Phyllis is one of my most supportive buddies, she hasn't missed an RA - Friday since I started the event and she is also often interested in my posts about books and period drama. From a fond reader she has recently turned into a devoted blogger herself with PHYLLY'S FAVES. I'm glad to let you know more about her, her life and her interests. If you read through her interview and leave your comment and e-mail address, you'll have the chance to win the book she's giving away: a brand new copy of Mrs Gaskell's  "Cousin Phillis" ,  a collection of short stories. The giveaway is open worldwide, the winner will be announced on Monday 14th.

So Phyllis, just to have a start, tell us something about yourself.
I am a Library-Technician who lives in a very small gold mining district, at the western edge of the second-largest province of Canada – Ontario. It is quite a long journey to the nearest city and there are no bookstores here -- very little shopping at all, but the natural beauty of the area compensates for this lack. You can drive for hours and see nothing but trees, lakes, rocks and more of the same. Watch out for wildlife as you drive – we have plenty of moose, deer, wolves, black bears, and unfortunately, skunks! You will also pass by many fishing camps along the way, as tourism is one of the other main industries here.
I was born here and have lived here all my life, except for a few years when I lived in a city in southern Ontario to complete my education. My husband and I were high school sweethearts so when I was finished school I moved back home, got married, and started a family. Both my daughter and son are now in University, one in southern Ontario, and the other in England. In between having a family I have worked in at a mine, a Public Library, an elementary school with two libraries in adjoining towns, a newspaper, a High School library and finally, in an elementary school library (in a different town)

(Phyllis is fond of frogs, so she always does a Froggy Theme for a week every spring)

 As a library technician books are your job. But are they also something you love? What kind of reader are you?
I have always loved books and can usually be found reading something – if there’s nothing to read around me I am not above reading cereal boxes (in French – just for the challenge!) I sunburn easily so my summers as a child consisted of me getting massively sunburned at the beginning of the season and then spending the rest of the summer inside reading until the sun lost its intensity in the latter part of the afternoon, when I would emerge again to commune with nature.
I don’t read books as much as I used to, I did tend to watch a bit too much television, but now I am more to be found on the computer reading blogs or watching online shows that aren’t available in Canada.

Have you got a very special book on your bedside table? One you love to re-read from while to while?
Right now I am reading "Cousin Phillis", a collection of short stories by my new favourite author, Elizabeth Gaskell. I am enjoying it very much although it is somewhat melodramatic, and although I try not to, each story has brought me to tears. It starts with her earliest short stories and ends with her last one, so it is nice to see the progression of her talent.
I recently purchased Gaskell’s “Wives and Daughters” but as it is a much weightier tome, I am saving it for my summer holidays. I am very fond of her “North and South” and I do return to it quite often to re-read sections.

I recently listened to the audio book “Venetia” by Georgette Heyer, read by Richard Armitage. Audio books are a new experience for me but as I was listening to such a wonderful performer, I will definitely want to hear more of the same!

I had read quite a few of Georgette Heyer’s books in my youth, so it was a real treat to revisit that author.

Watching online shows ... this is something which sounds extremely familiar ... reading blogs and writing blogs ... yes! It takes time but what pleasant hobbies! I just love them all. What are your favourite TV shows?
Hmmm! I like so many…and many different kinds, but I don’t really follow any faithfully except MI-5 (or Spooks) which I was a fan of before Richard Armitage became a part of it. The show in North America has not caught up with Season 7 (where he made his appearance) yet. So I had to watch the last 2 seasons online! (I also bought the DVD!)

I enjoy humourous programs – witty shows like “Frasier”, crazy shows like “The Office”, and political satire -- of which Canada’s “Rick Mercer Report” is my absolute favourite!

I love to watch movies, new or old. I used to wish I could watch all the Oscar winning movies since the beginning of Hollywood. Now I know that the ones that win the Oscar are not always the best ones! My favourite genre is historical fiction so I really enjoy a good period drama. I also love romances, but my favourite would be a romantic comedy. Critics like to put them down, but a good rom-com is just the best medicine for me!

I like documentaries, news shows, really anything topical that strikes my fancy – I was told by my Reference teacher that a good Reference Librarian should have a “garbage mind” – meaning she should know a bit about everything so that when someone asks about something it will be easier to understand what they are talking about. I have always been interested in almost anything, but right now my interests seem to be pretty focused on a certain actor!

