started writing my first one, I didn't know if I was going to actually complete it. I had no clue. I didn't know if I'd finished the thing. I started off thinking I'd go for a traditional publisher, and by the time it was finished, I'd been reading a lot about publishing options, and I'd decided that actually self-publishing looked like the one that suited me.

But I think the main thing is if you want to do it, then go for it, because if you don't try, then you are not going to get anything. If you get like halfway through and decide that it's not for you, then fine, now you know, but if you don't try, you'll never know.

Author: Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is a novelist, nonfiction author, developmental book editor, and journalist. He is also the news and podcast producer for the Alliance of Independent Authors. You can learn more about him at https://howardlovy.com/

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