Author Interview: Holly Martin

This week I had the pleasure of talking to author, Holly Martin about her excellent novels. Below is the full interview, as well as some info on her work.

Your new release, The Guestbook, is written as a series of entries in a holiday cottage guestbook. Which came first, the story idea or the format?

The format definitely. I wanted to do something completely different but still be able to tell a story at the same time, I wanted one main story running through it and then little sub stories, little snapshots of all the guests, the good, the bad and the ugly.  I’m not sure at what point Annie’s story came along, though it was obvious it was going to be her story that was the main one, but at what point the story of Nick and Olly were born, I don’t know.

How different is writing chick-lit to writing YA? Which is harder?

They are both very different.  Chick-Lit is hard because ultimately the two main characters are going to end up together, I know that, the readers know that but you have to keep them apart for the whole book plus you have to keep the pace going and other things happening around the main couple that will keep people interested.  In YA fantasy adventure books it’s easy to keep the pace going with a car chase, explosion or other big stunts to spice up the story.  But fantasy has its own problems.  Yes anything can happen, characters can fly, throw fire from their hands but they have to keep to the rules that you’ve set for them in that particular context.  One of the powers I played with and subsequently dumped in The Sentinel was Eve’s ability to become invisible.  There were too many questions that I couldn’t answer and I didn’t want people to think it was too implausible.  If she was invisible would she be able to see her own hand? Would the clothes she was wearing also be invisible? That was the only thing that fell down for me in Harry Potter, was the animagi (the wizards that could change into animals) and their clothes.  When they morphed from an animal like a tiny rat to a human they would be fully clothed. Where did these clothes come from?  I understand JK didn’t want naked people walking around in her children’s books but when writing fantasy it still has to be realistic.  But the one thing both my fantasy and my chick-lit have in common is the love stories at their core.

Is ‘chick lit’ a healthy designation for the genre?

I’m not sure why people are so down on the name chick-lit.  The romance category for me is too big an umbrella and when someone says romance I think of big sweeping sagas like Pride and Prejudice.  Chick-lit is the romantic comedy side of romance, the lighter, funnier, more modern side of romance.  You know you’re not going to get some big period drama when you see the word chick-lit.  I guess when you look at the term more closely it can be quite offensive, literature for chicks. I guess it even means books for women with very little brains.  But that simply isn’t true.  The women that read chick-lit want to read about real women, the kind of women they are, the women they know with real problems, real characteristics and real emotions not women who swoon because their corsets are too tight.  I love that chick-lit genre and my romance books will always be in that genre.  People can call it whatever they like because lovers of that genre will always love it regardless of what its called.

In your YA title, The Sentinel, Eve’s life is turned completely upside down. Is this a good or a bad thing?

I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing for Eve.  As a teenager I always thought there should be more to life than getting up every day and going to school. I always imagined, after reading way too many books, that I was destined for greater things and that one day my true purpose would be revealed to me, that I would have powers and skills that I never knew about before.  And Eve feels that too.  She knows she has seemingly been in training her whole life but she never knows why.  She knows she is different to the other children but she never realises quite how different.  I think finding out the truth was something of a relief as her whole life was wrapped in secrecy and lies.  But the truth was shocking, life changing and as you said it turned her world upside down.  I think there are many times in The Sentinel and in the sequels that she looks back on her quiet life before she knew the truth and wishes she was back there again.

Was it difficult to gauge how a teenage girl would react to such a situation?

I think she coped with it much better than I would.  That was one of the things that came up in the reviews that Eve just had this ‘Ok this is happening, lets deal with it,’ attitude and I don’t know whether an average teen would think like that, but it was important that she was mature. She has a world to save and I couldn’t have her whining and moaning and sobbing in a corner even though she probably wanted to.

How many Sentinel books are there likely to be? Do you know exactly how the series will end?

There are four at the moment.  Books two and three are written and two thirds of book four including the very end.  I know what’s going to happen, though the journey might change slightly, the books need a lot of editing, tweaking and reworking.  If I’m really ruthless and cut loads out I might end up with three books instead of four but I doubt it.

Is there a genre you would love to write in, but never have? Or maybe one you never would?

I would like to write something scary, something that would get the heart pounding with fear but I really don’t have that in me.  I’m not a fan of scary things myself so writing anything like that when my writing world is mainly rose-tinted just isn’t going to happen.  My Dad would love me to write some kind of crime thriller as that’s his preference but I just don’t know enough about police procedures to be able to do it justice.

What are your experiences of the online reading/writing community?

How long do you have?  The people I have met online have been amazing, I can’t even begin to tell you how much these friendships mean to me.  The authors that held my hand through the release of The Sentinel were just fantastic.  They had endless patience with all of my emails and messages, I quite simply wouldn’t have done it without wonderful people like you and Sharon Sant to guide me through it all.  The book bloggers are just… there are no words for how brilliant, how supportive, how fantastic these people are.  They tirelessly champion, promote and get excited about my work with little or no reward – they just love books and love reading and want other people to love the books they read too.  Recently I have become really close to four gorgeous book bloggers, (The Gosling Girls) and we now message each other every day, sometimes silly stuff, sometimes more serious stuff, sometimes just holding my hand and telling me it’s going to be OK.  I love them so much, they have seriously been the best friends a girl could ever wish for.  There’s the readers too (non-blogging folk) who have enjoyed my work and taken the time to tell me that they love it and wrote lovely reviews as well.  And when something good happens, everyone cheers you for it, everyone wants to help.  The release of The Guestbook was epic.  Literally my phone did not stop buzzing all day as people tweeted, retweeted and wrote blog posts.  People are amazing and I would not have anywhere near the success I have if it wasn’t for the lovely people of the twittersphere.

The Guestbook is available now.

You can follow Holly on Twitter here or visit out her website here.

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