I've always been fascinated by the darker side of human nature. (Insert evil laugh here!) I started out writing psychological suspense, but I'm finding my novels are edging more towards full-fledged horror these days. Horror, but not gore: I love a good, spooky story that manages to be thought-provoking while still scaring the crap out of you. That's my goal.
My plan is to finally get out of my own way and turn my dream of writing fiction for a living into a reality. As for the ugly…well, rewriting and querying is about as ugly as it gets.
I've been training in muay thai (traditional Thai kickboxing that incorporates knee and elbow strikes) since 1997. I use the word “training” deliberately, because there's always more to learn when you're studying a martial art. I'll never feel like I've achieved expert status, that's for sure.
I once dated a terrible, abusive boy when I was a teenager. I'd long had plans to pursue martial arts training, but when I ended things with this boy, he attacked me–an attack that left my spine broken in two places. I thought my chances of kickboxing were nil, but in a weird twist of fate, the chiropractor I went to for treatment was affiliated with the biggest kickboxing club in the city. He actually thought muay thai would be good for my back, and he was right–it was.
Muay thai not only strengthens my body; it strengthens my mind. Through training, my self-confidence has improved immensely. Muay thai always challenges me. It keeps depression at bay. And I've met some incredible people through the sport, including my best friend of 20 years.
As for brutal, there are definitely people who get into martial arts for the wrong reasons. It's very important to make sure you're going to a reputable club that's free of the darker element. But as far as violence goes, I've been hurt way worse playing soccer than I ever was in muay thai. You quickly learn how to defend yourself–it's essential.
Journalism has taught me to approach writing as a business, and that has really helped. I know how to set and meet deadlines, make goals, and follow through. It's also introduced me to a wide range of people and topics, and as a writer, you can never learn too much or have too many ideas.
I used to write in my office at home. It's quite pretty–painted a cheery yellow with a roll top desk, but I also do my journalism work there. My boyfriend suggested I do my writing in the living room, curled up on the couch, and that's been a revelation! It does make my writing time seem a lot more fun. But it worked too well…often as not, I end up doing my journalism stuff there too.
I try to set the tone for writing fiction by lighting a scented candle. I have three cats that try in various ways to distract me. Chloe needs almost constant love and attention, and it seems like the second I get out the laptop, she's trying to climb onto my lap. But I love all my cats to pieces and I wouldn't change a thing about them. I'd say a cat is the best companion a writer can have. They're quiet and affectionate without needing to be walked or coddled too much (usually). (Except for Chloe.) But Chloe has inspired a series of children's books, so I figure she's earned her dues.
My dream is to be a hybrid writer: to traditionally publish some of my novels while self-publishing others. I think both means of publishing have a lot to offer. Self-publishing has given writers an incredible amount of power, and has also provided readers with more options than ever before, which is great. But I've noticed that some of the most successful self-published writers built a name for themselves with traditional publishing first. That's just smart, if you can swing it–anything to help with the marketing and getting your name out there is a good thing.
I used to have an agent, but her priorities shifted once she started a family (which was soon after we started working together) and we were no longer a good fit. It was really difficult to end that relationship, because I had such high hopes for it. I'm still open to the idea of working with an agent, but it has to be the right person at the right time. You need to work hard to succeed in this industry, of course, but there's a fair bit of luck involved too.
Thanks so much for joining my blog, Holli!
Here are some links where you can check out Holli's work. She has a wonderful blog where she interviews people and writes thoughtful posts, and also is publishing one of her novels, LOST, each Friday:
Great interview. I agree–so much horror these days is just blood and guts. The scariest stories are those that mess with your mind. I found the Paranormal Activity films really scared me…that feeling when you can’t really see the danger but you know it’s there. It’s really what you DON’T see that’s scariest. Alfred Hitchcock seemed to get that…few modern-day storytellers do.
Yes, so true. Thanks so much for popping in to comment!
I totally agree, Stephanie. Hitchcock was the master. I liked the first PA until the end.
Thanks for this, Toby. I’ve been making my way slowly through the M2the5th folks and I’ve been meaning to private message that pretty white cat. You’ve solved that mystery for me. I’ve posted this over in the community so others can see behind the veil.
Hope you get to interact more, Holli’s terrific and her writing excellent.
I’m not really sure how that community works. What am I supposed to do?
But of course you two powerhouses would find each other! So interesting to read this. Thanks for a great interview, Holli & Toby.
Thanks for the kind words, Holly. I am so grateful to have met you too. Yay for new Internet friends!