After working first for a bank and then as a teacher, Bedfordshire author Holly Martin found her calling when a group of role-playing educators visited her school to bring Tudor England to life. Now, in her words, she spends her non-writing time driving around the country “in my little white van, dressing up as a Viking one day and an Egyptian High Priestess the next.”
It must be excellent practice for the imagination, which she needs for her other career as an author. So far, she’s published the first installment of a paranormal young adult series, as well as a women’s fiction treat that weaves a story of laughter, loss, and love in a very unique way — through the pages of seaside inn’s guestbook.
1. I absolutely love the premise of The Guestbook, which centers around a young widow who runs a guest house (filled with loads of interesting characters), and comes face to face with an old flame while still dealing with the loss of her husband. What can you tell us about that story?
The story of The Guestbook is told solely through the messages left in a holiday cottage guestbook. Annie, the landlady of Willow Cottage, is the main character and it is her story that is told through the messages she leaves for her guests and their interactions with her. I wanted to have a story unravel through just the messages, to have one main story running through it, but also the guests that come to stay have their own story to tell and I love that we get a glimpse into their lives too.
2. What do think people will love most about the book? What do you love about it?
That it’s something different and unique. It’s still a love story, with humour and great characters but it’s told in a completely different way and hopefully people will embrace that.
3. Your first novel (The Sentinel, October 2013) is part of a young adult series, but The Guestbook fits more into women’s fiction. Do you prefer one genre over another or do you just write and worry about categorization later?
Most of my stories are chicklit or women’s fiction, funny, light hearted, rose tinted stories with the compulsory happy ever after, but The Sentinel was just something I had to write. It’s a story about an ordinary girl who finds out she has superpowers and is charged with saving the world. When I started writing it, I realized it was going to be bigger than just one book so there will be four books in the series but after that I will probably just stick to women’s fiction in the future, though fantasy books are a lot of fun to write.
4. Why do you write? What do you want readers to take away from your work?
I just have ideas and I have to write them down, sometimes they are just conversations, a short scene or even just a vague idea. Sometimes I will then continue writing that scene, or write what happened before. Sometimes these ideas turn into full length books, sometimes they don’t. I want people to fall in love with my characters, to root for them, to laugh and cry with them. Hopefully some of the scenarios my characters find themselves in are original and creative and readers will enjoy that.
5. What are you working on next?
There are three possible romance books which might be published next, although its likely to be a novel called One Hundred Proposals, which is about a couple who organize wedding proposals for people falling in love themselves. I’ve also written a story called The Chainsaw Masquerade about Joy, a secret chainsaw carver and her love story with the moody actor next door. I’m also working on book 2 of the Sentinel Series, The Prophecies, which I hope will be out soon.
6. Spreading the word is one of the most daunting aspects of publishing with a smaller press. How do you get your titles out there?
Luckily for me, Carina are part of Harlequin and Mills and Boon so they have experience in publicizing their books. But it also comes down to social media and having a presence on there, especially Twitter. Not just ‘buy my book’ tweets, but taking the time to chat to people on there too. I was quite late to Twitter, only joining last August, but I have made the best friends on there, who I chat to now every day — authors, book bloggers, readers. Through my blog tour I met more book bloggers, who are just the kindest most wonderful people who will champion your book tirelessly, I cannot thank the book blogging community enough for the support they gave The Guestbook.
7. There are many rough patches on the road to publication. How did you get through the bad days?
I have been writing for five years now and for four years it was rejection after rejection after rejection. The hard thing was I didn’t know if I was getting a rejection because my cover letter wasn’t good enough or they had read the synopsis and thought it wasn’t for them without even reading the story, or they didn’t have time to read it or because the story and writing was rubbish. I didn’t know whether I was close with my submissions or a million miles away and so I had no clue whether to give up or keep trying. I kept trying though. I couldn’t give up. I just kept telling myself that it was one person’s opinion and someone, somewhere would feel differently.
The Guestbook got a lot of attention from agents and publishers but ultimately it was always a no. But I knew I had something special so I kept trying. Carina picked it up last November which was an incredible feeling and Lucy, my editor, obviously fell in love with it as much as I did. Since it was published it reached number five in the UK chart and number 27 in the US chart. I’m so glad I didn’t give up or listen to the people that said it wouldn’t work. If you believe in yourself then others will too.
8. What is the best piece of advice you’ve received that you can share with aspiring writers?
I think the main thing that let me down was my blanket approach of writing to so many agents in one go. My time is so limited, writing around a full time job with very long hours and so when I did send my submissions out to agents, I would sit down and dedicate a whole day to submitting to as many agents as I possibly could. Every advice book/column/article says you should never do that but I did anyway. I didn’t have time to research agents or get to know their clients, and sure enough I got rejected time and time again. Everyone says that you need to approach agents carefully, research their clients, their history, their likes and dislikes, find out the names of the people you are writing to rather than just submitting to a company, and I think I have to agree. I think the main advice I can give is not to give up, if you get any advice from agents or publishers try to act on it and remember just because one person doesn’t like it, it doesn’t mean that no one else will.
In addition to blogging at hollymartinwriter.wordpress.com, Holly loves connecting with readers on Twitter (@hollymartin00).
Her e-book is available today for the smashingly low price of just 99 cents! Click here for more details 🙂
And while you’re there, Desperately Ever After is available in both print and e-book formats at Amazon. Click here for information about borrowing a FREE copy (Prime members) or purchasing one at a discounted rate!
For next week’s interview, I am thrilled to be hosting Stephanie Evanovich, author of the bestselling novel Big Girl Panties. As a bonus, she’ll be giving away TWO PRINT copies! You won’t want to miss it!
6 responses to “Author Interview: Holly Martin, author of The Guestbook”
A book that unfolds entirely through notes in a guestbook–I definitely will put that on my “to read” list. I enjoyed the children’s book “Regarding the Fountain” by Kate Klise, and the YA novel ” Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares”, so your novel is something I know I will like!
Thanks for taking the time to comment, Cathy! Have a wonderful Wednesday 🙂
Great interview. I’m fascinated by how writers work and this interview was interesting & informative .
Thanks so much!
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