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My First Time with...Holly Ringland

Holly Ringland, The Riff Raff

Holly Ringland grew up wild and barefoot in her mother's tropical garden in Australia. When she was nine years old, her family lived in a camper van for two years in North America, travelling from one national park to another, an experience that sparked Holly's lifelong interest in cultures and stories. In her twenties, Holly worked for four years in a remote Indigenous community in the central Australian desert.

In 2009 she moved to England and she went on to obtain a MA in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester. Holly has taught creative writing at Lancaster University, and to women in prison, and for five years she volunteered as leader of a Greater Manchester storytelling project called International 16, bringing together 16 students from 16 countries (including the UK) to promote global friendship through stories. She will be reading her debut novel The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart at The Riff Raff on Thursday 12th July...

Here's the blurb for The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart...

'After her family suffers a tragedy, nine-year-old Alice Hart is forced to leave her idyllic seaside home. She is taken in by her grandmother, June, a flower farmer who raises Alice on the language of Australian native flowers, a way to say the things that are too hard to speak.Under the watchful eye of June and the women who run the farm, Alice settles, but grows up increasingly frustrated by how little she knows of her family's story.

In her early twenties, Alice's life is thrown into upheaval again when she suffers devastating betrayal and loss. Desperate to outrun grief, Alice flees to the dramatically beautiful central Australian desert. In this otherworldly landscape Alice thinks she has found solace, until she meets a charismatic and ultimately dangerous man.'

Describe the exact moment you decided to write your book?

I was three years old, and walked out to my mum (who’d taught me to read by then) and announced that I was going to be a writer, just like May Gibbs, with my favourite copy of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie in hand.

Or, a more recent moment was in 2013. When I had one of the bigger revelations in my life as I came to understand that in my unfinished attempts to write a novel, I’d been hiding from myself. I realised that if I was going to write something from my soul, I had to write dangerously, from the sore place we have inside all of us. About six months later I wrote the first line of Lost Flowers. Alice Hart had arrived, fully formed, and I was obligated to her, to tell her story.

What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before starting to write it?

Although it was my lifelong dream to become an author, in trying I suffered the common writerly malaise of thinking I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, able enough, brave enough – enough, basically – to write a novel, let alone get it published. This answer is enabled by hindsight, of course: in some cases like writing our first novels, we can’t know that we can do it, until we do. Nevertheless, I wish I’d known I was enough before starting to write it.

What’s your go-to procrastination method?

Anything that isn’t writing. Cleaning seems popular. Also, texting friends, social media content, yoga, grocery shopping. Reading. Tweezing my eyebrows. Writing letters. Getting tattooed. Literally anything that I can convince myself is a productive and worthwhile use of my time.

Any tantrums while writing it?

With myself? Dear god, every single day. Multiple times a day! Always because of fear. Always a result of coming up against fear and self doubt.

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, The Riff Raff

Best thing about writing your book? Watching how me achieving my lifelong dream, especially with the story of Lost Flowers in particular, has enabled my mum to step into her own light and voice.

And the worst?

Learning firsthand that there is no trick to writing a novel: it happens word by word by word, bum in seat day after day after day and is entirely dependent on courage, grit, and steely-mindedness.

Go-to writing snacks?

Coffee. Coffee. Tea. Tea with varying amounts of honey. Eventually when actual nutrition is called for, avocado on toast.

Who or what inspires you to write?

Who: my female ancestors who were robbed of education, opportunities and acknowledgement of their dreams, let alone their rights to pursue them.

What: the gut feeling that it’s what I’m alive to do, which I’ve learned over the years I’m very lucky to have had all my life.

The book that changed you?

Women Who Run With The Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estés.

Your pump up song?

I was a teenager of the 90s: anything Pearl Jam.

If you could share a bottle of wine with one writer, who would it be?

Alice Hoffman.

One piece of advice you’d give first time writers hoping to get published?

Every single book you’ve ever picked up and loved has gone through countless stages of being utterly shit, before it was edited and polished into a thing of beauty: your first draft is perfect - its sole purpose is to exist. You can’t edit a blank page.

Buy the book >>


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