Lunch Break Interviews
Author’s email email@example.com for question list.
Dan Holloway: Lunch Break Interview
I heard on the grapevine about this author, who not only wrote books, but recited them to audiences in pubs and other venues in the UK. Brave man I thought, risking being pelted with beer glasses. I tracked him down for a Lunch Break Interview and here is what he had to say.
Who are you? And what genre style do you write in.
I’m Dan and I don’t really write in a genre or style. Except that I don’t do blank or brutalist, what with having a show called The New Libertines that has an anti-brutalist manifesto. Except when I do.
I do have some series. Do series count as writing “in” a genre. I write dark psychological thrillers in the Hannibal Lecter vein set in Oxford University. And I write a dark urban fantasy/paranormal romance series called Black Heart High. I also write lyrical and postmodern literary fiction. I’m most at home performing, though, and when I perform it’s transgressive pieces. Usually a very quiet form of transgression, getting readers onside then hitting them in the solar plexus with a whisper, rather like Banana Yoshimoto.
You look familiar, have we met before? Where are you from?
You may be confusing me with “fat Ginsberg”. I’m a publicity hog. I spent most of the late nineties and early to mid noughties appearing on TV gameshows, from Countdown and Weakest Link to Mastermind (Hannibal Lecter novels were my specialist subject), so you may have seen me on a late night re-run on UK Gold. I also got recognized at a gig through a shop window once by a guy who’d come all the way fromBerlin– he spotted the red fishnet glove from my avie. Which is why I always wear it now when I’m performing.
Are you treating this interview like a psychological test and telling me what you think the reader will like to know?
I just said I write Lecter novels. Are you seriously suggesting you want me to treat this like you’re a census taker trying to test me?
No, it was the fishnet thingy that I just saw it in your avi. Man that’s weird, still I digress, next question.
With the discovery of a shyness pill, would you take it, or prefer a lager, wine or a spirit drink before a book signing/media interview?
A shyness pill is exactly what I could do with before gigging. I am a complete exhibitionist and will pretty much say and do anything if you put me near a microphone or a camera, so I could often do with reining back. When I read at Literary Death Match last year (http://vimeo.com/16145245) I prompted one judge to say (http://vimeo.com/16147944) “No one’s coming on my tits tonight”.
Do you only have one more book in you?
I always worry there might only be one more.
Why should anyone buy your book? Tell me about it, but don’t take all day, it’s only a Lunch Break remember. (Yawn)
Ha ha! I have no idea. The Company of Fellows is essentially a Hannibal Lecter novel set in Oxford University. If that rings any bells it might be worth 70p. (life:) razorblades included is a collection of transgressive performance pieces. If anyone wonders what the hell that is, it’s got to be worth a try. The Man Who Painted Agnieszka’s Shoes is a story about internet culture that began as an interactive Facebook group, which may pique interest. Black Heart High is what would happen if the makers of The Wire rewrote Amanda Hocking. And Songs from the Other Side of the Wall is Murakami’s Norwegian Wood set in Eastern Europe.
Whose success would you like to emulate as an author?
Katelan Foisy and Cody James. They are the most unflinchingly honest writers I know, and for me the one essential aspect in writing is truth – the author’s personal truth (which is very different from autobiography). I defy any writer to read Katelan’s Blood and Pudding and Cody’sBabylonwithout being permanently changed.
Are you a foreplay type with your openings, or do you like to get straight to the point?
It depends what I’m writing. When I’m writing performance pieces or flash fiction I love to wrong foot people. I have a series called “The Things We Talked about While She Was Bleeding Out” that all start with me casually conversing with the audience, sharing a joke, having a laugh at my expense as I tell them about an awkward phone call I made to someone. Then I throw it into the conversation that the woman on the other end of the line had just cut her wrists before carrying on. It makes people question how they should react. They really don’t know whether to laugh or be sickened. That’s exactly what I’m looking for as a writer – I want people to question the simplistic view they have of the world, the assumptions they carry around with them like laws of nature. Knee-jerk reactions of any kind are bad. If you build a story carefully enough you can get people to question anything. Even if they end up thinking what they thought when they started they at least think it for a reason, which is all you can ask. But you need to construct it just right or people just think you’re a dick.
Do you have any spicy romance or sex scenes in your book?
When writing a sex scene, is it wishful thinking and are you acting out a fantasy (from a faint memory)?
