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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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Interview with author, Culley Holderfield (part 3)

Q. Are you working on something now or have a new release coming up? If so tell us about it.

CH. My debut novel, Hemlock Hollow, is forthcoming from Regal House Publishing on December 6 of this year. It’s a historical, Appalachian novel about a college professor who inherits a cabin and with it the ghost who haunted her childhood. In the process of renovating the cabin, she uncovers a journal written by Carson Quinn a hundred years before, and she can’t square the boy’s voice in the journal with the murderer he became. 

One of Culley’s writing spaces. Albemarle Sound in eastern NC

My work in progress is a historical novel set in Western North Carolina during the Civil War. It involves the Red String Order, also called the Heroes of America, which was a secret organization in North Carolina that opposed secession.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

CH. I started to write seriously in college. I crafted my college career around becoming a novelist. I started at Wake Forest, then transferred to UNC-Chapel Hill. At UNC, I completed the undergraduate creative writing program, studying with Bland Simpson and Doris Betts. I finished my first novel shortly after graduating college. It was okay for a first novel, but it was a first novel, and needed a lot of work. I rewrote it seven times over fifteen years, all the while marketing it to agents. Despite some close calls, no one ever picked it up, so I set it aside. When that didn’t sell right off the bat, I realized that my path to success wasn’t going to be Garp’s path to success. I tried freelancing. Interestingly enough, freelancing wasn’t great for my fiction. I changed tactics and found a good, meaningful day job that has left enough time for me to continue to write. Five years or so ago, I was fortunate to find Writeaways, which is a unique writing workshop model run by Mimi Herman and John Yewell. They are great mentors and pals. Being immersed in a community of like-minded and supportive writers has made a huge difference in both the quality and volume of my work.

Carl Sandburg Home in Flat Rock, NC, ‘ a place that never fails to inspire me.”

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

CH. No. Not in our lifetime. I think we’ve seen and will continue to see a resurgence in paper books as people realize how much damage staring at screens does to our emotional and mental health, and how utterly addictive the virtual world is. Maybe this is wishful thinking on my part. I may be the only serious reader remaining who doesn’t own an e-reader.
I do think eventually, if we figure out how to survive climate change intact, we will eventually wind up reading entirely on Star Trek-like tablets. While we clearly have the technology to do that now, I think it won’t be ubiquitous until long after we’re gone.

Q. What makes a writer great?

CH. I think there are a lot of different ways for writers to be great. Ernest Hemingway is great differently than Margaret Atwood is great. But the kind of great writing that moves me and that I aspire to write is work that creates an authentic narrative experience for the reader. In The Art of Fiction, John Gardner describes the fictive dream that readers enter into when reading good fiction. The writer can get away with pretty much anything as long as she or he doesn’t wake the reader from that dream state. So, I think at a minimum, a great writer entrances the reader into this fictive dream state. There are writers who can do that by spinning a great yarn and others who do it by turn of phrase, but the best writers do both well without one overwhelming the other on the page.

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

CH. It starts with an inkling, a voice calling out, begging to enter this world, then a blank page that in its blankness contains infinite possibility. Each word inscribed on that page constrains those possibilities exponentially. Eventually, with enough words comprising enough sentences composing enough paragraphs, a story emerges. If I’m successful, that story holds me for the year or more it takes to build a first draft. Once the draft is complete, the work begins. Now I have the clay with which I can mold my novel into something coherent.

Watch for the conclusion to this wonderful interview next week.

Did you miss part of it? Click here
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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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Book Review ~~ Where The Sky Begins

4 out of five stars  ~~  Book Review

 

This stand-alone novel by serial author Rhys Bowen  (Molly Murphy series and Royal Spyness Mysteries) is well written and a remarkable story. Set in war-torn London during the Second World War air blitz, the reader crawls with Josie Banks from the rubble of her home and her life. The ‘pace’ of the story is just right, relaxed, with just the right amount of detail. So typical of this author…getting it right.  

Until the last sixty pages or so, Bowen jams years worth of story into these pages.  This reviewer found the change of pace disconcerting. Josie’s lover is pronounced officially missing and presumed killed in action. She goes to work for the government, all very top secret until Bowen winds up the whole book with one last surprise. (I am trying to avoid a spoiler alert.)  

While I enjoyed the story and appreciated the fine writing, I felt the book deserved better. I recommend this book to my readers despite the few stumbles. 

Did you catch my Interview with Rhys Bowen?
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Book Review ~~ The Boardwalk Bookshop

4 out 0f five stars  ~~ Book Review

 

No surprise here. Susan Mallery dishes up another excellent contemporary fiction for women. A great story with lots of plot twists and romance. A real page-turner. 

This time three women who don’t know each other share a lease on a retail space none of them can afford by themselves. They set up shop, books, muffins, and gifts, right off the sand, on the boardwalk in Santa Monica, California. Each has been wounded by love in the past, romantic or familial; it all hurts the same. 

All three main characters are equally balanced with in-depth storylines, so the reader has the opportunity to care about each one of them. Will their particular shop succeed? Will true love win out?  How many nasty turns will life serve up before the women find happiness?

I highly recommend this as your next book. But it’s no secret (by now) that I’m a huge fan of Susan Mallery myself.

Did you miss my Interview with author, Susan Mallery?
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Interview with Fantasy/Thriller author, Jay Hartlove

Jay Hartlove is the multiple award-winning author of the urban fantasy Goddess Rising Trilogy (Goddess Chosen, Goddess Daughter, Goddess Rising), the fantasy romance Mermaid Steel, and the science fiction thriller The Insane God. He is also the playwright, director and producer of The Mirror’s Revenge, the musical sequel to the Snow White fable, which had its theatrical run in the San Francisco Bay Area In August 2018 to rave reviews.
“I love to take stories where the reader does not expect, with sympathetic villains, heroes with very dark pasts, and lots of plot twists.  I turn victims into heroes.”

He is often compared by critics to Michael Crichton. Goddess Chosen (under its original title The Chosen) was endorsed by horror master John Shirley. The Insane God was endorsed by science fiction master David Brin. Jay was selected as one of the “50 Authors You Should Be Reading” by The Authors Show. He is a former competitive costumer, having won Best in Show at both San Diego ComicCon and WorldCon. You can read more about Jay’s creative adventures, including much of the research he put into his books, at www.jaywrites.com.

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

JH. I do most of my writing in my home office, surrounded by my favorite bits of inspiration. There are awards, sculptures, paintings, and theatrical props. My window faces my back deck and garden, which is very green and calming. I collect ideas all the time, so I often have a notebook with me. I am a firm believer that thinking about your writing is writing. You write what you know, and any decisions you make about a story adds to the knowledge you will draw from to write the story.

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, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

JH. I don’t have any rituals other than getting back into my characters’ headspace. If I have done my job, I the writer disappear when the reader reads the words. It really is the characters’ story. It’s told through their eyes, their emotions, their reactions. I know where I want the story to go, but to put words to paper, I need to let the characters speak. I know I’m in the zone to keep building the story once I can hear them. In theatrical terms, I Method Act. I get inside their heads and let them speak.

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

JH. I was a big time coplayer thirty years ago, before it was called Cosplay. I spent most of my creativity in my twenties building costumes, mostly for shows at conventions. I was part of different teams that won Best in Show at both San Diego Comic Con, and at the World Science Fiction Convention. I taught myself sculpture and fabrication, with which I built a lot of costume armor. I still use those DIY skills to repair and build things. To promote my fantasy romance Mermaid Steel, I scratch built a life-sized model of my heroine mermaid Chielle Mmava (waist up) which I set up in a chair behind signing tables. The model is accurate to the description of her dolphin people in the book. She is my “booth babe” at shows now.

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

JH. When I started writing in the 1980s before laptop computers, I hand wrote everything in spiral bound notebooks on commuter trains and lunch hours…..

Join us next week for Part II of this fascinating Interview.
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Interview with UK author, Donna Ashcroft (part 2)

My walking pal, Jules

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

DA. I need to know my characters before I start writing. I start by working out who they are and what their internal issues are, i.e. what is their wound? What needs to happen in the novel for that wound to be overcome or healed. I then spend time finding pictures of my characters on Google and adding in details like eye colour, hair colour, age, upbringing. While I discover my characters as I write, I need a fair amount of detail before I get started so they can become real in my mind. Sometimes news stories, novels or movies will help to inspire a character, especially if I admire or identify with particular personality traits.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

DA. I was a huge reader when I was younger and started writing books when I was around twelve. I don’t know what originally inspired me, but I was good at writing and enjoyed escaping into stories and creating my own worlds.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

DA. For me characters usually come first.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

DA. When things are going well, I get completely lost. I often feel like the words are coming out of my fingers rather than my brain – that’s when my subconscious takes over and almost writes for me. I love those moments but it’s not always like that!

New books are born here. “Book Planning Books”.

Q. Are you working on something now or have a new release coming up? If so tell us about it.

DA. I’m working on my summer book for 2023 at the moment and I’m about 30K words in so I’ve a way to go yet. Recently my 2022 summer novel The
Little Cornish House was published and my first novel Summer at the Castle Café was published by Sphere into paperback. My pitch for The Little Cornish House is it’s The Great Pottery Thrown Down meets The Murder Club (only without any murders).

