By Tee Tyson
For those of you who do not know Dan Holloway, you are certainly missing out. He is, by far, one of the most creative, genuine and inspiring people I know. That’s me, T.L Tyson, saying that. I feel positively blessed to know him, to rub shoulders with him, and, yes, to even call him a friend, albeit the virtual type. That said, he is, in my mind, something that is right with the publishing and writing industry. And I have asked him fifteen questions which he has answered candidly and poetically. Here are my questions and his answers:
I consider you a bit of a jack of all trades. Writer. Publisher. Performer. Editor. What do you identify yourself as? Or who are you first and foremost?
I’m just me. My website says “I’m a guy who spits his heart out through his lips.” Creatively that’s about it. But how do I identify myself? Just as me – that’s all any of us can say.
Your passion for writing and creating is palpable. What is exciting you the most right now with your own work and the industry you are knee deep in?
What’s exciting me most in the industry? Ooh, that’s hard. SO much. The wonderful Sian Rathore recently introduced my to alt.lit which I’m loving. I heard the most extraordinary piece of flarf by Anna Hobson at a flash slam I ran for National Flash Fiction Day that had the whole audience on its feet cheering – there are wonderful forms emerging and that’s exciting. Then there’s the crossover between performance and page. There’s an imprint called Burning Eye Books just started that’s publishing many of the UK’s best performance poets and our most celebrated performance post, Kate Tempest, has just self-published her first book, Everything Speaks in its Own Way, which is one of the most beautiful objects I own and is representative of a new artisan movement which is really exciting.
In terms of my on stuff, hmm. I’ve been through a really rough time, one of those cyclical things where you hate everything you do, and I’ve had a tough time personally with a bout of depression and my mum being really ill. Sadly, she still is, but I’m coming out of the depression (if not the doubt) and starting to get excited about writing again. One of the things that’s helped me has been researching parkour for my current book – there’s a seam of extreme French stuff that’s incredibly inspiring and has helped me focus on “always moving forward.” So what’s exciting me? I’m still excited by performing poetry – I just adore the rhythms and the flow and letting it all run through me on stage, but I can’t pretend much of my poetry’s anything but derivative so I don’t know whether I’ll do anything after Last Man Out of Eden for a while. I’m working on a novel, Some of These Things Are Beautiful, about a street poet and parkour and street art and the points at which that intersects with academic Oxford. And I really want to finish twentyfoursevendigitalwonderland, which is my novel that has no words but it’s incredibly challenging. Spoken word is at the heart for the moment, though – my show The New Libertines, with around 10 performers giving rapid fire sets, has played a series of sell-out gigs this year and I’m loving the way we all bounce off each other. The ultimate plan is to hold an event that’s half the Beats reading in the Albert Hall and half the art show Sensation.
What do you think is wrong with the writing industry (if anything) and any ideas of how to fix it?
The main problem is with the media’s obsession with sales. There’s a whole world of diversity out there but every time something opens up and offers something exciting the cultural media either pretends it’s all about sales or pretends it’s not there at all so the public never gets to know about it. That sucks and the main way we can do something about it is making a pain in the ass of ourselves to the media till they listen. One reason I joined the new Alliance of Independent Authors is they are campaigning for more coverage of self-publishing at literary festivals. Has to be a good thing.
I also hate the way self-publishing’s trying to be respectable by saying it’s just like the mainstream, with an emphasis on professionalism, production values, proofreading blahdy blahdy. The whole point of self-publishing is to get away from all that and be unrespectable!
How do you define success when it comes to creativity? Is it selling books? Reaching people? Completing a poem, short story, novel?
That’s a really tricky one. Several ways, I think. The most obvious is have I got whatever’s in my head out there into the world authentically, how well have I captured that truth, idea, whatever that I was trying to get at? But beyond that, I want people to get excited about words, I want to fire up someone with a passion where previously there wasn’t any. I want to get the whole world talking, arguing, shouting about literature, going “wtf is that?!” the way the Young British Artists did with art. And ultimately, artistically, I want to do something spectacular, whatever that means. I want to leave a mark, change the world, be studied. I don’t get the school of thought a lot of self-publishers have that it’s OK to want to sell a million but not OK to want to win a Nobel Prize – what’s that about?
As a writer, a poet, an independent publisher, what three ‘rules’ or pieces of advice would you give to anyone writing, poeting or thinking of publishing?
