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Do you think Chance plays a role in Successful Art ? #IWSG #writetip

By 07/10/2015September 26th, 2018guest post, Interview, writing, writing advice
Fiction Writing Advice Patrick Holland

As part of my ongoing guest post series in this blog, we recently heard from award-winning author Susannah Rickards.

Today, it is my pleasure and honor to welcome award-winning Australian author, and contributor to the Cooked Up anthology, Patrick Holland.

I’m a fan, and have been gobsmacked by the beauty of his prose. In this interview, he has answered questions on writing, based on his long experience as an outstanding author of short stories, and very atmospheric, eloquent novels. My highlights in blue.

If you have questions for him, please drop them in the comments.


Insecure Writer's Support Group

Insecure Writers!

This is my IWSG post as well. Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for organizing and hosting the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) every month! Go to the site to see the other participants.

In this group we share tips, self-doubt, insecurities, and of course, discuss the act of writing.

In the post below, Patrick Holland talks about the role of chance in successful art: while writing a story, he can see the end on the horizon, but must grope his way there, without complete pre-planning. Language dictates his writing to an extent, and I identify with this.

I’m unable to completely understand planned writing— the many how-to books that tell you how to write a bestseller.

I hope the interview will be useful for the IWSG members, and invite comments and questions from one and all, writers, readers, bloggers. If Patrick Holland’s work is new to you, I encourage you to go grab his books– I’m reading his short stories now, and relishing them one by one: very evocative, poignant and true.


Without further delay, I’ll post Patrick’s answers to a few of my questions:

1. At what age did you start writing fiction? What prompted you?

Do you love Food Fiction?

Cooked Up: Food Fiction from around the World

As I remember, I wrote from the time I knew how to shape the letters into words. I was always making stories and poems. Stories about exploration, outer space, and prayers, poems and confessions. Then, as a teenager, like most teenagers, I became very much a herd animal and played football and tried to fit in. I re-discovered literature again when, having dropped out of Accountancy at university, my sister had me go to the library to fetch a rare book of poetry by Ernest Hemingway. That was the crucial moment. I wanted to do what he did.

2. What are your preoccupations as a writer? Do you have an ideal reader in mind as you write?

I have many themes that occur. Or perhaps, they are parts of a single theme. I write about home and lost-ness and journey. As for an ideal reader, never. I like to think that one day I will write a book that both a child and a professor of literature could take something valuable from.

3. For someone new to your work, which of your books should they read first?

The Mary Smokes Boys is the book that people most often want to question me about. It is very confessional, and it represents the first time I really tried to write in the minimalist style I most often do. So that book, or else my short stories The Source of the Sound. I always think short stories are a nice, gentle way into a writer’s work.

4. Who are your writing influences, the authors whose work has inspired you?

Patrick Holland Novels

The Mary Smokes Boys: Patrick Holland

I’m inspired by so many artists, and not always writers. I think, in recent years, Arvo Pärt’s music has influenced me as much as anything else. And even more recently, Italian film director Paulo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty) and video game designer Jenova Chen (Journey).

As for writers, there are so many, Hemingway I’ve mentioned, but also Graham Greene, Kipling, Emily Bronte, Lady Murasaki, Dante, Borges, Heinrich Boll, Yasunari Kawabata … and as for living writers, the Americans Poe Ballantine and Barry Lopez come first to mind. Australia’s Brian Castro is a marvelous and criminally underrated writer.

5. What advice would you give to someone starting out on the writing life?

It’s not too late to get out. Unless it is. In which case, read. And learn from what you read. There isn’t a ballet dancer in the world who thinks they’d be better off never seeing a ballet, but there are writers who think they don’t need to read books.

6. What is your writing routine like?

When I can, I write three hours first thing in the morning. And two hours last thing at night.

