- Guest Writer -
Today I welcome a very interesting man who has travelled widely and written about his experiences - Brian Holihan. Brian is also a musician.
Welcome, Brian ...
Welcome, Brian ...
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I’m a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, and I fell in love with studying world cultures when I was 7 years old. My dad bought a subscription to National Geographic, and I was amazed by the variety of ways that different people think and create art. I started playing guitar when I was a teenager—initially classic rock (including AC-DC) at thunderous volumes. I still play it—I just played Deep Purple’s Highway Star before the photo of me on my website’s homepage was taken. Fortunately the guitar was too small to crumble any of the stones.
I enjoy lots of other styles just as much: jazz, Western classical, Javanese gamelan, traditional Cambodian and Vietnamese, Indian classical (Hindustani and Karnatic), Persian classical, Turkish saz, Egyptian oud playing, and lots of styles of African.
When I was in college, I started devouring books about world cultures, but I majored in business. I travelled as much as I could after graduating, and I’ve explored China, Southeast Asia, India, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. I’ve mixed study and experience equally.
I’m now finishing a book that shows how to explore the ways that different cultures see and experience the world and help create perspectives that appreciate all and synthesize them to promote more peace, social justice and happiness.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Exploring other cultures’ views of reality and synthesizing them into new perspectives for our globalized world.
WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
I always was a writer—I wrote about 10,000 pages of notes over the years about my readings and travels. But I’ve waited a long time to publish because I wanted to contribute something entirely unique—it’s taken a long time to do enough traveling and reading to synthesize new perspectives, but I’ve loved doing both.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
I’m finishing a book that shows how to explore the ways that different cultures see and experience the world and help create perspectives that appreciate all and synthesize them to promote more peace, social justice and happiness. I plan to publish it in November.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Exploring cultures that are under-appreciated. Southeast Asia is one of my favourite regions. I’ve been there six times, and I’ve travelled in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Yunnan, Sichuan, Burma (only a little), Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. Each place is unique, and each has tremendous cultural variety within its borders. Add beautiful natural scenery, friendly people and great food—I’m starting to wish I were there now.
These countries have so much cultural and natural abundance that they can’t be reduced to categories that schools and Google often impose on the world. Going there inspires me to expand my head and heart—to be open to other ways that people integrate their worlds.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
Read about lots of cultures and fields of knowledge you’re not familiar with. Develop a love of challenging your views and expanding your perspective of the world, and your well will never run dry. A writer explored Hitler’s library two or three years ago. Hitler had a huge book collection, and he read a lot and wrote noted in many of his books. But he only read things that confirmed views he already held. George Bush Jr. has been accused of that too. I love doing the opposite—Thai art, African drumming, Indian cosmology. The sky’s the limit.
DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
Never. Ideas flow as soon as I put the pen to paper.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
Any place is good for me. I write wherever and whenever I have time.
WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
Being both informative and entertaining—explaining different cultures and also telling stories and using humor so the reader always wants to keep reading.
WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
Early in the book writing stage, someone told me that the book has too many ideas. So I’ve learned to spread them out and insert more stories, and balance everything rhythmically—like writing music.
WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
There’s never been one thing that influenced me. I’ve been influenced by the environment that I’ve lived in. As a native of California, I’ve always been around a lot of cultural diversity. My parents were in their forties when I was born, and that made me feel intrigued about the past. Because my dad was a WWII vet and POW in Germany, I learned early on that it’s very important that the media propagate quality ideas.
OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
Music, mountains, hiking, running, animals, humor, food, discussions with people who have lots of interests.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
Study, develop and share the world’s cultural wealth. It softens borders, enhances empathy between people with different mindsets, and encourages social justice.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
I have a lot of books in me after all these years. I plan to publish several over the next three years. Then I’ll take to the sky again and immerse myself in new cultural landscapes. I’ll keep traveling, studying, writing and playing for the rest of my life.
WHAT FIVE BOOKS WOULD YOU TAKE TO HEAVEN?
I’d petition for my whole library because it is heaven. I’ve never seen anything like it. So many of the world’s cultures are together in one place, shining light on each other. A lot of times I’ve felt that this must be how angels see the world, and that they’re waiting for us to join them.
DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
The thing that frustrates me is the favouring of categories. Most people buy books by searching on a topic and I’ve heard a lot of people in the publishing biz recommending specialization. The Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen and the microfinance pioneer Muhammad Yunus wrote that our identities as human beings are much richer than one pre-defined category. A lot of the mechanics of the industry and search technology encourage us to be less than who we can be.
DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
Never—that would be like thinking that I don’t want to breathe anymore.
WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
“Wow! This world is more fascinating than I ever imagined, and there’s an entirely new way to see it!” They should fall in love with exploring the world’s human heritage and sharing the love with their children.
WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
I’d like people to associate me with new and bigger perspectives of the world’s cultures—a 21st century Marco Polo.
Clancy's comment: Brian has had a well-travelled life and I can't wait to read about his experiences. Thanks for the opportunity to interview you, Brian. What a great life you have, swanning around the globe. Keep going ... we're envious.