Gap Years

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19 year old Sean hasn’t seen his father since he was twelve. His mother has never really explained why. An argument with her leads to his moving to the other side of the country.

Martin, his father, has his life thrown into turmoil when the son he hasn’t seen in nearly eight years strolls back into his life immediately killing his dog and hospitalising his step-daughter.

The one thing they have in common is the friendship of a girl called Rhiannon.

Over the course of one summer Sean experiences sexual awakenings from all angles, discovers the fleeting nature of friendship and learns to cope with rejection.

Martin, meanwhile, struggles to reconnect with Sean while trying to delicately turn down the increasingly inappropriate advances of a girl he sees as a surrogate daughter and keep a struggling marriage alive.

Gap Years is an exploration of what it means to be a man in the 21st Century seen from two very different perspectives – neatly hidden inside a funny story about bicycles, guitars and unrequited love.

Author Q&A

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I was intrigued when I heard the title of this novel so really wanted to find out more about the author and this book.

Q1: What inspired you to write Gap Year?

In 1996, when I was 19, I decided not to take up my university place, and then swiftly had a near-death experience which didn’t change my mind, result in an epiphany, or give me new respect for life as I would have expected. I thought the story of that summer and the events surrounding it might be an interesting story to tell if I changed it enough for the main protagonist to actually learn something. I was wrong, that story was deadly dull, but it was a springboard for what I eventually came up with. At the time my stepkids were both still living at home, and the tensions of living with your parents when you are an adult seemed to me to be something that bore closer inspection. A dual narrative to explore the idea from both sides seemed like a good idea. I’ll let the readers decide if I was right or not.

Q2: Who would you want to play the main characters in your book if your novel was optioned for tv / film?

While I was writing it, one of my main characters, Martin, looked exactly like a bloke who used to be on Neighbours in my mind’s eye. I can’t remember his name, but he had two kids and was seeing a much younger blonde girl. So him, maybe, if I could remember his name. Otherwise, now it’s finished, I can see James Nesbitt or John Thomson from Cold Feet bringing something to him.

His son, Sean, the other main protagonist, needs an air of vulnerability and innocence that is hard to find in young, male actors, but I think Alex Lawther (from The End of the F****ing World) could do an excellent job of pulling it off, or Asa Butterfield is doing a similar kind of role in Sex Education over on Netflix at the moment.

For the girl who comes between them and makes such a mess of their lives, Rhiannon, I think either Helen Monks or Alexa Davies from Raised by Wolves could bring two very different and excellent interpretations to a difficult character to understand.

The sensible, grounded and brilliant Alison (Martin’s wife) should be played by Nina Sosanya (from too many good things to list, including Love Actually) or Olivia Colman (you know who she is right?).

Q3: How many rejections did you get before you got a publishing deal?

In the interests of full disclosure I have to admit I do not have a publishing deal, I don’t even have an agent. I am a fully independent author in control of my own career. Having said that, however, I do sporadically try to get a traditional deal and usually get a good dozen rejections before I end up self-publishing through amazon and claiming I am empowering myself. So far it has proved entirely justified every time, as my first two books have sold more than enough to prove me right, here’s hoping for a hatrick.

Q4: How did you deal with them when you started out?

Same way as I still do, stubbornly refuse to admit my work isn’t good enough and publish anyway. The best way to deal with it is to read as much traditionally published work as you can find and compare it ruthlessly to your own work. More often than not you’ll find you’re able to hold your head high, and your work deserves to be out there every bit as much as whatever you’ve just read. Keep plugging away and you’ll get there.

Q5: Which authors inspired you to write?

George Orwell made me want to tell stories that matter, Coleridge made me want to frame them into beautiful dreams, and then Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams showed me that none of it is worth a damn if it doesn’t make you laugh out loud.

Q6: What are your writing routines?

I get up horribly early for the day job and run around to try and make sure I get an entire hour’s writing in before I leave the house. It never works, the cats and the dog always find a way to keep me busy so that I am lucky if I can squeeze in a quick twenty minutes. I usually manage to get another solid ten minutes in during my lunch break, and each evening, my planned two hours of work is constantly disrupted by animals and my attention being drawn to Twitter/Facebook/The Telly. The only solution is to take myself to the summer house (slightly pretentious name for a shed with a big window) where there is no wifi and lock myself in until I’ve hit my wordcounts. Somehow I usually hit my deadlines, so some of it must work.

Q7: If you could go back to when you first started writing what one piece advice would you give yourself

Don’t do it, it will take over what little free time you have, and every time you think you know how to do it something else will come along to show you you are wrong. There is no magic formula, no easy way to plot, and your characters will not do what you want them to. It is hard, thankless work.

Or, on a more positive note, don’t fight with your characters and try to make them fit in with your original idea, they know themselves better than you, even if you did invent them.

Q8: What would you say to someone who wants to write?

Don’t do it for the money, don’t do it for the fame, only do it if you really have to, it’s a lot of hard work for very little reward. And your family will hate you/forget who you are.

Q9: If you weren’t writing what would you be doing?

Sleeping. No, seriously this is a trick question right? I can’t not write, I’ve been writing in various different ways for my entire life. I wrote awful, self-absorbed poetry as a teenager (which I hope has all been burned now) along with some dreadful angsty songs. Then I wrote a music fanzine,  gig reviews for the local paper and various forms of blogging in my twenties. All the while leaving piles of notes and early drafts of unfinished novels. Writing does not pay enough for me to live on (not the way I do it anyway) running a print department and playing guitars in pubs does that. Like every writer I know, I do it because I can’t not.

Q10: Tell me something about yourself your readers might not know?

Difficult, I am far too open about every aspect of my life on my blog, however, you might not know that I have written all my books, and every entry on that blog, on a laptop I pulled out of a skip seven years ago. I rebuilt it, and run it entirely on freeware. The ‘E’ and the backspace no longer spring back up when you press them, but it continues on working unabated, and as such has never been replaced. It has more than paid for itself and I think this might be the year it finally has to go back in that skip. I’ve thought that for the last five years though.

Thank you Dave, I might be looking you up soon so you can build me a laptop!

Dave Holwill was born in Guildford in 1977 and quickly decided that he preferred the Westcountry – moving to Devon in 1983 (with some input from his parents).
After an expensive (and possibly wasted) education there, he has worked variously as a postman, a framer, and a print department manager (though if you are the only person in the department then can you really be called a manager?) all whilst continuing to play in every kind of band imaginable on most instruments you can think of.
Gap Years is his third novel – following on the heels of Weekend Rockstars and The Craft Room, and he is currently working on the fourth (a folk horror set in his native mid-Devon) and a sequel to Weekend Rockstars.

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