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Marc Cameron ~~ Author Interview (conclusion)

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

MC. Not in my lifetime. Too many people I know, including me, love the feel of a physical book.

Q. What makes a writer great?

MC. I wish I knew… An ear for a good story? Insatiable curiosity? Persistence, for sure. I will say, though, that there are a lot of great stories out there that still haven’t seen the light of day for one reason or another.

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

MC. I start with a lot of plotting talks with my wife and adult kids, bouncing ideas and scenarios off hem. I do a lot of freewriting, exploring various plot ideas. Then I take that free writing and distill it into scenes. That goes onto a computer. Then I work through those scenes, usually in order. If I’m going fishing or camping, I’ll take pencils and paper and work on a few of the scenes while I’m away. I try to get 2,000 words a day but some days I do 1,000 and others I may do 4,000. I have a large whiteboard in my office that I use to get the big picture of the plot, POVs, and to make sure I’m writing about the correct time zone when I’m jumping from one locale to another halfway around the world—IE it can’t be morning in Boston and Beijing at the same time. I’m a detailed plotter, but I still deviate from my outline all the time. It’s a guide, not law. My wife reads everything when I’m done. I submit to my editor when I get the nod from her.

New Release Dec 6th

Q. How have your life experiences influenced your writing?

MC. I’ve been fortunate to do some interesting things, work with some stellar people, and have some incredible adventures. The nature of work with the Marshals Service might have me in New York City working a protection detail on a Supreme Court Justice or in deep in bush Alaska tracking a fugitive through the woods. Both my sons were in law enforcement for a time. One of them still is. My eldest son is a physician in the military. My daughter and my youngest son share my love of motorcycles. I’m able to pick their brains and benefit from their experiences as well as my own. The bad, even harrowing experiences like violent fights, evil people, and horrific crime scenes can’t help but inform my writing.

Q. What’s your downtime look like?

MC. There has been a lot less of that lately. I love motorcycles, boats, all things outdoors, and I love spending time with my grandkids. Teaching my grandkids about nature and tracking is one of my favorite ways to spend time. They’re inspiring and often end up in the books in one form or another.

Cook Islands

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

MC. As I mentioned, I spent a lot of times around horses and cowboys and a youngster, so when it came time to try and seriously write a novel, a Western vernacular came naturally to my pen. I wrote several while I was still with the Marshals Service. Some were ghostwritten for another author. TO HELL AND BEYOND, is a compendium of two of them are under my earlier pen name, Mark Henry.

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

MC. Noticing that I wasted a great deal of time being social when I had more important things to do, my freshman college theater professor took me aside and gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever heard. “Marc,” he said. “You will never amount to your full potential unless you learn to use those little fifteen-minute segments of time that most people waste.” I took him at his word—and have written a lot of books in airports, on planes, or in waiting rooms. One of the reasons, I think, why I like to write longhand.

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

 

A few BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK

Marc Cameron Writing for Tom Clancy in New Book (part 3)

Another office (Cook Islands)

Q. What first inspired you to write?

MC. I grew up in a family of storytellers. We were poor, and often didn’t have a TV, or, when we did, not a very good one. As a young boy, I’d sit on the porch and listen to my aunts tell stories while we shelled peas. As I got older, I’d help my grandpa mend fence or hoe okra. He kept me entertained with stories about his boyhood. My aunt, a librarian, introduced me to Where the Red Fern Grows when I was eight years old. It was one of the first ‘chapter’ books I read. It made me cry. I took it to school and begged my third-grade teacher to read it to the class. She did. It made her cry. Shortly after that, we moved to a farm in central Texas. It was a different time and at ten, I was allowed to roam and explore with my dog. I read Old Yeller and Savage Sam—and started writing what we would call fan fiction nowadays—about brave boys and good dogs and their adventures together.

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

MC. Sometimes one, sometimes the other—but most of the time it’s the character.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

MC. When it’s going right, that’s exactly what happens. I tend to watch the story unfold like a movie in my head.

Q. What compelled you to choose and settle on the genre you now write in?

MC. I wrote all over the place when I was younger—Fantasy, Science Fiction, Adventure, Westerns. With my background, it was natural that I eventually found my way into contemporary Thriller/Crime fiction.

