Today on If only I could read faster we have Malcolm Hollingdrake answering some questions about writing including where he does it, what he finds hard and what he reads.
Where do you write?
I write wherever I can, providing that place is stationary! Trains, planes, boats and cars are out of bounds. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to but I suffer from acute travel sickness so that’s out. I’ll write anywhere at home but a favourite spot is with my back to a south-facing window at the end of the dining table. Unfortunately, my detritus, research really, tends to be spread alongside me too. In an ideal world, I’d like a room where I can leave everything and just close the door. One day!
Ideas come at the most inopportune times. I now use my phone to jot down notes and ideas or make a voice memo. On so many occasions in the past something has come to mind and I have arrogantly said to myself that it’s so important I’ll not forget and then…gone! It was ever thus. Now, next to the bed, I keep a notepad and pencil for when, on rare occasions, I have an awakening Eureka moment.
I have always been a people watcher and this is a wonderful writer’s trait. Noting the way people move, the way they interact and speak can only help create and develop real characters. Sometimes, a chance conversation, a saying or colloquialism will often spark an idea that can be used or developed. The other week, my wife was on the phone and she was put on hold during which time music was played, you know the type, as if it’s played on a Jew’s harp; it was Handel’s Water Music. She turned and said, “This music is making me want to pee!” I nearly wet myself and so it was used in the latest book.
The hard part for me, names!
Names! Naming characters is the bane of my writing life. If I had a pound for the number of times I’ve ended up with two characters with the same surname in the same novel! Christian names are fine providing you don’t have three in the same book. That can be confusing! Strange, but as I’m writing I’m blind to the errors. It’s only when I sit and read through do I see the mistakes. I’m grateful too for the sharp eyes of the editors who have found the odd faux pas.
I take names from everywhere, directories, and advertising, even the side of vans if they seem appropriate. Occasionally, people will ask to be added to a novel, selecting the character to suit their inner angel or devil! I know authors who have offered this service as a prize. A great idea! Anyone want to be in a novel?
What do I read?
Strangely, I try to leave crime fiction alone for fear of either picking up an idea or an author’s style. I like my own. In the past I have enjoyed reading Robert Ryan, his blend of fact and fiction really captivates. Ranulph Fiennes has a similar style and for me he’s a real hero. ‘The Feather Men’ has to be a favourite. The other year I was lucky enough to hear him speak about his experiences, truly staggering achievements. I also love short stories, any collective cornucopia that I can dip into in no particular order appeals; one of my favourite writers has to be Saki. Most of my reads at present tend to be non-fiction, books related to Northern Art and artists. If I were to be honest, my writing takes a good deal of my time and I just love creating a different world! As someone said, I just make it up and write it down!
If I were to take three books to read again on a desert island;
‘Sagittarius Rising’ – Cecil Lewis
‘The Shepherd’ – Frederick Forsyth
‘Nangaparbat Pilgrimage’ (The Lonely Challenge) – Herman Buhl
Thank you so much for coming to visit us, Malcolm!