I’m really excited to share with you guys the highlights from an interview I did with author RK Holliday. He’s a super nice guy and author of two books–The Edifice, a middle-grade fantasy/sci-fi novel; and Alone Together: Why Your Kids Are Watching Others Play, a non-fiction book for parents of gamers.
I have to say, this is one helluva nice guy. When I first reached out to him, I told him I would only take up 20 minutes of his time. Long story short, I kept him on the line for a little over an hour and a half. If you ever interview someone, stick to your proposed time frame, don’t be an A-hole like I was. That said, he was incredibly kind, funny, and generous with his time. It felt like talking to an old friend. I really hope you enjoy the interview. If you do, support a good guy and BUY HIS BOOKS!!!
Christopher Tallon: Hey man! Thanks for doing this.
RK Holliday: Absolutely. Thank you for the opportunity.
CT: Start out with the easy ones. Where are you from?
RK: I live in the Orlando [FL] area now, but I was born and raised in Mississippi. I went to college in Nashville [TN], and when I was about 22, 23 I moved to Florida.
CT: Before we get to know you better, tell us about your books. You have one fiction and one non-fiction, correct?
RK: Yeah, that’s right.
CT: The Edifice is your novel?
CT: Give us the quick rundown on that.
RK: Sure. The Edifice is about a young boy named Connor Laurel. Unlike a lot of characters, like, for example, Harry Potter, Connor starts out with kind a perfect life. He comes from a nice home, has good parents. Then he finds out he has a rare disease, and strange men come and take him away. But he finds out his disease is actually kind of a super power.
CT: Who’s the audience for this novel?
RK: It’s perfect for kids 8-12. Older readers could get into, too. But it’s more of a middle grade book. If you liked the Harry Potter books, X-Men, or Ender’s Game, you’d probably like The Edifice.
CT: You mentioned Harry Potter a few times. Did you like those books?
RK: I did like those books. . .but not so much for the characters. I thought Harry was kind of a dick.
RK: You can put that in [the interview] or leave it out–up to you. But ya, the characters in those books weren’t what I loved. I loved the world JK Rowling built in those books more than anything. And with my book, I wanted to create a world that’s unique, but kind of blends in with our reality. So it’s fantasy, but also a little bit science fiction. It’ll hopefully be the start of a 4 to 6 book series. The second book should be done this year.
CT: Very cool. How about your non-fiction book. What’s going on there?
RK: Yeah, that one’s called Alone Together: Why Your Kids Are Watching Others Play. It’s really meant to be an introduction for parents to the foundation of gaming.
CT: Ok, so it’s not a book that gives parenting advice, so much as insights into the fascination behind gaming. Like, why kids would want to put on their headset and play video games over going outside and play in-person with other kids.
RK: Right. I don’t have kids so I’m not gonna be the guy to say this-is-how-you-should-parent-your-kids or, it’s important to limit their screen time to this, that, or whatever. It’s not a heavy research book. It’s not a how-to book. It’s more: This is what life is like for kids now. When a lot of parents were younger, video games were kind of seen as a waste of time. But for kids now, they can watch these tournaments where teenagers are winning millions of dollars in one weekend playing Fortnite, and it’s a whole different thing. We can’t all grow up to be professional athletes, but a 13 year old just won a few million dollars at an international Fortnite tournament, and kids look at gaming in a completely different way than someone over, say, 35 might. Kids see people–other kids–making a career out of gaming.
CT: Ya, the landscape of gaming, and the opportunities involved have definitely changed since Mario Bros. came out.
RK: Absolutely. And this book also helps parents who aren’t in the loop talk to kids about video game and streaming culture.
CT: Nice. Now that we know about the books, tell me how you got into writing in the first place.
RK: It was a slow progression. I wasn’t one of those kids who knew what they wanted to do when they were in jr. high. Most of the kids I grew up with were really into hunting and stuff. And that’s fine, but it was never really my thing. I was more of a romantic. So if there was a girl I liked, I’d write her a poem or something. Then I started to learn how to play guitar and turned to songwriting. In my early twenties, I got married and started seriously trying to figure out how I was gonna make money. Songs don’t last very long, unless you write an incredible hit song or something. But people still read books that were written awhile ago and enjoy them just as much today. So I started playing around with writing literature.
