Heart Like A Hole interview

  • Why are your favourite male authors accused of chauvinism? (Bret Easton Ellis, Charles Bukowski, Michel Houellebecq)

– I don’t know why. But then again, I don’t see or analyze stories with an eye like that. Over fifteen years ago, when I first discovered these authors, I was in a very irate state with no ways of channelling negative emotions, except for listening to heavy metal and reading books that described characters being chopped up.

I was basically reading about arseholes to learn to understand them. Yes, the victims were women for the most part, but I viewed them as people. And I think that men are often jealous of the female gender, but we can talk about womb envy another time.

We are all victims in one way or another–both male and female–even if we choose not to be. I’m not a feminist that analyzes fiction with a gender approach, not like that. It gets too one-dimensional.

Why are my top favourite authors male?

I named a few on my website because I love their technique of originality in storytelling. One aided my anger management by imagining my former ex being tortured for the pain he inflicted on people. It’s my way of channelling negative energies.

The other writer has a semi-autobiographical style, which has a huge impact on how I write today. You create a fictional character, dump your thoughts and feelings on them and see how they handle them. And voilà, they handle it better than you! So you learn from them–your alter ego. Your alter ego is often the better half of your mind or your dark side that nobody knows. That way, you’re not hurting people for real, but you’re tackling your problems–on your own.

You’re bringing across a new form of honesty that a lot of people can’t handle sometimes. This is how storytelling should be, especially for those who can’t express their feelings so that people get it. Sometimes you have to feed a little bit off the dark to understand yourself and the world around you. It doesn’t mean I agree with everything they say or write. It’s not like you’re going over the top like Cioran. It’s just that if you don’t go to your own personal dark place, you won’t ever understand happiness, and you won’t ever find peace. And yes, you can use this as a motivation to write. Why the hell not? Know your limit is all I can say.

Oscar Wilde is the only one that knows the beauty of words and the power and passion that comes from them. Every choice of word that he uses has a purpose and the ability to melt your heart. I can’t do that. Of course, you like writers that are one-of-a-kind geniuses expressing a level of emotions that are similar to yours. This is how you relate and build hope because there are people out there feeling similar things.

You gain some form of understanding from other people through a simple story. This is how a story tells you, “I feel your pain, bruh.” There are more underlying meanings in their stories that people don’t always see due to different perceptions. They are merely writers writing about their experience with life. If you read some Jordan B. Peterson, you will learn about men’s biological development and see where they are coming from. It’s the same for women. After you’ve applied biology, add psychology and sociology as well and analyze again, if you wish. Do what you have to do, but it’s just a story. Why can’t you enjoy the damn story?

I have my favourite female writers in my top ten if that makes anyone feel better. Mary Shelley and Charlotte Brontë – to name a couple. Unlike Austen, they don’t constantly brag about their female protagonists and make them appear like fairy tale miracles. To me, it’s unbearable and sounds more boastful than compelling and honest. I suppose it was very relevant during their time, and it’s still relevant in other cultures, but hey–both men and women can create strong female protagonists. Women can create strong male characters (look at Pat Barker), and men can create strong female leads, too (look at Stieg Larsson, Khaled Hosseini, etc.). So, what the hell is people’s problem?


  • Do most authors use writing to channel their thoughts and emotions?

– They do for the most part, or they are en route to self-discovery. You know this feeling where you are unhappy, life is not going your way, and you wonder why. Then you realise that it’s all down to your attitude, the way you treat others, your lack of empathy and so on. If you do not want to talk about these things with others, but you want these problems looked at and dealt with, you write.

I felt lonely the day I wrote on the first page of my first journal in 1994. That moment I realised that I was feeling horribly alone inside my head. Up to this day, I’ve only been blogging cheaply about it.

Why was I lonely and depressed inside my head? People would tell me to snap out of it, say that I was feeling sorry for myself and that others had it way worse. That’s all you’ll ever hear. You need to know that people won’t ever fully understand you.

And if you’re a loser like me who can’t express herself accurately, then it’s best to express that troubled part of you through fiction. It will feel a lot better, even accurate.

If people tell you that fiction isn’t real, ignore it. The most important truth is how you feel. Whatever works for you is important. They can’t make you view their reality because it’s not the same through your eyes. But people won’t ever understand it. Just keep it to yourself or on paper, because that’s what we can do best. Carl Jung once said that loneliness comes from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to us. If writing didn’t exist, or if art didn’t exist, the world would’ve ended a long time ago. This is what you have to keep in mind.


  • How did Heart Like A Hole come to fruition?

– Back in 2006, I wrote a short story based on a blood-stained band-aid. The writing exercise involved how an object related to a character. I wrote about an obsessive-compulsive physician who has lunch with one of her patients and ends up almost killing him at the restaurant. Never in my life did I get an A in high school, and I never expected to get one at university, but I did for that story.

My tutor found it so hilarious he said I should develop it. Eventually, the physician became a professional surgeon, and that story became a chapter in the book.

