Author Interviews

* you can find the original interviews and much more on my 'everything writing' blog (http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com), including author spotlights, guest posts, book reviews, flash fiction or poetry - new items posted 6am UK time Monday to Saturday and writing exercises at 6pm very weekday.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Author interview no.149. Holli Castillo (revisited)


Back in October 2011, I interviewed author Holli Castillo for my WordPress blog. I hope you enjoy it...
Welcome to the one hundred and forty-ninth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with mystery author, poet and scriptwriter Holli Castillo. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello Holli. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Holli: I am a former New Orleans prosecutor and current Louisiana Appellate public defender.  While I have been writing stories, poems, and books as long as I can remember, I became a published writer after I quit the D.A.’s Office to stay home when my daughter was a few months old.  I had an idea in my head for a mystery series based around a female prosecutor, which I couldn’t write while I was working there, so once I quit, I started working on it.
Morgen: Writing what you know. :) You say you’ve been writing for as long as you can remember, what genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Holli: I write mysteries, or mystery suspense, I guess, but used to write a lot of poetry. I’ve also written a science fiction screenplay that did pretty well in the contest circuit.  I have definitely considered writing other genres of screenplays. I’ve actually started a rom-com screenplay and would consider writing paranormal and straight comedy in screenplays, and am contemplating writing a supernatural or paranormal novel or series.
Morgen: A good (and popular) mixture. What have you had published to-date? If applicable, can you remember where you saw your first books on the shelves?
Holli: My first novel came out in 2009, Gumbo Justice, and my second, Jambalaya Justice, came out recently.  They’re a part of a series, the Crescent Mystery Series, and I’m about halfway finished writing the third. The first time I saw my book on a shelf was in an Indie bookstore in uptown New Orleans.  There was only one copy, and it was on an impossibly low shelf, so I moved it to a more prominent shelf so someone might actually see it and buy it.
Morgen: And let’s hope they did. One, wow, that’s a shame. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Holli: I do a lot of online promotion, but I’m not comfortable with the word ‘brand’ just as I’m not comfortable with the word ‘platform.’ It sounds so commercial, and it seems wrong to label myself as a product, although I know that’s supposed to be the point.
Morgen: I’m with you but that’s the way it seems to have become, certainly with ‘big’ authors.
Holli: I do a lot of social networking, but my husband also does a lot of promotion for me. Production companies shoot a lot of movies and T.V. shows down here in New Orleans, and my husband is a big scary-looking brute of a guy who gets cast a lot as a prisoner, thug, or bouncer, and he manages to get my book into the hands of stars, directors, assistant directors, and production assistants.  He’s big but charming in an almost scary kind of way, so people generally take the book and thank him.
Morgen: Oh wow. A very useful (and lovely, by the sound of it) person to have on your side. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
Holli: Gumbo Justice recently took first place for best published fiction in the novel category in the PSWA contest--it tied, actually--and Jambalaya Justice also tied for first place (with a different writer) for best unpublished fiction in the novel category.  I don’t know yet if it helped with sales, but it was nice getting to tweet it and put it on my Facebook status.
Morgen: And on your CV, well done. Do you write under a pseudonym? If so why and do you think it makes a difference?
Holli: I don’t write under a pseudonym because I’m sort of egocentric and want to make sure everyone who reads my novel knows I was the one who wrote it.  My only regret is that I didn’t use my legal name, which is my maiden name plus my married name, so everyone I grew up with would know it was my book.  I always wonder why an author would write under a different name, especially writers who pretend that they are the opposite sex.  If you are a woman and can write a realistic male character, you deserve credit for that.
Morgen: I think it matters less these days, although I wonder if it would have made a difference to Harry Potter having Joanne Rowling write it (I like ‘JK’). Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Holli: I am not a big believer in agents. I queried agent after agent and received a mixture of form rejections and rejections with notes.  While I appreciated the notes, I eventually started querying publishers and was fortunate enough to sign with the small publishing house Oak Tree Press. I have never regretted it.
