This month's Special Page:
answers thirteen questions about Vampires, Werewolves, and Witches
....and how she writes about them all!
IN THE "SPECIAL PAGE" ARCHIVES:
Thirteen questions for Nancy Holder
JR: I understand you have loved to write since you were a child, but opted to go into ballet instead. What made you change your mind to go back to writing?
NANCY: It was a bit of a circuitous route back into writing. I got injured while I was dancing in Germany, and decided that ballet was just too iffy. When I got back to the States, I swore I would never have another "weird" job. I wanted a clear career path, and I planned to become a speech therapist. Then I switched to getting an MBA. All the time I was doing all this career planning, I was writing. I finally decided to quit trying to be normal, quit grad school, and wrote full-time. A year and a half later, I sold my first novel.
JR: You have been writing best-selling books since 1983 with your first book titled Jessie’s Song on Signet. Why did you write that book under the name Nancy L. Jones?
NANCY: Actually, my first book was published under the pseudonym Wendi Davis in 1981. It was a Young Adult novel about a smart girl who doesn't want to be labeled as such when she moves to her new town. I titled it Love and Honors. The publisher re-titled it Teach Me to Love. Oy. 2011 is my thirtieth year as a freelancer. As far as Nancy Jones goes, that's my maiden name. But there was another Nancy Jones writing, and I decided to write under my married name, which is Holder.
JR: Here is the question all my readers want to know: How did you get your start as a novelist? How did you sell your first book?
NANCY: I quit. Quit working at Sea World, quit going to grad school, and wrote instead. I've never actually sold my very first book. I had three books completed by the time I got an agent, and a lot of things I hadn't finished. I wrote short stories, articles, poems, and song lyrics. I sold a song but didn't get paid for it, and finally got a gig to write a young adult romance novel. It wasn't one of my first three novels. And of those three, I've only sold a rewrite of one of them. Printouts are in the garage somewhere, and I think the hard drive they were on has degraded. Or maybe my terrible writing made the hard drive die.
JR: Some people cheer e-books, and others cringe at their mention. How do you feel about the advent of Kindles and Nooks?
NANCY: I love e-books and I love physical books. My daughter and I have Nooks but I don't use mine much (I forget to!). She reads off her Nook all the time--but we also buy more physical books for her than we used to. She's a reading fiend.
At first I was worried that e-books would hurt the independent bookstores. But I know two different indies here in SoCal opening up second stores (Mathom and Mysterious Galaxy) so they're doing great. Dark Delicacies told me they just had their best year ever. And most of the independents I know are now selling e-books, too.
As far as being an author, e-books are good because if readers can't find you in a store, they can find you online. But piracy is a huge problem. I implore readers not to use free download "libraries" or other share-sites.
Another challenge is if your e-book gets keyed in incorrectly, it can really hurt you. I've spent days tracking down and reporting broken links…and keeping on the e-book sellers to fix the problems.
With enhanced content, limited edition horror e-books are definitely making innovations--I have so many beautiful limited edition books I'm in and collect, from publishers such as Cemetery Dance, Necon, Overlook, Dark Regions, Bad Moon, PS, and as we say, many others.
I'm on the jury for the Stoker in Nonfiction and so far we've read hard copies of books.
JR: You have won the Bram Stoker Award four times and you have been optioned by DreamWorks for a film. Which of your books is DreamWorks interested in?
NANCY: I also recently received a Scribe award from the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers for Best Novel (Saving Grace: Tough Love, which was based on the TV show, Saving Grace.) DreamWorks optioned the Wicked Saga, a series about two feuding witch families with a vendetta that stretches over 600 years. We hit the New York Times bestseller list with it, too. It's all been very exciting!
JR: Speaking of films, I hear you watch a lot of horror movies. Do you have any favorites?
NANCY: Yes, I can't ever watch enough horror! Although I have to confess I'm afraid to watch Paranormal Activity. I wrote a trilogy called the Possessions Series, and I watched a horror movie every single morning while working on those books. (Mornings because it takes me all day to recuperate from watching horror.) Sheer heaven!
Debbie and I just went on an author tour and we saw the building at St. Louis University where an exorcism was performed, as well as being used for The Exorcist. We love St. Louis, Missouri!
Some favorites horror movies:
The Haunting (the 1963 version)
JR: Your books seem to take place in all sorts of locations, from New Orleans to Spain. Have you been to all the locales in your books? How important is the setting in a book?
NANCY: I love researching settings. I haven't been to all the places I've written about, but I've been to a lot of them. I haven't been to Spain and I'm dying to go. I've lived in Japan and Germany, and I like the expat life.
JR: Some writers collaborate with other writers for books: Craig Spector and John Skipp, Peter Straub and Stephen King; those are two examples. You have teamed up with Debbie Viguié for both the Wicked and the Crusade series, and you have also worked with Christopher Golden. How does it work to team up with another author? How do you iron out your creative differences?
NANCY: I've got three other coauthors, too--Melanie Tem; my daughter, Belle; and now, Erin Underwood. Erin is my assistant and we write a column for the SFWA Bulletin together. We're writing a short story for Nancy Kilpatrick right now. We're having a lot of fun!
Belle and I have written short fiction together, although we have a lot of ideas for novels. Of all my coauthors, she and I fight the most. (How can that be?!)
