Interview with Garden Valley native, Philip Arnold, author of Suicide Plunge

Philip Arnold lives in Garden Valley and is the author of the middle grade novel, Suicide Plunge.

How long have you been a teacher? And what subject do you teach?

I have taught for 27 years, from 3rd grade through 8th grade. I currently teach 6-7-8th grade History and English at Garden Valley School.

What inspired you to write this book?

I had written and published about a dozen stories for outdoor magazines and had come to a dead-end there, so I decided to write a book.

How much of an inspiration were your kids?

They were a tremendous inspiration. I gave each of my 8th grade English students a copy of the rough draft of my book. We went through it page by page to spot my errors and add elements that they thought would be relevant to young adults. It was a great project because they were so in to it. They would come in every day full of ideas and angles of how to make the book better. We would discuss any potential changes as a class, although I had the final say. We focused on making this a book that the reader could easily picture in their mind as they read it. That is an important aspect of the creative writing that I teach.

Do you have any other projects you’re working on right now?

I’d love to say I am writing the sequel to Suicide Plunge, but I have yet to come up with an idea that is as good as the original. So my next book is still evolving.
Is the Suicide Plunge an actual race? Or a race based loosely on a real horse race?

It is based loosely on the “Suicide Race” a native American horse race that is run every August in Omak, Washington.
I, being a horse gal, noticed you had a lot of, what seemed to be, firsthand knowledge of racing and ranch work. Do you have a lot of experience in these areas? Or did you just do your homework?

I know a little about horses and ranch life but that only went so far. Luckily for me, there are a lot of horse savvy people here in Garden Valley. I had two students and one teacher in particular I went to for any questions I had about horses.

You’ve written two endings to your story. Personally, I prefer the one that’s in the physical book to the Kindle version. Why did you choose to write the ending both ways and which do you prefer?

I had always intended to have the main character die in the end. But when my youngest daughter was typing up the draft and got to the end where he died, she hated it. So I gave in to her and wrote an alternate ending which she loved. Ironically, I ended up liking the alternate ending better too.
When you’re not writing, what would we find you doing?

I do love teaching which takes up most of my time. When I have spare time though, I like doing anything outdoors. I am very lucky to be able to live in Garden Valley where I hunt, fish, snowmobile, hike and just enjoy the outdoors.
Last book you read?

Wild Men, Wild Alaska: An Alaskan Guide’s Story by Robert McElveen

Favorite holiday ritual or tradition?

EVERY year on the day before Christmas break, I sit down with my students and we all watch the movie, “A Christmas Story.” I have yet to have a student who disliked it.