Bio: Holly lives in sunny England in a house with round windows. She has had many glitzy and glamorous jobs over the years from working in a bingo hall, in a bank, at a hotel to testing the strength of plastics in a plastic factory and selling double glazing windows. She was also a teacher and later moved on to do historical workshop in schools across the country which required dressing up in a range of weird historical costumes. But the long journeys around the UK and many hours sat on the M25 gave her a lot of time to plan out her stories and she now writes full time, doing what she loves.
She has been writing for 6 years. She was shortlisted for the New Talent Award at the Festival of Romance 2012. Her short story won the Sunlounger competition and was published in the Sunlounger anthology in 2013. She won the Carina Valentine’s competition at the Festival of Romance 2013 with her novel The Guestbook. She was shortlisted for Best Romantic Read, Best eBook and Innovation in Romantic Fiction at the Festival of Romance 2014.
1.What got you into writing / what made you sit down and actually start something? I loved writing stories as a child, my first book was a piece of fan fiction, my own version of The Animals of Farthing Wood, I also wrote a story about being shipwrecked on a desert island. I was bought a typewriter when I was ten and wrote a university romance whilst I was at university. The first book I wrote as an adult will probably never see the light of day, but it gave me a good idea of how to structure a story and what to do or not do. I love reading chicklit and romances and I wanted to write books that people would enjoy or laugh at. I love writing the kind of stories I like to read.
2. What is a usual writing day like for you, how is it structured? I don’t really have a structure, I just write whenever I have the time or the mood takes me. I will write every day, even if its only a few hundred words, normally I’ll aim for two thousand words a day, even at weekends but it doesn’t always work out like that. I write best late at night, when there’s no distractions and very little noise.
3. Do you get writers block? If so, how do you overcome it? I can’t say I’ve ever really had writer’s block. Sometimes I have a scene that I’m stuck on, I know what needs to happen or what I want to say but sometimes I get stuck on the actual words to use. Normally a few hours break of reading or going for a walk can straighten my head, sometimes just reading back on the last few scenes can help to put me in the right frame of mind, sometimes I’ll just go and write a different scene in the book.
4. Are you a plotter or panster when it comes to writing a story? Pantser definitely, I often start stories with no idea how they are going to end or even the journey that the characters will take, I love it when the story goes in a direction I hadn’t even thought of at the beginning of writing that story.
5. Are you traditionally or self-published, and what was the publishing process like for you? Any advice to aspiring authors? I’ve done both. I started off self-publishing my fantasy YA series which was a huge learning curve, having my own cover designed, having it formatted ready for publication but promoting it was so hard, it felt like I was in a sea of thousands of authors trying to get my book noticed. Three weeks after self-publishing my first book, I got a publishing deal for my romance writing with Carina who are part of Harlequin and Mills and Boon. It was so much nicer having all those stresses taken care of by the publisher. Self promotion is still really important but at least with a publisher in my corner I feel like I stand a chance now. Fairytale Beginnings is my first book with my new publisher Bookouture and they are a delight to work with. It depends which route you want to go down, if you want to have complete control over your story, editing and covers then self-publishing route is an easy route to go down but the promotion of the book is hard work and most of it is not very successful, you have to know what you are doing with adverts and marketing and what works for some people won’t work for you.
6. What has been your highlight since becoming a published author? I think getting five star reviews from complete strangers, knowing that I have written something that someone has thoroughly enjoyed, that I’ve put a smile on their face, there’s no greater feeling than that.
7. Can you share a little of your most recent book with us? And any other books of yours, if you wish. This is from my newest book Fairytale Beginnings, released on July 10th.
Milly drove up the steep, curvy, cliff top lanes with the warm sun on her back and the wind in her hair. From up here, she could see the sparkling blue of the sea below her stretching out for miles into the horizon. It was a beautiful day, made even lovelier by the endless yellow fields of rapeseed on the other side of her. It smelt wonderful but she wished it was clover instead as that might be some indication that she was going in the right direction.
She was hopefully heading towards Clover’s Rest. The satnav had, of course, stopped working half an hour ago and all she was left with was a flashing question mark on the screen, indicating that the satnav had no idea where she was. Nothing seemed to be known about the village of Clover’s Rest or Clover Castle which presided over the tiny dwelling. It didn’t appear on any maps, and bizarrely there was no record of it on any kind of historical documentation. That in itself was a mystery and one Milly was keen to solve.
Dick, her beaten up old Triumph, was having trouble with the steep gradient of the inclines and she had spent most of the last fifteen minutes barely coming out of first gear. Her brother, Jamie, had begged her several times to buy a new car but her beloved white Triumph TR2 was her pride and joy.
Up ahead, on the very summit of the hill, she suddenly saw a flash of a blue-topped turret from behind the trees and her heart soared. But no sooner had it appeared, it had gone.
Dick whined as she pushed him round a very steep corner and she leaned forward and gave him a little pat of encouragement. He spluttered and coughed, but thankfully didn’t cut out. The handbrake wasn’t the best and she wasn’t hopeful that Dick could cling to the road surface without sliding back to the foot of the hill again.
Steam started to appear from under Dick’s bonnet as she floored the accelerator and crossed her fingers and toes. She glanced down at her multi-coloured star bracelet and absently made a wish that she would make it to the top of the hill.
‘Just a little further, Dick, come on.’
Dick was barely moving at all now, Milly could get out and walk quicker. As she begged and pleaded with Dick to just last a little bit longer, a kid on his bike rang his bell and scooted round her, disappearing into the trees up ahead.
How insulting to be overtaken by a kid on a BMX. And Dick obviously thought so too as he suddenly found a last bit of energy and groaned and coughed up the last few metres, where the hill finally levelled out.
They shuffled into a tunnel of trees, which swallowed her up, shutting out all the bright daylight behind her and overhead so she was driving through a canopy of total green. It was very dark, with just a tiny pinprick of light ahead of her that she pushed Dick towards. Movement swirled in her rear view mirror; as she glanced up it almost seemed like the trees were closing the gap behind her, covering the road with their tangle of branches so there was no escape.
Dick finally burst through the trees to the other side. Daylight temporarily blinded her, she briefly saw some houses and a village green and then a thick plume of white smoke burst from the engine and the village vanished from view. Dick let out what sounded like a really big fart and then died, smoke still pouring from underneath the bonnet.
Milly sighed. She had asked too much of him, she knew that. It had seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up; going out in her convertible along the seafront when the weather was so hot, and Clover’s Rest was only supposed to be an hour and a half away from where she lived. But Dick was over twice her age and was only really capable of short flat journeys, nothing like the mountainous terrain she had just traversed.
‘It’s ok Dick, you can have a few days to have a little rest and maybe we can find someone to tinker under your bonnet before we go home. And it’s all downhill from here so worst case scenario, we can just roll you home. Plus we’re on holiday next week, I promise you can stay at home every day. I intend to sit in the garden and do nothing but read for the entire week.’
Dick let out a sigh of relief and the smoke slowed and then stopped, revealing the most gorgeous, picturesque village she had ever seen.
Milly quickly got out and gazed across the village green, staring at the whitewashed cottages like a kid in a sweet shop. The roofs were topped with yellow thatch that glinted like gold in the sunlight. They were a hodgepodge collection; the nearest ones to her were timber framed and the ones on the far side were made from stone. But all of them came with their unique lumps and bumps, jutting out bits of stone or bent bits of timber indicating that these houses were hundreds of years old.
She quickly grabbed her suitcase, gave Dick an affectionate pat, and abandoned him on the edge of the green as she walked in awe along the cobbled road.
The historian in her picked out key features in the houses straight away. Of course without certain dating tests it would be hard to be specific, but the first house on the green had to be at least four hundred years old, which meant it should be a listed building. But there had been nothing in any historical documents or files that even indicated this place existed, let alone had listed buildings.
Her toes curled with pleasure at the prospect of what this mysterious Clover Castle looked like. Was it possible that she was going to round the corner of the green and see a sixteenth century undiscovered jewel?
She approached the nearest house and ran her hand appreciatively up the oak timber frame. There was something incredible and humbling about touching something that had been around for hundreds of years. What had this building seen and heard, what stories could it tell?
She leaned closer to the wood and sniffed it. The rich smells of smoke, wood and earth engulfed her and she smiled.
She suddenly realised she wasn’t alone. Milly looked up from the wood into the bulbous eyes of an old man, dressed in a tatty suit. His skin seemed to have shrunk against his bones, making his eyes seem more bulging and protruding. He was chewing on what looked like a small stone, rolling it around his mouth and back again as if he was trying to work out what it tasted like. His white hair stuck out making him look like he was a crazy scientist but he was looking at her as if she was insane, which she supposed she was, standing on someone’s front lawn stroking and smelling the side of the house.
He took a drag of his cigarette and then flicked it into the nearby bushes. She winced at the desecration of such a historic place but chose to ignore it as he still had the moral high ground at the moment, being the slightly saner one of the two.
‘You can’t leave your car there,’ said the man, indicating poor Dick, who looked so deflated and exhausted that even his headlights seemed to be drooping. ‘It’s double yellow lines.’
Sure enough, double yellow lines covered the roads on both sides, as if it was a main road through a busy city rather than a tiny remote village with probably no more than thirty houses. But closer inspection showed the lines to be very wobbly and most likely hand painted. Who would do such a thing? Traffic clearly wasn’t a problem up here, there wasn’t even another car in sight and Dick wasn’t blocking up the road, which was wide enough for two cars to pass easily in both directions.
‘Well unfortunately my car broke down, so it will have to stay there until I can get someone to have a look at it.’
The man sucked air through his teeth and shook his head. ‘Igor won’t like that. It’s likely the car will be towed.’
Igor? Wasn’t that the name of Dracula’s assistant?
‘Sorry, what did you say your name was?’ Milly asked, deliberately.
‘Danny, I’m sure Igor will understand that a broken down car is not my fault. I’m a guest of Lord Heartstone, so if there’s any problem Igor can come and see me at the castle.’
Milly hoped that using Cameron’s name and title would be enough to get Danny to leave her and Dick alone, but that wasn’t the case. Danny’s face suddenly filled with disdain.
‘He isn’t exactly Mr Popular round here at the moment. He’s only been back here a few months and he’s sacked all the staff already. Grumpy sod, too, keeps himself to himself.’
‘Well it’s a big responsibility to suddenly inherit a castle, I’m sure it will take a period of adjustment. I’m here to see if I can help him.’
She spotted a flag flying above the trees and grabbed her suitcase and started walking towards it, hoping that Danny wouldn’t follow her, but he did.
‘It’s the Summer Solstice this weekend, we always have a big celebration and he won’t even be a part of it.’
‘Well maybe I can talk to him.’
She squinted at the flag, it wasn’t like any she had ever seen before. It was hard to see from this distance what was on it, but it looked like a dragon eating a heart.
‘Are you staying up there?’ Danny yelled after her, finally giving up following her.
‘Yes, for a week.’
‘You’ll never leave. Those that stay there never leave.’
She stared at him. These sinister words sent shivers down her spine.
‘And whatever you do, don’t go out after midnight. The Oogie will get you.’
‘A sea monster who eats unwanted visitors.’
‘That’s a local myth, surely.’
Danny shook his head. ‘The village has lost lots of victims to the Oogie. Just don’t go out after midnight and make sure you keep all the doors and windows locked at night.’
He was clearly joking or just insane. Danny wandered off and she stared after him, realising he was only wearing one shoe. Definitely insane. She looked around at this calm, tranquil little village. With the bright sunshine beating down on the little houses, the scent of the roses that twisted round all the doors, she wasn’t going to let some crazy nonsense about a sea monster bring her down.
She had a castle to look at and she couldn’t wait to see it.
8. What audience is your book targeted for, and what genre does it come under? It’s a romantic comedy aimed at adults who like sweet romances with great humour.
9. Apart from writing, what do you do in your spare time? I love to read, I read a lot, mainly romance and chicklit stories. I swim, go out for dinner with my friends
10. What tip would you give to new authors when trying to build a fan-base / get followers and market their books? (What to do and what not to do.) I’m not really sure what works and what doesn’t. A presence online is important but it can’t just be about buying your book all the time. You need to chat to people online too, be friendly and people will be friendly too.
11.How much research do you do when starting a story? It depends what the story is about. For One Hundred Proposals which was set in multiple locations around the world, I had to do a lot of research into the places I hadn’t visited and even the places that I had so the readers would be able to get a sense of the places. For Beneath the Moon and the Stars and my upcoming Christmas book, I interviewed a chainsaw carver and an ice carver to understand what tools are used and how the process works. Fairytale Beginnings needed quite a bit of research into how castles are built and the way that historians can date properties. Some stories don’t require any research at all, because the job of the characters is a very easy one and a lot of my stories are set in fictional towns or places so I can have whatever I need wherever I want in the town.
You can follow me on Twitter @hollymartin00, or pop over to my blog https://hollymartinwriter.wordpress.com/ and if you enjoyed the first chapter of Fairytale Beginnings you can buy it here for only 99p myBook.to/FairytaleBeginnings