Morgen: Wow, another Oak Tree Press; you’re a very friendly bunch. :) As you have a publisher I’d say you wouldn’t need an agent. so Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process?
Holli: Gumbo is available as an eBook on all the biggies, Amazon, Nook, etc., and Jambalaya is currently available via Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. The eBooks take a little longer because my publisher has to send them out to be formatted, but it’s usually within a month or so of the paper release.  I don’t see a different as far as sales, I sell in both formats.  My eBook is cheaper so I make less money, but I wasn’t planning on becoming a millionaire by writing—yet. Right now my goal is to get my book into as many people’s hands as possible.
Morgen: I’m the same although I’d love to make a living out of it. Do you read eBooks?
Holli: Personally, I love eBooks.  While there is a lot to be said for opening a paper book and feeling the first snap of that book spine, eBooks provide instant gratification. I can hit a purchase button and 30 seconds later I am reading.  It’s more immediate than fast food.
Morgen: And less calorific. What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Holli: Gumbo Justice was my first acceptance as a novel.  I was published in a law school journal, and although that was a thrill, how many people read law school journals? Getting signed by Oak Tree was a thrill, and still is.  Billie Johnson, the owner, contracted me for the series, so I don’t have to worry every time I write a book if she’s going to publish it.  I guess if I sent her something horrible she would tell me it needed some work, but I have ideas for at least 6 or 7 in this series.
Morgen: I’ve been told by a few agents (and others) that they’re after series so you clearly have a good plan. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Holli: I had around 40 rejections for Gumbo Justice, about half of those standard form rejections and about half of them with notes on them providing better reasons for the rejections.  For instance, a few said they didn’t handle serial killers.  One agent said she didn’t think she could sell it, and a very famous agent (who I will not name) told me in dramatic fashion that he could not get past the 4th of 30 pages I had sent him because the dialogue was unbelievable.  Which was interesting, since it was based on a real conversation I had overheard. I think maybe he meant it was boring? I don’t know.
In any event, at first I got mad.  That’s what you’re supposed to do when someone calls your baby ugly.
Morgen: I know how that goes – I’d not had my dog long and a man said to his wife “err, look at that dog, isn’t he ugly!” (probably referring to his overshot jaw). Unfortunately I had my nose in a box of books (we were at a car boot sale) so by the time I’d prepared a reply they’d gone. I know I’m biased as he’s my dog but I think he’s adorable; besides I go for personality over looks any day. Sorry, I digress, you were talking about receiving that ‘famous’ rejection.
Holli: When I calmed down, I read the comments carefully and discovered a few things.  One, I obviously wasn’t researching agents carefully enough if a few of them said what I was writing was a novel they wouldn’t handle. Two, there must have been something wrong with my query if no one was asking to even read it. It would have been different if agents and publishers had read a few pages and decided it was horrible, but I couldn’t even get my foot in that door. So I took an online course designed for people who have written a novel and were trying to improve it to sell it.  One of the very first things I learned was that my novel was double the length of normal first novels by unknown writers, and the instructor said when she saw the word count in the query, she was concerned because she felt based upon that, no one would ever ask to read the novel. My excessive word count was the mark of an amateur.  I was going by the length of Stephen King and John Grisham’s novels, what did I know. By the end of the workshop, I figured out my novel was nearly ready for publication but not quite, so I worked on editing it based on the tips from the course and when I submitted it again, I caught the interest of an agent, which didn’t end up working out, and then I was side-tracked by Katrina for quite a while, but it was right after that I signed with Oak Tree.
So I guess my short answer is I used my rejections as learning tools, although what I really wanted to do was smack somebody for rejecting me.  I also did not broadcast my rejections, because it seemed like bad Karma to speak of them.  I did keep them, though, and look at them from time to time to remind myself how lucky I am.