Debbie and I are about to celebrate our tenth year working together. We've sold eleven novels and a short story--so far. It's a writing marriage made in heaven. Each of us complements the other's strengths and weaknesses. Deb's the big-picture, get-it-down girl, and I'm the details/revising fool. We create solid outlines, then usually Debbie does the first draft of Chapter One. I revise and do Chapter Two and send the whole shebang back to her. We only move forward. We never go back to an earlier draft or even ask each other why we changed what we did. What we get from the other guy is all there is, as far as we are concerned.
We love to party together at Disney parks (and we both write at them, too). It helps that I'm ninety minutes from Disneyland and she's five minutes (no lie) from Disney World. Right now, the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland has a Nightmare Before Christmas overlay. It is spectacular!
We also usually like the same pop culture array, although how she can list Van Helsing as one of her favorite movies is quite beyond me.
JR: There are many vampire books, and many apocalypse books, but you have created a vampire apocalypse book. You have also written books that have bands of vampire hunters that are made up of witches, werewolves, vampires, and humans, all in the same book! How do you come up with these twists on popular characters?
NANCY: Debbie and I wrote a short story called "Passing," which contained all the elements of our Crusade series--witch, werewolf, vampire, war with the vampires, set in Spain--and we realized we had a series there. We used World War II as our template, although our tag line is that Crusade is "World War III--the vampires declared it, and we lost it."
We naturally gravitate to the supernatural and we're both conversant in all the tropes and conventions of various paranormal creatures and approaches to same.
BTW, "Passing" is for sale on Kindle, bn.com, and Smashwords HERE.
In Crusade, we wanted to return to the classic vampire--EVIL. We have a vampiric good guy but he's not happy he's a vampire and our main character, Jenn, leader of a resistance cell in Spain, is for sure not happy about it. She would give anything for Antonio not to be a vampire.
In our new series, Unleashed (Delacorte, 11/22), we're writing about werewolves, but we're tweaking them a bit. We've done a ton of research and we have discovered some amazing myths and tall tales about lycanthropes.
JR: Now you just know I need to ask you about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the popular TV series that ran from 1997 to 2003. You have written “tie-in” books to that series. What is a “tie-in?”
NANCY: I am always happy to talk about Buffy! I love Buffy and always will. A "tie-in" is something that is "tied in" to an existing intellectual property. A novel based on Buffy is a tie in. So is a novelization, which is an adaptation of an existing episode or film script. Or even a short story. I've written tie-ins for Buffy, Angel, Highlander, Smallville, Hulk, Hellboy, Wishbone, Saving Grace, Sabrina the Teen Age Witch, Elric, Kindred: the Masquerade, and I'm sure there are others I'm forgetting.
JR: Tell us about the book titled Dear Bully, just released in September 2011.
NANCY: Dear Bully is seventy Young Adult authors recounting their experiences with bullying. It was a collective response to the suicide of Phoebe King, and I'm so proud to be in it. My editors are Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones, and they did an amazing job. I'm doing some group signings for it. The next one is November 9th at Vroman's in Pasadena HERE.
JR: Of course I must ask you: Of all the books you have written, which is your personal favorite?
NANCY: I love all my children equally. My most favorite short stories, however, are the two I have written with my daughter, Belle Holder. They're about a magical time-traveling mouse named Lightning Merriemouse-Jones, and they were published in Furry Fantastic and Pandora's Closet. We just did a signing at GeekGirlCon in Seattle, which was the most rocking' con evah!
JR: Before we end this interview, do you have any advice to tell the writers, poets, and artists trying to break into the business?
NANCY: READ. WRITE. REPEAT. Don't write one book or story and spend the rest of your life trying to sell it. Write another one. And another. In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell posits that what sets the super-accomplished apart is 10,000 hours of practice. So, practice!
New York Times Bestselling author Nancy Holder was born in Los Altos, California, and her family settled for a time in Walnut Creek. Her father, who taught at Stanford, joined the navy and the family traveled throughout California and lived in Japan for three years. When she was sixteen, she dropped out of high school to become a ballet dancer in Cologne, Germany, and later relocated to Frankfurt Am Main.
Eventually she returned to California and graduated summa cum laude from the University of California at San Diego with a degree in Communications. Soon after, she began to write; her first sale was a young adult romance novel titled Teach Me to Love.
Nancy’s work has appeared on the New York Times, USA Today, LA Times, amazon.com, LOCUS, and other bestseller lists. A four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writers Association, she has also received accolades from the American Library Association, the American Reading Association, the New York Public Library, and Romantic Times.
She and Debbie Viguié co-authored the New York Times bestselling series Wicked for Simon and Schuster. They have continued their collaboration with the Crusade series, also for Simon and Schuster, and the Wolf Springs Chronicles for Delacorte (2011.) She is also the author of the young adult horror series Possessions for Razorbill. She has sold many novels and book projects set in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Saving Grace, Hellboy, and Smallville universes.
She has sold approximately two hundred short stories and essays on writing and popular culture. Her anthology, Outsiders, co-edited with Nancy Kilpatrick, was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award in 2005. Pretty Little Devils and The Watcher’s Guide Volume 1 appeared in the New York Public Library’s Books for the Teen Age, and The Watcher’s Guide Volume 1 also appeared on the Los Angeles Times Bestseller List in 1999. Saving Grace: Tough Love won the 2011 Scribe Award for General Fiction/Best Original Novel.
Nancy teaches in the Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing Program, offered through the University of Southern Maine. She has previously taught at UCSD and has served on the Clarion Board of Directors.
She lives in San Diego, California, with her daughter Belle, their two Corgis, Panda and Tater; and their cats, David and Kittnen Snow. She and Belle are active in Girl Scouts and dog obedience training.