There’s a lot of talk about sex scenes as though they’re unlike other scenes. They’re not. Every scene you write has to be true in the meaningful sense. It has to be what the story needs. It has to be the appropriate clothing for your inner truth. You may as well ask if I draw on experience when I describe someone eating noodles. I mean, I know what I want the noodles to convey (seriously, there’s a two page description of udon noodles and chaos theory in Aggie’s Shoes), and I make them convey it. If I treat sex any differently I’m no better than a sniggering school kid. Which is fine if that’s the point I’m making.
People have said I write sex well (fashion and soft porn icon Molly Parkin even said I wrote sex well). They rarely say I do anything else well! I think what they mean is that the sex is just there, it fits with the book. There’s tender scenes between Sandrine and her lover in Songs from…, there’s soft core S&M in Company of Fellows, there’s full-on BDSM in Aggie’s Shoes, and my transgressive pieces contain everything from a guy masturbating on a dead woman’s breasts to a woman fantasizing that her blood is semen. And in Black Heart High there’s nothing. Whatever fits. Same as you would for writing noodles.
High heels and designer labels/ or Jeans and sneakers.
Converse and combats, a knocked-off grunge T-shirt and a hoodie that has goodness knows what in the pockets.
Most successful sitcoms seem to centre on, bars, coffee houses and dining out. Do you think the settings are important, or get in the way of the action?
I could deconstruct the centrality of food and drink from tea ceremonies to *that* “royal with fries” scene. Basically, food does many many things. From giving rhythm to dialogue when someone picks up their drink or whatever, to enabling you to “show” by how they eat, or just as an excuse to bring people together. As a Murakami nut, I’ve got to say that for me it’s primarily jazz bars and basement clubs. But there’s always food and drink.
Do you relish the promotional side of being an author?
Live shows are our life force. There is no feeling on earth like looking into an audience’s eyes and watching them run the full gauntlet of emotions as you play them like a fish, and leave them knocked out and challenged then send them out to face what’s left of their life a different person. The campfire is hardwired into anyone who’s a real storyteller. Anyone who wants to lock themselves away and put words on paper is a producer of books, a technician. They’re not a storyteller.
Are you going to tell me your good news?
Come on don’t be modest, a little bird whispered in my ear, something to do with a shop in Oxford.
I didn’t want to sound like I was bragging, but yes, The Company of Fellows was yesterday voted “Favourite Oxford Novel” by readers at world-famous Blackwell’s bookstore in Oxford (http://broadconversation.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/your-favourite-oxford-novel-result/), who will be putting on a window and front of store display as well as a launch?
Damn, that’s all we’ve got time for, You can pick the bill up for the coffees/drinks on your way out. Thanks for taking part and every success with your books
Thank you kindly. Next time we’ll do this at my place. Seriously, an anecdote to end with. I did a Masters in theology as you probably already know. One of the guys in our reading group was a Franciscan. After every seminar he’d say enthusiastically “Let’s go for coffee” so we’d head to the King’s Arms Coffee Shop opposite the Bodleian and have coffee, and we’d always forget until he just walked out and said we must do it again next week knowing that he’d never pay because Franciscans don’t have money.
Okay, I take the hint, I’ll pay for the coffees this time. Just make sure you have a bottle of Brandy when we meet up at your place. Before you go leave your contact and book details.
My website is at http://danholloway.wordpress.com and I blog at http://agnieszkasshoes.blogspot.com I run the literary project eight cuts gallery http://eightcuts.com and am a proud member of Year Zero Writers http://yearzerowriters.wordpress.com I also have a site for my thrillers http://thecompanyoffellows.wordpress.com where I also welcome other thriller writers to answer eccentric questions
Books (all on US as well) Click on books for link.
Whilst you’re waiting for more interviews … Check out this weird guy’s interview….You may know him.
DIRTY OLD TOWN Lunch Break Interview. Declan Interviews Nigel Bird, with an interested party looking on.
1 Who are you? And what genre style do you write in.
I’m a father, husband, support-for-learning teacher with OCD who happens to love to write. For the last 18 months I’ve been writing crime fiction, short stories in the main. I have been described as a leading exponent of ‘soft noir’ and I’ll take that.
2 You look familiar, have we met before? Where are you from?
My blog has become popular and you may have seen me there. In fact, as I recall, I saw you there not so long ago participating in my Dancing With Myself series of interviews (http://nigelpbird.blogspot.com). It’s also possible you’ve seen my work at the excellent spaces of Needle, Crimespree, Crime Factory, A Twist Of Noir, Beat To A Pulp, The Reader, Dark Valentine, Pulp Metal, All Due Respect, Not From Here Are You? or Voluted Tales.