CT: I won’t ask where do you get your ideas from, because anyone who asks that is kind of an A-hole.
RK: Haha. Right?
CT: But tell me how you generate ideas, and what your writing process looks like?
RK: Well my ideas usually come to me when I’m in the shower, or somewhere else where I don’t have a pen and paper ready to go.
CT: Of course.
RK: As for my process, I’ve read a lot about the best and worst ways to do it. I’m more of a sprints guy. I like to spend time plotting things out, then I let it breathe for awhile. Then when I feel motivation–not inspiration, but motivation–I start hammering it out in hard sprints. I write on my computer or my phone, so I’m usually on the couch or in bed. I’ll write a lot all at once, then I might ease off a few days. I know a lot of writers, like Neil Gaiman, say you should write a page a day. I’m not a page a day guy. If someone asked me, I’d tell them you probably should be, but. . .I’m not.
CT: OK, one more writing question. Then we’ll move on.
CT: Writing vs Plotting. Some writers plot everything and won’t begin writing until the know exactly how it will end. Others, myself included, let the story go where it will. Where do you stand?
RK: With that, I think it comes down to where you’re thinking about writing for a market or for your own passion. I shared a meme on Instagram that’s gotten a lot of likes. It kind of speaks to writing in a formulaic way. It works really well for some people. But it’s obvious that it’s written with the market in mind. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with plotting to get going, but you don’t wanna lean too hard into it. You can let the market define your story, or you can let your passion define your story. There’s a market for everything. At the end of the day, self-awareness is super important. You have to look at it this way: If you love it, you’ve won.
CT: Besides writing, what do you like to do?
RK: I’ve kind of recently gotten in to photography. I like coding. I mentioned that I play the guitar and write songs. Obviously I’m into video games. Especially stuff like League of Legends. But I have to be careful; I get moody and feel like I just have to play that game sometimes.
CT: Yeah. I like video games, too, but my wife–not so much. Which is good. I’d waste way too much time if it weren’t for her. How does your wife feel about video games?
RK: My wife’s a gamer, too. I kind of won the lottery there. But she’s more into Zelda, Mario Kart, Fallout. . .
CT: Do you have any hidden talents?
RK: Not really. I used to have a buddy who could kick himself in the back of the head. He did it on Jay Leno once.
CT: That’s awesome!
RK: Yeah. But me? I guess I used to be pretty good at impressions. When I was a little younger I’d perform in front of people doing impressions and a little improv.
CT: How many people would you perform in front of?
RK: When we did it at youth camps and stuff, it’d be a few thousand at a time.
CT: Wow. That’s pretty cool.
RK: Yeah. I Don’t know if I’m any good now. It’s been awhile.
CT: Wow. I said 15-20 minutes and we’re at least an hour past that. Sorry about that.
RK: No problem. This is fun.
CT: OK. Just a few more and I’ll let you go.
CT: Ever met a famous person?
RK: I was college friends with Erin Napier. She hosts Home Town on HGTV. One of the houses the redid belongs to a guy I was in a band with.
CT: What’s the coolest place you’ve ever visited.
RK: I’d say Disney, but it’s not really cool to talk about Disney if you live in Orlando (even though everyone is secretly obsessed.) There’s a place called The Patterson House in Nashville. It’s like a 20s speakeasy. They’ve got rules there on how to behave. Like, guys can’t hit on girls. You have to wait to be called over to the bar. It’s a really cool place.
CT: Where would you most like to visit?
RK: Rural Colorado. Not sleeping with the bears or anything. But I’d like to rent a cabin in the mountains, away from the touristy stuff.
CT: Last thing. Give us your favorite movie, TV show, and book.
RK: Based on number of times watched, Wayne’s World. I’m not much of a TV guy, but I like Seinfeld and The Office. Fiction–Catcher in the Rye and The Grapes of Wrath. Non-fiction–Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.
CT: Thanks again for doing this. And sorry again for keeping you so long.
RK: No problem. I enjoyed it.