Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Author Spotlight: Malcolm Holt

Lots of the action in my thriller, Blood of the Moon, happens in the ancient English city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. I had great fun researching the city for my book, and came to develop a mild case of Newcastle envy during my research and writing -- so much so that Newcastle will feature prominently in the sequel to Blood of the Moon.

Given my Newcastlemania, I'm thrilled to have recently forged a relationship with the talented Newcastle crime fiction author, Malcolm Holt. In addition to his recent release of Hard Drive, an arresting anthology of crime short stories set in and around Newcastle, Holt also runs the highly entertaining and eclectic blog, "A Bit on The Side."  Whether in his short stories, his blog, or his replies to the brutal interrogation below, Holt's wry sense of humor is clearly evident in his writing. His humor served him well when he found himself seated on a hard wooden chair in a bare concrete room, surrounded by a circle of broiling white lights while manning up to the challenge of the Gazalapalooza Author Spotlight. Let's see how he fares, shall we?

Gazala:    In my omnipotence, I've sentenced you to be stranded alone on a desert island for offenses best left unnamed. In my beneficence, I've decided to allow you a limited amount of reading material to make your stay a little less bleak that it would otherwise be. I'll spot you your religious text of preference, and the collected works of William Shakespeare. In addition to those, name the one fiction book, and the one nonfiction book, you'd choose to take with you, and why you choose them.

Holt:    Well, the fiction choice is easy. Yeah right! Actually, I would probably go with the book I've read the most often, and that is Armadillos and Old Lace, written by the Texas mystery writer Kinky Friedman. I first met Kinky in Newcastle way back in 1999, I think, and he made me an honorary Texan. I've got all his books, and being that San Antonio, Texas, is my spiritual second home, and this story in this book is located there, I've always enjoyed reading that particular one. It's funny because, even though I know how it pans out, it's still great fun to read. I'm a great believer that humour plays an important role in life, and I find Kinky's novels great fun to read. It would keep my spirits up. The non-fiction choice is trickier. I would probably go with The Rough Guide to the USA. It's quite thick, and if I run out of firewood...

Gazala:    Your latest book, titled Hard Drive, is an excellent and gripping collection of six gritty crime stories set in and around Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the United Kingdom. I've read it. I enjoyed it immensely, and recommend it highly. Shockingly enough, however, from time to time my bare recommendation doesn't always motivate a book's potential reader to become a book's actual reader. Tell us something about Hard Drive, and why its potential reader should make the leap and become its actual reader.

Holt:    My sister reckons that Hard Drive suggests that I have a hidden dark side that's where my stories come from. Actually, since I was a kid I have always had a vivid imagination. Hard Drive is a collection of six short stories, which as well as being dark and gritty, also end with the reader wondering, "what happens next?" This is where the reader is invited to visit their own dark side and they start to imagine terrible things. I didn't deliberately set out to do that, it just happened. Looking back, I feel that it works. Of course, to really appreciate what I'm saying, you'll have to buy the book.

Gazala:    What are books for?

Holt:    My wife would say...for gathering dust in various corners of my house. However, with the arrival of e-books, there is less dust. For me, books are the gateway to fantasy land, whether that scares you or not. It's pure escapism that can take you anywhere, anytime. It's hard trying to watch a DVD in the bath. Books fuel the imagination.

Gazala:    W. Somerset Maugham said, "There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." Do you agree, or disagree, and why?

Holt:    Well, there are three obvious rules. A book should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. All writers are different. I know some writers who start writing a novel with no plot at all. They just go with the flow. My only problem with that is knowing when you've finished. The three rules I abide by are...always have plenty of coffee, red wine, and a laptop charger to hand

Gazala:    There's a man with a burning pitchfork outside my door requesting a moment of my time. Ask yourself a question, and answer it.

Holt:    Where's the fire extinguisher? Sorry, that was too obvious. Q: When will I stop writing crime stories? A: When I stop breathing. Then I'll want to know, who dunnit?

So Holt broke a little bit of a sweat. You can't blame him -- it's a tough room. Besides, that light sweaty sheen makes him look as gutsy as one of his steely characters in Hard Drive. See for yourself, by grabbing your copy of the Hard Drive Kindle edition here if you're in the USA, or here if you're the United Kingdom.

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