New Release Dec 6th

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

MC. Tom Clancy RED WINTER is out now.

Then, BREAKNECK, my next Arliss Cutter novel, a crime fiction series about an deputy US marshal based in Alaska, comes out in April of 2023. I’m working on the next Tom Clancy/Jack Ryan now. After that, I’ll jump back into another Cutter and finish up another Jericho Quinn.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

MC. Charlotte Skidmore, my English teacher in eleventh grade, was known to be the hardest teacher in our high school. Early that year, she gave me a C- on a creative writing assignment. I’d written it in pencil when it should have been typed. The format was wrong, and there were gobs of spelling errors. Her famous red pen had bled all over my story. I deserved the grade—or worse. But, at the top of the page, written in pencil, was a note from her that said, “Marc, this looks publishable to me.” Those six words from the hardest teacher in the school changed the trajectory of my life. I tell this story all the time, but when we were fist married and living on slightly over six bucks an hour as a rookie police officer, my wife bought me a bullet proof vest (the PD didn’t provide them then) and a Smith Corona electric typewriter. I spent the next twenty years or so writing short stories and walking to the mailbox for rejection letters before I finally got a story published. My wife was always supportive, but when we received that first little check in the mail, she met me at the door with a rolled up magazine, swatted me on the butt, and said, “Congratulations. Now go write us a new refrigerator.” It’s been fairly steady since then.

Conclusion next week!
Did you miss the beginning?
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Watch for more interviews with authors.  October: Simon Gervais for ROBERT LUDLUM, November:  Horror writer, Kevin J. Kennedy, December: Marc Cameron, writing for TOM CLANCY

 

A few BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK

 

Marc Cameron Writing for Tom Clancy ~ Interview (part 2)

Alaska office

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

MC. I do a great deal of freewriting and plotting at the beginning of any project. The lion’s share of that is done with a pencil or fountain pen. I’m partial to Blackwing 602 pencils. I buy them by the dozens and always make sure I have a bunch with me when I travel. I carry a small brass sharpener on my keychain every day. My wife gave me a very nice Montblanc fountain pen years ago when I was promoted to chief deputy with the Marshals Service. I write a healthy portion of each book with that pen, pencils, or some other fountain pen. I have several manual typewriters and I sometimes bang out a chapter on one of them for fun, to remind me of the good old days when I couldn’t cut and paste. I like yellow Rhodia notepads for longhand work. The paper is great for pen or pencil. I burn through five or six pads for an Arliss Cutter or Jericho Quinn novel and as many as ten for a Tom Clancy/Jack Ryan. Still, my laptop gets plenty of use too.

Horse pack camping ~ eldest son ~ Idaho 1996.

Q. Do you have pets? Tell us about them and their names.

MC. I was a mounted police officer for my department in Texas and a horseshoer to help make ends meet in those early years. We had a number of ranch horses during our time in Texas and while I was station in Idaho, but not Alaska. My family has had blue heeler cattle dogs as well as a cat or two for most of my adult life—maybe a reason my wife and I find ourselves steering our grandkids toward watching Bluey during their scant TV time. We’ve had Rowdy, Bandit, Belle, Pepper, Havoc, Mazie, and a few others over the past thirty-plus years. Mazie, our last, passed away a few years ago at the age of twelve. We travel so much now that we’ve held off on any new dogs…for the time being.

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

MC. I grew up reading short stories. My short fiction has appeared in both Boys’ Life magazine and The Saturday Evening Post. My other commitments keep me focused on longer projects, but I always have some little story hanging around out there to toy with for fun. Lately, I’m dabbling at some screenwriting. I enjoy reading poetry, but writing it eludes me.

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

MC. I think a lot of procrastination comes from fear. Fear of not knowing where we’re going. Fear of getting it wrong. Fear of someone not liking our stuff. Twenty-five novels and a gob of short stories down the road and I still remind myself that it’s normal to make mistakes. I don’t have to get everything right the first time. I can fix anything but a blank piece of paper. Deadlines help too, either from the publisher or self-imposed as long as there is accountability. I’ve asked my wife to check on my word count periodically throughout the day. Also, I don’t read my Amazon reviews. Good or bad.

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

A. Almost thirty years of law enforcement has afforded me a deep roster of interesting characters to draw from. Most everyone I write about is inspired by some combination of people I’ve either arrested, investigated, or worked alongside in the trenches. I’ve kept a small notebook for years and written down descriptions, names, quirks, etc. that show up in my books all the time.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

Part 3 will follow next week….

Did you miss Part 1 of this fascinating Interview?
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Watch for more interviews with authors.  October: Simon Gervais for ROBERT LUDLUM, November:  Horror writer, Kevin J. Kennedy, December: Marc Cameron, writing for TOM CLANCY

 

A few BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK

 

Author, Marc Cameron writing for TOM CLANCY (Interview)

TS.     Marc  Cameron had a twenty-nine-year career in law enforcement, the last twenty-two as a deputy U.S. marshal. Originally from Texas, he and his wife have made their home in Alaska for the past twenty-five years.

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.

Cook Islands

MC. I grew up on a farm and did a lot of writing under oak trees, along creek banks, and in haybarns. I traveled a lot during my career with the Marshals Service so much of my writing was on airplanes and in hotel rooms. I have a home office now. In Alaska, I often go to a cabin when I’m planning/plotting a book. My wife and I go to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands for a couple of months, most every year. A large portion of my books have been written there, on

 

a tiny island in the South Pacific surrounded by palm trees and close to the beach. The culture, the setting, the weather… It’s difficult to imagine a more idyllic place for me to write.

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.)

MC.  I get up a little before six most mornings and stumble across the hall to my office. My plan each day is to sit down and write for a couple of hours before I open my emails or check in social media. I write roughly a third of each book in pencil, depending on my mood each day. I keep several notepads and a hundred or so sharpened Blackwing 602 pencils on my desk. There’s something about writing longhand that gets my brain moving in a different way. Most days, I set a timer, writing for fifty minutes then getting up and doing something physical for ten or fifteen minutes, repeating this cycle six to ten (or more) times a day.

Q. How do you ‘get inside’ Tom Clancy’s head and write for him?

New Release Dec 6th

MC. Writing the Jack Ryan’s for the Tom Clancy estate has been one of the great honors of my life. It is not something I sought out. The offer came as a complete surprise when the previous writer, Mark Greaney, recommended me. I was terrified when my agent called and said I’d been offered the gig. In fact, I told my editor, Tom Colgan, that anyone who was not terrified was probably the wrong person for the job. From the very beginning, he helped alleviate some of that fear by letting me know that he didn’t expect me to try to imitate Tom Clancy. He just wanted me to write the best Marc Cameron book I could “in the spirit of Tom Clancy.” I’ve been a Clancy reader since The Hunt for Red October so his characters are real to me. Even so, I reread all the books when I started, and continue to refer to them often to make sure I keep the characters consistent.

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

MC. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was around eight years old, and a police officer about as along—but from middle school through my first year of college I was extremely active in theater and, for a brief period, considered trying to become an actor. I met my future wife when we were cast in a play together our freshman year of college.

Part two continues next week…
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Watch for more interviews with authors.  October: Simon Gervais for ROBERT LUDLUM, November:  Horror writer, Kevin J. Kennedy, December: Marc Cameron, writing for TOM CLANCY

 

A few BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert B. Parker’s FALLOUT by Mike Lupica (a review)

   5 out of 5 stars     ~~    Book Review

Mike Lupica returns to write this most current release, FALLOUT.  Another Jesse Stone true crime created by Robert B. Parker.  And it’s flawless, as usual.  Mike writes in the voice of Parker effortlessly and I really enjoyed this one. 

The small town of Paradise is devastated when a star high-school baseball player is found dead at the bottom of a bluff just a day after winning the team’s biggest game. For Jesse, the loss is doubly difficult—the teen was the nephew of his colleague, Suitcase Simpson, and Jesse had been coaching the young shortstop. As he searches for answers about how the boy died and why, he is stonewalled at every turn, and it seems that someone is determined to keep him from digging further.  (www.amazon.com)

I never cease to marvel at these authors who keep Parker’s storytelling alive for us. All successful authors in their own right.  Lupica, one of the most prominent sports writers in America,  and Reed Farrel Coleman for Jesse Stone.  Ace Atkins for Spencer and Sunny Randall. There is a  list too long to list here.  All speak with the same clarity and write as if they are Robert B. Parker incarnate. 

Check out my fascinating INTERVIEW with Mike Lupica and Ace Atkins.

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

 

A few BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK

Interview with author, Kevin Kennedy (part 2)

At my desk

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

KK. That’s a tough one. I suffer from it myself. I’d say, just write when you can. Try not to plan too much in as it becomes overwhelming. Don’t force a word count every day if it’s not coming. You will just feel worse. Stick to what works for you.

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

KK. It tends to be an overall story idea or plot idea I have and then I work out what type of character would fit the story best. It’s rare a fully developed character comes to me. They often grow as I write.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

KK. I was always a big reader but never thought about writing. If I hadn’t seen an advert on Facebook looking for stories, I don’t think I would have ever looked into it. There was no urge. It just grew organically, and now I run a publishing company that puts out chart toppers, and I get invited to participate in invite-only projects regularly. I don’t think I could ever walk away from it now.

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

KK. Situation. I will often have an urge to write a certain type of story or even just a scene and then everything builds around it.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

KK. Sometimes but due to a hectic life, I often only have small spaces to fit it in. It’s not the best way to work but life takes over. I still work full time for a charity that helps people into employment and I have a family so writing comes third.

with friend, Dacre

Q. What compelled you to choose and settle on the genre you now write in?

KK. It was easy. I only read horror so it was horror I started writing.

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

KK. A few things. I wrote a novella called Halloween Land. I’m halfway through writing a prequel, The Clown. She was a favorite character of the readers and I wanted to write more about her anyway. I am also close to finishing my 4th collection of short stories called The A to Z of Horror. I have an upcoming anthology releasing in December called The Horror Collection Sapphire Edition. It’s the 13th book in the series. It’s been pretty popular.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

KK. Probably about 5 years ago when I started to see sales picking up.
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Did you miss the beginning of the interview

Join us for the conclusion next week.
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Watch for more interviews with authors.  October: Simon Gervais for ROBERT LUDLUM, November:  Horror writer, Kevin J. Kennedy, December: Marc Cameron, writing for TOM CLANCY

 

A few BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK

 

 

Interview with NY Times Best Selling author, Simon Gervais

Simon Gervais is a former infantry officer and federal agent. He spent twenty years in the military and in law enforcement, specializing in protective operations and counterterrorism. His assignments took him all over Europe and the Middle East. He left the RCMP in 2014 to pursue writing full-time.
Several of his books are listed on the New York Times Best Seller List (Hunt Them Down, Trained To Hunt, and Time To Hunt) and he is Amazon’s #1 bestselling author. His new Clayton White series was published in November 2021. (The Last Protector). Quickly followed by The Last Sentinel and The Last Guardian.
“I had the immense honor to be chosen by G.P. Putnam’s Sons and the estate of Robert Ludlum to write a new series within the illustrious Jason Bourne universe.” The first book in the series Robert Ludlum’s The Blackbriar Genesis will be released next month. A sequel is planned for next year.
Simon lives in Ottawa, Canada with his wife and two children He is an avid skier, diver, and boating enthusiast.

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, or special space for your writing? (please provide a photo of you at work in your shed, room, closet, barn, or houseboat….) Or tell us about your ‘dream’ workspace.

SG. Although I can write pretty much anywhere when I’m facing a deadline, there are indeed a few special places where it feels good to

write. This is at our ski cottage in Mont-Tremblant. The main living room, with its two-story high stone fireplace and humongous windows with direct views on the mountains, is grandiose. It’s by far my favorite room in the house. It just feels right. And that’s especially true during the fall and winter season. The second is on the terrace of our beach house in the Bahamas. There’s something very special about writing a novel while enjoying the ocean breeze.

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.)

SG. I do! To the absolute delight of my wife, there’s no way I can start writing before the kitchen is perfectly clean and the dishwasher is emptied out. I don’t know why … But that’s the way it is!

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

In the waters off the Virgin Islands

SG. I’m a certified open water diver. I love the freedom it gives me. I did my certification in Saint John, USVI, while researching my upcoming book THE LAST GUARDIAN, the 3rd book in my Clayton White series. For those of my readers that don’t know what an open water diver is….  it means that we’re allowed to pan and to execute dives anywhere in the world up to a depth of 60 feet—though we can go deeper with a certified instructor. My personal deepest dive was at a depth of 80 ft in the USVI. Diving is similar to driving a car or piloting a plane, you must receive training and get certified in order to be allowed to do it. An Open Water Certification involves approximately 15 to 20 hours of theory, a written exam, a swim test, 5 confined water dive, and 4 open water dives with an instructor. 

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

SG. I only use my laptop. I do take a few notes on my phone if I have an idea for a plot twist while I’m away from my computer, but that’s pretty much it.

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

SG. I don’t. Now that I’m writing two books per year—one for the Robert Ludlum estate at Putnam and another for Thomas & Mercer—I simply don’t have the time to do anything else when it comes to writing.

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

SG. Be on contract to write two books per year! You’ll have very little time to procrastinate…

The conclusion next week. Don’t miss it!
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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

BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK

 

 

 

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

BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK

 

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.

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My chat with author, Culley Holderfield (part 2)

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

CH. They come from all over. Since I write mostly historical fiction, many of my characters emanate from my research. I might pattern them on actual historical figures, or sometimes I just take the historical figures and put them whole hog into the book. You have to be careful with that, though. If you include real people in your novel, you need to make sure you’re describing them accurately and not having them do anything that runs counter to their known history. I also have characters arrive when I’m walking or in the shower or while driving. They show up, and it may just be their voice at first. Or it may be something else, like an image or an expression. Sometimes I might dream them, and every once in a while they are ghosts.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

CH. I’ve always made up stories. My mother has the evidence in the form of little handwritten books I did as early as first grade. But I distinctly remember being in the 8th grade and having an assignment to write a short story for English class. I remember sitting down at the dining room table with a clutch of blank pages, and starting with the sentence, “It was a serene, brisk day, great for hiking.” It wound up being a ghost story, and the teacher loved it. From that encouragement came the desire to write more and write better. Then, my senior year of high school, I read The World According to Garp. In Garp, John Irving peeled back the curtain on the writing life for me. It taught me that one might actually become a writer as Garp did. Before that I hadn’t really thought about writing as a possible career choice. Once I realized it could be that, it became something I couldn’t shake, so I set my sights on becoming a novelist.

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

CH. Almost always characters create the situation with the decisions they make. Good fiction puts characters into the position of having to make choices, and the

Hickory Nut Gorge where story takes place

choices that they make result in outcomes that lead to them having to make new choices. The engine for all of this is desire, the characters trying to get what they want. I’m not a good enough planner to map out ahead of time what situations my characters will get themselves into. So I typically leave it up to them, hoping that I’ve put enough work into understanding them that I understand their motivations and can authentically render that onto the page.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

Hiking in the Hollow where story takes place

CH. Yes. If I allow myself sufficient time, I’ll easily get lost in the narrative. The characters in my work-in-progress are fascinating to me. The more time I spend with them, the more fully formed they become. When I understand them really well, even the minor characters, the story can just take off in unexpected, though fully logical, directions. I may find myself hours later emerging from this state of consciousness that leaves me almost dizzy and pleasantly numb, like I’ve been in an almost meditative state for all that time.

Q. What compelled you to choose and settle on the genre you now write in?

CH. I’ve always been interested in history. In college, I double-majored in History and Comparative Literature. But what inspired 

 me to write the particular series of books that I’m working on now, including Hemlock Hollow, was the cabin my parents own in the mountains of Western North Carolina. I grew up, like Caroline, the main character of the novel, spending my summers and weekends there. One summer, my father was cleaning out an attic we didn’t know we had, and he uncovered a box full of old photos. They were from the 1930s and before. Presumably, they were the people who had built the cabin and lived there. I was fascinated by those black and white images of these men and women who lived in that same place where I spent so much time yet had such different lives from mine. Later I would turn my historical research skills onto those families and the entire Hickory Nut Gorge region. Eventually, I made up a fictional family, the Quinns, and their fictional lives intertwined with real history, which became the fodder for this book.

Watch for part 3 next week.

Did you miss the beginning of this Interview? Click here.

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To receive my weekly posts, sign up for my Watch for more interviews with authors.  September: Culley Holderfield. October: Simon Gervais for ROBERT LUDLUM’S The Blackbriar Genesis

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK