Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Wayne Holloway?
I am a writer/director working in commercials, content and film/TV, based in London. I have spent a lot of time working in LA over the years. Have been writing fiction for the past five years, inspired in some ways by a job that has taken me around the world and back. To try and write beyond what I know biographically, but starting there, with things I have seen and heard and the people I have met, whether in life, other fiction or history…
Your new novel, Bindlestiff, was recently published by Influx Press. It looks really intriguing: How would you introduce it to a potential reader?
Bindlestiff is inspired in part by a screenplay I wrote for Forest Whittaker about 8 years ago, which never got made. So it is in part a satire on Hollywood, but no easy send up, a more tragic take on how we are all, to a larger or lesser degree (from viewer, to producer, to writer, to director, to actor, etc.), complicit in the system and the products it makes. I would say this frames the story, which, to put it simply, focuses on the escape act made by the characters in an unmade screenplay into prose. To be more precise the novel is about the relationship between these characters and the system of cultural production as it pertains to Hollywood and probably elsewhere, but here quintessentially.
Also the novel riffs on, the complex relationship between characters and author, who is me and not me at the same time. I hope readers will enjoy the characters for themselves as textual constructs who benefit from the death of the author, as well as savouring the metaphorical death of the author herself.
What inspired you to write the novel? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?
Experience inspires my writing, but the blurred ‘reality’ of experience and fantasy. A reality we have in common with others (readers…), and the blurred edges that make us distinct from them (and worthy of their interest).
Small things inspire, small behaviour patterns that we observe in the construction of the everyday. Observations, usually humorous in that they are observed at all, that you can then tease out, embellish within a structure, or story you have in mind. The only real truth that has any value for my writing is the emotional/psychological truth for any given situation, for every written moment. Or at least an attempt to observe, remark on, and write down these truths in the context of whatever story you are writing.
How were you introduced to genre fiction?
I have always enjoyed sci-fi and crime genre fiction, so I grew up reading writers such as George Pelecanos, Walter Mosley, and older British writers like Israel Zangwill and Arthur Machen. And then I discovered writers who subverted genre to different effect, not one solely based on plot and world making, but tone, theme and character — so, hugely influenced by Ursula K. Le Guin, Percival Everett, James Ellroy and, more recently, Colson Whitehead in an American register; Ryu Murakami from Japan; Michael Moorcock, Leonardo Sciascia and Emmanuel Carrere from Europe. Funny, formative writing for my generation (I’m 54) was heavily male (which is a testament to the influence over the years of writers like le Guin), but now I would say, for the past ten years, I have been reading and enjoying more women writers, and indeed female writers in translation, both in genre and beyond.
How do you like being a writer and working within the publishing industry?
The publishing industry is new to me, but has some similarities to the film business, especially writing. So far, I have experienced it with the very cool peeps of Influx and their energy, inventiveness and commitment to access other stories, to see the commercial potential in other voices, combined with an amazing get-up-and-go seems to be a fresh and exciting approach. I think as soon as you publish a book, then you have to engage with the wider publishing business, but that’s yet to come. I’ll take their lead on this…
I’m more excited about bringing together storytelling in prose and film, both as ways of strengthening/diversifying the pool of storytellers, and also as a way to make some dough for the marginal voices as well as the mainstream ones; The demand for content is at an all time high. Who benefits, what stories get told, is there a point of exhaustion in all this, is yet to play out.
Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?
Work practice… Just write, don’t be hesitant, don’t imagine, aspire to any notion of perfection — they are illusory!
Screenplays are a good training ground for this, they are collaborative, things get cut, rewritten, there are many voices who have input, but you have to keep the line as a writer in all this without being (or seen to be) precious.
Don’t think too hard in front of a blank page, get something down, then refine it. Also I don’t write in any chronological order, I like to jump about the places I think the book will take me, filling them in both backwards and forwards as I go. Probably like painting, there are different areas of the canvass, and different layers one on top of another within it. Get the story down simply and then embellish. I love to write in a stream of consciousness, riffing on themes, nailing the personality of a character I want to bring to life with action in a plausible world, and then come back and rework it, or not.
When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?
I have been writing for twenty eight years, first treatments (pitches) for work (music videos/commercials), and screenplays for dreams; only in the last six years prose. Also for me travelling around the world for work and getting older, I found myself wanting to stay in my hotel room and not going out all the time. When I was younger, I was lazy when it came to writing: I had no discipline, just lots of ideas I shared in pubs, I was too busy going out and doing stuff, but also too self-conscious to ‘write’. As soon as that self-consciousness disappeared, then it was easy to write.
What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?
There’s a lot of books out there, there’s a lot of films out there, there’s just lots of everything out there. The trick is curation, finding to a path to what is good, but also new and surprising. Needless to say there’s a lot of people reading, which is great. But the means of production/distribution still have a stranglehold over so much of what is on offer. You have to look differently to find other stories, or other ways of telling a story we have become familiar with.
I love Jenny Zhang Sour Heart as a very different (irreverent, painfully truthful, funny) take on immigrant experience. Deborah Levy‘s pared-back storytelling, which is quietly also very angry. Svetlana Alexievich books, which weave together verbal testimony from Soviet life and death, again, this manipulation of biography into story challenges what is fact and fiction for each of us, is something I want to be apart of. The amazing Daša Drndic epitomises this, bringing humour, frailty and error to the forefront of literary fiction at its most compelling…
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline, and what are you working on at the moment?
I am writing a novel Our Struggle, which is ‘about’ youth in revolt, spanning 1980’s Britain to the anarchist/anarcho-syndicalist enclaves of Northern Syria and the volunteers drawn to the fight against ISIS but also for something quite extraordinary… One of the early characters of the book is a young firebrand trade unionist on the London Underground called Bob Crow, who asked a question nobody has yet been able to answer when faced with automation of his members’ jobs: “Fine, but what do people do?”
What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?
I have just finished EEG by Daša Drndic, her last book sadly. Cixin Liu’s The Dark Forest, part two of the Three Body Problem. And Javier Marias’s Berta Isla.
If you could recommend only one novel or book to someone, what would it be?
Three books (sorry!): Timothy Mo’s Pure or The Redundancy of Courage, or Curzio Malaparte’s Kaputt.
What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?
Me? I’m fucking useless at anything else.
What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?
Shepherding Bindlestiff into a movie or TV series, enjoying the irony of that, seeing how far we can take it as a book, to new readers outside the literary fiction bubble. And helping other writers/film makers get stuff written and made… Plus a bit of sun sea and piracy…
Wayne Holloway’s Bindlestiff is out now, published by Influx Press.
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