Sunday, 30 September 2012

Spotlight - Dan Holloway

Shah Fazli

Dan Holloway, Hello and welcome to Spotlight, tell us please how was your day today, and what did you do all day, maybe you don't have to start from the early morning, just briefly please, this is how we want to know you a little?

Dan Holloway Hi, Shah, thank you so much for having me. I've spent most of today at home cooking and spending time with my wife and pet cats, rats and hamsters :)

Shah Fazli We want to know a lot about you that is why we want to ask you about your book now, tell us the title, and tell us about the main character a little please?

Dan Holloway The Man Who Painted Agnieszka's Shoes is a story about the disconnectedness of the digital age and centres on a video of the death of a Polish woman, which goes viral, and the lives which intersected with hers, in particular Dan, whose daughter, Emma, went missing 10 years earlier, and who is now charged with creating an image for a magazine cover to give a new slant on the story

Shah Fazli Why did you write this book, any particular reason, where did you get the idea from?

Dan Holloway I am fascinated by the question of identity. Whether we have anything we can truly call identity, and where, if anywhere, we can be at home in the modern world. I wanted to write a novel on Facebook, posting both background information and new chapters regularly, interacting with readers and using the fragmented format of Facebook to mirror the fragmentedness of digital life. The story arose from the format - it has 3 POVs, 1st person singular, 1st person plural, and a remote 3rd person and a lot of the actin takes place on internet forums, but the pieces, I hope, coalesce to pose that central question - who are we, and what is real?

Shah Fazli Tell us more about what happens in the book, what is the most attractive thing about your book?

Dan Holloway The book is about the attempt to understand why this one image of a girl's death should capture the world's attention, the things that draw people across the world to her. There's a Japanese schoolboy who locks himself in his room and dedicates himself to studying mathematics and cosmology in an attempt to bring her back from the dead and moderates a fan forum devoted to her, an installation artist whose works are semi-magical and who never appears in public, speaking only through a dominatrix, a graffiti artist who murders right-wing extremists, and at the centre is Dan's attempt to understand his daughter's disappearance. Aside from, I hope, being esperimental and appealing to lovers of challenging reads, I think the main thing that will draw people in is that this deals with questions about reality other books shy away from. In particular, the idea that in a modern world that has made us utterly numb the only thing that's real is pain

Shah Fazli Thank you so much, tell us a little more about Dan please?

Dan Holloway He's a graphic designer and an everyman character, rather like the narrators in Murakami novels - he's there to observe the world around him, and inside he is utterly empty. His daughter's disappearance has left a hole in him. But beyond that, he gave up the relationship he loved as a student to be with the woman he thought he should be with. It's a decision he regrets every day, but his daughter's disappearance has frozen time, made going back to Fran, the love of his life, impossible, even though his marriage to Kerry didn't survive the disappearance. One of the questions we keep coming back to is what is more important, more real to us as humans, the thing we lost, or the thing we never had.

Shah Fazli Describe your book in a sentence as long as you post to Twitter please?

Dan Holloway In a world gone numb, the only thing that's real is pain.

Shah Fazli Great, now tell us about a few places in your book, where some of the scenes happen?

Tom Gillespie Hi Dan.. this sounds like a difficult but very interesting and topical read.. and yes, I'm awake and sober!

Dan Holloway Part of the book takes place in Japan, part in Poland, but the majority i suburban London, a suburbs of internet chatrooms behind closed curtains and secret brothels. And, of course, a lot takes place online on bulletin boards. But the spaces that mean most to me are the galleries, which to me are almost magical places where the law of nature are suspended - I've felt this ever since experiencing the works of Rothko as a young boy

Shah Fazli Tell us in a few words about how do you classify your book, which genre?

Tom Gillespie ..a ha galleries eh.!!

Dan Holloway I don't know to be honest. Maybe bookstores would call it literary fiction, maybe experimental. It's closest, I think, to alt lit, because it was written on and is about the internet, and uses internet technology as a narrative technique, but I hope it also has a deep emotional core close to lit fic. Think of Banana Yoshimoto, David Foster Wallace, Elfriede Jelinek with a modern twist

Tom Gillespie Where can I buy??

Dan Holloway - or paperback from Lulu for £6 :)

The Man Who Painted Agnieszka's
Equal parts William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas and Mur...See More

Shah Fazli Who do you think would enjoy the book the most, men, women, young or old, what do you think, you may have thought about this or may not?

Tom Gillespie I will buy toot sweets!! My kind of read

Dan Holloway I think anyone who likes David Mitchell. Foster Wallace, Murakami, European fiction or alt lit - but not just people in their teens and 20s, I think there's an emotional heart to it that will appeal across ages. But it's not for people who like a straightforward linear plot, or who want endlessly polished prose (the book was taken, deliberately unedited, from the Facebook posts so as to retain the rawness and authenticity of the internet) of traditional literary fiction, the kind that wins Booker Prizes.

