I’m very lucky to have Nancy Holzner, author of DEADTOWN and HELLFORGED, visit my blog today. You can be all stalker(ish) and follow Nancy on twitter, facebook, and her blog.
The winner from the Pitch and 250 Word Contest will be winning both of these books, signed. An awesome prize to go along with the full manuscript critique.
Now, let’s get to know Nancy….
Tell us a little about yourself…
First, thanks so much for inviting me to stop by! I appreciate the chance to chat with your readers.
I began my career as an educator, teaching English in college (I was a medievalist) and then in high school. I've also worked as a college admissions counselor, editor, and corporate trainer. Currently, I'm lucky to be able to write full time, although most of my income comes from writing nonfiction. I grew up in Massachusetts and have also lived in London, Alabama, and New York's Finger Lakes region (my current home).
What was the first novel that made you decide reading rocks?
I was hooked on reading picture books long before I knew what a novel was. J But I was a big fan of Nancy Drew mysteries when I was a kid. It was unbelievably cool that we shared a first name.
What is you most all time favorite book?
That question is impossible for me to answer! I'm not trying to avoid it, but I used to be an English professor and there's no way to narrow it down to just one. Even if I stick to the classics, I'd have to include The Canterbury Tales, King Lear, Paradise Lost, Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, Frankenstein, Moby Dick, The House of Mirth . . And that barely gets me to the 20th century.
What inspired you to become a writer?
When I was a kid, writing was a natural outgrowth of my love of reading. I wrote stories, plays, and poems. I kept that up through college, writing more poetry than anything else. Later, when I decided to go to graduate school and earn a PhD, I switched my focus to academic writing. For a long time, as I was earning a degree and raising my daughter, I stopped writing creatively. But the urge to write persisted, and eventually I started taking online courses in fiction writing.
What was the first story/novel you ever wrote?
Something about elves when I was very young, I think. I've always loved fantasy and stories with magic.
First thing that pops into your mind (no cheating)
Chocolate or vanilla?
Chocolate, and the darker the better. I just had a square of Lindt 90%.
Wine or margaritas?
I live in the middle of a wine region in central NY, so I'll have to say wine.
Steak or Eggplant?
I'm a real carnivore, so steak. (There's a restaurant in my town that dry-ages its beef. Yum.)
I'll go with an oldie: The Fisher King, starring Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams and directed by Terry Gilliam. It's a fun and thoughtful updating of the medieval legend of the Holy Grail set in contemporary New York City.
Werewolves or Zombies?
Werewolves. I have fun putting an unusual spin on the zombies in my novels, but werewolves can be very sexy that zombies could never hope to aspire to.
Please give us a teaser for DEADTOWN…
They call it Deadtown: the city’s quarantined section for its inhuman and undead residents. Most humans stay far from its borders — but Victory Vaughn, Boston’s only professional demon slayer, isn’t exactly human…
Vicky’s demanding job keeping the city safe from all manner of monsters is one reason her relationship with workaholic lawyer (and werewolf)
Alexander Kane is in constant limbo. Throw in a foolhardy zombie apprentice, a mysterious demon-plagued client, and a suspicious research facility that’s taken an unwelcome interest in her family, and Vicky’s love life has as much of a pulse as Deadtown’s citizens.
But now Vicky’s got bigger things to worry about.
The Hellion who murdered her father ten years ago has somehow broken through Boston’s magical protections. The Hellion is a ruthless force of destruction with a personal grudge against Vicky, and she’s the only one who can stop the demon before it destroys the city and everyone in it.
You can read the first chapter here.
After Vicky banished her demon nemesis to the fiery depths of Hell, she thought life would return to normal. But considering she has a werewolf lawyer boyfriend, a zombie apprentice who’s angling to become a pop star, and an eccentric vampire roommate, what is normal, anyway?
Then the supposedly banished Hellion starts to trespass in Vicky’s dreams—just as several of Deadtown’s zombies are viciously attacked and become really dead. When Vicky realizes she’s the only connection between the victims, she suspects that the demon is somehow working through her dreams to become Deadtown’s living nightmare.
What she doesn’t know is that her old enemy brings with it a force more terrifying—and deadly—than anything she’s battled before.
Read Chapter 1 online.
What are you planning next?
BLOODSTONE, the third novel in my Deadtown series, releases on September 27, 2011. I'm currently going through copyedits for that novel and also writing Deadtown #4, which will come out next year. I also recently published an ebook edition of my mystery, PEACE, LOVE, AND MURDER, which was originally published in hardcover by a small press. Readers have asked for a sequel to that book, and I'd love to find time to write it.
Please tell us, as a writer, what is the most important aspect of the process?
When a novel is a long process, and different skills come into play at different times. In the first draft, plotting and characterization are important as you get to know your story and your characters. The second draft is all about shaping what you've roughed out, and it helps to be able to step back and get a good sense of your story's structure: pacing, story arc, which scenes advance the story and which slow it down. For me, the third draft is the polishing draft, so copyediting skills are helpful then. But really, wherever you are in writing your story, the most important thing to do is keep working on it. Write (or edit) every day. Even when it feels like you can't, keep coming back to it.
What should an aspiring writer do before they query their manuscript?
Make sure your manuscript is in the best shape you can get it. Show it to beta readers you trust to give good feedback, and listen to their input. As a writer, you have to develop a sense of which feedback helps your story and which doesn't. Do the same thing with your query letter. Read the back cover copy of similar books to get a sense of how to hook a reader—you want your query to have that kind of hook. Get feedback on your query, just as you did on your manuscript, and polish both until you're blinded by their shine.
Apparently Gina requested your manuscript after your query, and maybe some other agents. Could you share with us what your query had that made agents go, Wow! Let’s see what else she has?
You know, despite what I just wrote, I don't think my query was all that amazing. However, I really liked the opening chapter of my manuscript. So I focused on agents who'd look at the opening ten pages with the initial query. (This was back in 2006; things have changed a lot since then.)
Would you share with us some changes you had to make to get your manuscript ready for publishers?
The manuscript that got me an offer of representation from Talcott Notch was for my murder mystery, PEACE, LOVE, AND MURDER. I'd worked very hard to get that novel as polished as I could before I started looking for an agent. I didn't have to make any significant changes before it went out to editors—it went out on submission almost right away. But I did have to wait a year before it sold to the small press that bought it.
Any other advice you would like to share with us aspiring writers?
Be persistent and keep writing, always striving to make your writing the best you can. When you do that, time is on your side.
Thank you so much Nancy for visiting my blog. It’s been great fun.
It has! Thanks again for inviting me.