Today on my blog I have an interview with Dave Holwill, the author of Gap Years.
19 year old Sean hasn’t seen his father since he was twelve. His mother has never really explained why. An argument with her leads to his moving to the other side of the country.
Martin, his father, has his life thrown into turmoil when the son he hasn’t seen in nearly eight years strolls back into his life immediately killing his dog and hospitalising his step-daughter.
The one thing they have in common is the friendship of a girl called Rhiannon.
Over the course of one summer Sean experiences sexual awakenings from all angles, discovers the fleeting nature of friendship and learns to cope with rejection.
Martin, meanwhile, struggles to reconnect with Sean while trying to delicately turn down the increasingly inappropriate advances of a girl he sees as a surrogate daughter and keep a struggling marriage alive.
Gap Years is an exploration of what it means to be a man in the 21st Century seen from two very different perspectives – neatly hidden inside a funny story about bicycles, guitars and unrequited love.
Dave Holwill was born in Guildford in 1977 and quickly decided that he preferred the Westcountry – moving to Devon in 1983 (with some input from his parents).
After an expensive (and possibly wasted) education there, he has worked variously as a postman, a framer, and a print department manager (though if you are the only person in the department then can you really be called a manager?) all whilst continuing to play in every kind of band imaginable on most instruments you can think of.
Gap Years is his third novel – following on the heels of Weekend Rockstars and The Craft Room, and he is currently working on the fourth (a folk horror set in his native mid-Devon) and a sequel to Weekend Rockstars.
**Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions.**
1. Where did you find the inspiration for your book?
It was meant to be a tribute to an ex-girlfriend who died of cancer a few years ago. We had lost touch and I felt sad to find out she had been living quite near to where I live now. It seemed such a waste that we hadn’t managed to speak before she died and I wanted to write an elegy to her memory, about not losing touch with people, no matter your differences, a beautiful love story. However, it turns out I couldn’t, she wouldn’t have wanted that, and the girl in the book is nothing like her. But everything needs a starting point, even a funny book about unrequited love.
2. If your book came with a theme song, what would it be and why?
The theme song could be one of the terrible songs Sean writes in the book, but they are awful (I actually wrote and sang a couple just to get a feel for them). So, since it is a book about a father and son relationship I should probably pick one of the excellent songs on the subject, Harry Chapin’s ‘Cats in the Cradle’ perhaps, or Cat Stevens’ peerless ‘Father and Son’ (not the Ronan Keating version that missed the entire point of the octave shift between verses). Or the best father and son song: ‘Father to Son’ from Queen’s second album, though I don’t know if it has anything to do with the themes I explore in the book, as I’ve never listened to the lyrics. On the other hand, being a book about toxic love and obsession, I could have REO Speedwagon’s ‘Keep On Loving You’, a song as often misunderstood as The Police’s ‘Every Breath You Take,’ which would also work. I am not good at picking one thing, could you choose one instead?
**I picked the first 2 songs on the list as they were your go to songs 😉 and they are both excellent! **
3. Who is your favourite character and why?
I am overly fond of The Wizard who began life as an attempt to shoehorn myself into the book. I gave him a fantasy off-grid home in the woods and a tragic back story resulting in nobody remembering his real name and he became this wonderful, empathic creation, a carefree, joyful man who has reset his priorities and spends his days bicycling around the green lanes of Devon. So nothing like me at all in the end sadly, apart from his hat and his Grateful Dead t-shirts – I haven’t ridden a bicycle in anger for years, but probably still my favourite character.
4. What is your favourite genre/author to read?
Another difficult one, I love fantasy, I love big, ambitious sprawling Russian epics, I love romance, and I love sci-fi. My stock answer has always been George Orwell, who I have loved since I first stole my father’s copy of 1984, but I have read Lord of the Rings more times than probably any other book. Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams also meant the world to me and the world is a sadder place without them in it. Realising that you were allowed to put stupid throwaway jokes in books was a revelation when I was a teenager, and without it I may never have bothered to read for fun – or try to write a novel, so I owe those two a debt that can never be re-payed. I also really like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, but realise that it sounds a bit pretentious to claim either are my favourite.
5. Do you have any tips on the process of getting published?
Yes, do it yourself, it’s easier. The world is changing and traditional publishing is shrinking down into ever safer, celebrity-endorsed clicques, fortunately for those of us delusional enough to believe in our own work, you can now put it out there for no financial risk and let the book-buying public decide for themselves. In my case it has led to vindication, but there are plenty of others out there who fall by the wayside, I for one still salute their efforts.
6. When you’re not writing, what other hobbies do you have?
I’m a musician, and spent my formative years writing terrible songs (like Sean does in Gap Years) before realising that if you don’t need to cram it into a catchy three minutes with a rhyming scheme then writing can be a lot more pleasurable, and I am better at the long form. I still play guitar and bass in a few bands, but mostly covers now, and I’m re-learning the piano. The rest of my time is taken up by my many pets, my step-children and my wife, none of whom would enjoy being described as hobbies.
7. What are you working on at the moment?
A folk horror novel set in my native Devon (again) which has afforded me a wonderful excuse to read up on local folklore. I have had to invent a whole new town, a cast of thousands and write a whole history and mythology for it that didn’t exist when I looked for it, but am sure will be worth it in the end. I’ve also managed to knock out the first draft of a sequel to my first novel, Weekend Rockstars, which I never thought had a sequel in it until the characters started shouting at me in the dark hours of the night.
8. Where is your favourite place to write?
In the garden, on a sunny spring afternoon with a glass of cold cider to hand. I have three different tables in my garden that follow the sun through the day for just that purpose. Unfortunately I live in Devon, so that plan only works for three days of the year and I usually have to do it on the sofa, in front of the fire, desperately batting cats from my keyboard while I try to get some work done.
9. What are your go to tools for writing?
Laptop, freeware word processing software (Libreoffice if you’re curious) and imagination. Although the actual writing bit is the easy part, you need to have an idea and get it arranged in your head prior to setting fingers to keyboard. And for that I recommend walking, a lot, without company or distractions and with a good notebook. Actually, scratch the notebook, I have lost more notebooks and pens than I care to remember, the invention of the smart phone, and more specifically a notes app that automatically backs up to the cloud, is the single greatest aid to writers ever conceived.
Please make sure you go and check out all the other blogs that are contributing to this tour! They are all listed below.