Author Interview: Rian F. Holes

Rian F. Holes

How long have you been writing or when did you start?
I’ve started writing by the age of seven. In fact I created my first stories when I learned reading and writing in primary school.  We had stories in school about a teddy bear called “UMI”. He just did usual things like going to the playground, making a cake or so. As pupils we learned to read our first short sentences. Words we were not already able to read were replaced by small pictures within the text.

I thought that UMI shall do more interesting things. So after school I’ve started to write more stories of the teddy bear. And I just used pictures for words I wasn’t able to write yet. Like in school. As a teenager I wrote much more. I think I’ve finished my first short novel by the age of eleven. It was an adventure story about the inhabitants of a village in the Bronze Age. I’ve tried a lot of genres in my teenage years, mostly crime, horror and science fiction.

As an adult I didn’t had much time for fictional writing since I had to write a lot for the job and during my study. I’ve started the try my first thriller novels in that time. But I didn’t finish them.

As my children grew older and all my writings for my degrees were completed I read a lot of English novels. Mostly techno-thrillers, dystopia or fictional stuff. So In 2021 I’ve decided to start writing my first mystery-science-thriller in English. And in 2022 “Ice and Prey” was finally published.

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?
Well, I think the plot comes first. To be true when I am starting a new book project there are first scenes that comes up to my mind. I imagine a specific I got inspired by whatever caught my attention. Like in the case of my current WIP, called “Aching Deep”. There had been many different scenes in my mind but first I’ve thought about them as several stories. When a scene got stuck in my head and I begin to really like thinking about it I start thinking of how the backstory of this scene could be. So I thought about putting the different scenes in my head together to one plot combining it with a backstory.

This way of writing, also called “pantser”, leads to start writing a story. But of course there are first some milestone-scenes I put onto sheets that are just loosely connected to each other. My first drafts are full of plotholes. Many authors I’ve talked to find this very horrible. But for me it is the perfect point to start with plotting, character creating and developing of the story.  

How do you develop your plot and characters?
Since there are more plotholes than a real story when I am working on my first draft I have to fill, or fix all of these plotholes. That’s the most interesting part of the writing process for me. Because at that point I start to enlarge and develop the backstory of all the milestone-scenes and of how I could connect them to each other.

So this is at least the moment when I start to create the plot itself. But that means that the plot evolves itself while I am writing and have already written 100 or 200 pages. That is really exciting since I do not know how my story will go and what the plot of my own novel is all about until I’ve finished the ARC.

While I am in the process of plot creating I do work a lot on the characters. I am really annoyed by stories that are filled with stereotype characters. So I always try to make my characters more realistic. Not perfect, witch strengths and weaknesses. Making faults, going through a learning process during the book.

Of course some characters end up having more evolved in detail than others. And yes, I leave some characters a bit kind of stereotype like. But since some characters are just needed to describe other more important ones better, they have to be left stereotype. Main characters of course are much more developed since the readers need them to have someone to identify with and to be able to understand their behaviour, feelings and thinking.

In my debut novel “Ice and Prey” you can notice that in case of the main character, Professor Susanne Hoffmann. She changes her way how to think about the world at some points of the plot. So the readers need to know a lot about her backstory, emotions and weaknesses.

Other main characters of “Ice and Prey”, like the one of Professor Frederik Ravn, stay more mysterious, maybe even unsympathetic to the readers most of the time, but suddenly reveal some backstories and secrets that changes the reader’s way how they look at those characters.

Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym, and why or why not?
In fact I am writing under a pseudonym. Many people are confused when they notice that I am a German since my name “Rian” doesn’t sound German. But that is because I am using a pen name. “Rian F. Holes” combines two different aspects about me. First it is an anagram of my real name. Second it describes the way I do writing. So “F. Holes” could be seen as “fixing holes” or “filling holes”.

Have you ever travelled as research for your book?
I know that this question seems to be answered “Yes”, since my debut novel “Ice and Prey” takes place in Greenland and my current WIP “Aching Deep” is located in Slovenia. But I must confess that I have never been to those places before. Neither to Greenland nor to Slovenia so far.

But I really do like to discover new parts of the world. Maybe parts that are not so well known to the majority of English and German readers. It is very exciting to find out more and more about those places and getting in touch with people who live there while doing research for a new novel project.

In fact that makes me excited of visiting those places my own since I learn a lot about them while writing a story taking place there. I really fell in love with Greenland. I didn’t know anything about this exciting country before starting my novel project. Especially Nuuk, the capital city, is a place I would like to see myself. Maybe my family and I will travel to Greenland in summer 2024. For “Ice and Prey” I read spend hours and hours reading travelling guides, watching videos and doing virtual walks through places in Nuuk by Google Street View. I even did a virtual 3D-visit of the National Museum of Greenland and a cemetery in Nuuk and worked through a manual for scientists who work in a research station close to Nuuk.  

For “Aching Deep” I do the same research for Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia and a region in the southern area of the country which is called Prekmurje. An author colleague of mine who lives in Ljubljana helps me a lot with her inside knowledge while writing the book.

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
There are a lot of sources I use to collect information for a novel. As I mentioned before ideas are just spotting up in my mind from time to time.  For example while I did my first Google Street View walks through Nuuk I accidentally saw the Queen Ingrid’s Hospital. So the idea came up to start my novel with a prologue taking place inside the hospital. Later I’ve started to think about a character to be a surgeon who works at Queen Ingrid’s Hospital. Both ideas made it into my final book and I am very happy about it.