Morgen: I agree that it wouldn’t be the ‘done thing’ to broadcast (especially not naming names) – it’s been done and one woman (her name escapes me and I probably shouldn’t say it anyway) got in the press for doing it which is publicity but not the kind I’d want. You mentioned earlier that you’re working on the third in the series.
Holli: I am; Chocolate City Justice, which takes my protagonist, a female prosecutor, into the middle of Hurricane Katrina.  I wrote Gumbo and most of Jambalaya prior to Katrina, so they are both set in pre-Katrina New Orleans, but wanted to bring the novel current to have the issues we deal with today as my backdrop. I also would like to start working on a new screenplay, or turn Gumbo Justice into a screenplay. It’s actually less work to me to write a new screenplay than to try to turn the book into one. I’ve tried, and it’s a lot more difficult than you would think.
Morgen: I’ve done it the other way round – I wrote 100+ pages for Script Frenzy April 2010, found it a bitty process so turned it into the first 37 (A4) pages of a novel and that’s how it’s stayed so far. I liked the story enough to do it so I’ll continue it one day. Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Holli: I write something every day, but not necessarily my book. I do 5-8 legal articles a week for a website, and I write legal briefs as an appellate public defender, so I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t write something.  I also maintain a blog and am president of my youngest daughter’s school PTA, so I write a lot for those as well.
In the summer of 2008 I was in a head-on collision with a drunk driver, and lost two inches of my left femur, broke my right tibia and fibula, shattered my elbow, fractured some lower lumbar vertebrae, and had a few miscellaneous injuries, broken toe, sprained left ankle, burns, cuts, etc., and was basically immobile for about 7 months having surgeries.  (I was eventually left with a rod in my leg to cover for the two inches of femur that won’t grow back, plates in my tibia and fibula, and screws in my arm.  The hardware and the injuries still cause me to limp, some days worse than others.)
Morgen: Wow.
Holli: To make a long story longer, and finally get to my point…
Morgen: Don’t worry, my nickname (and my father’s was) is ‘to cut a short story long’.
Holli: …during that down time I wrote my screenplay because writing was just about the only thing I could do and Gumbo Justice was under contract, but my publisher put its release on hold until I was up and around again.  I pretty much wrote the screenplay all day long, every day, for months.  I don’t know how much I actually wrote, because a lot of it was editing and moving scenes around, but it was the most I had ever written at one time.  Of course, it’s easy to write all day when you can’t do anything else.
Morgen: A good thing out of a bad situation. What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Holli: I sometimes get stuck on an idea or a sentence, but I don’t know if the concept of writer’s block actually exists.  I think everyone sometimes gets hung up on an idea they can’t manage to put into the words they want, but I can’t imagine a true writer sitting around unable to write anything at all.  When I get stuck on an idea or sentence, I just leave a little white space in my manuscript and continue on with the things I know exactly how to phrase, and eventually the right sentence or paragraph or idea will pop into my mind and I’ll go back to it. If something is giving my particular trouble, I’ll mull it over in my mind as I’m drifting off to sleep, and 9 times out of 10 I’ll have the answer when I wake up.
Morgen: There’s a top author (PD James springs to mind but not sure if it is her) who purposefully stops writing in the middle of a sentence so she (it was definitely a ‘she’) can pick up easily the next morning. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Holli: I plot my stories and outline them, scene by scene. Generally I get an idea and start the outline, and the more I outline, the more the story comes through. I didn’t do this for Gumbo Justice, and I ended up completely changing the storyline and the bad guy and pretty much everything other than my characters.  For Jambalaya, I outlined, and when I changed ideas or added characters, I updated the outline.  Chocolate City Justice is also outlined, as well as three additional future novels in the series I haven’t named yet.