Shortly after graduation in 2007, I started writing the novel. I finished the first draft in 2010 when I returned to the UK to start my master’s degree. I was honestly lost with no mentor or guidance during the writing phase, so I was happy to go back to university. I shared the draft with fellow writers and tutors. I’d learned a lot in that year at Goldsmiths College. However, I left feeling more anxious and hopeless, self-conscious…as I was on my own again with a job called redrafting.

I was very insecure about my writing, but I did my best to make the story work. I would share it with close friends and ask for feedback, but I had zero confidence. In 2014/2015, I started asking for editing support, and I felt lucky that my former tutor, Elizabeth, from my undergraduate degree, reached out and offered me a friendship rate to edit my book that included detailed feedback.

The editing process lasted a good year. Since I appreciated her help so much, I didn’t want her to prioritize my work, so I never gave her a deadline. With her edits and comments, I needed time to digest it all before applying them. I trusted her judgement and applied about ninety percent of her suggestions. I even changed the title.

As a Nine Inch Nails fan, I changed it from Somewhat Damaged to Heart Like A Hole. She really disliked the first choice and said that I might as well call it Mildly Concussed. I found it hilarious. So, towards the end of 2016, I thought I was ready and had been querying publishing firms and agents even though I hated it.

In the meantime, I had close friends and a local press guy to look at my so-called ‘finished draft.’ They seemed to have found the opening slow and uneventful and suggested a rewrite. I took their feedback very seriously, so I did. I also rewrote a couple of the later chapters too. Without trusting my grammar and my general sense of syntax, I had felt too shy to bother Elizabeth again. Instead, I sought my friend Sam, also an editor, to look over the changes for me. I’m very thankful for my editors’ support, as I really needed pros to deconstruct my writing and point out my errors. They didn’t do that at Goldsmiths.

They only talked about content, which was more important at the time.


  • Why does Ellen Parker’s story have to be told? What is the main drive?

– These were the question my tutor at Goldsmiths, Francis, would often throw at me. He was certain that it was a personal thing, some dilemma, a quandary that I had to tackle. He thought Ellen was a serious alter ego of mine and that she and I have the same goal. He asked if I knew what it was. I didn’t actually tell him that she was everything I wanted to be. She symbolizes success, talent, financial stability and hard work that leads to something great and meaningful.

And this was not how I saw my life. Neither did I ever think that I was beautiful as a kid growing up in a white-dominant society that had made me want to be white myself. The majority of my friends were of Scandinavian descent, and I’d always admired the confidence that came with their looks. It’s the same with Japanese anime creators being fascinated by Western eyes, so they create cartoon characters that are more beautiful than you.

If you ask me why Ellen’s story has to be told, my answer is that I wanted to see how big I could dream. I wanted to escape who I was and be someone else. The conclusion is, no matter who you are, you won’t ever be perfect, not to mention your life.

If I think of Ellen Parker, I see someone like Charlize Theron wearing a lab coat. I also made Ellen up to see if we have anything in common, but we don’t, really. I let her lead me through her journey, and then she blamed me for what I’d created. I’m very guilt-prone, so I didn’t take it so well, but there was nothing more that I could give her or do for her.

Close friends that know me well would see elements of me inside Ellen’s character or think that her dark desires were mine, but it’s not true. If you ask me what this story’s main motivation is, I can tell you that I needed to create something greater than myself.

Remember that Dorian Gray is whom Oscar Wilde desired to be, but he was merely Basil, the artist.


  • How did you feel after completing and publishing your book? Has your way of writing fiction changed over the years?

– I felt accomplished at first, but that didn’t last long. My way and perception of writing have changed tremendously in terms of what I studied and learned at university. I used to be rather confident in my stories and never really paid much attention to style elements (despite reading E.B. White and William Strunk).

But if you’re eager to put the story down on paper, you’re not always aware of how you’re telling the story. In fact, the technical side of writing never struck me so hard until Elizabeth pointed it out to me.

I became very self-conscious in my choice of words and how I described things, as I’m often not concise enough. I pretended to be a native English writer while I’m not. The awareness of it was crucial, though. That was a lesson, if not realisation.

If you have a good story, but you’re unable to make the writing compelling, your story is only 60% good. On the other hand, you may have a crappy story with excellent writing. But what is excellent writing? Scenes and actions that are described perfectly? Like two people drinking tea? Words are put in the perfect spot?

Writing well is mastering the ability to show through imagery, metaphor, and action. If you like Hemingway, you will know what I mean. There are women out there that say he is cold and lacks emotion. Seriously, how blind can you possibly be? What do you think the rain means on the last pages of A Farewell to Arms? It’s genius if you ask me. You may think it’s easy to imitate Hemingway, but it is not. He has probably expressed more emotion than I ever have in any writing.

To write like your heroes, you have to imitate them and make their style your own.

What do you think Andy Warhol did in the bloom of postmodernism? Everything has been done before. If you will imitate something that already exists, how will you add a piece of yourself to make it unique? You have to think about that.

Who you are already makes it different and special. You have to make yourself stand out.

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