We’re delighted to chat to debut “Friend” author, John Holmes. John’s story “Miss Lollipop” is in our Special 255 which is on sale now.
Tell us about your story “Miss Lollipop”.
It could be said that “Miss Lollipop” actually wrote itself. For so many years, the children of a local school were seen safely across the road by a friendly, caring lollipop lady. During the last summer holiday I passed the crossing point and saw several workers erecting a set of lights. The Pelican was replacing the human. I reflected on the contact between the lollipop lady and the families that was going to be lost, the history that would disappear and the future unemployment of the lollipop lady – and came up with the fictional version of something that is happening outside many schools. The story is a tribute to the lollipop ladies and gentlemen who carry so much responsibility and always turn up at the right time – whatever the weather.
How long have you been writing fiction?
During lockdown I signed up for an online writing course to help with the confinement we all found ourselves in. Although I was nervous and lacked self confidence, I managed to survive the first Zoom session and immediately signed up for several more. The writing course focused on short pieces of around only 100 words. I loved the idea of trying to tell a complete story in so few sentences. Encouraged by the tutor I started submitting my work to various organisations and have been reasonably successful with over 90 flash fiction tales published so far. My tutor is a successful “Friend” writer and recommended that I should write a few pieces for PF. I am very glad she encouraged me. So far three stories have been selected for publication by PF. Thank you Amanda Quinn; tutor and “People’s Friend” – inspiration.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
When I started writing on a regular basis, I suddenly found myself looking at things slightly differently and listened to colleagues and acquaintances with a finer focus; is there a short story in what I’m witnessing? Is there a tale I can retell in what they are saying? So my next piece could begin life when I overhear a comment at the post office or start from a remark my wife makes about next door’s cat. I never know what’s going to appear on my next blank page – I enjoy that mystery.
What authors do you admire?
I don’t tend to have favourite authors. If I love a book I’ve just read I will often read other pieces they have written and this can sometimes be a disappointment. I do like to read authors’ first novels believing that this initial work will be the one that has been on their mind for years, rather than a follow-up. As a member of a reading group, I get to read one book a month that isn’t my choice; this has led me to read many books I would have never picked from a bookshelf- and have enjoyed so many of them. I admire writers’ ability to work on a novel week after week, month after month. I’m pretty sure that there isn’t a novel in me – I’m far happier working on the short and sweet.
Do you have a writing room?
I do have a small room with a table and chair which is referred to as The Study. But the reality is that I write most of my initial thoughts down on my phone or a small notepad. And for that, I don’t need quiet or solitude. The fact that my stories are quite short means that there isn’t a requirement for complicated displays plotting out the storyboard or reams of paper with scribbled notes about the characteristics of a host of players – so, all I need is my phone or pen and paper.
What advice would you give someone looking for writing success in “The Friend”?
Write about something that has grabbed your attention. If it’s interested you, it could well interest others. Don’t overthink – just write.
Thank you, John! You can meet more of our Writers Of The Week here.