Morgen: Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Holli: Characters are one of the things that seem to spring to life for me.  I’ll have a general idea of what I want, including the character’s sex, occupation, basic physical description, primary character traits, and role or purpose in the story or purpose. When the story begins, I keep this in mind but they seem to take off on their own.  I think the most important thing you can do to make a character believable is to determine their flaws, and include them in when it seems logical. I find names difficult, and often let other people, especially my kids, suggest names to me.
Morgen: I love names but have Elliot stuck in my brain at the moment and want to give it to every new character I create! Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
Holli: My husband.  He reads the first version and gives me his opinion. He’s particularly good at the more “street” kind of stuff, such as slang, expressions, and what the seedier characters may do or how they may react in a particular situation.  I’m not trying to say my husband was a street thug or anything, but he does know how to talk the talk and walk the walk.
Morgen: Yes, a gentle giant. :) Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Holli: I edit more than I write. I take forever to write the end of the book because every time I open the laptop, I go back over what I’ve already written and try to make it better.  The first words come out in a rush, almost with no thought, and I almost always can think of a better way to say something than I said it the first time.  I like to fine tune until everything is as tight as it can possibly be.  Even now, when I read back over Gumbo Justice, I see sentences I would have changed if I were editing it now.  I guess I’m never really quite satisfied.
Morgen: I don’t think writers are, they just have to let go and pass it over to the editor because they’ll pull it to pieces anyway. What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
Holli: I’ll spend a few days thinking about my story idea, and working out details in my head before I actually start writing.  Then, if I need to do research, I do my research first. It may mean looking up information, or interviewing someone, but if I know it’s info I’m definitely going to need, I try to find out my answers up front, so I don’t have to stop writing at some point and wait until I get the info to finish.  Then I sit down and outline, and start working, scene-by-scene, in order.  As I write, I may think of scenes to add, or add characters, or I may move scenes around, but I keep my outline updated so if I end up busy for a few days and don’t work on the manuscript, when I pick it up again I have an updated outline to work from.
Morgen: Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
Holli: I have horrible handwriting, so I prefer the computer.  Plus I could never move scenes around or insert a character or add in more description—one of my weak spots, I must admit—if I was writing everything down on paper.  Rewrites and edits would be impossible.
Morgen: I’ve been surprised how many interviewees have said they have terrible writing. Mine’s not too bad but it’s soooo slow by comparison – I think my computer’s made me lazy, or out of practice (that sounds better). What sort of music do you listen to when you write?
Holli: I mostly listen to alternative music when I write, but what I listen to depends upon the scene I’m writing.  For instance, when I was writing Gumbo Justice, I listened to a lot of older Linkin Park for the killer scenes and for the scenes when my protag, Ryan was breaking down, which is a sort of alternative rock or alternative pop, but heavy and dark. I like angry music when I’m trying to nail that tone down.  I tend to listen to more alternative than anything else, so I listen to a lot of that when I write. I also go back to old Red Hot Chilli Peppers for some of the relationship scenes for some reason.  A key scene in Jambalaya Justice takes place in a club where music is playing, some 80’s songs, and Ryan references the songs, so I listened to those songs when I was writing it to get the feeling of the club scene down how I wanted it.  I use music to help me create the mood and tone for my scenes, kind of like what music would be playing in the background of the scene if it were in a movie or on T.V.  Personally, I think it would be cool if my entire life could have a soundtrack as I lived it.
Morgen: Another project perhaps. :) What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Holli: I like close third.  I used to always write in first person, but I feel limited.  In my books, different chapters may be from a different character’s point of view, but all are always third person.  James Patterson writes a series where he switches from first person to third in alternating chapters, and I find it exceptionally jarring.  I also find it jarring when someone writes in omniscient point of view, because it seems unnatural to know what everyone is thinking and feeling at the same time. If I notice the head hopping, it gets distracting.  Second person is a little unnerving to me.  I don’t want to be acknowledged as a character in anyone’s book or spoken to.  I want to be left alone when I am reading, I don’t want someone trying to get inside my head.
