“Team R.J.” Blog Interview Series #1: Debra Holland, Ph.D.
In early 2001, “Dr. Debra” and I began an email correspondence after “meeting” on a Yahoogroup for fans of Kathy Tyers. (More about Kathy, I hope, in a future blog interview) Dr. Debra’s genres include science fiction, fantasy and romance. Her line editing skills were miles ahead of mine and I nearly re-learned the craft of writing during our editing sessions. (She is probably still ahead of me …by a few yards. *grin*) Our early manuscript exchanges led to a peer editor partnership that continues to this day, nearly a decade later.
I say in all humility that over this past year, two of my peers released recent novels dedicated to me, specifically for my editing. I’m going on record that any skill I acquired is a direct result of working with Dr. Debra.
Deb’s novel Wild Montana Shy won the prestigious Golden Heart Award in 2001. Her fantasy effort, Sower of Dreams, received praise from none other than the “grand dame of science fiction,” Andre Norton. But it was her expertise as a psychologist that ultimately landed her a recent breakthrough writing deal.
Q: Before we met, where had you acquired your knowledge of fiction style and editing? I remain amazed at what your feedback brings to my stories, and in such an approachable, friendly manner.
A: Aside from being in school for a million years…
I owe my editing skills mostly to Louella Nelson, a wonderful writing teacher. When I started to write fiction, I attended her critique group. Lou spent one half of it teaching us about writing, and the other half critiquing our manuscripts.
My last agent was also a great editor, and I learned a lot from her.
I’ve also read books and articles or attended workshops to improve my craft.
Q: Tell us about your recent book deal!
A: To make a long story short… A writer friend emailed me that agent Jessica Faust had posted on Facebook that she was looking for an expert to write a book on grief. I emailed Jessica, and she invited me to send her a bio. I sent more than a bio. I also included the first chapter on a book on grief in the workplace I’d started, then put aside. I also included a handout I’d composed on Coping with Grief in the Workplace, as well as an article I’d written for the survivors of company-wide terminations. Plus a page on what I thought should go in the book.
The publisher is Alpha Books. They do the Complete Idiots Guides, and are coming out with a new line for more sensitive topics called Essential Guides.
Jessica thought it was great and forwarded everything to the editor. A week later, she emailed me saying I’d gotten it. I was SO excited, but then learned I have a 5 month deadline! So my celebrating is cut short for now while I focus and draft as fast as I can.
My title is: The Essential Guide to Grief and Grieving, with a tentative release target of October 2011
Q: I notice in your non-fiction, you approach psychology from a decidedly biological approach. Is that a fair comment, and what training/background does this come from?
A: A little. I use a lot about the brain, especially the male and female differences. I’m going to have some of that–a couple of pages–in the grief book. But that’s only 2 out of 320.
Q: Any hopes/plans to return to fiction?
A: Yes. In a recent SF/Fantasy contest entry, the judges gave me a lot of great feedback that I’m itching to apply to Sower of Dreams. But I have to wait…
Q: To me, a Golden Heart-award-winning novel and a fantasy novel with an endorsement from Andre Norton should be no-brainers for any publisher. What do you think your frustration in this area says about the state of publishing?
A: I don’t know if it’s the state of publishing or my writing… J My historical romance was traditional, not sexy, and that’s just not the market nowadays.
I changed my fantasy and added sex. It actually turned out better. But we never sent it out again.
Q: Okay, enough about you; say something nice about me. J
A: I’m so grateful to have you as a critique partner. I can’t wait until your book is out!
Q: Thank you very much Dr. Debra. A final, personal note: Of my electronic partners, I’ve known you longest and yet, uniquely, we’ve never met in person. Does this amuse you as much as it does me, or should I instead take it personally? J
A: Lol. Take it personally! J Someday…
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