Wednesday Author Interview: Evelyne Holingue
BI: Today, I’m very happy to welcome Children’s and Young Adult writer, Evelyne Holingue. Evelyne, so nice to have you here. Let’s get the ball rolling by you telling us a bit about how you became a writer. When did you decide that’s what you wanted to be, and what steps did you take to prepare for a writing career?
EH: When I was a child I was very shy and was afraid to talk to people. Books gave me the friends I longed to have without having to ask for anything. I learned almost everything from a book. I think that most people who love to read write also. I wrote when I was a kid. Poems mostly but also a short novel for my sister, completely inspired by the Famous Five, my favorite books when I was really young. I lived in a small town and had no idea how books were made and this was fascinating to me. By the time I moved to Paris as a student, I had decided to work in the publishing business. As soon as I started to work full time I wrote less. I wonder if I would have been writing had I stayed in France.
My move to the US was a huge change for me. Language, culture, work…
Everything was new and I had to reinvent myself. My challenges were colossal since it’s in English, the language of my adoptive country, that I chose to write. I started to submit to editors at huge publishing houses. Retrospectively it was too soon and I wasn’t ready, but in the early 2000s everyone took time to respond to your snail mail and I got several encouraging letters.
I also joined SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators) and attended local conferences whenever I could. Because of my husband’s job we’ve often moved. This has been an added challenge. But meanwhile I got a few small breaks. Magazines, radio, contests were a good way for me to compare my skills to other writers.
My writing was improving when the publishing business exploded with many new options, the result of so many new communication tools. I decided to go Indie when the quality of the publishing tools became better and when being independently published ceased to be a despaired act and became a personal choice.
It was a great experience and no doubt that the years my husband and I spent in the publishing business helped us when it came to choosing the font and the paper. My husband was behind the formatting for the printed book and e-book. I hired a copy-editor who had worked for publishing companies in the past.
I started to blog several years ago but I mostly kept my blog for discipline and didn’t actively seek a readership.
For my second novel, things are different:
- My manuscript went far enough in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel and I received encouraging reviews that pushed me to revise.
- I hired a designer for the book cover.
- I’ve now developed a larger readership through my blog, especially after one of my posts was Freshly Pressed on WordPress.
- I have also established good relationships with other writers and bloggers and this community will help me to get more visibility. This interview, for example, was suggested by my good friend Stella Tarakson, all the way from Australia. Who would have thought only a few years ago that writers would so easily be in touch across continents?
BI: Great story, Evelyne! Tell me, have you been inspired by any particular authors, past or present, and what is it about their work that impresses you, or moves you?
EH: Like everyone else I have favorite writers and genres. The authors I admire are way beyond my league so I would never compare myself to any of them. I’m still growing …
Just a few of my favorite authors in children’s literature: Lois Lowry, Gordon Korman, Gary Schmidt, Jacqueline Woodson, Margaret Patterson Haddix, and Judy Blume.
Some of my favorite YA authors: A.S. King, M.T Anderson, Laurie Halse Anderson, Markus Zusak, Sherman Alexie, Veronica Roth, Ned Vizzini, and like everyone else John Green, although for some reason I much prefer Looking for Alaska, his first novel, to The Fault in Our Stars, his latest.
A few of my favorite authors for adult’s literature are Francine Prose, Joyce Carol Oates, Anita Shreve, Jhumpa Lahiri, and John Irving. I am impressed by these writers’ ability to write several novels that are distinct from each other and so distinct from other writers’ work that I can easily identify them as soon as I open one of their novels. Finding my own voice, either within me or through my characters, is my most important goal and my most difficult challenge.
Regularly I like to pick a book from a writer I don’t know. This summer, among many other books, I read Out of Reach by Carrie Arcos and Road Rash by Mark Huntley Parson. Totally different topics for these two YA novels, but a believable set of characters and a sincere voice in both of them. Great reads.
BI: A lot of great names, there. And one of my favorite women’s contemporary writers, too, Anita Shreve. I want to know more…what genres do you read most often for pleasure…those books you gravitate toward the minute you walk into a bookstore?
