Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Bookworm’s Fantasy! I hope you’re all doing well. Today I’m really excited to be posting my exclusive interview with author Hollie Overton! Those of you who read my blog regularly will have heard me rave about Overton’s books (you can find my review of Baby Doll here and The Walls here), so naturally I was absolutely thrilled when she agreed to answer some questions for me. Thanks so much to Hollie! Keep reading…
About the Author.
Hollie Overton is the author of two psychological thrillers: ‘Baby Doll’ (2016) and ‘The Walls’ (2017). Her upcoming novel, ‘The Runaway’, is due to be released in April 2019. Overton is also a TV Writer and Producer, and she has written for shows on ABC Family, CBS and Lifetime. Overton’s father was a member of the notorious Texas Overton gang.
1) How would you describe your psychological thriller novels using only three words (Baby Doll and The Walls)?
2) Could you tell us a bit about your upcoming novel, The Runaway?
The Runaway centers around Becca Ortiz, a therapist working for the LAPD’s mental health unit who finds herself on a dangerous journey as she sets out to find Ash, her missing foster daughter, and bring her home. The Runaway explores the ongoing homeless and mental health crisis in LA, but at it’s core it’s a love story between a mother and a daughter. There’s also a unique villain in this book, which I was excited to write; a character that’s a bit of a departure from the other villains in my books.
3) I loved both of your books, but The Walls particularly struck a chord with me. Was it hard to write about such a difficult topic? How did you distance yourself from the emotion and the violence?
I’m so pleased you felt that way about The Walls. Baby Doll was my first book and it definitely made more of a splash, but I have such a fondness for The Walls and those characters. I’ve talked a lot in interviews about how I grew up in a house with domestic violence. I don’t want to say I was detached from writing those violent scenes, but in some ways it felt more familiar that anything else I’d have to write because I lived it. I’ve had some readers and reviewers object to the extreme nature of the violence, but it’s real and I didn’t want to sugar coat it, even if it does make you uncomfortable. One of the hardest parts about writing this book was doing all the research on death row. There are lots of executions that occur throughout the time span of the book, so I spent time researching what types of crimes are committed by death row inmates. I’ve always been against capital punishment, but when you read about some of the terrible things people do to one another, it definitely weighs on you and makes you question those views.
4) There’s a big market out there currently for Crime/Thriller novels. What would you say sets you apart from other writers of the genre? What do you hope to achieve in your writing?
When I started writing books, I didn’t have an agenda. The characters in Baby Doll came to me and I just kept writing. As a reader though, I’ve always loved a fast paced story with lots of twists and turns; the books that stay with me are the ones in which the characters leap off the page. It all comes down to character and that’s what I focus on. I work really hard to find a personal connection and then I do my best to bring these people to life. Even though I’m writing fiction, I always want my readers to learn something new. Whether it’s about what happens after an abduction or whether they’re learning about a new job like Kristy’s role at the prison or Becca’s role working in the LAPD. I enjoy bringing these new worlds to light. I also tend to put my characters through some truly terrible things, but I always try my best to leave readers (and my characters) with some semblance of hope and optimism.
5) Could you tell us a bit about your writing journey and how you managed to get published? Did you receive rejections and how did you overcome these?
I grew up in a small town in Texas, and was incredibly shy and self-conscious. My mother put my sister and I in a play at the local college and I was hooked. I loved performing and acted in plays all throughout junior high and high school. I also loved writing, and was always journaling. I even won a few writing awards, but acting remained my primary focus. I moved to NYC when I was nineteen to attend a performing arts college. I loved New York, the excitement and energy of the city, though I spent more time waiting tables than acting. During that time, I also began writing essays and short stories and taking classes. I eventually moved to LA and though I was still auditioning and taking acting classes, I started writing scripts. I wrote a short film script and entered it in a contest. I won and the prize was a mentorship with Stephen Susco, a working screenwriter. He encouraged me to try my hand at TV writing. I took a class to learn how to write TV and with that script, I was selected for the Warner Brothers Writers Workshop, a prestigious TV fellowship run by the WB. I went on to write for “Cold Case” and “The Client List.’ Unfortunately, after that show was cancelled, I went through a career dry spell and couldn’t get a TV job. It was a very uncertain time and I kept wondering if I was meant to be a writer. Still, I wasn’t qualified to do anything else so I kept developing TV projects and working side gigs as a script consultant and reader. That was when I got the idea for Baby Doll. I spent the next year and a half writing that book. I wasn’t even thinking about publishing it, I just wanted to write something that I loved, which turned out to be the best decision I ever made.