7. You write both short stories and novels. Do you find either form more challenging than the other?

The novel is undoubtedly more challenging for me. It’s architecture is something I grapple with each and every time. And the short story is, perhaps because of its brevity, and the lack of necessary logical problems, more enjoyable to write.

8. Your books are very character and language driven. Do you begin writing a book knowing some of the events in it in advance, or do you discover them as you write?

Good question. It’s a mixture of both. I typically see things on the horizon, I point the writing towards them, and eventually, I get … well … somewhere. But the language does often dictate. There is always an element of chance in a successful work of art. East Asian artists always acknowledged this, and made use of it. As do many composers of music, like John Cage.

9. Please tell us about your story in the Cooked up Anthology, and what inspired you to write it.

I often write about estranged people. And the shortly-to-be-retired porn star in this story gave me an opportunity to write about someone who – perhaps ironically – was estranged from his emotions, where love was concerned, for twenty years. I liked the idea of him having sex with a woman as a matter of course, but then being afraid to ask her if she wanted to get a cup of coffee, and I wanted to explore that.

Patrick Holland Novels

Patrick Holland

Patrick Holland lives between Brisbane, Saigon and Beijing. He is the author of the travel book Riding the Trains in Japan: travels in the sacred and supermodern east, as well as the short story collection The Source of the Sound, which won the Scott Prize. His novels include The Darkest Little Room, a thriller set in Saigon, and The Mary Smokes Boys, a story of horse thieves which was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and shortlisted for the Age Book of the Year. Talk to him on twitter at @phollandwriter

His most recent novel is a redux of the journey of St Brendan called Navigatio. His next novel, One will be released early 2016.


Is it too late for you to skip the writing life? Do you agree with Patrick’s advice? Do you believe that chance plays a role in successful art? Have you considered signing up for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group? Do you write novels or short stories? Do you have questions for Patrick?

For those who don’t write, but love to read, have you read any of Patrick’s work? (If you love gorgeous language, evocative writing, and poignant stories skilfully told, he’s your kind of writer.)

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Thank you for liking “Infographic about Social Media Graphics.” I liked reading this interesting post. 🙂 I do agree with Patrick’s observation about chance playing a role in successful art. However, I think the effect chance has on one’s work varies from project to project. For example, chance might lead you to come across something like an online news story that influences how you depict a character in one of your stories, but it could also significantly change what you write about with something life-changing like a car accident or a natural disaster.

  • I agree with much of this. It is never too late to write, and always necessary to read. Chance has a part to play in all of life, but we, individually, can do a lot to shape our own fates. I have never read any Patrick Holland, but I am attracted by what he has to say.

  • dominique says:

    Hi ! Being a completely infrequent reader of blogs I am now totally overwhelmed by the number of comments and think how wonderful it is that there is such a community of bloggers on a single blog and wonder how anyone gets to read and write your own books/blogs/short stories and whatever and then still find the time to comment and read all the blogs ! Perhaps a post about ‘time managing’ blogs would make me feel less overwhelmed here!
    Glad I logged onto my reader again as seldom do….!

  • Great interview. Thanks for sharing.

  • I love this interview. It is wonderful – thanks for sharing!

  • njmagas says:

    As much planning and forethought as you put into the piece, the end result always deviates at least a little from the original idea. “Let it be what it wants to be,” as my art teachers used to say. There are some writing problems that can’t be thought through, only felt through.

    Wonderful interview, by the way.

  • Wonderful interview. I do believe chance has something to do with it. But we shouldn’t rely on it.

  • Parul says:

    That’s such an open and honest communication. I haven’t read Patrick’s work but now I am all set 🙂 Thank you!

  • Interesting interview, and I love the ballerina quote. It’s so true. I have not read any of Patrick Holland’s books, but I’ll definitely be looking them up.

  • cleemckenzie says:

    Chance is always a factor in any part of our lives. And when a writer mentions such a stellar group of writing influences, I’m immediately interested. I haven’t heard anyone mention Graham Greene and Heinrich Boll in the same list before, so I’m impressed. I thoroughly enjoyed reading what Patrick Holland had to say about his writing.

