Iain is currently acting as editor and cat-herder-in-chief on a collaborative novel with TEN (count them, TEN) writers. A contemporary story set in a tacky British seaside resort, the Ten To One novel follows ten characters whose lives intersect that of a mysterious old man…
We thought we’d ask those ten writers about themselves and their involvement in collaborative writing. All ten interviews will appear here over the course of the project.
Today, Jason Holloway…
Who are you?
Just a guy, wandering the earth, getting into adventures, ripping off lines from movies. I live across the Potomac from DC. Just close enough to smell the rot. You can’t live inside the Beltway and not be influenced by it. Not even the pure of heart, like me.
To date, I’ve written non-fiction editorial pieces, mostly. I’m your guy if you have a rag up against deadline and need fifteen hundred words of sarcy nonsense.
In terms of fiction, in fourth grade I wrote, produced, directed, edited, managed, and casted, a three act play that a very evil man decided should be inflicted upon my entire grammar school which, in turn, inflicted multiple daily beatings upon me in its entirely justified righteous wrath. I called it a day as a playwright after I was released from the hospital.
Since then, I’m not sure I had any specific writing goals until Ten To One came along. I thought about writing more than actually doing much of it and fiction seemed like an absolute non-starter to me. Things are different now. I’ve been blessed/cursed with at least some degree of validation that I can write compelling fiction. Sort of changes everything, I feel like if I can do it, I probably should.
Tell us about your writing.
I write in bed like Proust on a laptop. I usually have the TV on to distract me from working. I can’t think of anyplace more ideal than bed. If I fall asleep midsentence, I know I probably need to pick up the action a little.
I write for an audience. I like to entertain with stories. Something about being the center of attention, I think. I write one draft, edited on the fly, and avoid ever reading it again. Writing is difficult for me. I’m not interested in making it even more so.
Would you say that fiction has to be “correctly” written?
I spent time in the publishing trenches as an editor. I can, when necessary, be very correct but that’s usually not much fun. My rule is that I’m allowed to break every grammatical rule as long as 1) I have a reason for doing it, and 2) I know that I’m doing it.
What first drew you to the Ten To One project?
I truly don’t remember. I didn’t even have a decent piece of fiction to submit as an example of my work; just a bunch of nonfiction filler. But I caught fire on the idea and wouldn’t let up on Iain until I’d sold him on letting me participate.
I think it must have been the prospect of working with serious writers. When I read the backgrounds of those vying for a place in the final ten, I realized that this was something that was going to happen with or without me. Once I understood that, I understood that I needed Ten To One if I was ever going to write fiction in earnest.
What were the challenges that you faced in writing for Ten To One?
The flagrant disobedience of the Ten To One writers to kowtow to my character was a bit of an obstacle. Luckily, I’m not much of an egotist so I was able to let much of that resentment go.
And how much of your protagonist was a reflection of you?
Bobby? Bobby’s out of his head. I’m sanity personified, rational to the very core of my being. People confuse me for the latest edition of Aurelius. I’m nothing like Bobby. Of course, my favourite kind of character is the antihero or antagonist. How much cooler is Iago than Othello?
The character of Bobby has certainly taken us on a rollercoaster ride through murder, madness and possibly something that’s beyond the realms of human understanding. Is it possible to describe him? Who is Bobby and what is his story?
Bobby is something other. I’m not prepared to put a label on what he is at the moment. I’m working on various Bobby-related projects and his evolution as a fully developed character is still evolving.
There are certain things I know about Bobby. For instance, physically he’s not entirely subject to the realities of Newtonian physics; however, that doesn’t make him some sort of superhero, only that somehow he is able to act as if subatomic theory is his reality. The extraordinary speed, for example, he occasionally displayed in Ten To One, is based on his instictive ability to manipulate empty space which, from a subatomic perspective, is much of matter’s substance. If angels dance on the head of a pin, they do it on a subatomic level.
Bobby also subscribes to a moral code that values pragmatism over idealism. He’s not without honor, but it’s honor rooted in his self-appointed role as the lesser of many evils. In Skegness he had his fingers in all the traditional criminal activities: drugs (which he despises), prostitution, usury, gambling, protection, and general racketeering. His role, as he sees it, is to provide order and justice in a world founded on avoiding those very principles. Lawlessness is accommodated, but only with Bobby’s countenance.
As you can probably tell, I like Bobby. His antics entertain me. Insane, delusional, supernatural, whatever he is, he’s a lot of fun.
Do you think you’ve been able to take away some positive experiences from Ten To One?
Frankly, I simply wouldn’t be considering writing additional works of fiction without the kick in the ass (arse) Ten To One gave me. Like I said earlier, writing is difficult for me. Being responsible to other writers drove my continued participation. A few times I wanted to throw my hands up and say to hell with the project (note my reference to the disobedience of the writers), but that wasn’t an option and I’m glad it wasn’t.
Writing-wise, what’s next for you?
I’d like to continue collaborating with some of the Ten To One authors–if any of them will have me–while reworking Bobby into a stand-alone character. I’ve also outlined (a HUGE step for me) a novella-length work of “dark” fantasy which should be notable simply for its absence of vampires, werewolves, teenage angst, star-crossed lovers, and quests for objects of ultimate power. I’ve tentatively entitled it “Freddy Mercury Wore Obscenley Tight White Jeans, Why Can’t I?: A Tale of Unwashed Laundry”. I have great hope for it,
Do you have favourite authors?
First and always, Papa. He was so full of shit and no one ever called him on it. I can’t imagine anything better than being drunk with Papa and saying “Say one more word and I’m going to punch you in the brain.”
Twain can make me laugh aloud even after multiple readings, as can Wodehouse. Then there’s me, of course, and I’m very fond of Joss Whedon as a TV/Film writer. I like Tim Powers. He’s an epeeist and, to my mind, one of the modern greats of fantastic/alternative fiction. At the moment I’m into Raymond Chandler. I go through a lot of genre phases where I devour everything produced during certain eras.
Martin Amis, P.J. O’Rourke, Joss Whedon, Raymond Chandler, Guy Ritchie, William F. Buckley. It’s a very long list.
I still refuse to read Kesey, Kerouac, Ginsberg or any other Beat writers. I have some standards.
If you had to pick one, what would you say is your favourite book?
That’s like asking which is my favourite child. It varies from day to day.
It’s been a subject of disagreement in previous interviews. Where do you stand on the Harry Potter books of JK Rowling?
I hate them all like poison but I also find them very heartening. They’re proof you can rip off every author from Mervyn Peake to Tad Williams (another I should have included in my writing group) to Tolkien and be successful. I think Rowling is the worst kind of hack.
I like Tolkien and I’ll take to the piste to defend him. I’ve heard Brits describe his work as “twee” which is a word I don’t think I fully understand. I think it means self-consciously cutesie. If that’s the case, I see their point, what with the hobbit holes and such, but that’s such a small part of an epic fantasy adventure that’s the foundation for almost all modern fantasy that it seems petty to use as an excuse for dismissing his work.
My fencing club, by the way, is the “Olde Town Fencing Club.” Is the “e” at the end of “Olde” twee or just supercilious?
If you had any advice to give to an aspiring writer, what would it be?
Anyone who posts platitudes about writing from famous authors on social media is someone to stay well away from.
You can help us shape the final Ten To One story by joining our beta-reader event. Simply click on this link, say you’re attending and start giving your views on the questions on the page. https://www.facebook.com/events/653605708023136/