 As for blogging, what do you think are the pros of this online activity? What do you most like about it?
I certainly like reading all the blogs that I frequent. It is a wonderful way to meet people around the world who are interested in the same things. I have met some wonderful people, like yourself Maria Grazia, who inspire me to read more, think more and do more of the creative things I enjoy! I guess I started my own Blog because I have always wanted to write something, and I suppose I felt I needed to explain my fascination with (that certain actor) to myself as well as to anyone else who might be interested.

What do you usually blog about?
My Blog is called Phylly’s Faves so it is pretty open-ended to be about anything that I like. But I am using it as a framework to explain why I am so enamoured with Richard Armitage – all my interests seem to have pointed toward my fascination with him.

Since you mentioned RA a few times, I guess you found my blog searching the Net for news about him, then. Do you mind telling us the story of how everything started for you? You know you’ll find sympathy in me and so many of my readers!
Well, it’s a familiar story all right! As I said, I love period dramas and I first saw North and South televised on a public television channel in Canada probably in the Fall of 2006. I enjoyed it immensely and wished I could watch it again, but it wasn’t available on DVD for awhile. I remember scanning catalogues to see if the DVD was out yet and when it finally was available, (about a year later) I hinted broadly to my husband that it would make a great Christmas present. For some reason, I did not think I should just buy it myself! I didn’t do much online ordering then and I didn’t own very many DVDs, so it didn’t really occur to me to buy it for myself. When my “hinting” didn’t work for 2 Christmases I was a bit miffed, so I left the catalogue out with the DVD circled in red marker and pronounced that the only thing I wanted for my birthday was this DVD! (Sounds bossy, I know – but I was desperate!)

My husband joked that he had no idea what to get me for my birthday – just to see me LOSE it! Well, when I finally received my birthday prezzie I was so happy and relieved (this was March 2009) that I posted a picture of the cover on Facebook with the caption: Best. Present. Ever!
My children were a bit put out because they gave me a copy of Rick Mercer’s Book, which was the 2nd best present ever!

Long story short – I watched the DVD right away and loved it again! But, I didn’t rewatch it over and over again, I wasn’t obsessed…yet! At the end of the summer I knew my daughter was going to England to finish her university studies and I wanted her to watch North and South with me because she was going to be around the same area as Manchester (where the story takes place). For some reason, when I watched it for the third time, I was suddenly overcome with the magnitude of Richard Armitage’s performance and I went to the computer almost immediately after watching to Google his name. The more I read about him the more I liked him, the more performances I saw, the more impressed I became! I am now completely addicted and a basket case!

What is it that you most appreciate in him? Your favourite among his characters?
I admire the way he completely inhabits his characters. He creates a complete back story for himself so that he can become the persona he has invented. I know that the writer actually creates the character initially, but the way Richard plays a character, you can see what he is thinking and feeling without a line of dialogue being said! He reminds me of the old silent film stars in that way, but he doesn’t over play the role or become melodramatic, it is all very subtle and natural.

My favourite among his characters! That is somewhat difficult to decide because I love them all for different reasons. The other character besides John Thornton that I fell in love with immediately was his portrayal of John Standring in “Sparkhouse”. I loved his transformation from a shy, awkward, love-sick farmhand to well-groomed, self-assured and strong helpmate to his romantic interest.

I also loved him in the Vicar of Dibley as Harry Kennedy. I really wish someone would offer him a comedy role. I think he’d be great in a romantic comedy and I don’t think it would be a waste of his talent, as some would say. Richard has a way of elevating any role he does into something better than it was originally conceived. The perfect example of this was his portrayal of Guy of Gisborne in the BBC’s Robin Hood series.
Originally this character would have been just a two-dimensional bad guy, but as Richard played him Gisborne developed into a flawed and tormented soul who was willing to change for the love of a good woman (Maid Marian). As soon as the writers realized what a talent they had unleashed they began to write better storylines for him, until he eventually outshone Robin Hood’s character completely!

You said your daughter is studying in England. Have you been there yourself? Would you like to go? Which places would you like to visit?
I have always wanted to visit England! My ancestors are from the British Isles; my mother’s father was the most recent immigrant. He came to Canada from London in the early part of the last century. My parents visited twice, but I have never been there. However, my husband and I are planning to go in July for three weeks! We are very excited about it.