    • Patrick H says:

      Ah, you’ll find a lot of similarities between those two. Particularly between Greene’s novels, and Boll’s stories, or his novella, The Train was on Time, which is one of my all time favourite books

  • Anon E Mouse says:

    I find your writing style very similar to mine. It is as though you explained to me what I do subconsciously, like noting good quotes and plonking them in the manuscript to build around them later.

    My genre is non-fiction, so very different from yours I believe. I am yet to read your work although my sister is a fan of yours.

    • Patrick H says:

      Much obliged, to your sister, anon. And yes, it’s hard to say where the writing ‘comes from’. Though one thing’s for sure, it’s not just sitting down and ‘expressing yourself’ … I express myself, my opinions and feelings to people around me every day, and none of them would suggest it was art. It’s always about tapping something else, whatever you believe that is, and whatever your conduit.

      • Anon E Mouse says:

        What I find so fascinating is that you and I are related – writing on vastly different topics, yet with very familiar styles.
        I will email you via your webpage.

  • Great interview 🙂 I like the ballerina quote, very true! In a similar vein, all the world’s best directors are first film lovers. Writers need to be the same! I agree that luck definitely plays a part in success, you need to have the right person look at something at the right time.

  • “It’s not too late to get out.” Hilarious. Yes, RUN! I think for most writers, we couldn’t run if we wanted to…that’s why we stick with it, even when we deal with repeat rejections.


  • mdellert says:

    I always love reading your posts, Damyanti, you ask the most interesting questions!

    *Is it too late for you to skip the writing life?* I’m afraid it probably is… I tried for awhile to pretend that I wasn’t a writer and damn near had a melt-down. Or maybe re-affirming my identity as “writer” *is* the melt-down. 😉

    *Do you agree with Patrick’s advice? Do you believe that chance plays a role in successful art?* Yes, I do think that chance plays a role in successful art. One story that I wrote many years ago, which remains one of my favorites, was inspired by an overheard comment in a diner while I was grappling for an inspiration. Behind me, I heard one woman say to another, “Did you hear? Ms. Horne is dead.” I don’t know who said it or anything about the actual real-life Ms. Horne and her tragic fate, but that single sentence touched of an entire story. And if I hadn’t been in that diner on that day at that particular moment, I never would have heard it and the story never would have been written.

    *Do you have questions for Patrick?* One question I have for Patrick is: How does he take advantage of those chance moments of inspiration? What tricks or techniques does he use to capture the essence of an inspiration until he can get back to his desk (or wherever) to write it down?

    • Patrick H says:

      That’s really where intuition comes in … but there are ways to foster it, or increase the opportunity for chance to play a positive role … Try this, take a story you’ve drafted … then take a notebook and think of three or four really interesting beautiful phrases, they might be lines of dialogue, landscape description, even quotes you think you can re-word, then cut them randomly into the body of the story and next time you draft, see if you can use them/bend the story towards them. Sometimes that gets great results. Everyone’s minds tends to fall down familiar wheel-ruts eventually, that’s a way for writers to force themselves out of those.

  • cheriereich says:

    Patrick had such eloquent answers. I still don’t get how people can write without first being a reader.

  • Ian D Moore says:

    Hi Patrick,

    Have you ever considered writing out of your comfort zone? Do you tend to stick to the subject matter that you feel comfortable with or are you more like me and eager to explore just exactly what you can do?

    • Patrick H says:

      Hey Ian, I do tend to have similar themes … like most writers, but I approach those via vastly different subject matter. My last book, as you see, was a redux of the journey of St Brendan, the next is about Australian bushrangers, and the following will likely be about an Australian diplomat in China. For some reason, outback Australia, 21st C big city Asia, and medieval Europe seem to resonate with me, so that’s pretty wide territory. Having said that, I can think of writers, say John Cheever, who write almost exclusively, and brilliantly, about one kind of people, one place, one time.