EH: Reading is so much part of my life that I can’t imagine spending a day without a book. For children and YA I favor historical fiction, contemporary and dystopia. For adults I like contemporary the most. In both categories, a book that deals with the consequences of our messy and also good relationships will always attract me. I love people and their stories.
BI: For me, even in Urban Fantasy, it always comes back to the relationship, so I agree with you on that, for sure. Do you have a dedicated workspace, and are you consistent with the amount of time you spend writing each day?
EH: I like to sit at a table when I type and I have my own desk. If I’m away from home, I carry a notebook and pens and almost always my extra light computer. I write every day but not always with the same speed or satisfaction. Until this fall I always had children living at home, so my time was really arranged around my four children’s schedules. For the first time ever, it will be my husband and I together and I’m looking forward to waking up early and write. Morning is my most productive time.
BI: I can’t even imagine writing with four children in the house. My cats and dachshunds are more interruption than I want when I’m trying to write! Do you use visual aids, like Inspiration Boards/Photos or maps of your book’s setting? What reference books or other material do you consult most frequently as you write?
EH: I used to consult the American/French dictionary a lot for obvious reasons. Now I tend to Google more often. I should return to this dictionary habit because I always got so much more information and always reliable, too.
My two novels have a French setting and France is a map etched on my mind. I don’t need visuals to conjure images of my home country. For different settings, I would definitely look for information, clip pictures and articles.
BI: When you have an idea for a new book, do you sit down and start typing, or do you start with an outline, and figure out all the major plot points first? In other words, is your working style structured and organized, or more organic and free flowing?
EH: I usually write without much planning, although I always know the beginning and the end of any story I start. I wrote my new novel Chronicles from Château Moines this way but I took notes for each of the characters in the dystopia novel I’m drafting now because each character has a back-story that will play an important role later on. I also sketched a time outline.
BI: I find I get totally lost if I don’t have good character bios, dates, etc, mapped out ahead, and added to as new characters crop up. It’s hard to keep all that straight, isn’t it? Now, something I always like to know about the reading habits of authors…do you prefer eBooks, or print? Why?
EH: I still prefer printed book, by far. The smell of paper, the sound of a turned page, and the weight of a book in my bag are things I love. I like to buy myself a new book when many women like a new pair of shoes, but I also like second hand books. I imagine who read the book I just bought and why they didn’t keep it. When I found a coffee stain or a highlighted word in a used book I feel like I’m sharing something in common with someone I don’t know. E-books are very convenient when I travel and this is the only reason why I buy them.
BI: Time to tell us about the books have you published, and where we can buy them.
EH: I have independently published two novels:
Trapped in Paris is a novel for readers from 12 and up.
Chronicles from Château Moine (pictured at the top of the page) is a novel for readers from 8 to 12.
Both books are available on Amazon and can be ordered from any bookstore.
BI: These both sound charming and interesting. I’m definitely planning to check them out. Are you currently working on a new book? When do you expect it to be available?
EH: Yes, I am working on three projects. One is a memoir (I don’t like this word much but didn’t find another one) based on my mother’s journey in the USA and how through my children and their American education I acquired the language and culture of my adoptive country.
The second one is a YA novel, and the third is a collection of stories with the United States for common setting. The stories will be written in French. The ‘memoir’ will probably my next published book.
BI: Finally, I always like to know what authors think is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?
EH: Over the last years I’ve tried to stop writing a few times because it’s freaking hard. My attempts didn’t last more than two weeks. That’s the best thing about being a writer. That’s also the worst.
Thank you so much, Evelyne. It’s been great learning about you and your books. All the best wishes for much continued pleasure and success from your writing!
I was born in France and left Paris for California with my husband and our young baby in December 1990. I thought that I would manage with the little English I had learned in school but realized within a day that I wasn’t fluent! So I had to learn and because I’ve always loved books I started to read exclusively in English. The books I borrowed, the stories I read, first to my baby and later to her siblings as well, triggered my desire to write in English one day.
Besides reading and writing I love the outdoors very much. In fact whenever I can, I am outside. This is where you’ll find me reading and writing, but also hiking, gardening, or canoeing when in Maine. I also love music very much and although I don’t sing well, I love to sing the songs I play when I drive or clean my home. In my second novel I share my love for music through songs and musicians I like and admire.