Know what you want out of it and don’t let anyone persuade you otherwise once you’ve started.
Don’t ever ask what you can get. Always ask what you can give. Creativity is about generosity and overflowing and has nothing to do with acquisitiveness. Leave that to the hacks.
Try, and fail. And fail again and don’t ever be frightened to keep failing – it means you’re asking interesting questions. It’s better to try to be spectacular and fail than to try to be ordinary and succeed.
And fourth – live. And keep on living because you don’t know when it’ll stop. Enjoy every moment and celebrate your friends and the things you love while you have them, because one day they’ll be gone and you’ll be left with nothing to do but write crap poems about how you wish you’d loved them more.
How long have you been creating for? And what are you most proud of?
Ouch. Hmm, first part first – I made a picture book when I was seven called Ten Little Ducks but I was creating “stuff” since 3. My parents bought me an old school desk for my 3rd birthday and that was it.
Most proud of is hard. The community at eight cuts, publishing The Zoom Zoom, The Dead Beat and Verruca Music, bringing people together who’ve gone on to do amazing things together, being told by the guy who runs Burning Eye that he set up what must be the coolest press in the UK because he saw what we’d done with The Zoom Zoom, having an amazing live show that puts great poets and fictioneers in front of audiences. But my own actual work I don’t know. The Man Who Painted Agnieszka’s Shoes is a great sprawling mess, but I think it may just have something important to say about modern life, numbness, and pain.
Finish this sentence: Writing should be…
Who inspires/influences you?
Big long list. People I know and love deeply – Penny Goring, Cody James, Katelan Foisy, Sabina England, Paul Askew, Marc Nash, Clarissa Pabi, Stuart Estell and many, many more. Artists who aren’t afraid to do their own thing – Patti Smith, Jack White, Tracey Emin, Gilbert and George, Sarah Lucas, Amanda Palmer, Kurt Cobain, Krzystof Kieslowski, Vivienne Westwood. Polymaths who refuse to be pigeonholed – Jonathan Miller, Carl Sagan, Richard Feynmann, Martha Nussbaum, Rey Chow. And witers, of course – Banana Yoshimoto, Marie Darrieussecq, Dubravka Ugresic, Plath, Eliot, Poe, Kundera. And then there’s the one of a kinds, be it childhood figures like Jacques Cousteau or people I’ve come across more recently like Philippe Petit, Alain Robert, David Belle.
Three authors you’d love to sit down to tea with?
This is where I perm three from six of you guys, right J though I’d love to sit Virginia Woolf and Henry Miller down together and have Camille Paglia to write the commentary of what happened.
What three words best describes your writing?
You’re going to spend a year in solitary confinement. You can take one song, one book, and one movie. What do you take and how long will you last before you go completely insane?
A year without people? Sanest I’ll ever be!
Inspired by Heathers: You inherit five million dollars the same day aliens land on the earth and say they’re going to blow it up in two days. What do you do?
I’d say “Who the fuck are you thinking I wouldn’t spot a Heathers reference without having it shoved down my throat?” And then I’d buy an 1811 Eszencia to drink and then I’d steal Picasso’s Guernica and stash it in the aliens’ spaceship – if just one human thing has to live on, it should be that painting.
If you were a superhero what would be your special power?
My friend James Purcell Webster has a performance poem about this. He decides he’d like the power to find lost things. It’s incredibly touching. But I think I’d like the power to reform bands just for one night – probably the night aliens landed. I’d start with Nirvana and The White Stripes.
Create your own band name…what is it?
I write about bands way too much so I’ve made up a stack of band names for various books – The Point of the Bomb, Veins of Ecstasy, Pathology of Hate, DJ Rootkit & MC Malware, and in my current book there’s Gashes. I quite like most of those depending on the kind of music I was doing. Gashes is probably the closest to the sort of heavy industrial grunge I’d be most likely to do at the moment – it’d be a bit like The Kills and a bit like L7 and an obvious tribute to The Slits.
What is the most fascinating aspect of life?
If you would like to know more about Mr. Holloway or simply delve deeper into his rather unique and unabashed world, please follow these links:
Self-publishing advice blog http://thecynicalselfpublisher.blogspot.com
Videos of Dan reciting stuff: http://www.youtube.com/lastmanoutofeden
*In a distant corner of Pankhearstville, an editor swoons.