Here’s Holly (cute!), and here’s her book (gorgeous jacket!):
And here’s the story of A BLUE SO DARK:
Fifteen-year-old Aura Ambrose has been hiding a secret. Her mother, a talented artist and art teacher, is slowly being consumed by schizophrenia, and Aura has been her sole caretaker ever since Aura’s dad left them. Convinced that “creative” equals crazy, Aura shuns her own artistic talent. But as her mother sinks deeper into the darkness of mental illness, the hunger for a creative outlet draws Aura toward the depths of her imagination. Just as desperation threatens to swallow her whole, Aura discovers that art, love, and family are profoundly linked—and together may offer an escape from her fears.
Kathy: Can you tell us how this book came to be published?
Holly: I’ve heard from a LOT of writers this year that the first book they sold wasn’t the first book they wrote. I’m no exception to this rule. But I also didn’t sell the first draft of A BLUE SO DARK…or the second…or the third. I wrote A BLUE SO DARK late in 2006, in a flurry of creative energy—the whole thing took just a couple of months! When I cleaned it up and began to submit, the rejections started pouring in…editors were telling me the book was too internal. So I started revising and resubmitting. I didn’t actually get an offer until January of 2009…
I think an important part of writing is not giving up on a particular project. Don’t ditch an entire idea just because one draft isn’t selling…I’ve got a floor-to-ceiling stack of manuscripts that I’m constantly in the midst of revising and rewriting. Of course, I don’t think that stack’s full of manuscripts that are saleable as-is. But I DO think everything can be reinvented to BECOME saleable.
Kathy: Great encouragement, Holly, and so true! Tell us why we should buy this book.
Holly: A BLUE SO DARK is lyrically written, is absolutely brimming with realistic characters you will fall in love with and root for, and it will make you feel…well, everything. You’ll laugh and you’ll think and you’ll cry. I guarantee.
Kathy: What’s an important “nugget” that you’d like readers to take away from your book?
Holly: What I hope most is that my novel’s rich enough for readers to take many different nuggets away…messages about family, or creativity, or tackling fears…
Kathy: When and where do you write?
Holly: I’ve learned to write ANYWHERE. I take notebooks or typed pages with me every time I leave the house. I work in the backseat of the car, in parks, at lakesides, on the deck while it rains (love the sound of a downpour against the roof there), in my home office…
Kathy: How do your ideas come to you?
Holly: All. The. Time. I’m not kidding. In addition to my stacks of manuscripts, I’ve got notebooks filled with ideas for novels. It’s kind of a disease.
Kathy: An excellent kind of disease. Favorite quote?
Holly: “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”—Jack London
Kathy: Ha! What are you working on now?
Holly: In addition to A BLUE SO DARK, I’ve got TWO more novels in development! PLAYING HURT, a YA romance, is due out from Flux in ’11. And my first novel for adults, FIFTH AVENUE FIDOS, is due out from Blooming Tree Press in ’11 as well.
PLAYING HURT follows the flowering of an intense summer romance between two former athletes who have both endured their own game-related career-ending tragedies. Their love story has the ability to make them realize just how timidly they’ve both been living…But by playing hurt—entering into a romance with already-broken hearts—are they just setting themselves up for the kind of injury from which they could never recover?
Laugh-out-loud humor and lovable characters fill the pages of FIFTH AVENUE FIDOS, a modern-day fairy tale in which dogs, not dragons, rule the land…A heartwarming Cinderella story in which a “mutt” from Queens reinvents herself as a dog show handler and finds herself hobnobbing with the pedigreed blue bloods in New York City…
Kathy: Wow, two more completely different kinds of stories. OK, we can see that you’re incredibly accomplished — do you have an embarrassing story that you don’t mind telling?
Holly: I’m completely blind…my vision’s 20/700! While I really do like wearing my glasses now, I HATED it when I was younger…Mom wanted me to be in high school when I started wearing contacts. So I’d pick out the world’s WORST, ugliest frames on the planet, trying to guilt my mom into getting me contacts a few years early. Yeah. That didn’t work so well. I’ve got the school pictures to prove just how not well it worked. I’ve got about five or six I should send in to Ellen DeGeneres’s Bad Paid For Picture segment.
Kathy: Well, you made a valiant effort, in a very kid-like way! Speaking of things we did as kids, why should kids read books when there are so many other things to do?
Holly: I’ve been so surprised at how much teens really DO read this year, as I’ve gotten to know the book blogging community. I didn’t even know book bloggers existed back when I sold A BLUE SO DARK. Now, I’m astounded at how much teens read and spread the word of new authors. It’s incredible!
Kathy: It IS wonderful, isn’t it? Really important question: Tea or coffee?
Holly: COFFEE. Little milk, no sugar.
Kathy: I’m with you! Favorite season?
Holly: Spring. I mean—tulips, daffodils, iris? Can’t beat it.
Kathy: True. Cat or dog?
Holly: Both. I’ve only lived three of my 33 years without at least one dog or cat. Right now, I have an insanely spoiled Pekingese. Jake. I got him shortly after grad school, when editors were sending my manuscripts back DRIPPING in my own blood, and I was in need of some love. So Jake came from the breeder, and I’m the rescue dog…
Kathy: Awwww. Short hair or long?
Holly: Oh, yeah—short, long, curly, straight, bleached, dyed, highlighted, permed…I’ve done it ALL. I wonder sometimes why my hair hasn’t completely fallen out.
Kathy: Jeans or fancier?
Holly: I love a good-fitting pair of jeans…buuuut…I’m such a girl. I kind of have a thing for clothes. And I’m really into retro. What’s better than a shirtwaist dress????
Kathy: Just wait ’til prairie dresses come back . . . (I’m kidding). Country you’d most like to visit.
Holly: USA. Seriously—I’m not being flip. I haven’t seen a heckuva lot of this country. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to do a TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY kind of thing, where you put your dog in the car and just took off, checking out beaches and mountains and desert…except for me, I guess that’d be TRAVELS WITH JAKE kind of thing, wouldn’t it?
Kathy: That sounds fabulous. Favorite musical instrument?
Holly: I taught piano and guitar while drafting manuscripts, and have since picked up the banjo and fiddle. I’d REALLY like to get back to my fiddle…I’ve been so busy lately, I haven’t had much time to play. There’s just something about it…it seems really natural, almost like singing. It’s addictive. If I get a chance to play, I can keep at it until my jaw feels unhinged.
Kathy: I’d love to hear it! Some favorite movies?
Holly: HAROLD AND MAUDE. Saw it for the first time when I was 15. I instantly fell in love with the quirkiness of the whole thing—and what a love story! Talk about opposites attracting, right? Not to mention great, great characters—I mean, yeah, they’re flawed, they’re kind of goofy, but people ARE, right? And I adore the way those characters just put their flaws out there front and center. Those are the characters I usually fall in love with, though—the ones who just lay it right on the line for the viewer (or reader). The ones who give us a full backstage pass into their heads.
In a lot of respects, that’s what Aura does. She lets us in to her darkest fears—the fears she can’t bear to speak to anyone else—but she also lets us in on her humor, her hopes, her daydreams…she’s more than just the daughter of a schizophrenic, more than an artist. She’s her own person…and I can’t wait for readers to meet her May 1!
Kathy: I can’t wait to meet her, either, Holly! Thanks for stopping by, and here are the links to get to know Holly better: