Writers of WHQ: An Interview with Terry Holland

6 minute read
Author: RobertB

In case you didn’t know, the Writers’ HQ writing community is the actual, literal best in the universe, full of amazingly talented and generous writers who make our little corner of the internet a very nice place indeed.

And so, we decided to show some of ’em off as a part of our monthly Writers of WHQ interview series.

Gif of a black man saying "youre a shining star"

Get to know our amazing WHQ members — how they write, what makes them tick, their influences, inspiration, top tips and favourite stories — and see just how different each and every writer is. ‘Cause there’s no one ‘right’ (write?) way to do things, right?

So today let us introduce you to longhaul WHQer, poet, flash fictioneer, and most excellent writing community member, Terry Holland!

Tell us about your writing journey — where did you start, where are you now, and how did you get there?

I started as a callow youth, inexperienced and illiterate in the ways of the world, confined to a tiny garret, freezing cold in winter and sweltering in summer, lit at night – my usual writing hour – by a single, flickering, guttering tallow candle. When today I look back upon those youthful scribblings, I blanche in shame at the naiveté, the hyperbole, the melodrama of my younger self, yet occasionally these early efforts are illuminated by a faint spark, the merest hint of some truth or, dare I say, a kind of rough beauty. School channelled and refined these primitive urgings, sympathetic English teachers giving advice – on the writer’s skills, but above all on what to read. Reading, reading, reading – I read voraciously and (almost) indiscriminately. I would argue there is no text extant that does not give some useful lesson on how to write (or not). I learned to appreciate, and even to some extent mimic, the voices of writers who went before, and this I found extremely useful in broadening my own writerly palette.

University was my natural element, and it was there in the learned halls and magnificent library that my desire to put pen to paper in earnest began to sprout fledgling wings. A few publications in the college lit mag, a dibble here, a dabble there. Which pretty much set the pattern for the next few decades, as life and stuff mostly got in the way, until I moved into a shared office with some writerly types who encouraged, cajoled and harangued me into committing more seriously. This resulted in several entries to short story competitions, many rejections, a couple of publications, and ultimately the writing of magnum opus, Englisch Skeme – a story about how Mark E. Smith, late lead singer of the best music group in the history of the world every, The Fall, becomes Big New Prez of the New Englisch Republik (and a certain bumbling, blonde mop-topped arsewipe Prime Minister – this was before it had actually happened).

It was while touting this masterpiece around that I came across Writers’ HQ (to whom I submitted it – reader, they turned it down!) and found my (writing) people. After doing a few courses (including the amazingly useful Plotstormers, a real revelation to a pantser rather than a plotter such as myself) and one live retreat (The Writing Retreat at the End of the World, what a wonderful few days of thinking, discussing and writing that was, sleeping closer to nature, in a field in Kent) the pandemic struck and a whole world of writerly goodness went online. Including the all-consuming writerly crack habit that is Flash Face Off. Writing flash on a reasonably regular basis has really allowed me to hone my craft and find my voice (or voices). Oh, and I did finish an actual (short) novella-in-flash.

Do you have a writing routine? How do you work best?

Oh god no. I would love a writing routine. If anyone has one they don’t need anymore, or knows where I can find one, yes please. I work best when locked in a windowless room for months at a time with just a notepad and pen, or maybe a typewriter and big old stack of paper.

Gif of Kermit The Frog sitting in a hammock writing on a notepad

What are you working on at the moment?

Trying to get out of bed every day and retain my sanity.

What advice would you give to a writer starting out?

Write what YOU want (i.e. fuck the reader).

What’s the piece of writing you’re proudest of (and why)?

Englisch Skeme – my incredibly as yet still unpublished story about how Mark E. Smith, late lead singer of the best music group in the history of the world every, The Fall, becomes Big New Prez of the New Englisch Republik. It’s got everything: engaging characters, comedy, satire, magick, slice of life, a cracking dramatic arc and some really killer lines.

What are the main challenges you face with your writing?

Committing to it (imposter syndrome, belief). Finding distraction-free time.

What are you currently reading?

Various things, dipping in and out, finding it hard to stick with one at the moment, but I recently very much enjoyed Mayflies by Andrew O’Hagan. One thing I keep dipping back into is Dutch (Rotterdam) poet Jules Deelder’s book of (prose) short stories, Shöne Welt.

What’s your favourite part of the Writers’ HQ Community?

Well, apart from the general awesome rebellious and yet highly supportive vibe it has to be Flash Face Off, which has it must be said become something of a spiritual home for me. The people are just so lovely, encouraging and talented, and the reading nights an absolute blast. Friday nights will never be the same again.

Gif of a man in a suit wearing a weird snuggle head cushion standing up and dancing. Overlaid text reads: It's Friday!

And finally, give us three recommendations of writers or stories you love.

Iain Sinclair, just cos he is a magician with words. I wish I could write ten percent as thrillingly as he does. Hilary Mantel’s collection of short stories The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher is well worth a read, and some time ago (having spent a while in the South of the US) I really, really enjoyed the novel The Sellout by Paul Beatty.


Smoke of Dreams in Full House Literary’s Tarot Issue 1

One Nation Under a Disinclination in Voidspace Zine

You Gotta Dance Just to Keep from Cryin’ in Stereo Stories

Potrtait of the Artist as an Out-of-Shape Middle-Aged Failure with an Expanding Waist, Receding Hairline, Shrinking Horizons, and the Feeling of Living Through the Beginning of the End Times (Again) While Trying to Make Sense of a World He Has Long Since Given Up Even Trying to Understand in Ellipsis Zine

Home in Pure Slush’s Work Anthology

Terry Holland
Terry Holland

Terry Holland grew up in England, studied theatre and languages in London and Berlin then settled in the Netherlands. His writing has been shortlisted for the Propelling Pencil Flash Fiction Competition, longlisted for the Retreat West Flash Fiction Prize and the Cranked Anvil Flash Fiction Competition, and published by Almond Press, the Bath Flash Fiction Anthology, Stukah! magazine, Full House Literary, Free Flash Fiction, Stereo Stories and Voidspace and Pure Slush (Australia).

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