Phoebe Fox

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Author Phoebe Fox has been a contributor and regular columnist for a number of national, regional, and local publications, including the Huffington Post, Elite Daily, and She Knows. A former actor on stage and screen, Phoebe has been suspended from wires as a mall fairy; was accidentally concussed by a blank gun; and hosted a short-lived game show. She has been a relationship columnist; a movie, theater, and book reviewer; and a radio personality, and is a close observer of relationships in the wild. She currently lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two excellent dogs.

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Phoebe Fox Hi, John! Thanks for the question. YOU HAVE UNMASKED ME. (Wasn't that easy?) Yes, Phoebe is my pen name, although it's an open secret rather than one …moreHi, John! Thanks for the question. YOU HAVE UNMASKED ME. (Wasn't that easy?) Yes, Phoebe is my pen name, although it's an open secret rather than one I'm rigid about hiding.

I opted to use a pseudonym because I'm also a book editor, working with authors of many different genres, and I felt some distinction between my careers would keep from muddying the waters.

As it happens, using a pen name comes with an upside and a downside: It's nice to have a built-in separation between the two careers, but it does lend itself to some confusion--for instance, I was recently a featured author at the Texas Book Festival in my hometown of Austin, and there was plenty of confusion among festival staff, who have known me for years. :)

Phoebe Fox was a natural fit, though--as a child, my nickname was Fifi the Fox, and I knew I'd answer to something that sounded so much like it.

You asked why so many authors use a pseudonym--I think for certain genres it's de rigueur, like romance and often erotica. In other instances authors write in more than one genre or style, or are extremely prolific (Nora Roberts's J. D. Robb identity, or Stephen King's Richard Bachman, etc.), and it's useful to separate the types of stories they write to better help with reader expectations.

I find this to be partly the case for me too--I also write upmarket women's fiction under another name, so that readers expecting the light, funny reads I write as Phoebe aren't disappointed by something deeper and a bit darker.

Long answer...Good question! Do you also use a pen name in your writing?(less)
Phoebe Fox Hi, Cintia. Thanks for your note. It's a great question, and one I've recently been talking to author friends about--partly because (and I'm guessing …moreHi, Cintia. Thanks for your note. It's a great question, and one I've recently been talking to author friends about--partly because (and I'm guessing you've heard this a lot if you've been talking to your own writer friends about it) this is an unfortunately cyclical state for most of us creative types. I know that I seem to go between confidence and pleasure in my writing, to loss of faith and drive with depressing regularity.

So I have been working on ways to address this, and here's what I've come up with recently, if it's of any use to you too.

1. I have had LOTS of heartfelt conversations lately with a writer friend who hasn't yet found representation or been published, and she is losing heart. So we posed this question to ourselves: If someone told us right this minute that we'd never, ever be published (or published again, for those who have been), would we keep writing? "Of course!" we both said immediately. Because we don't do it to be published or make money (god knows...!). :) I did it for years before the "break" happened--I mean literally since I first learned to read and write--because it's part of me. I love to tell stories, and doing it helps me make sense of the world. If I never have another book published, I will keep writing and writing and writing. If you can say that too, maybe that's some comfort and motivation. It is for me when my confidence flags and I wonder whether each manuscript is worthwhile to anyone, or will find readers, or I will even get it finished.

2. I just watched a great documentary, related to that idea, about Colin Hay, former lead singer of Men at Work (eighties band). It's called Waiting for My Real Life to Begin, and it's a beautiful portrait of the artistic life and temperament, and of how--and why--you keep pushing forward even when you aren't getting the audience or acclaim you want. I am recommending this to every creative soul I know.

3. A multipublished author friend of mine once told me that what separated her from all her unpublished writers was only one thing: persistence. That really hit me--and inspired me. Persistence I can do. So I did it when I queried 112 agents (seriously) before I found mine; and when we submitted it to countless publishers, two separate times, over a period of years before I got published. I'm doing it again now, when I've decided to leave my publisher, not knowing what is next for me as a writer--but staying in the game. Persisting. I can't recommend that highly enough either. :)

4. This isn't a zero-sum game. Other people getting published--or not getting published--has nothing whatsoever to do with whether you do. Rather than other authors succeeding taking a piece of the pie and leaving less for you, in my view, I think it's other authors who help each of us: A rising tide lifts all boats. This is one of so many reasons that a community of author friends will be of the greatest benefit to you. They are not only support and friendship and understanding in an often isolating pursuit, but will be your greatest cheerleaders, and most wonderful network of connections. Perhaps one will introduce you to her agent, or write you a blurb for a book, or simply encourage you with her own story when you feel you will never, EVER get there (but refer back to #1 as to what "there" really is and isn't). Meanwhile our job is to learn our craft, read other authors (both for our own education and for supporting them too), keep writing and writing and writing, and getting better, and turning out the best story we can at every stage of our development. If you stay in the game and do all that, you WILL get where you want to go. You will.

