Author’s Roundtable: Peggy Holloway

How did your family and friends feel when they heard you were writing?

They weren’t surprised. They are all used to me going off in an extreme opposite direction from what I was doing. They’re saying things like, “Look what she’s doing now.” I don’t think they are taking me seriously yet.

How long have you been writing?

Less than four years. I had ideas in my head for years before I started writing. I waited until I retired to begin writing so that I could devote as much time as I want to it.

Has writing always been something you wanted to do?

I always wanted to write a novel. I didn’t know it was going to get so out of control. I have never done anything halfway, so I don’t know why I’m so surprised.

What books or stories have you written? Published? 

I now have thirteen books published. Most of my books are mystery/suspense/psychological thrillers. I also have two science fiction/fantasies, a self-help book and just recently published my memoirs.

Can you tell us a little about your books? What are they about?

There are five in the Judith McCain series. She is a runaway fifteen year old in the first book, in search of her identity. She uncovers a lot of horrors about her childhood but also finds her twin sister that she didn’t know she had. Through all of her hardships, she grows into a very human adult who still has some issues but she becomes a psychologist. She helps the FBI solve many cases. The two science-fiction/fantasy books are a time travel love story. The first one, 3037, takes place in the year 3037. A woman from the 1950s has to come from the past to try to save mankind. The sequel is called Time and Time Again.

How did you get inspiration for the characters/books?

I can’t explain it. I had the first book, Blood on White Wicker, in my head for about thirty years. Once I started writing it the characters took over and I felt so out of control, it scared me at first. After that, every time I had a general idea for a book, I just started typing, and the characters took over. I guess the ideas come from my subconscious since a lot of them come from my dreams. I have to keep a notebook on my nightstand so I can write them down in the middle of the night.

Are the books based on personal experiences?

I don’t know if the books themselves are based on personal experience, but sometimes I’ll put in something from my own life. Like once, when I needed a career for someone, I had the person be a geophysicist because I used to be a geophysicist. Judith McCain is not a morning person because I’ve never been a morning person.

Is there any advice you have been given that you could give to a young up-and-coming writer?

Yes, read, read, read. I personally don’t see how anyone can hope to write if they don’t read. Before I started writing myself, I read one or two books a day. I now read three or four books a week. It was through reading that I started to think that I could write a book myself, but it was only after I had read several thousand books.

Can you talk a little about the benefits of getting your work professionally edited?

I had a bad experience with my first editor and didn’t think I wanted an editor. I edited my own books about twenty times each and friends and family read them. I have recently gotten an editor because I keep getting feedback in my reviews about needing an editor, even in some of my five-star reviews. Editors are expensive, and I can see why many indie authors don’t use them. But I think it will get you farther ahead if you use them.

What are some of the hardest things you’ve had to overcome as a writer, in order to be published?

That’s easy, and it’s what had hindered me in everything I’ve ever done, my impatience. When I finish writing a book I want to get it published now.

How did you find time to write your books?

I have all the time I need because I am retired.

Do you think writing has any benefits, and if so what would they be? 

Writing is very therapeutic for me. My characters have taught me a lot about myself.

Several of my guests have often said writing is therapeutic and relaxes them. Can you talk a little about how writing relaxes you? Any specific examples you can share? 

I agree that it’s therapeutic but relaxing? Nope. It takes a lot out of me. I feel like I’ve actually been cut open and have bled onto the page. All of my emotions get stirred up.  One of my main characters got murdered in one of my books, and I cried for a week.

Has writing made you a better person?

I sure hope so. I hope it has taught me more patience.

Do you like to read? If so, what are your favorite genres and why?

I read everything I can get my hands on, but my favorites are mysteries, medical/legal/psychological thrillers, science-fiction/fantasy and espionage. I don’t like vampires, werewolves, zombies and young adult-type novels with high-school crushes, etc.

Can you talk about how important reviews are to writers?

Most writers will do anything short of selling their soul for a review. They are so hard to come by. So many people will tell me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, or out by the pool where I live that they love my books and will promise to write reviews but most don’t. I give away thousands of books in hopes of getting some reviews in exchange but get very few that way. I now try not to dwell on reviews or sales but just concentrate on writing.

Have you ever received a bad review? If so how did it make you feel? 

I don’t mind a bad review if it’s honest and I can learn from it. Unfortunately, there are some folks out there who will give a bad review when it’s obvious they haven’t even read the book. I was a victim of the trolls for a while on Goodreads and it really hurt. I write reviews myself, and I try to give good, honest reviews. I wrote more than 100 last year, all indies. I usually don’t write a review if I didn’t like the book. The only exception is when someone tries to pass off a short story for a novel. I don’t like short stories.

Was there ever a point in your life where you felt like giving up because nobody understood you? How did you overcome this time in your life?

This is something that, if I let it, it could make me quit writing. I try to ignore comments like, “I’m glad you found this little hobby to do after retiring.”

What are your goals as a writer?

To become a best-selling author, of course.

Any new challenges you’ve had to face?

I guess one of the biggest is to learn to not compare myself to other indies. It’s difficult, when I see someone whose books I’ve read, and I feel like mine are better, and they get rewards I have entered. I try to not compare. There are enough readers out there for all of us.

small pic pegAbout Peggy Holloway

I had three careers before turning to writing. I taught Mathematics in high school and community college, worked as a geophysicist in a major oil company exploring for oil and gas and worked as a counselor/psychotherapist with adults, groups, families, couples and teens. I have a BS in geology, an MCS in mathematics and an MA in psychology. I taught Algebra II to William Faulkner’s granddaughter.

My past writing experiences were writing plays for the neighborhood kid to put on when I was around 12-14 years old, writing technical reports as a geophysicist, writing research papers while working on my master’s in psychology, and writing letters to judges, with recommendations, while counseling juvenile justice adolescents.

Besides writing mysteries, I like to read (anything I can get my hands on), paint landscapes in oil and in enamel on glass. I enjoy swimming and walking on the beach. I have had many struggles in life, and I like to incorporate my experiences into my writing. A fantasy I have is to wear a Versache evening gown and dance the tango with Al Pacino.

I am a night person and can’t stand morning people who wake me up early. I like relating to one or two people rather than being in a crowd. Most of my friends are for life. Check out my blog and check out my books on Amazon.

The Yellow Shirt

The yellow shirt had long sleeves, four extra-large pockets trimmed in black thread and snaps up the front. It was faded from years of wear, but still in decent shape. I found it in 1963 when I was home from college on Christmas break, rummaging through bags of clothes mom intended to give away. “You’re not taking that old thing, are you?” mom said when she saw me packing the yellow shirt. “I wore that when I was pregnant with your brother in 1954!”

“It’s just the thing to wear over my clothes during art class, mom. Thanks!” I slipped it into my suitcase before she could object. The yellow shirt became a part of my college wardrobe. I loved it. After graduation, I wore the shirt the day I moved into my new apartment and on Saturday mornings when I cleaned.
The next year, I married. When I became pregnant, I wore the yellow shirt during big-belly days. I missed mom and the rest of my family, since we were in Colorado and they were in Illinois, but that shirt helped. I smiled, remembering that mother had worn it when she was pregnant, 15 years earlier. 

That Christmas, mindful of the warm feelings the shirt had given me, I patched one elbow, wrapped it in holiday paper and sent it to mom. When mom wrote to thank me for her “real” gifts, she said the yellow shirt was lovely. She never mentioned it again. 

The next year, my husband, daughter and I stopped at mom and dad’s to pick up some furniture. Days later, when we uncrated the kitchen table, I noticed something yellow taped to its bottom. The shirt! And so the pattern was set. 

On our next visit home, I secretly placed the shirt under mom and dad’s mattress. I don’t know how long it took for her to find it, but almost two years passed before I discovered it under the base of our living room floor lamp. The yellow shirt was just what I needed now while refinishing furniture. The walnut stains added character. 

In 1975 my husband and I divorced. With my three children, I prepared to move back to Illinois. As I packed, a deep depression overtook me. I wondered if I could make it on my own.  I wondered if I would find a job. I paged through the Bible, looking for comfort. In Ephesians I read, “So use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy whenever he attacks, and when it is all over, you will be standing up.” 

I tried to picture myself wearing God’s armor, but all I saw was the stained yellow shirt.  Slowly, it dawned on me. Wasn’t my mother’s love a piece of God’s armor? My courage was renewed. 

Unpacking in our new home, I knew I had to get the shirt back to mother. The next time I visited her, I tucked it in her bottom dresser drawer. Meanwhile, I found a good job at a radio station. A year later I discovered the yellow shirt hidden in a rag bag in my cleaning closet. Something new had been added. Embroidered in bright green across the breast pocket were the words “I BELONG TO PAT.” 

Not to be outdone, I got out my own embroidery materials and added an apostrophe and seven more letters. Now the shirt proudly proclaimed, “I BELONG TO PAT’S MOTHER.”  But I didn’t stop there. I zig-zagged all the frayed seams, then had a friend mail the shirt in a fancy box to mom from Arlington, Va. We enclosed an official looking letter from “The Institute for the Destitute,” announcing that she was the recipient of an award for good deeds. I would have given anything to see mom’s face when she opened the box. But, of course, she never mentioned it. 

Two years later, in 1978, I remarried. The day of our wedding, Harold and I put our car in a friend’s garage to avoid practical jokers. After the wedding, while my husband drove us to our honeymoon suite, I reached for a pillow in the car to rest my head. It felt lumpy. I unzipped the case and found, wrapped in wedding paper, the yellow shirt. Inside a pocket was a note: “Read John 14:27-29. I love you both, Mother.”

That night I paged through the Bible in a hotel room and found the verses: “I am leaving you with a gift: peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid. Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really love me, you will be very happy for me, for now I can go to the Father, who is greater than I am. I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do, you will believe in me.” 

The shirt was mother’s final gift. She had known for three months that she had terminal Lou Gehrig’s disease. Mother died the following year at age 57. 