To get the information I need for my books I do what I learned through my academic master degree. I do a lot of research on the internet searching especially for scientific articles in English or German. That is quite difficult since the scientists in my books are of other professions than my own one. I’ve studied economics, Catholic theology and HR and organizational education. But my characters are palaeontologists, zoologists, microbiologists or specialists for Greenlandic history and Inuit culture.

So real scientists are another important source to me to get information. I felt so lucky as Doctor Avija Lyberth Hauptmann, an assistance professor from Nuuk and an expert for Microbiologic agreed to give some advice. The same about Doctor Thomas Tütkens. He is a professor from Germany who is an internationally well-known  expert for a method called clumped isotope thermometer. This is a method Professor Tütkens showed together witch scientists from the USA and Great Britain, some are from the Cambridge University, that this method enables palaeontologists to know the average body temperatures of animals that died millions of years ago.

I also use historical documents about mythology, places and culture which I found as scanned documents in public national libraries.

How much research did you need to do for your book?
Really a lot! Since most of my main characters are scientists of course I have to do a lot of research about their professions before and even while I am writing my books. For example in case of “Ice and Prey” I collected  about 15 scientific documents containing about 1,200 pages of information. And those are only the open-access documents I was able to download. There were also some documents I read through on the internet which contains about 500 additional pages.

In case of my current novel “Aching Deep” I even need much more research. At the moment I have collected more than 20 scientific and historical documents containing more than 1,500 pages. And of course there are much more documents stored on the internet.

Additional to that there is a huge amount of communication with scientists and other experts. I also watch a lot of videos that explain scientific issues or the locations of the plot.

So the research I usually do for a book is quite similar to the research I had to do for my master-thesis. Of course for my thesis I used even more sources. But I knew a lot about the profession I was writing about. For my novels I have to learn something about profession and sciences I do not know much more about than me readers do. And of course a cannot study all of these professions up to a master’s degree before start writing a book. So I have to search for information and documents that are scientific correct but I am also feel able to understand and interpret for my story. 

How do books get published?
I am a self-publisher. This is the best way for me to really publish my books internationally. I publish through epubli which is one of the largest and most professional publishing services here in Germany. Thanks to epubli I could distribute some copies of “Ice and Prey” to Greenland so my book is places on shelves of the two biggest bookstores of the country. I even could offer interesting discount and low distribution fee to the stores thanks to epubli’s large network. Also my books are made by print-on-demand I am able to send my book to nearly every bookstore worldwide within three weeks.

Epubli also works together with Gemany’s largest bookstore chains, like Thalia and Hugendubel and my book is also available through Amazon. The only point I am not so happy about is that Amazon Germany is only delivering books within Europe. So the paperback version of my books cannot be bought by readers from Asia or the Americas at the moment.

I am searching for independent bookstores in those areas that would like to put some copies of my book on their shelves so that readers could get my paperback in countries like India and the USA too.

But even though you cannot buy the paperback in those corners of the world at the moment you could get the eBook-version of it worldwide through Rakuten KOBO.

How do you use social media as an author?

Since I am a German author who writes and publishes in English I do use a lot of social media. I use social media to communicate with bookstores worldwide. For example I build up a partnership with bookstores in Greenland and South Africa through Instagram.

I use Instagram, TikTok and Twitter for worldwide promotion of my books. I found all my beta-readers through social media and a few book bloggers who read my book and did reviews about it. Most of the time I am active on Instagram because there is a really large community of readers and writers. I even got in contact with some other indie-authors from all over the planet. I joined a discord society called “Creating Creatives – artists for independent thinking”. This is really fun. Here all come together: writers, classical artists, digital artists, musicians and dancers. We all share our work, giving each other tips and discuss our work.

TikTok is an amazing platform to test new booktrailers or recordings of public readings you had. Using the right hashtags allows you to get the reaction of hundreds and thousands of people from all over the globe within a few hours. My latest booktrailer was watched more than 750 times within 24 hours and gained 38 likes from people of many different countries.

What book (or books) are you currently reading?
As an indie-author who is connected with a lot of many other Indies worldwide I do read a lot of independent published books at the moment. I’ve just finished “In dark beasts’ embrace” by Monika Pavlovic. A really dark and specific YA fantasy novel from a Slovenian writer. The English version isn’t published yet so I was lucky to be one of the first beta-readers. I am reading another fantasy story at the moment. It’s called “Kitash” and published through Wordpad by its creator Belle Moon from Venezuela.

But of course I also do read novels of major-label authors too. Techno-thrillers and adventure are my favourite like  the ones of Michael Crichton, Clive Cussler or Dan Brown. At the moment I am really excited about the third novel of Stuart Turton going to be published soon.

Instagram: @rianf.holes

Twitter: @holes_f

TikTok: @rianf.holes

Goodreads: Ice and Prey by Rian F. Holes | Goodreads

Amazon: Ice and Prey: DE : Holes, Rian F.: Books

Rakuten Kobo: Ice and Prey eBook by Rian F. Holes – EPUB Book | Rakuten Kobo United States

epubli (German): Ice and Prey von Rian F. Holes – Buch – epubli

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