Phil M. Williams is an author, activist, blogger, and consultant. He lives in Central Pennsylvania with his wife, Denise, where he writes and tends his permaculture farm. He is the author of Fire the Landscaper, Against the Grain, Stone Lake, and co-author of Farmer Phil’s Permaculture. His new releases can be read for free at

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Q&A with the Author

1) Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I’ve taken a crooked path to get to this point. In 1997, I was a fresh-faced college graduate with a worthless degree in sociology, a mountain of student debt, and a torn ACL after four years of football. I was mowing lawns for a living. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was about to ride the biggest housing bubble the world had ever known in what would become the wealthiest area in the United States. Eight years later, my wife, Denise, and I were living in a 1.4-million-dollar estate on seven acres just thirty minutes outside of Washington, DC, but I was miserable.

I had started mowing lawns because I needed money, not because I enjoyed it. Even as the business blossomed into a full service landscape design and maintenance company, I was still doing it mostly for the money. I questioned the sustainability of the entire industry. What kind of person had I become? Was I making the world a better place, or was I just another materialistic fool with a McMansion? When I had an opportunity to sell my business and do what I really wanted to do with my life, I jumped at the chance.

I wanted to live a simple existence, grow my own food, live off the land, like Thoreau in Walden. After I sold my business, Denise and I moved to rural Pennsylvania. With my sudden surplus of time, I worked to turn our degraded six-acre hillside into a productive homestead. I was naive and had no practical skills. I had never even grown a tomato plant, much less butchered a chicken or kept bees. I went from skill to skill, project to project, failing and succeeding in varying degrees. I learned green building, beekeeping, organic gardening, animal husbandry, forestry, pond building, farming, and permaculture design.

My agrarian lifestyle afforded me idle time in the winter, so I started to write, for fun. I wrote for one reader, Denise, with no intention of publishing anything. That first winter, I wrote about our transition from the city to the countryside, from dependence to independence. I’m sure it was terrible, but Denise was kind enough to read it and to encourage me to write more. Since then, I’ve written four novels, a nonfiction book, and a children’s book. Two of the novels will be out in May.

2) Where and when did your writing journey begin?

I didn’t start writing until 2010. At first I wrote for fun, with no intention of publishing anything. My wife enjoyed my stories and encouraged me to write more. After a few years, my writing improved, and I decided to publish.

3) Who are your favorite authors and how have they influenced your writing?

I read a lot of nonfiction, which might seem strange for someone who writes mostly fiction, but I’m a huge proponent of fiction being accurate. The more I know about various topics, the more creative stories I can write.

I enjoy James Howard Kunstler’s work in fiction and nonfiction. His dystopian view of suburbia bleeds into my stories. As someone who worked in the landscape industry, I’ve seen the destruction first hand. Chris Martenson’s Crash Course had a major impact on my world view.

4) What does a typical day in your life look like? And how does your writing routine fit into your day?

It depends on the season. In the winter, I am 100% focused on my writing career. I will write first draft material for eight hours a day, and try to squeeze in some marketing time as well. In the growing season, when I’m busy on the farm, I’ll write in the mornings. After lunch, I’ll work outside until dark.

5) How did you come up with the idea for your novel?

Against the Grain started as a thought experiment. I had just finished my nonfiction book, Fire the Landscaper. A few chapters delved into cultural biases, herd behavior, and government propaganda. I found these topics fascinating, and it made me question whether our behavior and beliefs are really our own. We are inundated with cultural bias and propaganda from birth. I wondered what a person would be like if he wasn’t.

6) What do you think sets your novel apart from others current on the shelves?

Against the Grain challenges the legitimacy of authority, the morality of government, public schools, law enforcement, banking, and most importantly the reader. It does so, wrapped up in an engaging page turner.

“The intensity and emotion jammed between the pages of Against the Grain had my mind spinning, thinking outside the normal comfort zone. Never before have I been transported from that of mere sheep to independent thinker so easily. I take some serious influencing. But, this story swallowed me whole, and I didn’t put my kindle down until I finished. Late night!!”-Kindle reviewer

7) Which character in your book is your favorite and how much of yourself is reflected in that character?

George is a wise cracking, drug dealing, neat freak, foster kid that grew up in front of a television. I love this character because he’s funny and full of uncommon wisdom. George is a bit like my older brother, minus the drug dealing.

8) Which scenes in your book did you have the most fun writing?

I enjoyed writing the scenes where the protagonist, Matt, stands up to authority. It was fun to write both sides of the confrontations. I think we’ve all wanted to speak out at some point in our lives, but were too unsure or too scared to do so.

9) What do you hope for your readers to take away after reading your book?

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.-Mark Twain

I hope they start to question what they know for sure.

10) What are your hopes for this novel?

I hope to reach as many readers as possible.

11) What do you have in store next for your readers?

I have two novels that will be out in June. Initiation is about a high school football player that’s transformed after a hazing incident. Cesspool is an underdog story of a man and a girl against a corrupt police department. Like Against the Grain, both are page turners with a deeper meaning.


About the Book

Against the Grain
by Phil Williams

Publication Date: November 9, 2015
Genre: Contemporary / Coming of Age / Political


A tyrannical high school principal.
A young anarchist with nothing left to lose.
One way or another, this place is goin’ down.

Matt Moyer is an orphaned teen growing up on a primitive farm in the Pennsylvania coal region. He’s homeschooled by his eccentric and philosophical great-uncle, who’s a stickler for logic, reason, and intellectual honesty. Despite his uncle’s reverence for veracity, inconsistencies arise regarding the old man’s shady past and the teen’s parents.

Through a harrowing sequence of events, Matt is forced to attend a public school. The feral teen finds it difficult to cope with the hypocrisy, propaganda, and misinformation that adults and children so readily accept. Faced with the possibility of expulsion, arrest, and ostracism, he must make a choice. Will he choose the easy lie or the hard truth?

Adult language and content.


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Against the Grain E-Cover


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Phil M. Williams is an author, activist, blogger, and consultant. He lives in Central Pennsylvania with his wife, Denise, where he writes and tends his permaculture farm. He is the author of Fire the Landscaper, Against the Grain, Stone Lake, and co-author of Farmer Phil’s Permaculture. His new releases can be read for free at






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