Morgen: It can feel like that. Switching viewpoints has become popular and does often work but JP’s chapters are so short that I’m not surprised you find them jarring. Do you use prologues / epilogues? What do you think of the use of them?
Holli: I originally had a prologue in Gumbo Justice, but read so much about how much agents and publishers hate them that I ended up taking the information from the prologue and putting it in as a flashback.  It actually ended up being a whole lot more interesting in my opinion, because I had my character listening to a taped interview from when she was a child, and it brought back the memories of what happened.  It was a more original way to reveal the information than just giving it to the reader up front.  I’m not saying prologues or epilogues are lazy, because some writers do them quite effectively and manage to build suspense with them, but when I tried it, I was being lazy because it wasn’t that effective and I was glad I ended up changing it.  If I am going to do something like an epilogue, I’ll just add it as another chapter or scene, even if it’s a bit in the future.
Morgen: I’d not used them until I changed Chapter 1 in one of my novels to a prologue but it’s still a work in progress so the jury’s still out. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Holli: I don’t have anything else written.  I wrote a bunch of novels when I was in junior high and high school and tore them up and threw them away, so they’ll never see the light of day, but then I don’t consider them as works I still have.  I don’t think my screenplay will ever get made into a movie because it’s a huge budget monster, so I guess it may never see the light of day, but since it’s already been judged in a bunch of contests I consider that good enough.
Morgen: Huge budget monsters are very popular. :) What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Holli: The only thing I don’t like about writing is not having enough time to do everything I want to do. I am not good with schedules and work best in the middle of the night. That doesn’t mesh well with having two kids in school, one going into fourth grade and one going into seventh grade, who also happen to be night people.  It’s hard to live a normal life and get my kids to school and file my work in court when I do my best work between eight at night and five in the morning.  My husband is also a night person, so getting into a daytime routine is incredibly difficult for us.
Morgen: Wow. I’m a morning person but then have to be as I wake at 6am regardless – at least you’re all in sync with each other. :) If anything, what has been your biggest surprise about writing?
Holli: I think the thing that has surprised me most is the number of people who don’t read, or even worse, the number of people who act proud that they don’t read.  Maybe it’s just a southeast Louisiana thing.  I hope so.
Morgen: I hope so too. I think eBooks have got more people reading so that can only be a good thing. And there are books out there like Quick Reads (although these may just be available in the UK) whose language is simplified without being patronising. I love them because they’re only c.100 pages and I can do them in one sitting. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Holli: Make sure your manuscript is ready for publication before you submit. Take classes to improve your writing or join a writer’s group of people you respect and trust. Learn from rejections and learn from your mistakes.  Everyone has been rejected.  Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected, the screenplay for Star Wars was rejected, and just about any famous writer you can name has been rejected at one time or another, but refused to give up. And for a bit of lawyerly advice, read your contract carefully when you get one.  The bottom line is whether it’s the writer’s dream or not, their published book is part of someone else’s business.  Know what you’re agreeing to when you sign on that dotted line.
Morgen: Harry Potter was rejected 14-16 times (depending which source you read). What do you like to read?
Holli: I enjoy mysteries, thrillers, supernatural, but not modern sexy vampires and werewolves, but old style scary ones.  My guilty pleasures are romance novels, which I read a few times a year. As for individual writers, I love Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, even if it is getting a little recycled.  It’s one of the only books I can pick up and read over and over and laugh every time. I also greatly enjoy Mike Orenduff’s Pot Thief series. It’s a really smart mystery series, and hysterical to boot. And I never miss John Sandford’s Prey series, although Lucas Davenport was a lot more interesting when he was single.  But hey, weren’t we all?
Morgen: That’s means I’m super interesting. :) I’ve heard such good things about Janet Evanovich (a former colleague was hooked) – I have ‘Plum lucky’ (a slim tome) so looking forward to reading that. I know a few romance novelists and I’m sure they wouldn’t want you to feel guilty. :) What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks? :)
Holli: I don’t actually have any hobbies—that’s actually pretty depressing. I stopped answering questions for a few days while I contemplated my lack of hobbies.  It seems I’m always writing or reading, and when I’m not, I’m doing stuff with or for my kids, my dog, my deaf cat, or my husband, or I’m doing something for one of my girls’ schools. And then there’s my mother who’s a widow—she’s only 61—who can’t even pump her own gas and lives close enough that I can.
Morgen: I’m the same ‘live and breathe’ writing. I have the dog, house, Red Cross volunteering and (currently) work but still, writing’s always hovering in the background (dog walk = read a writing magazine, house = listen to writing-related podcasts, Red Cross = sorting their donated books, work = writing-related in my lunch breaks). Sad but true. :)
Holli: One thing I can tell you I don’t do is a whole lot of housekeeping or cooking, although I enjoy baking to some extent.  Before the wreck I used to enjoy shopping and playing swing dodge ball and soccer with my kids, but I can’t do so much physical activity now. I do like to look at houses, either online or walk through houses for sale, especially old, haunted looking ones. If I wasn’t physically limited, I would so be a ghost hunter in my spare time.  I find that fascinating.
Morgen: Ah, but your protagonists can be. :) Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful and would recommend?
Holli: I tend to use hard copies of books for writing, so I can refer back to them easily. I like Self-Editing for Fiction Writing by Dave King and Renni Brown, and for those just getting started I would recommend, The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes by Jack Bickham, How Not Write a Novel by Howard Mittlemark and Sandra Newman, and for everyone, the Chicago Manual of Style.  The CMOS can be pricey, especially when they update it, but I think the latest edition was updated mostly to keep up with what is going on with on-line writing, so an older edition will work just as well for most people. Also, I say buy it used when you can, like on Ebay or through an individual seller on Amazon, because it’s not one of those things you need to have shiny and new to use the information.  While I know writers, particularly fiction writers, break the rules, I think you should know what they are so when you break them, it’s by conscious choice and not because you didn’t know any better.
Morgen: I’m not a rules fan but guidelines (for example) are guidelines. I’m the same with the Writers & Artists Yearbook / Writers Handbook, mine are 2011 and I’m not in a hurry to replace them (2012 came out in July) – I’ve never understood the logic of dating a book or magazine early, more shelf time, I guess. In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Holli: U.S.A.  I think it’s probably the easiest country in the world to promote in, since everyone is online and social networking is so easy and such a big deal.
Morgen: Most of my blog enquiries, comments etc come from the U.S. You’ve just mentioned social networking, are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Holli: I’m on too many to count. I find some of them useful, but you really have to have the time to check in on them and with so many, you have to be super organized to keep up with all of them.  The non-writing sites I visit a lot and use for promotion are Facebook and Twitter.
Morgen: They do seem the most popular (I’m on both too). Where can we find out about you and your work?
Holli: I have several websites, www.hollicastillo.comwww.gumbojustice.net, and www.jambalayajustice.com. You can also look my up on Twitter under Hollicastillo, or on Facebook under Holli Herrle Castillo.
Morgen: I have. :) What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Holli: I think with self-publishing it gets easier and easier for more writers to get their work out there, but I think it also makes it easier and easier for quality to decrease.  I’ve read some great works that have only been e-published, but I’ve read some equally horrible things. I’m more concerned with readers, who have limited funds to spend, and who may end up wasting them on books that are not ready for publication.
