by Danielle Holian

How and when did you get into writing?

It wasn’t in my plan – which is how I know becoming a writer was meant to be! When I started taking writing seriously I was working full time as a youth worker and was finishing up my Masters Degree. I started during breaks, and when I came home from work, mostly writing short stories. Then I set myself the challenge of writing a novel. I carry my writing as a gift and am so grateful it connects with people.

Who or what are your influences?

I am a visual creative and am experimenting a lot with method writing – where you take on and learn the life and habits of the people you are writing about. When I write my books and create characters I first and foremost don’t see words, I see pictures, movie shots, faces and places. This helps me to write detailed scenes and I hope it helps the reader connect with my stories. From a practical point of view my wife is a great inspiration. She runs her own business, is so motivated and has an incredible work ethic. When there are days I am struggling to get in the groove she inspires me to get moving!

How has being from Belfast, Ireland shaped your writing?

I’m so proud of being from Belfast and living on the wonderful island of Ireland. I have traveled a bit and there really is nowhere like Ireland for spectacular scenery, friendly people and tasty food and drink! We have a holiday home in Donegal and we get up there as much as we can. It might sound strange, but I feel a unique connection with the earth and the land when I’m up in those parts. Up North I feel we are getting the chance to create a new definition of national identity which is pretty exciting. Being from Belfast shapes my writing a lot. One of the projects I am currently working on is based in the early 1900’s so I have been researching a lot about the history of the city. Belfast was leading the world in a number of industries which often gets lost under the stories of The Troubles. On another note – the resilience of being from this island makes writing a lot easier – especially when you get a rejection letter!

Tell us a bit about the background of your book Half Irish?

We were on our honeymoon – part of which was in New York – and my wife wasn’t feeling great. She had to rest for a couple of days and being the dutiful husband I left her to it and explored the streets of Manhattan! I clearly remember standing in Times Square thinking ‘I want to write a book about this place’. It was a cold winter so I was in and out of bars and coffee shops and the next day I explored Greenwich Village, where a lot of Half Irish is set, and scribbled notes down on everything from Subway cards to napkins! It was that ironic! The book is a travelogue coming of age love story – set in New York and Ireland. It follows Tyler as he learns about life, love and relationships. I wanted to write about that from a male perspective as a lot of the strong YA characters speaking about love are female. It’s a fun summer read.

How has the internet helped you as a writer?

Massively. Half Irish was recently featured on a Danish blog and I connect online with readers from all over the globe. I love getting tagged in a tweet or on Instagram by someone who has read Half Irish. The Internet helps us all connect, and for me as a writer, it helps me promote my work and share the developments of my future projects.

What can you tell us about your upcoming book?

I’ll tell you about two! I’m currently in the editing stage of my next book – it’ll be out in time for the Autumn. It’s a two-part book based on the diary of a kid called Artur who is obsessed with the footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The story begins the night before he moves from Poland to Belfast when his Granda asks him to write down all the things that happen to him in Belfast. The first book follows him from August – December on his quest to make friends, win a place on the soccer team and a few other things! The second book picks up from January – June when life kicks on a notch after a racist attack on Hercules Street & Artur wins an exciting competition. The first edition of the book will be a traditional book, but I would love the second edition to be a visual book where an artist interprets the book. I have a number of other projects that I am currently writing – one of which is about a serial killer based in Belfast in the early 1900’s.I’ll tell you about two! I’m currently in the editing stage of my next book – it’ll be out in time for the Autumn. It’s a two-part book based on the diary of a kid called Artur who is obsessed with the footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The story begins the night before he moves from Poland to Belfast when his Granda asks him to write down all the things that happen to him in Belfast. The first book follows him from August – December on his quest to make friends, win a place on the soccer team and a few other things! The second book picks up from January – June when life kicks on a notch after a racist attack on Hercules Street & Artur wins an exciting competition. The first edition of the book will be a traditional book, but I would love the second edition to be a visual book where an artist interprets the book. I have a number of other projects that I am currently writing – one of which is about a serial killer based in Belfast in the early 1900’s.

How has your life in general influenced your writing?

Three years ago I changed jobs so I could dedicate more time to writing. This was a massive sacrifice and one I would do again in a heartbeat. It made me a lot more organised and intentional in how I approach projects. It also gave me a lot more space to dream and scheme. Over the last three years countless projects have arrived in my mind and now I have a long list of books I want to write. I would encourage any person who has a dream to create a business, a book or a better life for themselves to be intentional about spending time in silence and carving out time to focus on the things that make their heart come alive.
Regarding my own personal life, I have parents who placed a high value on education and working hard. I also studied Theology at uni, which might sound a bit random, but it taught me to search for the meaning behind things and the importance of mini and meta-narrative – looking at the small stories in the context of the wider story. These things have proved vital when viewed in the context of writing.
What does “being creative” mean to you?
Being creative means that you ‘know what you carry.’ My personal mantra is – ‘Pick up the things that give you joy.’ There’s a lot that would hinder your creativity – emotional, mental and even physical things that get in the way. But being creative means you see another way and are always open to where your creativity will take you. Ideas come to me when I’m standing in line at the grocery store or lying in bed. But there’s a balance – it’s not all spontaneous free thinking. The difficult part is channeling your creativity and inspiration into a physical result – in my case a book. But remember that books are made up of words, carefully crafted sentences, driving paragraphs and well-constructed chapters. So you gotta work hard and build little by little. I don’t have a lot of room for life’s drainers – those people who love a bit of doom and gloom. There’s a difference between having a rant and being someone who is constantly negative. You get to choose the attitude you carry – that’s a big part of being creative.
Do you have any tips for fellow writers?
If all else fails – write! Be your biggest fan – self-belief is a massive rollercoaster so keep the head up and get some good people around you who are genuinely interested in your progress as a writer.
Any last words?
Laugh often. Be polite. Listen to your heart. Follow your dreams and buy Half Irish!