It’s Blog Tour Monday again!

Today it is a great pleasure to welcome Dr Steve Hollyman onto my blog as guest blogger. He is taking part in Blog Tour Monday as I did last week, here on this blog, and as Graeme Shimmin did alongside me that week. Our friend Sarah Jasmon did it the Monday before that, after she was invited to take part by David Hartley – see his Blog Tour post here. I hope everyone enjoys Steve’s post below, as well as going back to see previous posts using the links in this paragraph!

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On Monday last week I received an email from my dear friend Ms Swingler. ‘FROM LOUISE – HELP NEEDED URGENTLY’ was the subject line. It was capitalised and everything. Hmm, I thought, this looks ominous. I put down my G&T and opened the email. As I read her message, my half-frown turned into a half-smile. Then it turned into a half-frown again. She’d only agreed to do this Blog Tour thing and forgotten to nominate anyone for the next spot. ‘If you do it I will love you even more than I currently do,’ she explained. And how could I refuse such an offer? I don’t have a blog. I’ve never even written a blog before. That’s why I’m borrowing this page for the week. As I write this, I’m en-route from Manchester to Stoke-on-Trent, a virgin-blogger, on a Virgin train, touched for the very first time. I’m due to spend the afternoon shouting into a microphone with my band CreepJoint. But that’s a different story altogether, and this journey lasts only 45 minutes. Let’s get on, shall we?

What am I working on?

I’ve recently started work on my third novel. It doesn’t have a title. I finished my second, Esc&Ctrl, in January 2014. The idea for the new book has been with me for a long time, but I always pictured it as a short story (which is interesting because for years the only way the plot of my first book, Keeping Britain Tidy, made any sense to me was as a screenplay). I think that the idea for a good story has to find me, not the other way round. That’s what happened to me in York a few weekends ago. I was in a hotel room, unable to sleep. The reason I was unable to sleep is because I’d been taken over by this huge idea, and between the hours of 4am and 6am I planned out, silently in my head, the whole book. I must have thought it showed promise, because the next day I bought a new Moleskine (I always buy Moleskines since they were kind enough to send me a load of free ones back in 2007) and excitedly emailed my friend in Switzerland. When I got back to my apartment the following evening, I started writing. At the moment I’m struggling with the voice, the focalization. I like writing that has a unique, quirky, narrative tone. Ross Raisin’s God’s Own Country is a good example. Patrick McCabe’s The Butcher Boy. Gautam Malkani’s Londonstani. Hunter S. Thompson. Irvine Welsh. There are many others that I admire. All these are writers and books that I’ve learned from. I’m also working on the screenplay for my first novel, and a couple of journal articles about the potentiality for creating fictional narratives using social networking sites. A large portion of my second novel is narrated on Facebook. I set up three pages, each one corresponding to a fictional character, and allowed them to ‘interact’ with real people. It’s a kind of interpermeation of fiction and theory; a marriage of hypertext literature and the ‘Choose your own Adventure’ books I used to read when I was younger.

Why do I write what I do?

I write what I write because I find it interesting. I studied for an MA in Creative Writing not because I wanted to be a novelist but because I wanted to write better lyrics for the band. Then came the assessment side of the course: I had to write a full novel in order to pass. So I’d take the laptop to the pub after work, and write 1000 words a day. It’d take me about 45 minutes normally, and I can make a pint last that long when I’m concentrating on something else. I started to really get into it. I’d sit at work, watching the clock, waiting for the time to come when I could leave and start writing. If I had any time to spare, I’d write. I’d write on the train, in hotel rooms, in the lecture theatre. I’d type ideas into my mobile phone when I was out in bars and clubs. Sometimes, if the idea was too complex to write down quickly, I’d phone myself and leave a voicemail. That excitement about the latest ‘project’ – the sleeplessness and twitchiness and loss of appetite that comes with having what I believe is a good idea – has never left me. That’s why I write what I write.

How does my work differ from others in the genre?

Whenever people ask about the genre I work in, I always say it’s ‘non-genre contemporary fiction’. People have compared my stuff to writers such as Irvine Welsh, Chuck Palahniuk, and Anthony Burgess. I find that very flattering. I write a lot about what might be termed British yob culture, but I’m especially interested in that less-talked about area of middle class yobbery: the yobs who have well-paid jobs and expensive clothes and university degrees and yet are still compelled to visit their local town centre on a Friday or Saturday night and stick a glass in someone’s face.  I’m also interested in writing which examines the physical book as an artefact. I like playing with fonts, footnotes, different colours, struck-through passages, tilted pages: non-ergodic writing. Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves is still one of my favourite novels. I tried to do a similar thing with Esc&Ctrl but I also added the social network elements in order to demonstrate the different ways in which print text and hypertext operate.

How does my writing process work?

My writing process is, by most accounts, highly dysfunctional. I write best in public. That’s why I’m currently working on the train. I have no problem with writing in noisy pubs and bars and I often pick up little snippets of information there. People look at me curiously when I’m working in the pub. Once, someone asked me if I was looking at porn. Maybe I write better when people are watching. I don’t have a writing schedule where I write at a specific time of day, but I am a night-owl. I always work to a word count. It’s normally 1000 words a day (or night), sometimes more, but very rarely less. This method means I end up cutting a lot of stuff that I write, because it’s not often that I’ll write 1000 words where every sentence and paragraph is good enough to keep. A lot of other writers I’ve spoken to think I’m crazy for working this way, but it’s always worked for me. For me it’s all about getting it out, getting the words onto the page as quickly as possible without labouring over the minutiae. I worry about the rest of it once the words are down.

Now that my ‘blogger’s cherry’ is well and truly popped, and the train is minutes away from Stoke-on-Trent, there’s just enough time to thank Lou for letting me use her page, and to invite you to check out my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/stevehollymanofficial and my first novel’s website www.keepingbritaintidy.co.uk. In a thoroughly shameless act of self-promotion I’ll also direct you to www.facebook.com/creepjoint. Talking of which, I’d better get my stuff together. It’s time to shout into that microphone…

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Thanks to you, Steve, for that romp around your writing life – and I do, now, officially, love you more than ever!

I also nominated the wonderful Emma Yates-Badley to take part today, and you can read her Blog Tour Monday post here.

Next week, Steve hands the baton over to Jo Nicel – so look out for her post on the 3rd of March.

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