Monday, September 7, 2009

Michael Holgate: A Rare Breed

Q: You are one of the most creative West Indians I have ever met. Do you seen any childhood links that may have attributed to your prolific expression?

A: Thank you very much. My first reaction is to cower from such high praise, especially coming from you. The truth is however, that I love thinking of myself as Caribbean (West Indian) creative artist. Here, the word Caribbean is important because I believe that Caribbean aesthetics already has within it the dynamism so many centuries of forging a fine 'mettle' from the cultural realities of different races, cultures, peoples, in a small space. So from a young age, like most Caribbean youths, I was exposed to various forms of creative expression - up close and personal. Dance in primary school. Drawing. Singing in the choir. I've always been interested in the creative arts and fortunately my interest was never 'satisfactorily' discouraged. My father was a preacher who played guitar and sang sometimes, while my mother taught primary school. I think I got a little bit of both of their talents. When I was a child, my mother would sometimes ask me to do the drawings for her charts that she would put up in her classroom. That was priceless affirmation of my creativity. Also, I believe that reading so much as a child fueled my creativity from a very early age. I had a voracious appetite for books while growing up. So from a very early age I was stimulating both creative intellect and creative imagination.

Q: What was the biggest challenge in completing your first YA novel - Night of the Indigo?

A: My biggest challenge in completing Night of the Indigo was staying within the word count. There was so much more of the story to tell. But I'm glad that I had to be more concise. That forced me to choose every word very carefully and hopefully, that also made the writing better.

Q: In Trinidad I sometimes encounter superstition in religious communities regarding imaginative play
and fictitious speculation about all that is Unseen. Is there any resistance in Jamaica regarding the melding of Faith and Fiction?

A: Hmmmm.... Tough one. Well, Jamaica has so many 'faiths' - so many forms of religious expressions. From Rasta, to revival, to traditional christian... and on and on. In fact, Jamaica is supposedly in the Guiness book of world records for the most churches per square mile. It would be impossible for faith to be excluded from anything. Also, faith has always been a driving force for Jamaican creative expression. The Rastafarian faith was a driving force for the socially conscious reggae music. Lyrically, the songwriters such as Bob Marley and Peter Tosh were telling stories and creating 'works of fiction' based on the Rastafarian ideology. On this level, there is definitely no resistance to the melding of faith and fiction. In relation to specifically literary works of fiction I haven't really experienced that resistance either. I think its generally understood here that a story better brings across a message with conviction - isn't the bible essentially a book of stories.


Q: Who is your biggest fan?

A: My biggest fan is probably my younger brother Richard Holgate, who listens to and reads all my creative expressions before they are even fully formed.


Q: What next for Marassa? Is there a sequel or book to movie project in the works?

A: Marassa definitely wants his story to continue into two more books and a film. I'm even considering a children's musical theatre production based on the Night of the Indigo. I love writing songs and plays and my background is in theatre.


Q: What has been the most surprising/ unexpected thing about getting published for the first time?

A: Perhaps the most surprising/unexpected thing about getting published is that people actually recognise me on the street and say things like: "Aren't you an author?" or "Didn't you write a book or somethink like that?" I always thought that writers were a rare breed of creative artist who didn't get much notice unless they were JK Rowling or Stephen King.


Q: Jamaica seems to be light years ahead of other West Indian cultures in supporting and promoting individual excellence in music, sport, film, publishing - What's the perception like on the inside?

A: I just learned that some recent survey places Jamaica as the second happiest nation in the world. I don't think that's because there is so much happy stuff happening. I think it's because as a saying goes we "Take kin teeth kibba heart bun" (Use laughter as a medicine to soothe heartache). I think that what happens is that, not only laughter, but sport, music, and other forms of creative expression are what keep us going, despite the hardship that exists. Also, it's not that the government supports and promotes. It's more that when people struggle and scrape through and reach on top, then those who didn't do that much to help them, jump on the bandwagon with congratulations.


Q: What advice would you give to yourself now - if you went back a decade say?

A: The most important advice I think would be "Just do your thing" - don't watch what others are doing or saying. Most of the people you live your life trying to please or impress won't be around as the years go by. They go on and live their own dreams, sometimes not even realizing that they are crushing yours. So don't allow anyone to crush your dream even if they are doing it cause they think it's best for you. Even if it's a dear loved one. You never know what's gonna happen, so just live everyday doing YOU cause that's why you're here.


Q: Have you read any of the Island Fiction titles? If so which is your favorite/ or do you admire any of the other authors and why?

A: I admire all of the authors for writing in this genre. I so love fantasy/sci-fi. It's my favourite kind of fiction, films, stories period. I've only read Time Swimmer so far and I really liked how the story wove its way through time and through my mind. I could easily see it as a ten part TV series. The writing is so cinematographic.


Q: What would you most like to share that we haven't covered?

A: I'm extremely happy to be a part of this series.
I think it's magic how I started writing in this genre and just prayed to find the right publisher.
Only to see your ad in the paper asking for exactly the kind of novel I was working on.
I give thanks to you and to Macmillan Caribbean.

see also recent article Dance of Destiny in the Jamaica Gleaner: