More Interview with Culley Holderfield (Conclusion)

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you? (cont.)

CH. I work at it until I can stand it no more. Then, I share the entire manuscript with readers I trust to give me honest feedback and step away from it while they read. If I’m lucky, it will take them a while, and I can gain some distance from the project. Once I have their comments, I’ll reread it myself, then revise it all over again. Sometimes it may take only a draft or two after that. Other times, as with Hemlock Hollow, it may take an entirely new draft and then eight more passes to get to the point where I feel the novel is where I want it. Then I start submitting it. If I’m lucky, it will get picked up by an agent or an editor, at which point I get to go through the process all over again.

Q. How have your life experiences influenced your writing?

CH. Tremendously. As I mentioned, my writing was influenced heavily by the cabin my parents bought right after I was born. Growing up, I learned to love storytelling on the front porch of that cabin when my grandmother would tell tales of her childhood and adults would share the goings on of their worlds. My fiction is often about the importance and

Anything that’s out-of-doors, Culley’s there

impermanence of place over time, how we can be nurtured and haunted by the places that make us who we are. And that comes directly from my own past of falling in love with places that change because all places change. Much of my writing is an effort to come to grips with that truth.

Q. What’s your downtime look like?

CH. What’s downtime? Just kidding. Sometimes it does feel like I don’t have much downtime. I have a demanding job that I love, and writing takes up most of what would otherwise be my free time. But I do manage to spend quite a bit of time in nature. I hike and paddle and camp when I can. Travel is one of my favorite things to do, and I read a lot and watch a lot of movies.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre?

CH. That first novel I set aside was a spy thriller set in Ecuador, and at some point, hopefully not too far down the line, I have a pre-historical fantasy novel I’d like to write.

Cooking in Tuscany

Q. Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

CH. Step one, if you want to be a writer, is to read widely. Step two is to write often. Step three is to find your place in a community of writers and engage with them.

You don’t have to do it all yourself; in fact, you can’t. When I was just starting out as a young writer, I thought all it took was sitting down and writing. Writing a novel is hard work, but it turns out that just writing well is not enough to succeed in this business. In addition to grit and persistence, you really need to find community. That’s hard for writers. Most of us are introverts, after all. But for me, finding other writers with similar goals and similar levels of commitment has made all the difference in my writing life. My twenty-five year-old self wouldn’t believe me if I told him this.

Cabin that inspired book

He would shrug me off and shoulder on alone, but no writer has ever succeeded in that way. Take advantage of writers’ groups and associations. Go to conferences. Meet other writers. Be willing to share your work and to have others share their work with you. In North Carolina, we have the North Carolina Writers’ Network, which has really been important to my growth as a writer. Other states may have similar organizations, so seek them out.


Did you miss the start of this wonderful interview?
    Look for my review of this book December 2nd. 

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Watch for more interviews with authors.  September: Culley Holderfield. October: Simon Gervais for ROBERT LUDLUM, November: Kevin J. Kennedy, December: Marc Cameron, writing for TOM CLANCY



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