  • dernhelm6 says:

    What was the hardest part of writing The Darkest Little Room?

    • Patrick H says:

      Oh, so many difficulties. But one that comes to mind … That book was about a subject and a place I thought were tremendously interesting, under-reported, and which I knew a lot about. Which leads a writer (a novelist) into the dangerous territory of wanting to write a bit of an expose’, to ‘say everything’, and worse, then start to preach. So it was always a matter of checking myself. People reading a novel don’t want ‘information’, they want an experience. Greene, I think, was a master of balancing his important insights into a topic/place/people, and giving you a real dramatic novel.

  • I write a lot of fast fiction. I find the very idea of writing a book overwhelming, so I tend to shy away from the notion.

  • ericlahti says:

    Hi Patrick! We all know a good cover is the first hook that can draw in a reader, but how important do you think the actual layout of the text is in keeping the reader engaged? They say good design should fade into the background but what about using little things like glyphs to keep the book as a cohesive whole?

    • Patrick H says:

      Gee, good question … and one I haven’t put a heap of thought into I must admit. Usually choices like that are made by publishers, without much involvement from me. Except, that I do like a lot of white space. I like the reader to have a chance to rest his/her eyes. I know I enjoy that. Space and silence are essential to comprehension. Also, when I have the luxury of time, which is practically never, I like to write on an old portable typewriter my mum gave me. So, I prefer fonts (courier new) that looked like typewriter text. I must confess, I’m not a massive fan of glyphs. I like things to be very minimal.

  • Patrick, do you feel writers who write in a narrow dialect that only folk in a small circle can understand and read is still worthwhile? Some people say it limits too many people from understanding the author’s intent, others say it’s all good, at least some folk are being reached. I lean toward the latter myself, but was interested in your thoughts. Thanks!

    • Patrick H says:

      Hey Felipe … Well, there’s the old debate, should you try write for ‘lowest-common-denominator’ and make a small difference to a lot of people, or write as well as you can and potentially limit your market. How many people a book reaches, is, I think, not a great measure of its quality. It’s interesting to go back through literary history and see how few writers we admire today were every ‘big’ in their own time. There are exceptions of course, like Hemingway, Jack Kerouac (though even in the twenty years since a first read him I’ve witnessed a bit of a drop in acclaim).

      How many people you reach with your writing has a hell of a lot to do with technology, politics, market forces, fashion … none of the things that make great literature. The only thing you can do is write the best book you can, the book you need to write, and hope that you will speak to someone with it, and perhaps then they will pass it on to more people.

      I know the books that changed my life, weren’t hastily produced doorstops about vampires and cryptic prophecies, and I would feel like a fraud if I then tried to call myself a writer and produce such books. Mind you, I don’t have any ill feeling towards such books and writers. They’re just not for me, or what I do.

      If you have something to say, and work hard at how to say it, eventually your audience will find you.

      • Thanks so much, Patrick. I feel much the same way. All the best wishes for you ?

      • dominique says:

        Love this…”if you have something to say and work hard at how to say it, eventually your audience will find you .”
        Great interview and such thorough answers to all the questions .!

  • Patrick H says:

    Thanks for all your kind comments and questions folks. Sorry I can’t reply to every comment. But I will do my best to respond to every question … so keep them coming!

  • I totally agree that writers should be reading too. So many don’t! This boggles my mind.

  • WriterlySam says:

    Ahh, I adore this quote, “I like to think that one day I will write a book that both a child and a professor of literature could take something valuable from.” YES, Patrick! That’s why we do this, why we bleed upon the page, a pool of words for young minds to swim in and older minds to search beneath the surface. Having written two novels and several dozen short stories, I prefer the blissful brevity and freedom of the latter. I’ve learned to approach novel chapters as bulbs of short fiction strung together–one will burn bright enough, but together, they illuminate. You mentioned “Journey”–what are your thoughts on the music? My friend, Austin Wintory, created a rich atmosphere for Chen’s vision.

