Writer spotlight: Vincent Holland-Keen

Fox Spirit’s ‘skulk’ (the term for a group of foxes) is filled with interesting and unique authors. We’ll be dragging them out of the den periodically to ask them about their writing, books, favourite foods and anything else we think of.

Have a favourite author? Get in touch with your questions!

Our first victim, sorry, interviewee, is Vincent Holland-Keen, author of the YA book ‘Billy’s Monsters‘ and the adult ‘The Office of Lost & Found‘ both available from Fox Spirit Books.

Vincent Holland-Keen

Kit: What led you to write ‘Billy’s Monsters’?

VH-K: I don’t remember the exact sequence of events, but I had wanted to write a young adult novel for a while because that was the age at which I had most of my formative reading experiences. At some point my publisher, Adele, suggested carrying on the story of Billy, who appeared in my previous book ‘The Office of Lost and Found’ and the latter suggestion may have been accompanied by none too subtle prods, so I think it’s safe to say the short answer was ‘peer pressure’ 🙂

Kit: If you had a tunnel under your bed, where would you like it to lead?

VH-K: I want to say somewhere bizarre and exciting, like some fantastical city of strange beings at the nexus between disparate worlds… but while the adventurous explorer in me would find that appealing, my more sensible and rational side would constantly be worrying about those strange beings getting back through while I slept or the tunnel collapsing while I was stuck on the wrong side…

Kit: Editing is something I hate doing. How do you edit your work and what tips would you give to others?

VH-K: I also hate editing. There’s nothing that sucks the joy out of something you’ve written more completely than reading the same sentences over and over and making this tweak or that tweak and then reading them again and still find a typo you’d previously missed. To that end, I try to avoid editing as much as possible by editing as I go, or even pre-editing in my head before I go write anything, just to save that chore of revisiting a draft multiple times. But I couldn’t recommend that approach to others because what suits one person doesn’t suit another. The only tip I’d have is get used to editing, because you’ll have to do it sooner or later and the better you get at it, the better your story will end up being. Oh, and maybe try editing other people’s work; poking holes in words written by someone else is both educational and significantly less bruising to your own ego.

Kit: Scarlett is a feisty leader while her sister Hester is more passive. Did you find it challenging to write the sisterly bond, especially given the Hester barely speaks?

VH-K: I wouldn’t say it was challenging to write, though whether their relationship rings true is very much down the reader. Hester’s quiet nature is probably closer to my own in that she rarely feels the need to tell anyone anything, regardless of how she’s feeling, whereas Scarlett has to express her frustrations and gets to be the quick wit that i can be an hour or two after the fact.

Kit: Does this book link in with your other novels and will there be a sequel?

VH-K: In answer to the first part of the question: Yes, it does. Billy first appears in the more adult preceding novel ‘The Office of Lost and Found’. And yes, there will be a sequel, but I’ve no clue when it’ll be finished. I can say it features a different lead character, but Billy, Scarlett and Hester will have a part to play.

Kit: If the world were suddenly invaded by monsters, who and what would you grab?

VH-K: The snarky answer to that would be: but don’t we already live in a world of monsters? To which the proper response would be: stop being so condescending. Everyone knows real monsters have fur or scales or fangs or tentacles or ideally all of the above. And if they invaded, I’d have to grab my girlfriend because she’d be really good at dealing with monsters (either fighting them or engaging in polite conversation as the life-threatening situation demanded) and as for the what… maybe a football. Sport can be a good way of bringing species together, at least until there’s a questionable offside call.

Kit: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

VH-K: I don’t think I’ve ever done anything crazy. My sensible and rational side is far too diligent to allow crazy to happen. Though I did do some sock puppetry at Derby bus station once.

Kit: If you could be a character in any movie or TV show, who would it be and why?

VH-K: Even though I’m not a huge fan of the film, Buckaroo Banzai seems a good choice. He helps people, has a group of loyal friends that join him on off-the-wall adventures and he’s amazing at everything.

Kit: I know you’re a keen filmmaker, with various things for Unbound. Do you have any plans to make ‘Billy’s Monsters’ into a film?

VH-K: No, but I’d love to if given the chance. Alas the budget required would be beyond anything we could muster. But that’s the great thing about books of course, you can write stories about anything, money no object.

Kit: Tell us your favourite fox and why.

VH-K: It’d have to be Aunty Fox, because she publishes my books and is deserving of a grateful pat on the head every now and then 🙂

Many thanks Vincent! Till next time foxy folk 🙂 


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