As far as rejection goes, I imagine most writers hear no far more often than yes. I’ve definitely heard hundreds of no’s, especially as a screenwriter. My experience in publishing though was quite charmed and I sold my first novel shortly after my agent accepted my book for publication. I like to say that part of my writing journey was easy because I’d been through so many ups and downs in my screenwriting career. I feel as though the writing god’s were rewarding me for not giving up. I hope other writers understand though that once you publish or get that first screenwriting job it really is just the beginning of your writer’s journey. Sustaining one’s writing career requires just as much energy as beginning the journey, if not more because there’s more expectation.
6) Are there times when you struggle with finding inspiration or generating ideas for your writing? What do you do when this happens?
It’s so interesting and timely that you ask this question. I’ve always prided myself on my work ethic and my ability to constantly create. Usually when I’m working on a project, I’ll already know what I want to write next. But this past year I’ve lacked that same passion and desire to create and it’s been a bit unsettling. I’ll attribute part of it to being overworked. In the past four years, I wrote three books, worked on two TV shows while also trying to develop my own shows. I also endured some personal heartaches that weighed heavily on me. It made me realize that no matter how much we try and outrun this stuff it will catch up to you. There were times this year that I just didn’t want to write. This caused a great deal of anxiety because I’ve always loved writing. A lot of people suggested I take a break, but the trouble with being a professional writer is that it’s your job. You can’t just say “I don’t feel like it. I’ll write when the muse strikes.” You have people relying on you and deadlines to meet. You have to find a way to write through the funk, which is what I did. It wasn’t always pleasant but I kept at it.
Along the way, I did yoga and went running and hung out with friends and family and cuddled with my dog. I even saw a Reiki healer, which sounds very LA, but was an amazing experience. Reiki healers work to unblock your chakras and help release negative energy. Yes, I know it sounds like I’m just making up words but that was definitely a big help. I also tried to rest and cut myself from slack if I took time off. For a workaholic like myself, this was crucial. Recently it feels as if the fog has cleared, and the spark is returning, which means I’m loving what I’m doing again. It wasn’t a fun experience but it makes me appreciate my work even more.
7) How would you describe your writing process? How long does it take you to write a novel?
My writing process is ever evolving. Usually when I start writing a novel, I have a basic idea of the plot and the core character relationship I want to explore. With Baby Doll, the heart of the story was centered around twin sisters, with The Walls it was a mother and son. The Runaway focuses on a mother and daughter. Once I start to unravel who the people are at the center of the story, then I start writing. It’s not something I’d advise, but I don’t outline when I’m writing books. I have a general idea of the story, and then the character’s guide the way. As for how long a book takes, I’m often working on TV projects simultaneously so it can take anywhere from eight months to a year. If I was just writing books, I imagine I’d be able to finish one in six months, but that hasn’t happened yet.
8) Which books have you read recently that you’d recommend to others?
I read The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin earlier this year and I continue to recommend it. It’s such a unique story about four siblings who are told by a psychic the date that they’re going to die. The book explores how this news charts the course of their life. The prose is beautiful and it’s hard not to fall in love with these characters. The Other Woman by Sandie Jones was also a fun thriller about a truly terrible mother-in-law.
9) Tell me a bit more about yourself! What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love hanging out with my husband, David, my twin sister, Heather, and my rescue dog, Stevie. In LA there’s always something going on so we’re constantly exploring. Whether it’s trying new restaurants or going to a show. Sometimes it’s nice to just hang out. I cook a lot and I’m always binging some new show. Yoga is also a big part of my life and I go to classes with my husband and my sister. I do acupuncture once a week, and highly recommend it for stress and relaxation. I also love traveling! Last year, I went to New York, Texas, England twice and Thailand. This year I found it harder to get away, but I’m excited about this month’s travels. I’ll be spending my birthday in Vegas and then I’m off to Paris for Christmas and New Year’s.
10) And finally, what writing tips would you give to other budding authors?
The first tip I’d offer aspiring writers is to write as much as possible. It sounds like obvious advice but a lot of writers simply don’t write enough, choosing to focus on one project for far too long, hoping that one project will be what leads them to literary stardom. That’s not usually the case. For most writers, the more you write, the better you get. As you continue to write, find other writers that will support you. Whether you join a writer’s group that meets in person or you find support online, the only way to get better is to have honest, insightful feedback. Once you’ve written something that has potential, then I encourage writers to enter contests and submit query letters. I know that people like to say the odds are slim and there’s too much competition, but great writing will always find an audience. It may take time, but it will happen.
Happy reading 🙂