by Danielle Holian
How and when did you start writing?
I began working on my first book about four years ago, but before that I’d written for musical theatre. Longer term, I’ve been making up stories in my head for about as long as I can remember!
Who or what are your influences?
There are lots! As for a lot of people, J.K. Rowling was the first writer whose books I just couldn’t put down. I read the first Harry Potter when I was ten and it subsequently led me to seek out more fantasy and science fiction. Since then, some of my favourite authors have included Philip Pullman, Suzanne Collins, Trudi Canavan, Frank Herbert, Veronica Roth… I could go on for a while! I’ve also been hugely influenced by genre TV shows, especially those created by J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon. I just love how those shows weave epic, long-arcing plot lines in with very relatable and brilliantly-crafted characters.
Tell us about the true basis of your inspiration when writing? Do you plan your ideas, or are they spontaneous?
It depends very much on the project. My last book, Echoes, went from me having the idea to having a first draft in a couple of months – but that’s very rare for me. The series I’m writing at the moment is a story I’ve had in my head for several years, just gradually developing organically I suppose.
How has growing up in Woking, England affected your writing?
I’m not sure, really. I imagine my speaking patterns and the way I phrase things are affected by it quite significantly, but I’ve never actually set a story I’ve written locally. Yet!
What attracted you to the genre sci-fi/fantasy nerd?
As I mentioned previously, Harry Potter was the big thing that got me seeking out other stories in those genres. I also remember my parents reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to me as bedtime stories, and I loved those. I think what drew me to them was the idea of stories where characters or plots can do things that can’t happen in real life – be that magical or mythical or involving humans flying to other planets… I love all the what ifs that come with that and the myriad of possibilities for character journeys it provides. It means the only limit to a story is what its writer can imagine.
Tell us about your recent fantasy musical story The In-Between?
The In-Between is a story about a teenage girl called Flick, who becomes trapped in a place between parallel worlds – in the In-Between. She’s a pretty troubled character at the start, but I guess I’d say the show is about her discovering what’s really important to her as she tries to find her way back home. It’s not yet been staged as a full show (although that’s still something I’d hope to do one day), but I released a concept album for it a few years back with West End singers and the response to that has been really encouraging.
What does “being creative” mean to you?
Hmm… I suppose, for me personally, it has a lot to do with imagination and emotion. It is the desire to create something new, or tell a story, or write a melody that didn’t exist before, but that somehow is able to move me. I think it’s also quite a driving thing. Maybe this sounds strange, but sometimes even though I really don’t feel like writing, there’s still some part of me that almost has to tell a story even so.
How important is it to you to have a meaning behind your work?
It’s very important, but I wouldn’t say it’s something I think about consciously when I’m writing. Then, it’s all about the story and trying to make it as honest and real as I can. I suppose in aiming to write something that moves me, I guess hopefully (if I do it right!) that would end up with some deeper meaning in it by default.
With your recent novel, Echoes, what inspired the story? What is the background story behind it?
I mentioned being influenced by J.J. Abrams; well, in this case it was especially his ‘spy-fi’ shows like Alias and Fringe. I loved the way they coupled of hi-tech/more science fiction aspects with really emotional, character-driven story arcs. Echoes is very much set in the real world, and it’s not science fiction, but I suppose I wanted it to have a little of that kind of feel. Once I had the idea of having a teenage hacker as my protagonist, the rest of the story came unusually quickly after that, especially the central theme of having her live this dual life; where she’s this very confident, capable persona online, but struggles at lot with day to day things in real life.
How has your life in general influenced your work?
I think ‘in general’ is the key thing here. There are few specifics correlations between the stories I write and my life events, but for me, I’d say the real influence comes in terms of the emotions I have felt at certain times. For example, if you’ve had a situation where you’ve felt real sadness, or loss, or fear, I think the knowledge of that experience then seeps into your writing when you have a character feeling those emotions, even if the context isn’t the same.
Any advice for fellow writers?
Don’t be discouraged if your first drafts are bad. Mine are usually pretty dreadful and just about getting the basics of the story down on the page. The second draft is where I try and make it half readable!
What writing goals do you hope to achieve in the near future?
I’d love to find a publisher for the new series I’m writing at the moment. That’s the current dream.
Any last words?
Erm… thanks for reading this? And have a nice day!