Welcome to the two hundred and seventy-ninth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with contemporary women’s romance and mystery author Kathy Holmes. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Kathy. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Kathy: I was living / working in a high-stress job in Silicon Valley, had recently married my soulmate, and was longing to switch careers. I started thinking about my love of fiction and how I’d promised myself that one day I would write a novel. About the same time, I’d gone searching for the biological father I had never met. Well, after I met him, I wrote a nonfiction book called Myths of the Fatherless. This, of course, sparked an idea for a novel and all of my books seem to include a character who has never met her father. In my latest novel, Letters on Balboa Island, I turned it around and told the story of a woman faced with a choice between two men: the father of her daughter or the man she thinks she can trust.
Morgen: It’s a great theme for fiction as so many people must be able to relate to it, even if they’re not in that situation. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Kathy: My first novel with a mystery because the leader of the first workshop I took recommended writing a mystery for a first-time novelist. After that, I discovered Chick Lit and began writing that. When that genre was kicked to the curb, I wrote a romance. When I realized my voice was somewhere between Chick Lit and Women’s Fiction, I decided then and there to write my books my way, no matter what the major publishers were buying.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? If applicable, can you remember where you saw your first book on the shelves?
Kathy: Real Women Wear Red was my first published novel, The Tom Jones Club was my second, and Letters on Balboa Island, my latest published novel, is my third. I’m also published in two anthologies: A Shaker of Margaritas: Hot Flash Mommas and A Shaker of Margaritas: Cougars on the Prowl, both published by Mozark Press. And because they are all either Indie or digitally published, I haven’t seen them in a book store but was quite thrilled the first time I looked them up on the computer in Barnes & Noble and saw my books listed there.
Morgen: Oh me too. I self-published (Smashwords) mine but it’s still wonderful, especially every time a ‘review…’ or ‘purchase notification’ email comes in. 🙂 Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
Kathy: My agent was very excited about contests—she was a contest junkie—and, at first, she suggested I enter Real Women Wear Red in contests. Then she changed her mind, and said, “Strong characters don’t do well in contests.” I’m very proud of the fact that Cyn, the main character in Real Women Wear Red was called “fabulous” by another agent, and a multi-published traditional writer friend said, “Wow, nobody has ever said that about my characters.” So, are contests worth the time? It depends on the book and the writer. But I believe it’s better to focus on publishing and not on winning contests.
Morgen: So you have an agent, do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Kathy: I signed with an agent for Real Women Wear Red but we parted when I realized I was going to go the Independent route.
Morgen: I stopped looking for one when I came to the same realisation. It’s happening a lot now. We do our marketing so why not do everything else? Are all your books available as eBooks? And do you read eBooks?
Kathy: Yes, my main sales are in digital. I love it that digital books are so widespread and I can gain a readership through that medium. But I’ve worked in electronic publishing since the late 70s and so I prefer to read hard copy. For me, electronic books will always seem too much like working the day job.
Morgen: 🙂 That’s how most of my interviewees feel. I bought a Kindle only last month and although I love having it with me, because you never know when you’ll have a spare twenty minutes, it’s paper book all the way at home because I have hundreds of them and I loved buying them so it would be unfair to abandon them now. 🙂 Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Kathy: Every writer has rejections. Some were worse than others, but now that I’m an Indie author, well, let’s just say I don’t miss those rejections. But I also remember the requests and I do miss that excitement, that validation that somebody of a certain level in the publishing world is interested in my manuscript. Now I get excited every time somebody purchases one of my books. And when I hear from them, that they loved my book, well, that’s just awesome.
Morgen: Isn’t it. 🙂 Although (since the penny dropped) I’ve wanted to make a living being a writer (more so since I’ve quit my job :)) I’ve always wanted people to read what I write. Although I grin every time a purchase email comes in I think the reviews are more rewarding because no-one knows I’ve sold a book when the email comes in (well… my Facebook friends and Twitter followers because it’s still early days – I sold my 10th / 11th on Saturday – so I do put up a “yay” but everyone sees a review and there’s a world of difference between someone buying (or just downloading – I have more free than not) and someone reading and liking (or semi-liking in one case) my work. Anyway, sorry, I’ve rambled on. What are you working on at the moment / next, Kathy?
Kathy: I’m writing the sequel to my popular first novel, Real Women Wear Red. I also have another manuscript that’s far more suspenseful than anything I’ve written so far and I’m seriously considering how it can become the third novel in the “Real Women” series, focused on the character Sandy Brown, because as one reader said, “Sandy is an anomaly to me”. I think book three would reveal more about Sandy and what makes her tick.
Morgen: I love that; getting to know a minor character better. A question some authors dread: where do you get your inspiration from?
Kathy: A piece of me lives in all of my books – it’s like documenting some of my life. For example, I love to cruise so I was calling on my cruise memories when I wrote Real Women Wear Red. I also remember seeing Tom Jones for the first time in Las Vegas and I was so fascinated by the women in the audience that I wrote The Tom Jones Club years later. As for Letters on Balboa Island, I grew up going to Balboa Island in Orange County and my mother grew up going to The Pike in Long Beach in L.A. County. It was only when I finished the book that she showed me pictures of her and her friends on Balboa Island. I had no idea she used to go there as a teenager. But that’s what I love about writing – taking some of what I know and creating a fictional world around it.
Morgen: They do say write about what you know and you have to to a certain extent although hopefully we’ve only killed people off on paper (and I love that… that we can kill ‘people’ legally :)). Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Kathy: I’m definitely a “fly by the seat of my pants” writer – even in my technical writing job, I often thrive in that environment.
Morgen: 🙂 Me too and most of my interviewees have said the same thing. I hadn’t realised until I wrote my first novel (which I’d pretty much plotted) how much you could go off at a tangent. You mentioned earlier that you’ve written some short stories, please tell us a bit more about that.
Kathy: I’ve been having success writing / publishing short stories for anthologies. They’re a mini-novel and, at first, I wasn’t sure I could write one. But somewhere along the way I did and that encouraged me to keep writing them.
Morgen: I love them. Started with them, then wrote four and a bit novels (which I plan to edit / my editor hack / re-edit then put on Amazon) with some shorts in between but that’s all I do these days (I cheated for the 2011 NaNoWriMo and wrote four collections of short stories (still >50,000 words) rather than a novel. Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
Kathy: My first reader is my husband, a novelist and technical writer, too. He has a good sense for what works and what doesn’t.
Morgen: Oh great! (would he like to do an interview too? :)) Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Kathy: My writing has improved over the years and less and less editing is necessary. However, “Letters on Balboa Island” was written early on and I’ve had to rewrite it over and over again with a lot of editing to bring it up-to-speed.
Morgen: It’s all practice, isn’t it. I went back to my first novel (and early short stories) and see how much I’ve improved… and how much I need to do to polish them. 🙂 Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
Kathy: I can’t imagine writing before computers – that’s probably what took me so long to pursue it.
Morgen: I love being a writer now. I’m only six years in so have had the internet behind me all the way. Some writers like quiet, others the noise of a coffee shop etc. Do you listen to music or have noise around you when you write or do you need silence?
Kathy: It depends. I sometimes listen to mood music so that I can get totally immersed in a scene. Other times, I listen to my emotions—that’s really what drives my writing and why I can’t really plot the story before writing it.
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
Kathy: I’m definitely a first person point of view person. I’ve had editors resist that and even ask me to rewrite something in third. Some have said how the first person version was stronger. My main regret with my writing career, so far, is that I listened to an editor and rewrote The Tom Jones Club in third person to satisfy romance readers. I wish I had listened to myself and kept it in first person. I think I would have pleased “my” readers more.
Morgen: Ah but now you’re self-publishing you can produce a first person version. 🙂 Do you use prologues / epilogues? What do you think of the use of them?
Kathy: I do use them and I enjoy them as a reader. I think there are too many writing rules out there that don’t really mean anything; just the current writing fad.
Morgen: And every reader is different. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Kathy: Definitely. Some were worth rewriting and turning it into something and I’m quite proud of those. Others just aren’t worth it.
Morgen: Oh dear. But again they were x-hundred/thousand words practice. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Kathy: The pressure to be a marketing expert, an extrovert, to embrace social media. I’ve discovered I really can’t do all of that but I can pick and choose and I’m happier setting limits on what I’m willing to do. The writing must come first.
Morgen: And it’s all too easy to forget that. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Kathy: There are a lot of people out there to make money offering you writing advice. Pick and choose what works for you and don’t believe everything you read. Many of those writing rules out there are personal preferences or current styles that change all the time.
Morgen: Absolutely. Take plenty of free advice and stick with what works. What do you like to read? Any authors you could recommend?
Kathy: Laura Caldwell is my favourite author and I definitely recommend everything she writes.
Morgen: I’ve not heard of her, thanks for that. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Kathy: I tried several networking sites over the years but, for now, I blog and hang out on Twitter sometimes.
Morgen: Me too (plus Facebook and LinkedIn). Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Kathy: My web site is http://www.kathyholmes.net and there are links to 3 of my blogs.
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Kathy: It seems to be in chaos right now but I think it’ll settle down one way or another. The new thing always does.
Morgen: 🙂 If you could have your life over again, is there anything you’d have done differently (writing-related or otherwise)?
Kathy: I would have done everything sooner – writing, singing, finding my father, doing what I wanted to pursue and not to please others.
Morgen: Older and wiser – being human. 🙂 Thank you, Kathy. And my thanks also go to Dorothy of www.pumpupyourbook.com for arranging this interview.
Born in the City of Angels, raised on Walt Disney, and inspired by the dreams of both, Kathy Holmes grew up in southern California halfway between Disneyland and the beach.
Tantalized by the tropics since Adam Troy set sail on the Kon Tiki in James A. Michener’s “Adventures in Paradise,” she traveled to tropical destinations such as Hawaii, Florida, the Caribbean, Mexico, and Asia Pacific. Eventually, she moved to Florida where she wrote and secured representation for Real Women Wear Red. She also wrote for Walt Disney World and the Orlando Sentinel.
After living in Las Vegas for a few years, Kathy, her husband, and their three Burmese cats have moved back to Florida and are now living halfway between Walt Disney World and the beach in Central Florida. Her latest book is Letters on Balboa Island.
Visit her on the web at www.KathyHolmes.net.
About Letters on Balboa Island
When Rosalie Martin was seventeen, she knew two things that were true: (1) You couldn’t help but meet a man in a military uniform in southern California in the 1950s, and (2) Sooner or later, men would leave. But that didn’t stop her mother, her sister, or even herself from trying to find a man who would stay. And before she knew it, she had not only one man on her hands, but two.
When Rosalie sends a Dear John letter to the one serving in the Korean War to marry the one back home, she begins a life of secrets and regrets. Years later, when letters surface on Balboa Island, she realizes she may have chosen the wrong man. So when fate gives her the chance to make a different choice, will she? Or has she lived a life of lies for too long?
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