    Something Wicked This Way Comes

    • Patrick H says:

      Thanks, so much, Sam. I too love stories, though I haven’t written many recently. I’m hoping to get back into it shortly …

      And how about that! I absolutely love Austin’s soundtrack. It’s one of three recordings (Austin’s, Journey, Richter’s ‘Sleep’ and Part’s ‘Musica Selecta’ that I’m writing to at the moment. Not exactly ‘chance’ , but I love how the music has to adapt to players’ various journeys through the game, which are never the same, and remain coherent and beautiful. And that level where the temple fills with water, the way the music swells and diminishes as the player climbs and falls, and does so flawlessly … I’ve been banging on about that for ages. It’s exquisite! A couple of my books have been optioned for films. If they ever ask my advice on a soundtrack, I’ll point them towards Austin. And I must check out your work, what do you recommend I start with?

      • WriterlySam says:

        Oh, I’ve oodles of composers to recommend when the need arises! I work with film, game & trailer composers & musicians from across the globe, which comes in real handy for someone whose Muse is music:) Connect with me on social media and I can introduce you to tons of great music & the artists behind them!

        Only my short stories are published, in several anthologies, including four indie published composer-collaborative collections. My first novel, Of Myth and Memory, has been optioned *under NDA* and will hopefully be published once the details are finalized. My second, Architects of Illusion, will launch next year! Look forward to reading your works!!

  • Denise Covey says:

    I’m definitely going to find some of Patrick’s books, probably start with the short stories. I enjoy writing short stories too. I’d like to ask Patrick how he overcomes the difficult architecture of the novel as I struggle with the extended plotting / planning.
    Great guest post Damyanti.


    • Denise Covey says:

      And I’m from Brisbane too!

    • Patrick H says:

      Hey Denise,

      You’re right. It’s a lot tougher. I often feel I’m naturally good at the ‘scenes’ / the set pieces. But the novelistic architecture is something I’ve had to learn. The problem is, every novel you take up, if it’s a true and original concept, presents such a unique set of problems, it’s hard to give ‘general’ advice. But perhaps I’d say this, once you’ve drafted it, do a very fast edit. Read as quickly as you can … and that will give you a good sense of the general shape of the thing, where your architecture is working and where it’s flimsy, so you don’t get lost in the details (which is a thing I’ve often done), and so lose the larger shape.

  • fenster says:

    You’re right. Planned writing stinks. This was a great interview.

  • patgarcia says:

    Patrick Holland is new for me but I thoroughly enjoyed the interview. He states some of the things that I believe are important for a writing career, like reading. Also, it was good to find out that he writes short stories and novels because I enjoy writing both.
    Now, I’ll pick up a copy of his short stories.


  • Love the advice, Patrick–‘it’s never too late to write, unless it is’. That’s quotable. And your books sound fascinating. What a range! Thanks for sharing.

    • Patrick H says:

      Cheers, Jacqui. And it is a range, alright. Though despite the disparate subject matter … bushrangers, monks, prostitution etc … for better or worse, I think you’ll find there’s only one or two themes throughout the lot!

  • MaryHill says:

    Realy great. Thanks for introducing this great writer. Be sure to link up with us Literacy Musing Mondays.

  • Heyy damyanti love your blog. Loved the topics that you generate. Loved your writing skill soo neat and mind provoking. Learning soo much from you. Keep inspiring others with such good work. 🙂

  • As a high school senior, I remember reading “Beowulf” for the first time. The line–“Fate often saves the undoomed man, when his courage is good.” –burned itself into my heart. Of course being a football player meant I couldn’t admit my love for literature. The other quote from “Oedipus” which I came to in college is “Fate is character.”

