22 Questions with Dave Holwill the Author of the Gap Years

Topher Hoffman: Hello all! Today we will be getting into the brain of David Holwill. He’s turning himself into a reliable author who has written three novels. The titles include Weekend Rockstars, The Craft Room, and his latest book, Gap Years!

From his Twitter account he describes himself as “Teller of tall tales, singer of stupid songs, drinker of dubious drinks!” So with that, lets us see what he has to say!

Hello Dave! Welcome, 22 Questions with David Holwill on House of 1000 Books! I would like to start with some random starter questions, and then transition questions about your current book.

So with that, let’s start with some random questions.

If you could pick one animal to represent your spirit animal, what would it be and why?

15584279David Holwill: I have a lot of animals, four cats, a massive dog, a rabbit, a guinea pig and a rescue fish. They’ve all got spirit, but do any of them represent my spirit? Maybe Duchamp, my 19-year-old cat who only leaves the house when it’s very sunny indeed, I identify with him quite strongly.

If you’re looking for a more general animal then probably something like the duck-billed platypus since it steadfastly refuses to commit to being any one type of thing.

TH: As you know, writing takes a lot of time, but not all of your time I’m sure. Can you tell us what do you like to do when you’re not writing?
DH: Nothing, it’s absolutely my favourite thing to do. A lot of people are very down on doing nothing as if it’s something to be ashamed of, but they are wrong, it’s the best.

I have a full-time day job, I play guitar and bass in three or four bands at any one time, have the aforementioned menagerie to look after, and two grown-up kids and a marriage to check in on now and then. Cramming a writing career into the middle of that when television has never been better leaves very little time for truly enjoying doing nothing. I wrote about it a long time ago here – https://davedoesntwriteanythingever.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-importance-of-doing-f-all-once-in.html

TH: All authors need something to use as tools. What are your tools of the trade?

DH: A laptop that I pulled from a skip at the day-job and rebuilt running freeware software and my phone, that’s it really. I used to keep notebooks but kept losing my pen, rendering them useless. I then lost the notebooks to weather, pets and general absent-mindedness as well. A decent notepad app on my phone backs everything up to the cloud, and there is less danger of not being able to understand my hastily scrawled in the rain, trying to get out of the way of a tractor while a little bit drunk handwriting. But those are just the tangible things. All you really need are thoughts, lots of them, a way of organising them, patience and the ability to edit.

TH: What does literary success look like to you?

DH: I consider it a success when somebody I don’t know in real life takes the time to tell me they liked something I wrote. That it resonated with them, that it made them think, or maybe changed the way they look at the world.

TH: You currently have three novels written. What does being successful mean to you and what is your definition of success?
DH: I’m not really a competitive person and success is always relative. I started out just wanting to finish writing a book, and when I finished, I considered that a success. Then getting a good review, that first one was definitely a success. Every time I notice another person has read one of my books and liked it enough to tell other people I call that a success. It’s all about the tiny victories that build up without you noticing. There’s always someone doing better than you, be happy for them instead of bitter.

TH: Here’s a hypothetical question. You have guests over, and you need to go run an errand leaving them alone in your house. They decide to through your stuff, and they notice a book on your bedside table. What book would they find?

DH: These days it’s a kindle, it saves so much space, it’s light, it goes in my pocket and has more reading material on it than I can fit in my entire house. It’s brilliant. But, for the purposes of this interview it would be Common Ground by Rob Cowen, or Don’t Hold My Head Down by Lucy-Anne Holmes because they are so very good I leave them anywhere somebody might ask about them.

TH: What is your favourite quote?

DH: “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands.”

To clarify, this tiny bit of wisdom doesn’t get the credit it deserves. People are always very keen to magnify the negative, concentrate on the awful and – at least here in Britain – downplay it when they are actually happy. You don’t have to literally clap your hands, but please, make a noise, write a joyful social media update, hug a stranger – or a strange tree, tell the world around you what’s good about it amidst all the awful that’s happening right now.

TH: Now the question I like asking in every interview if you had a chance to meet your younger self to give yourself one piece of advice about writing, what would it be?

DH: Stop it, it’s hard and the money’s rubbish. Work a bit harder on the guitar playing, rock and roll stars have more fun and never have to drink alone.

Or that plotting is for people with different brains to you, that you have to write a very very bad book before you can make it a good book and that very soon computers with word-processing software will be available at reasonable prices so you won’t have to keep writing and rewriting on bits of paper before hammering the final draft into a typewriter. It will get better. I did a lot more about this here: https://davedoesntwriteanythingever.blogspot.com/2017/04/too-many-georges-how-to-avoid-mid-life.html

TH: Those were great, let’s move onto something more about your writing.

Being an author, you need to be creative. Where do you get your ideas for your novels?