I’ve lived in Scotland for just over 11 years and am now based in Dunbar, a lovely place on the coast that suffers from wind and low temperatures.
3 Ah, that explains it. Do you take sugar in your coffee?
Only when I’m playing out.
4 Would you like a cream doughnut before we start?
My waistline can’t afford it. A lifetime on the hips and all that. I have a scone on my right hip that’s been there since ’75.
5 Is this your first interview?
My first interview was over at Spinetingler in a series called Conversations With The Bookless. It’s a look at writers who have been considered to have the potential to have books published and it was a real honour to be there. They interviewed me earlier this year as part of a series on ebooks. I’ve since been at the wonderful Chinwag At The Slaughterhouse, have put one together with the talented Dave White for Crimeculture, appeared at Criminal-E (a must for lovers of the crime genre and ebooks) and How Long Is A Piece Of Rope.
6 With the discovery of a shyness pill, would you take it, or would you prefer a beer, wine or a spirit drink before a book signing/media interview?
I’m already soundly medicated and I gave up alcohol around 6 years ago. A shyness pill – I’d suck it and see, but I’d like to trial it first (wouldn’t want to discover the side-effects as I was trying to remember how to sign my name.
7 What makes you think you’re any good as a writer?
For a long time I didn’t. In the early days I wasn’t writing to be good, rather because it gave me a lot of pleasure. Having put work out over the years, I’ve decided to listen to the comments of others rather than my own self-doubt. Enough people out there who I consider to be very talented authors have been very complimentary and that’ll do for me.
I also look at my track record in terms of being published in magazines etc – the editors don’t accept work that isn’t brilliant. An example of that would be my first publication of a short story in the Reader. In the same volume the other fiction was provided by Vanessa Hemingway and there was poetry from Seamus Heaney.
Getting in to the Best British Crime Stories that is soon to be released was also a pretty good boost. In there will be Ian Rankin, Mick Herron, Denise Mina, Edward Marston, Marilyn Todd, Kate Atkinson, Stuart MacBride, David Hewson, Alexander McCall Smith, Nigel Bird, Robert Barnard, Lin Anderson, Allan Guthrie, A.L. Kennedy, Simon Kernick, Roz Southey, Andrew Taylor, Sheila Quigley, Phil Lovesey, Declan Burke, Keith McCarthy, Christopher Brookmyre, Gerard Brennan, Matthew J. Elliott, Colin Bateman, Ray Banks, Simon Brett, Adrian Magson, Jay Stringer, Amy Myers, Nick Quantrill, Stephen Booth, Paul Johnston, Zoë Sharp, Paul D. Brazill, Peter Lovesey, Louise Welsh, Liza Cody, Peter Turnbull and Nicholas Royle.
I’d say that helped.
8 Do you only have one book in you?
I’m aware that my best work to date has been in the short story form. I already have another collection in mind. I also have another 7 or 8 stories that will be coming out over the next few months, so I’ll be around. As well as that, I’m putting together an anthology called Pulp Ink – the names involved and the standard of the stories submitted are both hair-curling (and given my shaved head, that’s saying something).
9 Why should anyone buy your book? Tell me about it, but don’t take all day, it’s only a Lunch Break remember. (Yawn)
It’s well written (I think), it has stories that are very varied, they’re short pieces to read in ten or fifteen minute slots and the reviews have been absolutely terrific.
10 Why is your book so cheap, is it crap?
Some people might think so. It’s cheap to keep up with the market and also because I’m pretty much a small fish in a large ocean.
11 Would you recommend against self-publishing knowing what you now know?
On the contrary.
12 Do you prefer to tell stories or show stories?
I don’t really know. My stories unfold as I write them and they aren’t usually hugely planned. I can’t even mow a lawn in straight lines.
13 Do you relish the promotional side of being an author?
Relish, no. It can be frustrating. I’ve decided that as far as I can the self-promotion activities should be limited to things I like doing in places I like to be and with people I reckon I get on with. Take this as an example.
Okay, that’s all we’ve got time for, You can pick the bill up for the coffees/drinks on your way out. Thanks for taking part and every success with your book/s. A pleasure meeting with you.
Whilst you’re waiting for more interviews … Check out this weird guy’s interview….You may know him.