Thirty-year-old Ruby’s life is safe and predictable: no dramas, no complications, no men. And that’s just the way she likes it – there’s no way she wants to get her heart broken again. But her whole life is turned upside down when her grandmother calls to say she’s in danger of losing her beloved little Cornish House by the sea. She needs Ruby to come back to Cornwall and save the day…You’ll find everything in this summer romance – from a gorgeous hero and heroine, to a whole host of quirky characters, pottery, cake and real ale-

One of my favs

not to mention a mystery, twists, turns and romances crossing the generations.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

DA. In 2017 I was awarded the Katie Fforde Bursary. This was a huge honour, not only to be selected as one of Katie’s promising writers, but also because all of the authors up until that point had gained a publishing deal within a couple of years. I’d been writing on top of my day job for a few years by then, but having Katie’s endorsement, and knowing I didn’t want to let her down, I went down to four days a week at work and decided to treat my writing more like a proper day job. In 2018 I was offered my first publishing contract. I think I had to make the ‘decision’ to take

getting published seriously before this would happen.
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Join us next week for the conclusion of our Interview with Donna Ashcroft 

Did you miss part 1 of our chat with Donna?
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Coming soon!  August: Jay Hartlove

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Book Review ~~ The Impulse Purchase by Veronica Henry

 

5 out of 5 stars       Book Review

 

‘Ah, well, thereby hangs a tale. I’ve just bought the village pub. Rather on impulse.’  And what a tale it is! The only trouble with author, Veronica Henry’s books is, we (readers) never want the tale to end. 

Stock-in-trade is Henry’s excellent writing.  Deeply developed characters that we love (or hate), that we fall in love with or wish they were our kids.  Believable and likeable and human. A delicious read. The exact perfect balance of descriptive writing and dialogue. One of this reviewer’s pet peeves. 

I don’t write synopses of the books I review. That’s not a reviewer’s job.  Just know that you will miss out on a terrific ‘tale’ if you don’t read this book. 

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Review ~~ Dreaming of Flight by Catherine Ryan Hyde

5+ out of 5 stars  Book Review

 

Odd, loveable, quirky characters are sprinkled throughout this story. From the first page they  seduce and beguile the reader.

Stewie, a 10 year old boy (when we first meet him) is passively neglected by his overly taxed, older sister.  His Gam has recently died and as a way to stay connected to his much beloved grandmother, he adopts and takes over the care of her chickens.  During his ‘egg route’ he meets Marilyn, another grandma-type with the same rough edge as his Gam. 

And that’s where I’ll leave the spoiler alert.  The writing is done with the same brilliance we have come to expect from Catherine Ryan Hyde. Her turn of phrase is unapparelled.  Her balance of descriptive text and dialogue is near-perfect. And my readers know how too little dialogue irks me!  This will never happen in a Hyde book.  The characters are well thought out and deeply written. Hyde ‘shows’ you her characters; never tells you who and what they are. And who else could get a beautiful story out of a young boy and his chickens?

I highly recommend this book to my readers. If you loved Allie and Bea (and I did!) you will certainly love Dreaming of Flight.

                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Did you miss my interview with Catherine Ryan Hyde
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Book Review ~~ A Spanish Sunrise

 5 out of 5 stars ~~ Book Review

 

Sigh. Another delicious, wonderful story from Boo Walker.  Perfecto! Magnífico!   We all know him for his fabulous series, Red Mountain.  Plopping his readers down amongst the vines in northern California. Introducing us to wonderfully drawn characters that we could savor through the series. 

With  A Spanish Sunrise, he takes us on a journey of loss, grief, fear and love. A Dad and his little girl, each seeking peace in their own way.  And then a surprising and shocking email arrives one day.  Enough said, I try not to write spoilers. 

A little while ago I wrote a “teaching” book review about the writer who ‘tells’ the story instead of ‘showing’ the story with the actions and dialogue of his characters.  This book is a perfect example of ‘showing’ the story.  Through the characters’ voices I could smell the loam in the olive tree orchards. Feel the hot sun on my shoulder, taste the pungent, spicy oil on my tongue.  Because Walker showed me, through his characters’ actions and dialogue. He didn’t tell me “the oil was good.” 

I’ve read most of Walker’s books; maybe all of them. A Spanish Sunrise is my all time favorite from this wonderful writer…..so far.  It would be divine if this was book 1 of a new series. Boo, are you listening? 

Did you miss my Interview with Boo Walker ?
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