I'm not going to tell you that you should learn to love your competition for making you better. Because screw that...we're human, and I get where you're coming from on it making you feel inadequate sometimes. :) But I will say that no one is really our competition. No one will tell the story you tell in the way that you tell it. They may tell their story, differently, and it may be freaking GREAT. Way better than what you can do. :D God knows many of my favorite authors make me feel like I write "See Spot Run" primers. But--please brace for cliché now--they WILL make you better. (Dammit.) And they will show you what you're striving for. And sometimes they will show you how far you've come. Or inspire you. Or entertain you. Or offer you an insight about life that you then bring to your own writing. We don't exist in a vacuum--someone will always, always be better than you. We don't have to be "the best" to be good enough. And good enough can often really reach a reader, touch them, change the way they look at their life. And if there are thousands of other authors out there trying to do the same thing? Well, that's okay too. There's nothing you can do about that...and there are millions of readers who will always be hungry for the right story at the right time that touches them--and that's the most subjective thing there is.

Finally, if the news about the industry and other authors is depressing you...I'd suggest not reading it. :) I don't mean that to sound facile. I had become deeply, deeply engaged in world events and politics these past two years, and while I indeed had a lot of knowledge about what was going on in the world, it mainly served only to depress me. So now I siphon in what I take in from the news, learning enough to know what's going on, basically, but making sure that it's a small part of my day, and that I leave it alone entirely when I'm feeling especially fragile. If publishing news is bringing you down...stop reading it.

Okay, this is already a freaking novel all on its own, but let me say a quick thing about your concern about not having ideas. I wonder whether you are second-guessing the ideas you have--shooting them down as worthless before you really give them a chance to take wing. Or if you are so afraid to fail, you don't start. Or if you pick your own ideas apart as "not good enough" before you actually sit and start to see what they are, write and let them develop. There's some incredibly trite cliché that I love about stomping out a seedling as it sprouts because you're angry that it isn't a fully formed flower. Let it sprout. See what it grows into. Or as I like to say, less elegantly, vomit it all up onto the page. First drafts are for that--for spinning out the idea and seeing where it takes you, how it develops. Later, as you edit and revise, you can assess its worth, but for now...just tell your story, Cintia. You are human and rich and full and complex and beautiful as we all are. You have stories...and we want to know them. <3

Good luck! Tell me how it goes.
Love,
Phoebe(less)
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More books by Phoebe Fox…

Why How I Met Your Mother broke my heart — and when I might forgive the writers for it

It’s been nearly two years since the final episode of How I Met Your Mother aired — my favorite show — and I still can’t watch the reruns.


For nine years, the primetime sitcom was nearly perfect. Original, creative and clever, with characters like dear friends, each episode was filled with truth, humor and heart. Truly, the show was a thing of genius.

Then, in the final episode, the creators negate Read more of this blog post »
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Published on November 04, 2015 18:36 Tags: barney, himym, how-i-met-your-mother, marshall-and-lily, spoilers

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A Little Bit of Grace by Phoebe Fox
"I learned about A Little Bit of Grace through - you guessed it - Melissa! In this case, she actually introduced me to the author via FB Messaging. So I immediately bought the book and got to it right away. The only potential problem was...what if I d" Read more of this review »
A Little Bit of Grace by Phoebe Fox
"Enjoyed this story and was pleasantly surprised it was partially set in Missouri! Grace shopped at the local Dierberg’s! "
Phoebe Fox and 1 other person liked Kate Rock's review of A Little Bit of Grace:
A Little Bit of Grace by Phoebe Fox
"My 5 star review coming soon! I adored this book."
A Little Bit of Grace by Phoebe Fox
"A beautiful, heartfelt, uplifting and funny story about a woman trying to escape the shackles of a recent divorce by jumping on a plane and heading south - toward strangers. This voice is warm, hopeful, a little fragile, and always funny, and the pag" Read more of this review »
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When Robins Appear by Densie Webb
When Robins Appear
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I've been a fan of Densie Webb's stories since her first, but this one is easily my favorite. Poignant and real, keenly observed and relatable, the book draws you deeply into a mother and daughter's lives as each one navigates her own relationship an ...more
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Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
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Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center
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I became a huge Katherine Center fan with her book HOW TO WALK AWAY and couldn't wait for this one. I love her heartfelt stories, relatable characters, and happy endings--she always leaves me with a sense of redemption and hope, which I find I need m ...more
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Helen Fielding
“It struck me as pretty ridiculous to be called Mr. Darcy and to stand on your own looking snooty at a party. It's like being called Heathcliff and insisting on spending the entire evening in the garden, shouting "Cathy" and banging your head against a tree.”
Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones's Diary

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“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
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