DH: I watch the world around me, the people I meet, the things that happen. I invent stories around the people I see walking down the street and scrawl them in my notebook (not true anymore, see above, I tap it into my phone, so much easier) and sometimes, just sometimes, something good comes out of it rather than a sad story of a dog called Ken who thinks his owner’s coat is ugly and didn’t want to come out anyway.

Also, I nick stuff from other people. Usually, I change it enough so you don’t notice, but if you do it was a tribute.

TH: As I mentioned before, you currently have three novels written. What is your favourite?

DH: That’s like asking me to pick a favourite pet, or child, it’s not a fair question. Weekend Rockstars has a special place in my heart as my first; The Craft Room is my wife’s favourite and has some of my best jokes; while Gap Years was so difficult to put together that I am enormously proud of myself for ever getting to the end of it.

Actually, it’s none of them, it’s the fuzzy shape of an idea I had this morning. My favourite book is always the one I haven’t yet started writing.

TH: If there is one thing that could stop you in your tracks when you are deep into writing, what would it be? Essentially, what one thing is the poison that prevents you from writing.
DH: All the things, television, the pets, a vague idea that there might be something interesting on the internet that I haven’t seen yet, a slight sound from outside, the sheep running past in the field opposite my house, any tiny excuse to do anything else at all. The worst though, because I live on the drizzly, grey-skyed edge of Dartmoor is good weather. It is so rare that the second the sun appears all I want to do is find a beer garden and go for a drink.

TH: Do you hide Easter Eggs in your books, that only your close friends would notice?

DH: Absolutely loads yeah. I named the fictional pop idol in Gap Years after one of my oldest friends, I have name-checked nearly every dog I have ever owned, and there is a running gag involving a made-up kids’ TV show theme tune that I have included in everything I write. Readers who are paying attention deserve Easter Eggs as much as my friends do – and most of my friends can’t read.

TH: How many plot ideas are just waiting to be written? Can you tell us about one?

DH: I’ve got notes all over the place that range from ‘something to do with sentient cheese?’ to a fully fledged plot outline complete with character names and a few decent jokes. I’ve got the sequel to Weekend Rockstars that I said could and would never happen slowly taking shape after a particularly awful festival experience provided inspiration. It’s very different from the first, and very different from what I thought it would be when I was pushing a trumpet player’s car out of a swamp.

TH: You have a remarkable new book out! Can you please tell us about your new book?

DH: I can, it’s about an estranged father and son who are reunited after nearly a decade apart, the troubles they have reconnecting and the woman who very nearly destroys them both. As with all the best stories it’s about love, loss and dangerous obsession. But you know, with jokes.

TH: What was the inspiration for the novel?

DH: It was originally going to be an attempt to rewrite my own history, about the summer I nearly died, twice, in a couple of nasty accidents and how I learned nothing from it and went on to have many more. But as I wrote it, Sean and Martin (the two narrators) veered away from me and became their own people. As the story developed I realised it wasn’t anything like that summer anymore, or my own experiences at all, and just went with it.

TH: If somebody was to read the book, what is the one takeaway that you would want the reader to have?

DH: I wouldn’t like to presume how somebody else interprets what I’ve written, once I’m done with it it’s yours. I’m not George Lucas or J.K. Rowling. But I’d like it if just one person felt sorry for the villain of the piece. So far nobody has.

TH: Can you share with us something about the book that isn’t in the blurb?

DH: The band from Weekend Rockstars make a cameo, in fact quite a lot of the cast do. It happens around the same place at around the same time, so there’s a lot of satisfaction in working out how it pieces together. Also there’s a lot more sex in there than I let on, really. I should probably have put a warning on it, some of it’s filthy.

TH: Out of all the characters in this book, who is your favourite character, and what makes them so unique to you?

DH: I like Rhiannon, the girl that effectively destroys their lives. In the first draft she was a kind, likeable girl who made Sean a better person, but as I wrote the book she developed this odd manipulative side to her which became a lot more interesting. I had to really get under her skin to understand her motivations. Which is probably why I am the only person with any empathy for her.

TH: Describe that character in 3 words.

DH: Clever, covert, broken.

TH: Now, with that third novel out, what people want to know is, what does Dave have up his literary sleeve now?

DH: I have two books in progress. The Weekend Rockstars sequel I keep bringing up, and a Folk Horror novel set on my beloved Dartmoor.

TH: Where can readers find out more about you and your books?

DH: You can read my @daveholwill Twitter feed, check my blog at https://davedoesntwriteanythingever.blogspot.com/, follow me on Facebook and Instagram, look at the daveholwill.com website; or, you know, come and find me in the pub and have a chat. I’m easy to find if you’re local.

TH: Is there anything else you want to the readers know about?

Not right now.

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