Dan Holloway really hope you enjoy it, Tom!

Shah Fazli Interesting, describe the pain that is there in the book, you might have felt it while writing it, how is it for your character?

Dan Holloway well, there is obviously the pain of loss and emptiness and regret, but I wanted to place that alongside real, physical pain, because I think so much of our modern western society has become totally removed from genuine physical pain to the extent that we almost can't comprehend it. There is a dominatrix, so that pain is very tangible, but there is also Skag, the graffiti artist who carries out the kind of ultraviolence that you'd get in Clockwork Orange. At one point a character skins himself alive, and there is an art exhibition called "It only hurts the first time." There is even a scientist who believes extreme physical pain is the one thing that can cut through the laws of physics. I wanted to make people face pain in all its forms, take them out of their complacency, make them feel its reality, and ask themselves if anything in their life was that real

Shah Fazli Fascinating, now read from your book please?

Dan Holloway This is the first of the chapters that's in 1st person plural, which I used to try to make the reader complicit in the story and question the nature of fiction and our relation with the web.

We can see her clearly. She’s sitting with her legs folded underneath her, gripping the phone with both hands. It takes a moment for us to register things are wrong with this image. We have to blink several times, but still our eyes don’t feel right. We look closer, and then we see that although she is sitting on her legs, her legs aren’t on anything.
She’s not floating. Nor is she in a darkened room, lit only by an infinitely precise beam. We don’t even have noticeably tunnelled vision. It’s just that we only see her.
Sometimes when we stare at a flecked carpet in summer we sense that something is amiss. Then we notice a movement. A few seconds later we see an ant scurry through the fibres, and suddenly our optic nerve turns on a switch and we see that the whole floor is a teeming sea of ants.
In the same sickening way we see all at once: this is Emma, and she is still 14 years old, the age she was when she disappeared; but the telephone she clutches like a parachute rip-cord is an iPhone; her skin and clothes are blurred. It’s not our eyes. We see the iPhone perfectly well. It’s her.
She is blurred.
She turns. Her eyes make us seasick. Instead of colour there’s a soup of grey strobing and fuzzing. “Where am I?” she asks.
She sounds sad. Or maybe we just imagine that she must be sad, because through the white noise in the pits where her eyes should be it’s impossible to say if she’s crying or not.
“I don’t know,” we reply. “How long have you been there?”
“I don’t know. No, that’s wrong. I’ve been here a day. Only this day seems to happen again and again and again. I don’t know how many times. It feels like someone’s caught it on tape and they keep playing it over and over and over, and the tape’s wearing thin in places. What will happen if they play it too many times and the tape snaps?”
She’s speaking quickly, like she only has one lungful of air and she has to get everything out in that single breath. We daren’t interrupt, even if we could answer her questions, in case she goes silent for ever.
“I’m scared. I don’t understand what’s happening. Would it be better if they stopped the tape and left it in an archive somewhere it could never be played again? Does that make any sense?”
“Tell Dad,” she begins but whatever the connection was, it’s cut. We blink several times. Everything is sharp again. We stare at our computer screens, and Emma exists only in the words we see there.

Shah Fazli What else do you want to tell us about your book please, is there a sequel to it for instance, anything?

Dan Holloway I have never been able to write sequels. I was delighted that I was listed on Mashable's top 100 writers n twitter as a result of the book and the fact I wrote it on Facebook. I think the main thing is that I want to prod readers till they feel something real, an emotion that's absolutely raw as they become, literally, part of the story

Shah Fazli I enjoyed every word in this excerpt, there is that pain in each of your words, tell us how do you think we should write, what is your tips on writing?

Dan Holloway thank you! I think we should write what we have to write. If I had to give only one tip it would be to write the truth. your truth, and in the way that truth has to be told. And not try to please conventions or publishers, or to tackle themes you think you should tackle. Stay absolutely true to your truth and don't let success or disappointment or rejection or acceptance steer you off course

Shah Fazli Thanks for giving us a great pleasure talking about your amazing imaginations, it was a definite joy.

Shah Fazli Visit:

ShahSight Literary Book Shop: The Man Who Painted Agnieszka's Shoe... Dan

Dan Holloway Thanks so much, Shah, it's been a real pleasure. And thank you forgiving writers this space

Shah Fazli To book your event join:

Live facebook interview with authors and readers.As an author you get the opportunity to interact with the readers.Ask for an interview by joining.

Dan Holloway and thanks so much, Tom Gillespie

Tom Gillespie Hey,back at ya!

Tarah Scott Did a bit of work, promotion and writing--not nearly


  1. I write and maintain a blog which I have entitled “Accordingtothebook” and I’d like to invite you to follow it.. I’m your newest follower.