    I believe both to be true. One works toils at his craft–and when fate or chance or, as they say, “when the window of opportunity opens,” the writer will be ready. If the writer is of such a character as to not care or finds more strength in the ol bottle, then the writing career might not happen. Chance, fate, opportunity, whatever one wishes to call it, presents itself in our lives in small doses: a chance meeting, a notice in a magazine, a book falling from the shelf. We respond because of who we are and what we want from ourselves. We respond to that fateful occurrence according to our character.

    I absolutely agree with Patrick that reading is essential. The interview was excellent. I haven’t read his works but I will now! And he loves Kawabata! That’s great!
    Thanks again!

    • Patrick H says:

      Hey Paula, you’re a Kawabata fan! He’s greatly under read here in Australia. Japan seems to have fallen of the map a little bit, especially trad/classical Japanese art, but I still try to fly the flag. And I’ve read Beowulf, but don’t remember that line … that’s absolutely brilliant. Do you have the translation? I must read it.

      • Thank you so much for your quick response. First, name is Paul…sorry, my user name is my whole name with middle initial a stuck in the middle.
        Kawabata! I love his novels. My favorite is Sound of the Mountain. It’s one of those novels that when I re-read, I always find something I’d missed before. I have always been interested in Japanese lit. Four years ago I married a wonderful Japanese lady and one result being I’ve been to Japan five times. And love it! And you are exactly right. Japanese lit isn’t well represented in mainstream bookstores or schools or universities…it’s a shame. Well, Murakami is big. Poor fellow. I just read that Svetlana Alexievich won the Noble for lit. Murakami has been short listed for the past three or four years. But–well that’s another story. 🙂
        Beowulf! OMG. I simply had that memorized. I can’t say what particular translation it comes from. It was the sixties, when I first read Beowulf. That one line never left me. I found one translation in my very disorganized library. It’s a dual language edition by a guy named Chickering. I had gotten it because it got great reviews. It’s good. He translates the line as I quote it, but he ends it with “…when his courage holds.” That last word is translated quite differently with each translator. One other version has “glorious.” I don’t know what Seamus Heaney did with that line. I never read his version.

        But thank you for your kind words.
        I’ve ordered two of your works: Navigatio–my first choice! Can’t wait to get that one. And The Mary Smokes Boys. I wanted to order Riding the Trains in Japan, but Amazon only has it on kindle. Damn. Ebay has it, but it’s shipped from Australia-$$$, and I’m way over budget so I gotta wait till November. I’ll definitely get it then. Oh, just a interesting note. My wife’s mother, Masako-san lives in Osaka. She’s 85 years old and is currently involved in riding every train in Japan. She’s just about done it with a few trains left way north. She’s great.
        So again thank you. Sorry for being so long-winded.

  • I’m a lot like you D. If you have a story you tell it. The How to Write books don’t make sense to me, but I do have dozens of grammar books, and yet still struggle. Great interview, I agree chance and luck weight heavily in publishing success.

  • I have not read any of Patrick’s works, but the interview questions you asked were spot on! What other career would Patrick have chosen if it had not been writing? Thanks for such a great post!

    • Patrick H says:

      Hey Patrick. Most definitely a composer … I may still do that! And if not that, something with cattle and horses – which work I did in my youth. If I ever make enough money to buy a place, that’s what I’ll do.

  • Ramya says:

    I haven’t read any of Pattrick’s books yet. Thanks for sharing Damayanthi.. stumbled upon your site first time from writetribe and hope to read more from you!

  • Its interesting reading peoples replies. The first thing I will say is that chance does not happen to get someones career working. It is connections and earned through hard work. Second. I want to write and I get my ideas from everywhere. I write from ideas that I turn into my own works. I do not read as much as I ever wrote. When I do read. I look at many factors about others writings. I look for story and how effective it is told. I look for how developed the characters are in the story and how well they portray emotions. I look for sentence grammar and anything I can learn from on how books are made. Mostly I feel and think and have one hell of an imagination. I rely on playtime of my imagination to tell me what to write. I thought his tips were very solid and such a help to the novice like me. Such a great post and interview. 5 stars.

