Today’s interview is with author/poet, John Holland, whose latest book, Under the Dog Star, has hit number one and stayed near the top in Amazon Books > Literature & Fiction > Poetry > Australia & Oceania. If you don’t win one of the five freebies I’m giving away today (or even if you do win and want to give copies away as gifts), you can buy it here:
Autographed print copies: http://poetrysansfrontieres.weebly.com/online-store.html
Welcome, John, and thanks for being interviewed for my Inside the Artist’s Mind series. Note to the audience: I’m giving away 5 copies of John’s new book of poetry today, to a random selection of anyone who leaves a comment or emails me by going to my website (niasimone.intuitwebsites.com) and clicking the “Email me” button. (I don’t post my email addy here in case of spam.)
Nia: John, you are another of what I call the “open spigot writers,” meaning your writing seems to flow out of you. You are a very prolific poet and I happen to know you are also working on a novel. Let’s start with the poetry. Can you tell us a little about your writing process?
John Holland: I find my methods difficult to explain. In some cases I start with a line and just write whatever comes into my head as quickly as possible. A brief revise, mainly line breaks. Then leave it at that.
At other times I might spend a lot of time writing and revising a short poem.
Nia: Your new book, Under the Dog Star, has a mix of styles in it, something of a range between spare bites and stream of consciousness and shades in between. Another Helen struck me as an in-between one because it has a dream-like quality to it even as it alludes to the classic Helen of Troy story. (“day slides/slipping away/from under me…” Holland, John (2013-07-25). Under the Dog Star (Kindle Locations 113-114). Hammer & Anvil Books. Kindle Edition.) Can you tell us about your process in writing that poem?
John: Another Helen was written as “a stream of consciousness” poem. Or more correctly, my version of that. Almost automatic writing. I did have something in mind when I wrote Another Helen. But still allowed it to flow with the “stream”.
Nia: On the further end of the spectrum, Wheels Within seemed very stream of consciousness. How did that come about?
John: Wheels came out of thin air. Another Helen was written with a purpose in mind.
Nia: I can relate to different modes of writing. I’ve had similar experiences. Although I didn’t get anywhere near Wheels Within or Another Helen, I had those kinds of experiences in the spring when I was writing so much poetry. I love that kind of writing. And dream-inspired writing, even prose, is my best. But you can’t really decide to write that way, can you?
John: I can. At least to a degree. But it is probably not a good thing for most poets. The work does come out a bit disjointed and “jiggly” as your mind quickly reacts to the preceding line. Of course you can revise when you are finished. But I think any more than minimal revision destroys the whole purpose of the exercise.
Nia: I agree, don’t overdo the revisions. There’s a fluidity to the auto-writing that is powerful and beautiful. Thank you for sharing a bit about your poetry writing process. Now, you are also working on a novel and I’ve seen bits of it. Okay… for readers who’ve made it this far, you’re the first to know… John and I are co-authoring a series of novels. So, I’ve seen quite a bit of your writing and it interests me because we are opposite types of writers in many ways. I like to think through and do a lot of planning on plot. I tell you what I have up my sleeve and you’ll say, “That sounds good.” Then I don’t hear anything. Then you tell me you have a little time to write today. Then I get 2,000 fantastic words from you, with likeable characters, vivid scenery, realistic and individual dialog, all aligned with the big picture of the plot. Do you do the same thing as you did with Another Helen? Have an idea of what is needed (from the plot) then let it pour out of you?
John: Yes and no. I do write fairly quickly while the thoughts are fresh in my mind, but I take a lot more time to revise. With poetry you can leave more unsaid and allow the reader to put flesh on the bare bones. With prose I try to add that flesh for the reader.
It has been a learning experience for me to work with you on our first novel of the series. But I think our styles blend together well.
That we are both intensely interested in the metaphysical aspects of our perceived universe is a big plus I think.
Nia: Way to slip in a sneak preview of the theme, there, John! Writing with you has been a learning experience for me, as well, and a lot of fun. I can’t wait to finish telling this long saga with you and sharing a bit of our totally different backgrounds, Australian Outback and California Sierra Nevada, through the vehicle of this story.
Thank you for sharing a bit from inside your artist’s mind and best of luck with Under the Dog Star.
I’m sure John will answer questions if you would like to post one here and comments are always welcomed. Today they are also rewarded! So, do say hello.