N.L.Holmes

Exclusive Interview with

N.L.Holmes

Let’s start with your Career as a writer!

When did you start writing?

I've written since I was a kid: short stories, poems, unfinished "novels." I guess all authors start with an early love of stories.

What makes writing your passion?

It utilizes the left and the right brain, and so is very satisfying. (Also very frustrating when it isn't going well!) I love the idea of giving flesh to characters from ancient history whom we know only by name. Even when I taught history, I figured I had succeeded if I could bring the students to understand that these people were humans, and that they made their decisions out of the same motives as we do.

How long have you been writing?

Professionally, for five years, except for academic papers.

What was the feeling when you published your first book?

Since it was self-published, I guess I didn't have that euphoria of knowing that "they" liked it and believed in it. So my reaction was pretty much,"What's my next project?"

What’s the story behind your choice of characters?

Many of them are historical figures, although not always great ones. For example, Tiwatipara is really the name of the king's charioteer, but I wanted to give him a story. Otherwise, I look for peripheral figures whose own life gave them a different perspective on historical events: a slave, a singer, a charioteer. And yes, a king or two.

What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?

If you publish traditionally, there's all that awful querying. If you self-publish, there's still the agony of publicity. In short, self-promotion is the pits.

How do you get over the “writer’s block”?

Once I have the idea for a book, I start picturing a few scenes here and there that will be pivotal: confrontations or revelations or other strongly emotional moments. Then I write those scenes that I can picture easily, not necessarily in order. Thus I can keep writing even if I don't know how to start or what to do "next."

We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?

Do it only if you love the process, not because you want to be famous or rich or even approved. If you have a story that's trying to get out, write it and don't listen to naysayers.
Never stop trying to perfect your art.

If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?

I was always writing in my head, describing scenes as I went through them. I would say, "Give yourself to the moment. Experience it. Feel it. Wait till later to put it into words, because it's really the emotion of the moment that will give your writing authenticity." Otherwise, you're like a person who snaps photos of their vacation so constantly that they never really see anything.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?

So far--knock on wood--I haven't had that experience. But for sure, there is no one book that everybody likes. Take the reviewer's criticisms as input for improvement, but understand that it may simply not have been the book for that reader.

What is the feeling when you get a good review?

Pleasure: I've connected with somebody.

Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?

Because mine are historicals, I'm not likely to have experienced many of the actual situations that my characters face. But I certainly draw on emotional moments I have lived.

Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?

They're all a little bit me and a little bit of many other people. None of them is based on my character.

What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?

Absolutely. I confess that when browsing in a bookstore, I buy the books that attract me with their cover. Certain covers turn me off so badly that I would be very disinclined to buy them. Shallow perhaps, but I bet I'm not the only one!

Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?

Generally, I feel I've said everything I have to say in my books. I'm not a social media person. But on the other hand, I love people, and I certainly wouldn't be averse to meeting readers.

How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?

Who is your favorite author? Why?

My list changes with every book I read! My latest love affair is with Kate Grenville (The Secret River). I also love Marilynn Robinson, Elizabeth Strout, Louise Erlich. Their writing all has such a beautiful texture, it just sends tingles up my spine. It has the right sound to it. There are a million others, including Edith Wharton, Henry James, and Emile Zola.

What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?

Would you rewrite any of your books? Why?

Actually, I am rewriting one. I couldn't get the plot to happen because I couldn't get a grip on my characters.

If you could switch places with any author – who would that be?

What would you say to the “trolls” on the internet? We all know them – people who like to write awful reviews to books they’ve never read or didn’t like that much, just to annoy the author.

I pity them. Get a life, people.

What would you say to your readers?

I hope you see now that the people of the past were human beings just like us. They went through terrible things and sublime things and responded with the same emotions as we do.

Thank you for sharing! Let’s talk about your Personal Life!

Share a bit about yourself – where do you live, are you married, do you have kids?

I am married, have one grown son (no longer at home) and three cats.

What is your day job if you have one?

Until my recent retirement from teaching, I taught ancient history and humanities at a university.

What are your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?

I used to paint, but not so much now. I weave, play the violin, dance, garden, perfect my French--I like to keep busy!

Did you have a happy childhood?

Reasonably. Any anguishes I went through were mostly because of my personality, which was rather too introspective for comfort. I was always happiest when reading or out in the countryside.

Is there a particular experience that made you start writing?

In the course of a class, I had my students read all the (few) documents that shed light on a certain royal divorce in the 13th c. BC., then try to reconstruct the event, It was pretty clear that there were so many gaps in our knowledge that the result should really be called historical fiction. I decided to weave that story, filling in the gaps.

Do you have unpublished books? What are they about?

Two are subsequent volumes in the (Egyptian) Lord Hani Mysteries series. The other two are part of a more loosely linked series set in the Hittite Empire: one about a eunuch slave who betrays his mistress and then tries to avenge her; the other about a Hittite king who had to make a terrible sacrifice to bring peace.

What do you think should be improved in the education of our children? What do we lack?

I just hope that everything being online instantly isn't spoiling our capacity for taking time, giving our brains "slow food." People are always communicating in text-message-talk. Will they have the language skills to write? To spin out a story that unrolls slowly without instant gratification?

If you were allowed 3 wishes – what would they be?

Peace, health and prosperity for everyone in the world (which has to involve healing the planet's degradation).

What is your favorite music?

Classical.

Share a secret with us 🙂

I was a cloistered nun for nearly twenty years. I've been an artist, run an antique store, been an interior decorator, and been the executive assistant for an educational foundation.

Thank you! We wish you the best of luck for you and your art!