Brought up in the Presbyterian background in Belfast, Phil wanted to be a footballer – he played at a high amateur level throughout his twenties. Meanwhile, he worked for a consultancy, leaving after two years in favour of community development work.
“I worked in that for about 7 years, and taught myself to be a designer. I made enough in graphic design to travel. The design propelled me towards film.”
He has lived in Edinburgh, then South Africa, where he wrote a screenplay. Back in Belfast, he made a short film, Even Gods, which won awards at the Belfast, Galway and Cork film festivals, and was shortlisted for the best script at the Irish Screenwriting Awards in 2012.
“The first four festivals had rejected it, but after the awards, 25 countries wanted it.”
His feature, The Good Man was released in 2014.
“I’ve made a few more shorts, and last year made a short documentary for the BBC. But my first love is books. Once I got into film, I knew I would end up writing fiction.”
Who is Phil Harrison
Date of birth: 1975 in Belfast.
Education: Belfast Royal Academy: Edinburgh University for a year, completed at University of Ulster; Business and Economics. Queens University: MA in Theology and Literature.
Home: East Belfast. Moved back from New York 2 1/12 years ago. “I feel very settled here, though I still travel a lot.”
Family: Parents – brothers and sisters mostly living in England.
The Day Job: Creative designer and writer.
In Another Life: “I’d have played football for Liverpool.”
Favourite Writers: Henry James, Coetzee, Flannery O’Connor, Adam Phillips, John Berger, Annie Dillard.
Second Novel: “I’m working on it, and am about half way through. It’s a family drama.”
Top Tip: Read. If someone told me I could either write or read, but not both, I would pick reading. I’ve learned everything about writing through reading.
The Debut: The First Day. Fleet: €16.99. Kindle: €7.93
Samuel Orr, a family man, is a Presbyterian Minister in Belfast when he starts a passionate affair with Anna, a young Beckett Scholar. Scandal breaks when she becomes pregnant and the fallout is seismic.
The Verdict: Hugely impressive. A finely written tale which is original, compulsive, and at times chilling.
Published in The Irish Examiner on June 27th
© Sue Leonard. 2017