Interview with author, Culley Holderfield

Writing my next book

TS.   Culley Holderfield is a writer from Durham, NC. He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he completed the undergraduate creative writing program. He primarily writes fiction but has been known to dabble in poetry and essays. His work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Dime Show Review, Amarillo Bay, Yellow Mama, Scarlet Leaf, Kakalak 2016, Kakalak 2020, and Floyd County Moonshine. Hemlock Hollow, his debut novel, is forthcoming from Regal House Publishing in December 2022 in their Sour Mash Southern literature series.

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, or special space for your writing? Or tell us about your ‘dream’ workspace.

CH. I have a really nice desk that my in-laws gave me that I often use, but I sometimes I write in my easy chair with my feet up. I’d love to have a writing shack or hut. A few years back, I visited George Bernard Shaw’s home in Hertfordshire, England. He had a writing hut in his garden where he produced the bulk of his work. It housed his writing desk and typewriter and a day bed. The best part is that it was built on a swivel so that he could rotate it throughout the day to follow the sun. If it’s good enough for George Bernard Shaw, it’s good enough for me!

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat workspace, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, a glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

CH. I try to steer clear of rituals when it comes to writing. I don’t want my creativity to become dependent on having to meet particular needs. That said, writing itself is its own ritual for me. For a while, I used to start my writing sessions by doing a few minutes of stream-of-consciousness writing to get my creative juices flowing. I don’t do that anymore, but I journal and meditate before I write, and those serve a similar purpose.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

CH. My favorite bit of trivia about myself is that I’ve officially resided in nine different counties in North Carolina in my life, dispersed throughout the state, from the piedmont to the mountains to the coast.

Q. What tools do you begin with? Legal pad, spiral notebook, pencils, fountain pen, or do you go right to your keyboard?

CH. I tend to do all my work on a computer. I’ve tried notebooks and legal pads and index cards, but my organizational skills are subpar, and I tend to lose track of

Debut book

them. If I keep everything in the same folder in Word, there’s a chance I won’t lose them. When starting a project, I begin with research and characters, and those usually go hand in hand. When I was beginning my current work-in-progress, I knew that it would be set in North Carolina in the 1860s and I had a good sense of two of the main characters. I then immersed myself into the era and place, and gained a lot of ideas and insights for the arc of the book that I fleshed out in different documents on my computer.

Q. Do you enjoy writing in other forms (playwriting, poetry, short stories, etc.)? If yes, tell us about it.

CH. Yes. I often write short stories and poems in between my longer projects. I have an ideas document that contains a number of ideas for short stories or poems. When I have time, I’ll work on those. Short stories and poetry are harder for me to write than novels. I was a long distance runner in my younger days, and I think I’m just built for sustained pacing over time. A short story is like running the 400, and a poem is like a 100 yard sprint. I can do them if I force myself, but it induces a lot of pain and suffering to get them right, and I’m never going to be great at them. Just like it’s good to mix in high-intensity and low-intensity modalities of exercise, I figure it’s good for me to mix in different forms of writing every once in a while.

My writing partner

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

CH. There’s procrastination, and then there’s writer’s block. It’s probably good to figure which one you’re dealing with. If you know what you want to write and just aren’t able to make time for it, I think there are a number of strategies that can help. Most of them boil down to making it easy on yourself by setting small, attainable goals. My goal for any one writing session is to grow my manuscript by at least one page. Sometimes that means I don’t even have to write a full page. I can just edit my work until the manuscript grows by a page. So, if I have 35 total pages in the document when I start, I want to see that there are 36 pages when I finish. (Note: adding spaces between paragraphs doesn’t count!)

If I’m having trouble getting going, that’s more of a writer’s block issue. I may just tell myself that all I need to do is to write one word. If I can change or add a single word, I will have made progress. Also, it’s freeing to remember that whatever you write today, you’ll probably wind up changing during revision. All that really matters is that you make progress. This takes the pressure off. All of that said, once I get going it’s rare that I only add that one word. I usually wind up writing a page or so, and a page or so per day is a novel a year.

Join us next week for Part II of this wonderful interview with new author,  Culley Holderfield.

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