Morgen: There’s been a lot of debate about this on LinkedIn et al, but I still maintain that it comes down to reviews – a writer can only have so many friends and family. If 100 people say it’s wonderful but 500 say it’s rubbish then (hopefully) that’s a deterrent. Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Holli: We have such instant access to everything in today’s world, and we also have the ability to reach millions of people with the touch of a button.  But that also carries more responsibility than most people realize.  If you post something on the internet, whether it’s a mean review, a flame about an agent or publisher, a snarky comment about your best friend, or a drunk photo of your or your friends, once it’s out there, it’s out there.  You can’t truly delete things from the world wide web and you certainly can’t delete them from people’s minds after they’ve read or seen them.  Be careful what you post, especially younger people with less impulse control and less ability to anticipate the potential ramifications of a statement or a photo.  One wrong choice really could negatively affect, if not ruin, your whole life. Those are my words of warning as a lawyer, writer, and parent.
Morgen: I agree, completely. Sometimes it’s tempting but most of us have reputations to maintain (or build :)). Is there a question you’d like to ask me? :)
Holli: There is a lot, but I’ll limit it to: (1) What do you write (2) What do you read (3) What is your favourite city in the world and why and (4) Do you have any pets, and what kind. I can usually sum up a person with these four questions.
Morgen: I’ll try and be as succinct. :) (1) Anything and everything funny and dark. (2) At the moment ‘Cut and run’ by former interviewee Matt Hilton, although I’ve switched to Stephen Booth’s ‘Blood on the Tongue’ as I’m interviewing him on the 16th then back to Matt’s and nearer the time I have ‘Twelve Christmases’ by (hopefully soon-to-be interviewee – I’ve had a ‘yes’ :)) Trisha Ashley – yes, dark and funny. :) (3) I adore Brighton, England; it’s diverse, busy, quirky and pretty much anything goes but went to Edinburgh, Scotland for the first a couple of years ago and see why so many authors love it – it’s a bit too out the way for me. (4) I do and he’s lying on the bed next to me, zonked out; he’s an 11-year-old-on-Boxing-Day (or thereabouts, he’s a rescue) Jack Russell / Cairn cross. Was I ‘summed’ or do you need more? :) Do you have an extract you’d like to share?
Holli: This is from the third in the series, Chocolate City Justice, in progress, and has not been shown to anyone before today…
Morgen: ooh, OK, sitting, concentrating…
Lucy Guidry realized she was being followed by G-Rock as soon as she walked out of the Walgreen’s Drug Store on Magazine Street.  G-Rock was a Ninth Ward Warrior and way out of his territory.  If a St. Thomas Soldier saw him, leaning against his custom-painted orange Hummer as if he had the right to be in this neighborhood, bullets would fly.  But yet here he was, in the same parking lot as Lucy, miles away from the imaginary line in the sand that separated the two most violent gangs in New Orleans.
And that had Lucy scared.  She didn’t want to die today.
As she walked across the parking lot to her 1978 gold Cadillac, she considered her options.  She didn’t have her gun with her, not that she could have shot G in front of all the people lined up to get into the drugstore.  A hurricane was in the Gulf of Mexico and a mandatory evacuation had been ordered this morning, so naturally nearly everyone in town was buying last minute provisions to ride out the storm.  And fortunately for Lucy, creating a situation with a lot of witnesses.  She was safe.  For now, at least.
Morgen: I love his name and ‘She didn’t want to die today’. Thank you Holli. :)
Holli Castillo is a Louisiana Appellate Public Defender and former New Orleans prosecutor.  Her first novel, Gumbo Justice, was published in 2009, and her second, Jambalaya Justice, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. She lives in the Metropolitan New Orleans area with her two children, dog, and deaf cat, as well as her husband, the model for the character Big Who in her books, and with whom she owns a bar on the west bank of New Orleans.  She also writes weekly articles for an online legal website, and is the 2011-2012 president of her youngest daughter’s PTA.  When she’s not working, writing, or taking care of her family, she tries to catch up on her sleep.

Update July 2012: Chocolate City Justice will be available by the end of 2012 (date t.b.a.).
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the questions. You complete them, I tweak them where appropriate (if necessary to reflect the blog ‘clean and light’ rating) and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
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