This post is the first in a series of interviews I’m conducting with authors. The idea is to ask the same five questions to a variety of authors and see what different kinds of responses are given. Hopefully it will offer authors the chance to introduce themselves and their work, and to also share some tips, hints, and experiences related to writing. Starting us off, my pal Richard Holliday!
How did you begin writing? Do you remember the first piece you wrote?
I sporadically wrote during high school as a means of passing time, but it wasn’t until 2010 that I finally took it “seriously”. At school, I never really felt I had a proper creative outlet – I’m not sporty, a particularly competent artist nor can I play a musical instrument more complex than a triangle – but getting into creative writing has definitely reassured me that my imagination does have an outlet.
There’s a little bit of backstory between my first actual piece and my first proper piece, though the latter would not exist without the former. In 2001 I was in English class studying the Titanic disaster; being a history buff on this subject for some years prior, I loved this topic and I wrote a piece of historical fiction based loosely around it (The story was ostensibly about the ship more than the people on it; a trait I probably maintain to this day). It was the longest thing I’d ever written (I was 11) at 10 sides of A4. I handed the story to my English teacher, who was a little confused but gave it the once-over – I got it back with an A+. I still have the original marked copy and Word document somewhere but I’m far too self-conscious (about the quality and, to a lesser extent, the niche subject matter) to read it, let alone post it online! But it was certainly a learning experience of unusual stead!
Later on I mulled over writing again and took part in National Novel Writing Month 2009 and churned out a 50,000 word manuscript for an alternate history adventure story that I want to revisit, but feel my skills at the moment won’t do justice to the story I want to tell; more successfully, the 2010 NaNoWriMo event was more successful, and I took a lot of lessons from the previous year and eventually produced my first proper finished novel Colonisation, which I’m redrafting. Definitely it was those two frenetic months of non-stop writing that cemented in my mind that I had an actual talent and should pursue it, though I’ve not done NaNoWriMo since 2011.
What have you written which makes you the most proud?
A few of my projects stand out to me as particularly good but one feels especially worthy at the time of writing, and that’s my post-apocalyptic short story The Cloud. This was my first venture into the genre and I really think I did a great job with it; I really enjoyed building up the ominous atmosphere of the dead city and showing the plight of the protagonist as he attempts to escape. I really love world-building and setting the scene in which a story takes place. My approach is to paint a picture in the reader’s mind as if they’re “watching” the story in a cinema. Plus, going back to The Cloud, I had some really great comments from some influential people who took the time to read my work and give me feedback which buoyed my self-esteem. The Cloud is the first piece of work I’ve deemed worthy of submission and the first short story of mine that I’d consider (and am planning) expanding into a full-blown novel.
It’s hard to really pin down specific works as I’m proud of all of my work, even if in certain circumstances the piece in question doesn’t quite execute the concept I was going for quite right as that puts that piece down as a valuable learning experience. I’d like to think that the work on my website shows a clear progression of my abilities as both a writer and in terms of grasping new concepts and running with them, to varying degrees of success. Certainly I have favourites, but if I can’t be proud of my work, why should people be proud to read it?
Do you have a particular process or approach when writing?
In terms of workflow, I’ve developed an amusingly-anachronistic approach. I work on my drafts in Scrivener, which is a wonderful program designed for writers that I feel helps a great deal in terms of getting out of the way when it comes to writing and supporting me when it comes to important structural stuff. Once I have a draft, I literally print it out and work on annotating a hard copy in red ink pen. It’s amazing how the “disconnect”, as it were, by reading the work on paper helps me to see it from a different angle and scribble all over it. One problem I’ve encountered so far, especially when it comes to my full-length novel Colonisation which I’ve been editing for ages this way, is getting the marked up pages back into a digital realm. I’m a pretty hard-going tech geek so, funnily enough, I find solving these problems part of the fun of writing!
Sometimes the hardest part is getting in the chair and putting one finger in front of the other. I usually try to aim for relatively low word count sessions fairly often, between 300-500 words a day. I’ve recently been trying to adopt the Pomodoro technique of work sessions broken up by very short breaks. Of course, when inspiration strikes at 4AM, this can be a little hard to manage so it’s best to just go with the inspirational flow while it lasts!
Do you have a current project you’re working on or promoting?
I’m keeping myself rather busy at the moment! There’s a couple of projects on the back burner as it were; I’m still editing my novel Colonisation that I released briefly in 2013 on the back of some useful feedback for an eventual re-release on Kindle. I’m working on an expanded release of my short story collection Rememories, which is a compilation of all of my short story work from 2013 in an edited and enhanced form. After seeing your success with releasing Resolutions on Smashwords I’m eager to take some lessons away when Rememories hits Smashwords in early 2015 and really get my work out there as best as possible. I’m also pretty active in writing some new short stories and I’m hoping to have at least a couple new entries to my list before the end of the year!
Interestingly, I’m also writing my first short film! My script is titled Doors and is a science-fiction/psychological horror set in the near future where one man is invited to test a new piece of wearable technology. Unfortunately, some of the side-effects are agonising visions that only he can see… until they transcend into reality itself. I know a couple of independent filmmakers as friends and they’re mentoring me on the script side of things and are also looking to put Doors into production sometime in 2015. I’ve already had some good feedback on the script so far and it’s a really cool way of developing as a really versatile writer.
What do you hope to achieve with your writing?
I’d like to continue developing my skills with my writing; I really do believe it’s a journey of continual improvement. Definitely, part of the journey of being a great writer is being a great reader and if I get to experience some really good work I otherwise wouldn’t have then that’s a success. Generally, I want to give people some good stories to get involved in and care about first and foremost – what’s the point of doing this if no-one is enjoying it? In the medium term I want to work on building a network of fellow writers to get my work out there and get a profile. I’ve had a bit of an underlying goal that’ll tell me that I’m where I want to be: I’d like for one person to honestly say that I am their favourite writer. That may sound egocentric but it would be incredibly awesome if that was the case!
Richard Holliday is a writer from South London. His main areas are epic space operas, gritty cyberpunk and atmospheric post-apocalyptic. A fan of an eclectic mix of 70s prog-rock concept albums, naff 80s Doctor Who and fizzy drinks. He’s currently embarking on an English Literature and Creative Writing degree with the Open University.
Website – http://richardholliday.co.uk/
Facebook – http://facebook.com/richardhollidayauthor
Twitter – http://twitter.com/rjpholliday