Today, author Shaun Holt stops by the blog for an interview, to discuss his writing and his debut book Waiting for the Rain. Enjoy.
Interview with Shaun Holt
I'm 28 years old, born and raised in Washington State. I got married in September 2012, to a woman who loves to read, so we have a symbiotic writer/reader relationship.
You've just published your debut novel. Can you tell us a bit about the book?
“Waiting for the Rain” is about Mackenzie Roads, a high school senior, who wants to have a first kiss in the rain. A.J., an aspiring bull-rider, vows to fulfill her fantasy. It’s set in Washington State, where we have a reputation for wet weather, but naturally everything happens to keep them apart whenever it rains. The main reason I wrote this book is because I dislike all the bad examples kids have today, how teenage sex, and teenage pregnancies, are glorified. So I wanted to do the polar opposite – a teenage couple who won't even kiss until the time is right.
Simple answer is for my wife. She likes romance books more than the other genres I write, so my books usually aren't quite her flavor. “Waiting for the Rain” was something I figured she could read and enjoy. In the end, I had a lot of fun writing it, it was a fun challenge writing something out of my comfort zone. I play a little guitar, and a tip I read suggested that guitarists play something outside their genre. If you play metal music, try playing a country song. You learn things about the guitar in those other genres, which you can incorporate into your own style, which helps you create a unique sound. Same principle with writing outside a chosen genre. You learn things and develop a style you wouldn't have if you just stuck to your roots.
You write in other genres as well. What is your favorite genre?
Personally, I like action/adventure the most. I like describing other countries, their capital, their cuisine, and especially their history. I also love politics, so action/adventure allows me to delve into global political issues, play around with them a bit, and create what-if scenarios. Probably about fifty percent of these books are based around real people or real events, and the other half is just me messing around. A lot of my writing tends to be a bit satirical. As a writer, I think my challenge is to make fiction, however ridiculous the concept, seem realistic and believable. Action/adventure is especially fun, because I can toy around with things like Portugal and Spain going to war, the United States invading Canada, my take on the lost civilization of Atlantis, a nuclear Iran, et cetera.
Your book is written in the first person point of view. Did writing in that POV present challenges for you?
“Waiting for the Rain” is the first 1st person point of view (me, my, I) book I've ever written, before that I've always written in 3rd person POV (he, him, his). To make it worse, the protagonist is a 17 year old girl. It was very strange at first to write as a teenage girl. My wife said the first draft read like it was written by a 25 year old guy. She was very helpful in pointing out subtle ways girls would talk, how they would act around their friends, and so on.
Can you tell us about your writing process? Where do your ideas originate? Do you have a certain writing routine?
There are two types of books I think – character driven and plot driven. For character driven books, I usually create a list of three or four characters, and they take the story wherever it would naturally go. For plot driven books, I do chapter-by-chapter outlines, usually coming up with about fifteen important characters. This will look something like “Russian ship is hijacked. British Royal Navy captain in Aden. Russian diplomat meets with Iranian President.” When I actually get to writing, I’ll be a little more spontaneous. Maybe I'll add a few more characters, insert chapters, and so on, but the framework of the story will be there. As far as character names, a lot of times I just combine names. For example, I knew two guys who hated each other, J.T. Marsh and Tom something, so the character is Tom Marsh. For foreign names, I tend to use Wikipedia, type in something like “List of Egyptian people”, and combine names that way. When I write, I try to write 2,000 words a night. If I stick to that, I can finish a book in a month. When the first draft is finished, I print the whole book out, and edit it with a red pen. I call this the “red pen draft”. The average book will have two or three red pen drafts.
What are some of your other interests, besides writing?
I love studying history, especially military, politics, and religion. Most of this is just to better shape my views on subjects. I think it’s very important to know the past, and understand where we came from, and what the issues mean. I started painting in Christmas of 2012. At first I was mostly doing Bob Ross-type landscapes, but now I am doing more abstract things. I go bowling a lot, I’m not so good, I average about 140, my best game was 216 I think. I used to like going to Seattle Mariners games, but now I tend to only go to games if it’s a team I've never seen. Last year I went to four games, the home opener against the Astros (first time seeing a home opener), the Chicago Cubs, the Minnesota Twins and Ken Griffey Jr. Hall of Fame night, which was awesome, against the Brewers, all teams I've never seen. Last year, I went to my first soccer game, which was an incredible experience. I think Americans will start to like soccer, especially since I believe they are becoming so cautious with football. I’m a big Seahawks fan too, very glad we made it to the Superbowl.
Who has inspired you as a writer and an author?
My mom and dad are both good writers. My dad used to write short stories and read a few of them to me when I was little, and my mom’s handwriting looks very elegant (mine is messy). Around age five, I was raised on the same property Edward R. Murrow lived on (his house had burnt down), so maybe this subconsciously turned me toward writing. In 4th grade, I stayed after school every day and typed out of a baseball book (loving baseball), to learn how to type. Computers were still relatively new in schools and typing wasn't yet a required skill, certainly unlike today, where one year olds are able to use iPads. I became enamored with the act of typing, and fell in love with words being used to tell stories. I think my desire to be a published author began then, in 4th grade. My main influence has been Clive Cussler. The first book I ever read cover-to-cover was “Atlantis Found” by Cussler, in 9th grade. Within a year I read all his books. Tom Clancy was also influential, along with John Steinbeck, Pearl S. Buck, Leo Tolstoy, and a few others.
What’s next for you?
Right now I'm doing the red pen draft of “Keeping Creed”, which I think will be the third book I publish, maybe this winter. After I finish that, hopefully in a week, I'll do a red pen draft of “German Derelict”, the first book in the Trevor Knight Series, which will hopefully be ready for publication this summer. The Trevor Knight Series is in many ways a parody of Clive Cussler’s books. I am not meaning to copy Cussler as much as I am satirizing his style and putting my twist on it. They're a lot of fun to write. “German Derelict” is the hardest book I've had to write at this point, it'd been a major struggle to get it where I’m happy with it. In essence, it is about Iran trying to acquire a nuclear weapon.