10 Questions With Hollie Overton

Good evening folks, I’m made up to welcome American crime writer Hollie Overton to my blog. Here, Hollie chats about writing for TV as well as being a novelist, her favourite music and how her personal experiences helped her create her debut novel, Baby Doll. 

Over to you, Hollie. 

1) As a child, did you have a favourite author and do you have a favourite author now? 

I had TONS of favorite authors. When I was much younger, Shel Silverstein, Ann Martin who wrote the Baby Sitters Club and of course Sweet Valley High were my favorites. As I got older, it was Mary Higgins Clark, Stephen King, and Dean Koontz (I’ve always been drawn to darker characters!) Nowadays I read in lots of different genres. I love YA. Rainbow Rowell is an incredible writer and storyteller (Eleanor and Park is one of my favorite love stories ever!) I’ve also read the Hunger Games series at least three times. It’s perfect storytelling. I’m also huge Michael Connelly fan but I’m always discovering new writers. Gillian McAllister is a wonderful writer of domestic thrillers and I’m obsessed with John Marrs, who wrote a book I loved called The One. I’m just not able to pick one.

2) When did you start writing? Did you enjoy English at school?

I’ve always been a writer. I picked up a journal when I was seven or eight kick and filled up book after book for years with random musings about my life, short story ideas and dreams of the future. That love of writing was really nurtured in my English classes. I had incredible teachers who made writing and reading fun. I also worked on the school newspaper and won writing awards in high school, so writing was always a part of my life. It wasn’t something I ever considered doing as a career, but over the years, while I was studying acting, I started to realize I wanted a more active role in the creative process. I took my first TV writing class in 2007 and fell in love with it. 

3) How did being a TV Writer help with planning your debut novel, Baby Doll? 

As a TV writer, you learn so many skills that apply to writing a novel. The most helpful in my mind was how to pace a story and keep it exciting for a reader. In commercial fiction, especially thrillers, you want to keep the audience engaged and make sure they keep turning the pages. Having worked as a TV writer for the last seven years, some of that became intuitive, which in turn made writing my first book a bit easier (not easy, but easier!) TV is also all about creating great characters and that’s what I try and focus on when I’m writing. Who are these people? What makes them tick? It’s the same in TV and in books and I’m very grateful I had that training before I started writing fiction.

4) What inspired Baby Doll, and how did you create Lily and Rick?

The real life story of Ariel Castro and the girls he held captive in Cleveland, Ohio inspired the plot of Baby Doll. But it was my relationship with my twin sister, Heather that was the emotional core of the book. We’re best friends, and I kept imagining what my life would be like as a teenager if I didn’t have my sister, and how it would change the course of our lives. The story evolved from that. Rick Hanson, the villain of the book sprung from the idea that there are lots of monsters hiding in plain sight. He’s a teacher, a loving husband, but he was a sexual deviant and smart enough to know how to hide it. I’ve read a lot about serial sexual predators as well and that’s how Rick’s character was created.

5) When you were an aspiring author, what was the best piece of advice you were given? 

Don’t listen to people who say there isn’t a market for your work. A lot of people heard the premise for Baby Doll and were like, “Have you heard of Room?” I had of course heard of it, but I knew my book was different. I could have started second guessing myself, but I stayed the course. People will also say no one is reading certain types of books, or books about certain subjects. If it’s something you’re passionate about, write it and ignore the haters.

6) How many agents did you submit Baby Doll to before you found a publisher? 

I only submitted Baby Doll to one agent. I was repped for film and TV by WME and they obviously have a huge book department. My TV agent passed the Baby Doll manuscript along to an agent, Eve Atterman, and she really liked it. She did have some edits that required another draft. There wasn’t really a promise of representation, just like these are my thoughts. I thought they were incredibly smart and made the book so much better. It took me about five months to do them (I was getting married at the time and pitching a TV show). When I finally sent it back, she read it and was like, “this is great. We want to submit to to editors,” which is the greatest news a writer can hear. The submission process can be stressful. It’s radio silence while you’re waiting to hear, but if you’re lucky there are all these things are happening behind the scenes. We sold to Goldmann in Germany first and then the UK and then US. It was and still is the most exciting time of my writing life.  

7) What was your writing process for Baby Doll like? How many drafts did you do?

It’s hard to say how many drafts. I’d have hundreds of documents, rewriting constantly. The first half of the book I wrote very quickly. The second half I had to kind of figure out what the rest of the story was, but I wrote a loose outline and it helped keep me on track. Writing Baby Doll wasn’t my full time job. I was working on developing a TV show and going on meetings, so I usually worked on Baby Doll really late at night. But there was no real deadline, no urgency to finish which looking back, now that I have to write on deadline was a really great part of the process.

8) How was the writing process different for The Walls? Did you do much research for both books? 

The Walls process was much faster and furious. I had a little over a year to complete the manuscript and that was including working full-time on my TV show. I finished the first draft in about seven months. Then I did the rewrites over the next three months, while working on the show. I did a lot of research for both books. I talked to experts in the field, FBI consultants, prison consultants, read tons of stuff on death penalty and sexual assault. To me, the research is just as important as the writing because it informs so much of the story.

9) How do you work best – music or silence? Did you have a favourite genre of music growing up and has it changed?

It depends. I know this sounds odd but when I’m at home, I usually write with the TV on. It has to be something I’ve seen before, movie or TV. It’s basically background noise. If I have a really tight deadline, I listen to music. I’m not really a music person, so usually it’s just a singer/songwriter Pandora station that I like. But I never write in silence. I feel like the background noise helps drown out the inner critic that says, “You’re not good enough.”

10) What was the last book you read and did you enjoy it? 

The last book I read was Gillian McAllister’s Anything you do Say. She’s a British novelist and it was a really interesting story about a woman who commits a crime and the two outcomes—what happens if she leaves and doesn’t report it and what happens if she stays and does. A Sliding Doors type story with a crime setting.  

Thanks for your time, Hollie. 

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