  • I haven’t read any of Patrick’s works, but from the interview it’s clear that I’ve been missing out on something. Thanks for doing this, Damyanthi. I was inspired by Patrick’s answers!

  • Birgit says:

    Great interview and you bring in solid tips. I would never think someone would write a book unless they were an avid reader.

  • This is a great interview. I particularly like the questions that are posed.

  • I do not think chance plays a role. I think it’s intentional, regardless of writing methodology. We might not KNOW how the characters are going to get where they are going, but I don’t think it’s chance. Unconscious intentionality (<- my word).

    I write in such a manner. I know how it's going to end, and then let the characters tell me the story as it unfolds. As I write, I create. I still do not see it as chance.

    Nice interview, though. Thanks for posting – SRG

  • I’m embarking on the writing journey in my 40s. Do I feel like it’s too late? No. Besides, now that I’ve begun, I can’t imagine not going forward, even if it were just to post stories on my blog. By the way, IWSG is a really nice place to be!

  • lilicasplace says:

    I find it difficult to understand how anyone would choose a career as a writer if they don’t read. Being an avid reader myself, I’ve found that the more I read, the better my own writing becomes. It’s definitely helped that I’ve branched out and now read many different genres of books.

    As for chance playing a role in successful art, I agree with that to a certain extent. I’m with rxena77 when it comes to that – ‘work hitting the publishers or the public at the right time’.

    What a wonderful interview this was, and I will definitely put Mr. Holland on my TBR list. Have a great IWSG day. Eva, IWSG Co-host

  • rxena77 says:

    I believe chance favors the prepared. But sadly, writing success is mainly a case of our work hitting the publishers or the public at the right time. And that basically is what you call chance.

    As for writers not reading — what makes them want to tell stories in the first place then? (Scratches his head).

    I started writing short stories as it was faster to progress in my writing skills crafting short stories. I would learn from mistakes I made in one short story and write a better one next time.

    Then I progressed to novels. 🙂

  • It amazes me the writers who don’t read.
    I always wrote novels and never could imagine a short story. But the more we stretch and try new things, the more we discover what we can really do.

  • gruundehn says:

    Does chance play a role in art? Yes. Often someone will give up, thinking they are no good, when rejected and the rejection had nothing to do with how good the work was but the mood of the rejecter or if the rejecter could fit the work into a schedule or if the work had been submitted to the wrong venue. Chance plays a part in the acceptance or rejection of art and if someone does not realize that then they risk abandoning what should be kept.

  • skipmars says:

    Your prompt has tempted me to respond to it, not necessarily your interview. I believe many substitute the term “chance” for “fate.” The chances of anything happening are measurable, as with your chances of winning the big lottery. Chances are the odds. And odds are mathematically determinable. Find the odds, make your bet.

    Fate, however, is quite different in my reasoning. My dad always said he was at the right place at the right time when explaining his success. He would, however, also explain that his success was mathematically determined by his effort. As a salesperson, he knew he had to make so many calls in order to get a sale.

    What he couldn’t explain were all of the many independent factors that played into his success: a post-war economy; serving on a ship in the Pacific where he made fast friends with a man who basically placed him into a position to succeed. Having the right product at the right time and in the right area of the country.

    Kurt Vonnegut was as surprised at his success as anyone, and says so. Most writers of renown struggled to find a publisher . . . ANYONE . . . to read their work and to take a chance on them.

    Harper Lee, by the way, was the exception. You might have an argument regarding her success and fate.

    We all . . . no matter what the endeavor . . . have a chance for success. I’m not sure I want anyone to do the math and tell me what my chances are at this point.

    Fate? I leave that one to the spell winders and seers and other shamans in the world. And, of course, to the fantasy writers!