I was tempted to send the yellow shirt with her to her grave. But I’m glad I didn’t because it is a vivid reminder of the love-filled game she and I played for 16 years. Besides, my older daughter is in college now, majoring in art. And every art student needs a baggy yellow shirt with big pockets.

The Joy of Painting

A couple months ago, after I finished eating lunch at one of my favorite restaurants on the Marietta Square, I walked to the Marietta Welcome Center to go to the restroom before I went back to work. As I was walking to the Welcome Center, through a beautiful courtyard shaded by trees, next to the railroad tracks, I saw a beautiful young woman getting set up to start painting. Although I didn’t really pay much attention to it at first, when I was in the Welcome Center, I started thinking that it might make a good human interest story for the city’s website. Luckily I had my camera with me and decided to stop by and ask if she cared if I took a few pictures for the city’s website. She said yes right away and thanked me for my interest. I mentioned that I thought it would make a good story for the Web, and she was thrilled to give me her card. I remember I emailed her when I got back to work and asked her a few questions, and she emailed back within a couple days. But alas, time has passed since then, I’ve really been slammed at work and haven’t had time to sit down and write her story for the city’s website…

Believe me, when you work for city government, it’s always something every day, whether it’s a City Council meeting, Parks and Recreation events, registration for a festival or parade on the Square, you name it, I’ve probably written it or covered it… So, having said all that, I got to thinking a couple weeks ago, “What better way to share Erin Thrift’s amazing story than on my blog, where she’ll get tons more exposure (hopefully, fingers and toes crossed) and hopefully have someone see her paintings and actually buy one.” Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor to present to you Erin Elizabeth Thrift.

The Joy of Painting

By Erin Elizabeth Thrift 

I began painting seriously in August of 2009, but I have been drawn to both visual and performance art since I was very young. 

I always loved to draw growing up, but for some reason was intimidated by painting. I returned from a trip to Ireland in 2009 thoroughly refreshed and inspired, and was mainly songwriting at that time, and decided that I wanted to integrate a visual representation of the ideas I was writing about. This opened up a new attitude toward the immediate boldness of color that painting offered. I owe my composition skills to my dad. He’s been an avid photographer for many years, and at a young age he taught me how to find interesting images in everyday objects, instead of waiting to be struck by a “pretty picture.” My favorite subjects include music (especially gritty blues musicians), spirituality and female empowerment. 

I love painting outside! As soon as spring rolls around I take every opportunity to sit outside, on my porch, public venues like Cool Beans or parks. The fresh air itself evokes creativity, and I think anyone can be inspired by the simple beauty and yet intricate functionality and efficiency of patterns in nature. However, I have a painting station in my apartment, and being surrounded by my supplies and past pieces also fuels my eagerness to improve myself.

I am personally partial to images that appear straightforward at first, yet draw the viewer in to appreciate the mastery involved in creating the image. That is something I hope to achieve with my work, creating something that a person can see several times, and always discover something new, which is why I love the layering capability of acrylics. I also love to tell stories with my work, and I like to hear the public’s version of those stories, acknowledging how everyone will get something different out of one piece.  

A very wise teacher once told me not to focus so much on developing my personal style. Style is inherent and will shine through inevitably. Instead, be open to learning many different techniques and soak up all the knowledge you can from experienced artists, because ultimately the goal is to effectively translate the vision in your mind to a tangible application. Also, don’t compare yourself to other artists! You are on your own path, on your own timeline. 

I have always loved traveling and experiencing new places and people, but the street performers and artists in Ireland solidified a drive to follow my passions, and renewed the idea that being satisfied artistically is far more important to me than financial success. In college I took an anthropology class by accident, and ended up falling in love with the subject, especially the emphasis on how art is intrinsic in developing culture, whether it be visual, culinary, musical, etc.  

I was extremely fortunate to serve an internship at J. King Artworks on the Marietta Square (above the Australian Bakery) under Jenny King, where I also had the pleasure of working with Mandie Aberra, Lisa Archen and Leigh Ann Culver. I was also proud to participate in the inaugral Marietta Artists Market, which began April 9 and will run every second Saturday through November. Being a self-taught artist can be both liberating and restrictive, and working in a gallery/studio/festival circuit gives your work a certain amount of credibility and accessibility to the public in a direct-focus venue, while also pulling you into a community where you can receive feedback and be exposed to new styles and techniques you may never have considered otherwise.

For me, being an artist is less about raw talent than simply having the drive to practice the art. I get enjoyment and pride out of my own dedication to improvement, and art is about fostering a relationship with the outside world through expression of one’s individual imagination. I also enjoy the idea that creativity breeds resourcefulness, and I prefer painting on discarded plywood, my homemade canvasses of scrab fabric and cardboard, hubcaps, lampshades, etc., so my hope is that someone will view my work, (take a piece home!) and that my advocation of the DIY aspect of art will open up some sort of creativity of theirs that possibly has been lying dormant or untapped, and decide to paint or create something out of their own discarded wood or random household objects.