There are so many places I’d like to see, and I doubt if I’ll be able to do it all in one trip, but we’ll do our best to see as much as possible. I’m very excited to see Northern England (which I have never been as interested in before reading North and South). Since I love history, visiting lots of castles, cathedrals and old homes will definitely be on the list. I will be happy to have a pint in a traditional English pub; hopefully there will be a sing-along! If I can scope out some of the locations of

North and South or the Vicar of Dibley, that would be a plus! I would like to visit Elizabeth Gaskell’s home in Manchester. I must go to Liverpool and immerse myself in some Beatlemania. I want to see Bath (is there still a Pump Room?), Brighton Beach, the White Cliffs of Dover, Stonehenge…do I have enough time to do it all?

 What are the things you most like doing?
I am a music lover and have very eclectic tastes there too. I enjoy all types of music, especially ones with good harmony, but the lyrics of a song are very important to me as well, so there are a few songs that I cannot like because of the lyrics alone. I have always wanted to learn to play the piano and recently my husband and I signed up for adult piano lessons! It has been quite challenging but very enjoyable as well. I love to sing and have participated in our church choir for many years. I have also discovered the joy of karaoke singing, and even have my own machine with quite a large collection of music!
(Speaking of music, I should mention how much I love the soundtrack to North and South -- just another reason why this miniseries is so marvellous.)
I love my job, especially when I can share my love of special books with students. Reading picture books, novels, or poetry aloud to a class is always fun and it is especially wonderful on those rare occasions when my performance elicits spontaneous applause! It is also a joy when I recommend a book to someone and they return to tell me how much they enjoyed it. I imagine you get that pleasure often yourself Maria Grazia, even from your Blog!

I also love my home away from home (only 5 minutes away) at our cottage on the lake. With fewer technological distractions as the sun is our main power source, I can get a lot more reading done. There is a lovely sandy beach where I love to swim (when the lake warms up), and we seem to do more entertaining of friends and family in the summertime.

(Phyllis wishes she had a Guy of Gisborne action figure to add to this scene!)

I have many interests but mostly I love to laugh, listen to music and sing -- and sometimes I do all three at once!

You’ve decided to give our readers and commenters the possibility to enter a giveaway of one of your favourite books. Can you explain the reasons for your choice?
Since I am enjoying “Cousin Phillis” right now, and my name is the same (but spelled slightly differently), I thought this title might be a suitable choice. I think you might have quite a few followers who enjoy Gaskell’s novels, but they may not be familiar with her short stories. The introduction to the book also has a very good discussion about the history of short story writing. Apparently short stories used to be frowned upon by the upper classes until people like Gaskell and Dickens began writing especially for the middle and upper classes. (That was news to me!)


So, now, dear readers and friends,  it's your turn. Leave a comment for Phyllis, don't forget to add your e-mail address and ... come back on Monday 14th to check who the winner of this giveaway is.


mulubinba said...

@phyllis, thanks so much for allowing us a glimpse into your life! I found myself saying "me too" when you describe many of your interests and favourite things.

@Maria, thanks so much for giving us these wonderful interviews!!

Unknown said...

It's funny to me that I'm taking a break from moving, and I moved TONS of books today, and the featured blogger on your site, Maria, is a librarian! LOL! Phyllis, it is so nice to "meet" you! Being a librarian was one of the first career choices I remember considering as a child...never happened though (not yet, anyway!).

I really hope I get the chance to see Sparkhouse someday - to my knowledge it's never aired in the US and isn't available on region 1 DVD. *sigh*

ruthellenanderson (at) gmail (dot) com

Phylly3 said...

Hi mulubinba -- I know we have a lot in common -- that's what attracted me to your blog in the first place!
@Ruth -- I watched Sparkhouse online on Youtube. I've seen it twice now, the second time I found a better version. (The first time I saw a version that cut out quite a few scenes.) But either way, Richard's performance is a standout.

Nat at RA FanBlog said...

Phyllis, so you're a librarian? We've been friends for a while, yet I never stopped to ask what you do for a living! :)

Thanks again MG, for another great interview. These are my favorite posts you feature... even more than RA Friday, which is saying something! I love getting to know the other bloggers better.

