John Holland – author profile

One of the untrammelled joys of the authoring lark is that, from time to time, you get to meet fellow authors who turn out to be talented and interesting people. I met John Holland when we were both involved in last year’s Evesham Festival of Words in Gloucestershire, John as judge of the festival’s short story competition me giving a talk on writing stories to win competitions. John is a short story writer who reads his work at lots of events. He also runs a popular event here in Gloucestershire called Stroud Short Stories – I thought it would be great to get to know him a little better.

 

Tell me a little bit about yourself as a person?
I’m a Yorkshire man who has been living in Stroud in Gloucestershire for 25 years. A librarian by profession and a library campaigner (I was on News at Ten!), I also wrote topical satirical gags freelance in the 1980s and early 1990s until the BBC gave me a contract. My gags appeared regularly in Punch magazine (Sideswipes), on Weekending on Radio 4 and The News Huddlines on Radio 2. I also wrote for a few short-lived TV comedy shows, the names of which happily I have forgotten.
As well as short stories and comedy, I’m an avid fan of modern jazz and rock music, Wolverhampton Wanderers, nature, modern art and studio pottery.
I am getting married (to Christiane) on Saturday 7 October 2017.

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Are book readers a dying breed?

When did you last see someone reading a book? Not someone you know, just someone you happened to pass who was reading.

Of course, I know it’s not a spectator sport, there wasn’t some point in history where the public used to gather in concert halls or football stadiums and hold mass book reading ceremonies. It’s always been a private activity, which takes place behind closed doors in small groups or in isolation, almost as though there is something shameful about it.

But I do feel that these days I just don’t see people reading books as much as I used to.

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Reviews for sale

Sigh – I came across a new low recently in the rapidly evolving book world – reviews for sale.

A random Twitter follower sent me a direct message asking if she might review one of my books on her blog. I didn’t know her, but then I have close to 27,000 Twitter followers so that’s not unusual. I checked out her book blog, it seemed superficially legit – there were reviews on there, it seemed to be regularly updated.

She didn’t use her name, just a pseudonym concerning her hair colour, but that didn’t seem too fishy – not everyone wants to be a public face. She described herself as a military wife, living somewhere in the USA, with a young family.

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Shakespeare ancient and modern

I’m off to see the Shakespeare on Wednesday – Romeo and Juliet. I do love Shakespeare and I’m happy to see the same plays over and again, perhaps because no two versions are really the same.

This one sounds like it’s going to be a lot of fun. The production is by a group called the Watermill Theatre and I will be seeing it at Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre, near where I live.

There’s an aspect to this version which will be a big plus for some people but perhaps not so much for others – it’s described as being contemporary.

Where do you stand on Shakespeare being given a modern look? Does it sound interesting or fill you with horror?

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Accidental author

The British novelist Barry Hines told a story of sitting in a staff room after giving a reading at a school in Lincolnshire when a member of staff asked him the weirdest question he had ever been asked about his writing.

“You know that novel you wrote, A Kestrel for a Knave” asked the teacher sitting next to him. “Did you write it on purpose or by accident?”

Hines was momentarily at a loss. He could just about grasp the idea of someone writing a few lines of verse by accident, but a whole novel? Thousands of words, years of work? That would be some accident.

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The value of authors

Recently I was interviewed by the amazing and successful author Jane Howard for her website, you can find that interview if you click here. And among other things she asked me which authors inspire me.

And what I said was this:

All authors inspire me – all of them, good ones, bad ones, self-published, small press, big publisher. I think writing books and stories is a tremendous thing for people to be doing, we hold a mirror up to society, we are its conscience and its soul. That’s no small thing to be involved in.

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Top tips from famous writers

If you are an author of any great fame sooner or later someone is going to ask you for writing tips. It’s the law.
Does this happen in other professions? Do top plumbers get asked for plumbing tips which then appear in plumbing blogs? I’ve led too sheltered an existence to know for sure but I certainly hope those blogs exist, and in my heart I believe they do. Plumbing tips would probably be a lot more use than writing tips anyway. Advice for writers tends to be subjective whereas, if your toilet is overflowing and you need to stop it – that’s very much objective.

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Where do you get your ideas from?

When people ask me about writing, which sometimes they do, one of the questions they are most likely to ask is ‘where do you get your ideas from?’

It’s a tough one to answer, partly because I don’t think about the process very much and also because there isn’t just one place where ideas are floating around and we writers gather with our butterfly nets and haul them in. At least, I’m saying there is no such place, if there is let me know, it will make things a whole lot easier.

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Jane Holland – author profile


One of the joys of social media is the fellow authors you bump into. Today I’m delighted to have Jane Holland along to visit my site. A prolific and talented author and poet she has had numerous books published over the years, under various pen names, including around 30 novels. She’s also the only novelist I’ve ever met who is a former snooker professional. Welcome Jane.

Tell me a little bit about yourself as a person?

I can be acerbic and don’t suffer fools gladly, which makes social media a bit of a struggle for me sometimes. (I get on best online with people who have actually met me, so perhaps my waggly eyebrows help offset the acid.)

I have five kids and a grandson, and am nomadic by nature, currently in Devon, though have lived all round the country. Last year I hit my half century.

In my twenties, I was a full-time snooker player, ranked 24th in the world in the women’s game. I got banned for life in 1995 for bringing the game into disrepute, so became a writer instead. I used to be the size of a small fishing vessel, but after spending last year on a low carb diet, my proportions are more whale-like now. The diet continues …

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Andrea Darby – author profile

It’s always a pleasure to welcome authors to my website and particularly so today as I say hi to Andrea Darby. I’ve known Andrea for yonks as a fellow newspaper journalist and now she’s also a fellow author as she has just brought out her first book The Husband Who Refused to Die. Welcome Andrea.

Tell me a little bit about yourself as a person?

I’m very single-minded and completely besotted with music, writing and dogs. I started playing the piano aged six, then took up the flugelhorn – basically a fat trumpet with a more mellow sound – which I played in brass bands for many years and gave me the opportunity to perform in concerts and competitions all over the UK and abroad. The social life that goes with ensemble music making is fantastic.
When I’m not writing, I teach piano from my home, near Cheltenham, always accompanied by Frank the poodle.
… Oh, and I’m obsessed with pens and Post-it notes, to the point where I’m contemplating a January stationery detox.

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