Author Craig Holt's vivid work is partly fueled by coffee.
Since I moved to Seattle four and a half years ago I’ve had the honor of meeting many great fellow authors working in a variety of genres. The Pacific Northwest is a bustling literary hub. Some credit the “gloomy” weather (though it doesn’t rain nearly enough for my moody tastes, despite its rep), which in turn leads one to drink. Not just bourbon. Coffee. It’s “coffee weather” basically all year here except summertime, which is actually warm and sunny, but then there’s always iced coffee.
All of which is a roundabout way to introduce you to a Seattle writer I’ve never actually met in person because the fact is, as much as I love my natural ambience, I hate leaving my house. I became acquainted with Craig Holt the old-fashioned way: Facebook. And unlike me, he actually not only leaves his house, but also the city, state, and country on a semi-regular basis. And again, his audience reaps the resulting rewards.
Since I am in the process of wrapping up this series at year’s end, it’s my pleasure to be able to include Craig. We may even meet in person someday, even if only by accident. Meantime, after reading this exchange, you’ll feel like you know him already, and that’s a good, cozy feeling. He’s both very nice and very talented, a killer combo…
As an avid Northwestern caffeine consumer and self-described “coffee geek,” how much is your creativity fueled by caffeine, and how much by just life itself? (That’s a fancy way of asking where you get your dreams, Agent Cooper)
Mostly my writing is the result of a hyperactive imagination and a compulsive story-telling urge. Coffee just helps me do it faster. (I think the old saying is, “Coffee: Do stupid things faster, with more energy!”) Having said that, my morning routine is to wake up at 4:45, throw on some sweats, and get to the computer. Coffee is obviously necessary at that time. The key is to hit the keys before my Internal Editor wakes up. That guy’s a dick. Luckily, he sleeps late.
Unlike a lot of authors (well, me, anyway), you have a very athletic lifestyle. How does this healthy physical exertion complement or coincide with your artistic endeavors?
I self-medicate through exercise. Always have. Running in particular is a great way for me to work through thorny plot issues or think about character backstories. There’s something good about burning off the physical symptoms of frustration while digging into the minutiae of story. Also, I’m a restless person. I’d lose my friggin’ mind if I didn’t exercise.
In addition to non-sedentary stuff like exercise, you’ve also traveled a lot. How have these experiences around the world informed or influenced your work?
I’ve been lucky to do a huge amount of travel over the last few decades, and it’s helped me see some through-lines in human behavior. There are great people and douchebags everywhere. A bully here is like a bully in Kampala, Pyin Oo Lwin or Cartagena. Kindness is kindness. Travel has taught me everyone – in life and in writing – should be approached with a certain amount of sympathy. Unless, of course, they’re a dirt bag soldier shaking you down for cash at a roadblock outside Nairobi; then I think a bit of hostility is justified.
The travel also helps me see things at home in a different light. When you’re on the road, you everything’s new and strange. You take it all in like a baby, senses blown wide open. And there’s this great time after you get back when you see your own culture with that same kind of openness. You feel the weirdness of it, and you notice things you’d taken for granted. It can help make your writing about even mundane subjects more vivid.
What are your influences, literary or otherwise?
I love great writing of all genres, but I’d say Edgar Allen Poe and Charles M Shultz were early influences. (Is that a weird combination?) I’m a big fan of A.M. Homes, Cormac McCarthy, David Sedaris, Ann Patchett and Christopher Moore. I remember staying up until four in the morning finishing Lord of the Flies as a high schooler. I put the book down and thought, God damn. Truth!
What’s next for you?
I’m working on a murder mystery about an alcoholic lawyer who crawls back to her hometown to drink herself to death. She takes a gig solving a blackmail case as a way of paying for booze, but when the bodies start dropping she gets distracted from her intended self-destruction. It’s set in a rain-drenched Northwest hamlet full of meth addicts and perverts. I’m enjoying myself immensely. Still, I might put that on the backburner and write something light for a change.
But probably not.
Is that coffee I smell brewing, or just your brain? Either way, cheers!
Craig Holt is the author of three books, four screenplays, and a bunch of weird short stories. His novel Hard Dog to Kill was a finalist in both the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association Literary Competition, and the Colorado Gold Writing Contest. When he is not scribbling in the pre-dawn hours, he is an avid (obsessive?) reader.