Maria Grazia said...

@Nat, Mulubinba, Ruth
I'm glad you love this series of guest posts/interviews. It's such a pleasure to get to know so many people all around the world sharing my interests! I just wanted to let anyone know how lucky I am. Here's why "My blogger buddies".
Thanks to Phyllis and all the others who accepted to be my guests!
P.S. Sunday June 6th :Looking forward to lots of new gorgeous photos of the man in a tux!

buddyt said...

I very interesting interview.

The first thought I had reading where Phyllis lived and her description of the country is that she would be able to write a very entertaining book about small town life, perhaps something in the form of a daily dairy !

Come on give it a try !

I might add that librarians are one of my favourite people.
When I was young my local librarian was the one who introduced me to so many great authors. And even when I was young and only allowed to draw books from the childrens side , she would often sneak me books from the adult side that she thought I would enjoy.

Thanks for the giveaway and for opening it up to worldwide entries.

I have not read any of Gaskell's short stories so I would like to get my hands on this.

Carol T (International)

buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

Unknown said...

Well Phyllys, while reading your lovely interview I kept thinking "me too" just as Mulubinba did! As a fellow librarian, I couldn't but giggle at your Nancy Pearl action figure :) mine is in better company, though: her mates are Little Snape and Little Guy! ;)

tyme_4_t said...

Thank you MG & Phylly! Fantastic feature & interview!
So wonderful to get to know more "kindred spirits" out in this blogsphere world.

Keep up the great work both of you!

Charleybrown said...

It's great reading your little chat! I should have my cup of tea ready to sit down and enjoy this "cyberspace get-together"! I like to imagine that we're all sitting down at a café as we get to eavesdrop on your conversation :) The only question is where is this online café - Italy or Northern Ontario? Great learning more about you Phylly! Thanks Maria Gracia!

tyme_4_t said...

forgot my email...

Avalon said...

Maria, love your interview.
Phyllis, "You can drive for hours and see nothing but trees, lakes, rocks and more of the same", sounds wonderful, so when can I come and visit? Lol, this is my kind of place. I could be a hermit if permitted. Since you sunburn easily, it would be thoughtless of me to ask you to visit me the South, lol the sun is scorching hot by 10am here and the humidity almost unbearable.
You sound similar to me as I purchase many dvds (movies and series) not available in the USA. I especially enjoy Spooks and The Rez which is a Canadian series (alone with North of 60).
Interesting interview and before I close I would to add that I like your Harry Potter figure, as you know we have a house-full of Potter and Narnia fans.
My questions to you - Have you ever attended any of my aboriginal cousins's pow wows in Canada? Do you know anyone with intriguing tales of Bigfoot? Lol, my oldest swears Sasquatch resides in the Canadian wilderness. And lastly, do you enjoy fishing? I imagine there are countless beautiful and remote spots to fish near your home.
I would love to added to the give-a-way- avalonmedieval@yahoo.com

Fanny/iz4blue said...

Hi Maria, very nice interview, luv the pics. And Phyllis, I have the highest reverie for librarians. Its my favorite place to be and luv how with modern technology we can request books to be send to our local library from the county and even the state. (A feature at risk not too long ago with budgetcuts) Nice to hear a bit more of your background and your RA journey :)
I've been following your blog but will have to check out your froggie post as our family has a fondness for them too! PS.:Love your songchoice for your recent vid!
I've only read N&S of Gaskell but would love to read this collection of short stories.

Krist said...

I can still remember when my dad took me to the library for the first time when I was about five and which book we borrowed. Our local librarians weren't as nice as Phyllis seems to be, but me and my sisters were at the library still so often that one time our mom prohibited us to go there for a whole month. :)
But it didn't do much, years later we're bringing books back and forward with almost the same pace.


Claudia said...

I borrowed "Cousin Phillis" from the library on a cloudy and boring day last summer, and I couldn't know it'd become one of my most beloved books. I didn't know anytingh of the plot, so I totally enjoyed the reading. I was impressed by Paul's character since he was so deeply pictured and modernly smart. My only complaint is about the ending... but reading was so heavenly I can get over it!


Lúthien84 said...

Great interview as usual. Phyllis, I envy you cos you got the best job in the world. MG, please enter me for this giveaway.