INTERVIEW ; with Ray Holland, author of The Hermit ~ conducted by Sassy Brit

Ray Holland

SB: How would you describe your book, The Hermit?

RH: The Hermit is a comic novel about a dedicated career hermit who becomes tangled up with a promiscuous young lady from a nearby village. It's a story about being true to yourself. It's NOT a story about sex. Well, okay, it is, but only superficially. Well, okay, I have to admit that most sex in the real world is superficial, but... Well, maybe I'd better shut up.

SB: What inspired you to put pen to paper (or fingers on the keypad of your computer) and write this book in the first place?

RH: The germ of the story came to me when I was a callow youth, fresh out of high school. It's always been what you might call my "pet project," mainly because I love the idea and, for years, was unable to find the right way to present it. A simpler version has seen incarnations as a short story, a silent movie script, a one-act play (produced at the 1985 Spalding College Old Louisville One-Act Play Festival to an enthusiastic response), a "talkie" movie script, and even a storyboard for a graphic novel. Over the years, a lot of ideas sort of fermented and festered in my brain as to how I might develop the story into a full-blown novel, and finally, FINALLY, I decided I was ready to write it.

SB: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

RH: The gist of it is, as already mentioned, to be true to yourself. But to do that, you have to understand your needs and your limits and be able to deal with the world around you--because even if you try to avoid it, the world is going to impose itself on you.

SB: Do you speed write a first draft and then spend your time editing it or do you outline first?

RH: Well, to expand on what I said about spending years figuring out how to develop the story into a novel... I had already devised the story, to what you might call a "significant level of detail," in my head before I commenced writing. So I didn't have an actual document for my outline when I sat down and typed the words "Chapter One" into Microsoft Word, but I knew exactly where I was going and how I was going to get there. I had to create some new material along the way to flesh out a few spots, but that was easy because it was obvious what the story needed. Consequently, I knocked out the first draft in about three weeks (including a week of vacation time from my day job).

I did several editing sessions over the course of about six or seven months, letting it sit a few weeks between sessions. During those in-between times, I worked on my follow-up novel, Goliath.

SB: Please can you tell me more about your hermit on the book cover?

RH: My wonderful wife Sue did the illustration of the hermit. At first, I wanted a picture that would include the mayor's daughter behind him and off to the side, with the hermit sort of giving her a sideways look of apprehension. Unfortunately, we couldn't get the proportions right for the book cover, so we just ended up with the hermit himself giving some unseen person the aforementioned apprehensive look. Really, I think it looks better the way it ended up. And his facial expression--she nailed it!

SB: Who would you say are your literary heroes and which novels would you say are personally inspirational?

RH: I love a great variety of literature, but just sticking to authors and books that inspired and/or influenced my writing in one way or another: Hunter S. Thompson (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), Kurt Vonnegut (Mother Night, Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse Five, Breakfast of Champions), Richard Brautigan (Trout Fishing in America, In Watermelon Sugar), Philip K. Dick (The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Ubik, A Scanner Darkly), Donald Barthelme (numerous short stories), William Faulkner (The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying), Kobo Abe (The Box Man), R.A. Lafferty (The Reefs of Earth), Franz Kafka (Metamorphosis), Edward Albee (The American Dream).

SB: Oh, I love Hunter S. Thompson, Kurt Vonnegut, and Philip K. Dick! What a great list!

If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional, with whom would it be?

RH: David Addison from the 80's TV series "Moonlighting." He was a guy who could have fun in any situation, even with bad guy shooting at him. I want to grow up to be David Addison.

SB: What would I find under your bed right now, apart from possible dust bunnies?

RH: I have a waterbed, so whatever's under there, I really, really, really hope it's dry.

SB: Why are manhole covers round?

RH: Yeah, I know what you want me to say. You want me to say it's because they cover round holes, but that's too obvious. So my answer is that I really don't know. I would prefer to have them shaped like the letter R, but no one consulted me.

SB: Brilliant answer! Okay, so, in line with my 'What's on Your Desk Wednesday?" Bookish meme on my blog, what is on your desk?

RH: I don't spend a lot of time working at a desk. Usually I'm lounging around somewhere with my laptop... well, on my, uh, lap. But if I feel the need to work at a desk, we have a modest little area rigged up in the corner of the living room for the desktop computer. I can shove the keyboard out of the way, plop the laptop down, and I'm ready to go. If you want to express disappointment that the picture's not particularly interesting, I'll understand. I'm not impressed by it myself.

SB: Oh, believe it or not, I love it! Thanks for taking the time to photograph your 'desk'. I'm so nosy!

Do you have a favourite quote you would like to share with us?

RH: One of my favorite quotes is from my cousin, Bob Maples: "No, it does NOT take all types to make a world. We just happen to have all types."

SB: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

RH: I'll be honest with you. I have such a large and varied selection of quirks, in general, that it's amazing I can't think of any that pertain to writing specifically. When I eat, I have to use a fork with four tines--NEVER, EVER, NEVER one with only three. I make it a point to listen to about five minutes of Lou Reed's "Metal Machine Music" at some time during each and every weekend. I always pull my socks up as tight over my feet as I can possibly get them (probably diminishing the life of the socks and deforming my toes). But writing? I just sit down and bang on the keys.

SB: *Laughs!*

SB: If you are going to receive an award in 5 years, what is it for and who is the audience?

RH: The only award I would have realistic a shot at is "The World's Most Profound Case of Arrested Development." I'm not sure, though, who would be giving out such an award or why.

SB: Wonderful! So, are you working on any other writing projects at the moment?

RH: Glad you asked. First, I hope you don't mind if I mention Goliath, which I finished in February (now available at Amazon). It's a rather strange tale that takes place in a world in which gravity is a public utility and the basic unit of currency is the "handful of money." It features an alien abduction scene, a troll under a bridge, a diuretic paint thinner party, a boy who trades his father's heart-lung machine to a friend for a frog, and a number of subplots cleverly (I hope) woven together. Ultimately, the good guys have to foil the evil Neuralgia Sisters' plot to achieve world domination.

SB: Ooh! Now there's something to look forward to!

RH: My almost-finished work-in-progress is Blind Faith. It's pretty far along in the editing process, and I plan to have it out in November. Our anti-hero, Gilbert Ragwater, becomes fascinated by an exotic redhead who pops into the music store he owns for a couple minutes one day without saying a word. That night, a strange, little man shows up at Ragwater's house and offers him a deal: The man can "make the Redhead available" to Ragwater--she'll do anything he wants--if Ragwater completes a series of tasks. From there, things get weird.

SB: *Laughs* Well, good luck with that then.

RH: And I have about 70 pages of yet another that I'm not ready to talk about just yet.

If this seems like a lot of novels to be churning out in such a short time, keep in mind that, like The Hermit, these are recent realizations of old ideas. I wrote the first draft of Goliath in the early 90's, so what I did recently was just a matter of polishing it up. It needed extensive polishing, to be sure, but still...

I hate to think what would happen if I had to write a novel completely from scratch.

SB: Sounds like a challenge!
Where can we find you, and buy your books?

RH: You can find me on the web at with more info about books and whatnot--and, of course, with links to pages at Amazon where you can buy my marvelous literary creations.

SB: Thank you for sharing your thought and feelings. Good luck with your current and future projects. It's been a fun interview.

RH: Thank you. I enjoyed it. The "Inside Story" by Sassy Brit and her Gang!

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