Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wednesday Guest- Debra Holland

Bio: Dr. Debra Holland holds a master’s degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Therapy, and holds a PhD in Counseling Psychology from the University of Southern California, and is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She has twenty-one years of experience counseling with individuals, couples, and groups.
What was the draw to write western romance?
Wild Montana Sky was my first book. Before I wrote it, I was working on writing some of the stories from my grandmother’s childhood. Then I started dating a young cowboy who was fun and sexy, and we had nothing in common. At one point, I thought, “If we lived 100 years ago in the West, this just might work.” Then I started to get flashes of scenes, which I’d write down, then figured out the whole story.
So I didn’t set out to write western romance. It came to me through my life experience. Once I started, I had to keep going. Everyone told me it would be good to have a second book ready to sell in case an editor wanted the first one. That’s why I wrote Starry Montana Sky. Then my agent (two of them actually) couldn’t sell them because they were sweet, not sexy, even though Wild Montana Sky was a Golden Heart winner. So, I self-published them.

How do you switch from westerns to fantasy when writing?

I wrote them in separate stages. The two westerns came first. Then I had an idea for a short fantasy story that I wanted to submit to Andre Norton’s Witch World anthologies. When I queried her, she told me she no longer did the anthologies. So I expanded the story until it was 42,000 words and entered it in the RWA Golden Heart contest and ended up finaling. But it was too short to do anything with, so I expanded it to a larger book, Sower of Dreams, and from there to a trilogy. It was the story that kept morphing. By this time, I’d established a correspondence with Andre, and she read the book, gave me some suggestions, and endorsed it.
After I finished Sower, I wrote the first book in an epic Space Trilogy, Lywin’s Quest, which also became a Golden Heart finalist. Then I went back and wrote Reaper of Dreams. My second agent tried valiantly to sell Sower of Dreams, but again failed because it wasn’t sexy.
At that point, I mostly switched to writing nonfiction because I was discouraged about not being able to sell any of the books. So you can see, I was writing different kinds of books at different stages.

What are you working on now?
I have a nonfiction book, The Essential Guide to Grief and Grieving, for Alpha Books, publishers of The Complete Idiots Guides that’s coming out on November 1. That opportunity dropped into my lap, but the five-month deadline from beginning to end was brutal, so I’m sort of burned out on writing nonfiction right now. But I do have a short ebook on how to deal with death in the workplace that I need to finish and self-publish before November because I referenced it in the grief book.
Once I self-published the westerns last April, and they started to sell like crazy, I had the motivation to start on the third book in the series, Stormy Montana Sky. I’d previously written about 50 pages of that book, then set it aside when the first two didn’t sell. I’m about a third of the way through it now. It’s been slow going because I’ve been so busy, but I’m scaling back my psychotherapy practice to write more. I’m hoping to self-publish Stormy in November.
Once I self-published Sower and Reaper, I knew I’d have to work on the conclusion to that trilogy as well. So, I’ve just started writing Harvest of Dreams, which I’m hoping to have out in January. Now I’ll find out what it’s like to write in two genres AND nonfiction at the same time.
I have two more books planned for the Montana Skies series. I’m thinking about self-publishing Lywin’s Quest in January, then I can start work on the next book in the trilogy. I also have an almost-finished book about boundary setting with difficult people that I want to finish.
Now all I need is the time, energy, and motivation to do it all!


Historical Romances set in the 1890’s in the fictional town of Sweetwater Springs, Montana.
2001 Golden Heart Winner

With the tragic death of her fiancé, Elizabeth Hamilton believed she’d never love again. The comfortable life she’s settled into with her brother in Boston, is upset when he abruptly marries. Displaced by her spiteful new sister-in-law, and hoping to find a home for herself, Elizabeth allows handsome cowboy Nick Sanders to escort her from Boston to her friend’s Montana ranch.
In Montana, Elizabeth meets attractive Caleb Livingston, a wealthy banker who strongly resembles her beloved fiancé, and believes she has a second chance at love. Yet, she has to fight a growing attraction to Nick. In braving the dangers and hardships of the West, Elizabeth discovers unexpected strengths within herself--strengths tested when an influenza epidemic ravages the town. As a child’s life hangs in the balance, Elizabeth must choose between the man who has everything, and the one with nothing but his heart to offer.

As soon as the door closed, Elizabeth turned the key in the lock. She’d never before locked her door, but she wanted to ensure that Genia’s house inspection didn’t include her room.
She crawled into bed, nestling under the pink-flowered covering, wishing she could find oblivion in sleep. But there was no comfort to be found. She curled up around a lavender-scented pillow, clutching it to her with one hand, while the other hand balled around her locket.
The suppressed feelings of the last two weeks burst forth, and she let loose the sobs she’d been holding back. She had no more hopeful words to bolster her spirits. Reality was worse than anything Elizabeth had imagined, and she dreaded what the future held for her.
Pamela. The name brushed across her mind like the touch of an angel’s wing.
At the thought of her best friend, she eased her grip on the tear-soaked pillow. After Pamela had married and moved to Montana, the two women engaged in faithful correspondence. Only in her letters to Pamela would Elizabeth let down her reserve and pour out her feelings. Elizabeth might live in the east and Pamela in the west, but their hearts remained connected regardless of the miles between them.
Shoving the coverlet aside, she slid out of bed. With a few watery sniffs, she made her way over to her writing desk, sat down, and pulled out her stationery.
The act of putting pen to paper released a new flood of tears. Sentences gushed out almost quicker than her fingers could write. Her usually perfect copperplate handwriting slanted and squished its way across the paper.
Teardrops splashed on the page, forming miniature pools, the ink rising to the surface before feathering across the letters. As she wrote, the constriction in her chest ceased, and the rush of words slowed.
Elizabeth sniffed and signed the letter. As she scrawled Pamela’s address, one last tear dropped, blurring a word. But when she blotted the script, the writing still remained legible enough to send.
She dropped the letter on the desk and flexed the fingers of her hand, working out the cramps. The storm of emotion had passed, leaving her drained and exhausted, but calmer somehow. But would it be enough to help her face life with Genia?

Buy Links:
Wild Montana Sky Amazon:
Starry Montana Sky Amazon:



Jacquie Rogers said...

Debra, I just finished Wild Montana Sky last night and really enjoyed it, so I'm looking forward to Starry. Would you tell us a little about the third Montana Sky book you're working on now?


Dr. Debra Holland said...

The third book, Stormy Montana Sky, is the schoolteacher's story. Harriet is in love with the hero from the first book, and she's going to get a new romantic focus when a stranger comes riding into town in search of his kidnapped nephew.

I have two more books planned for the series, and maybe some short stories. Now that people are enjoying my books, I find that all kinds of ideas are coming to me.

Mary Marvella said...

This series sounds wonderful! It should do well. Good luck.

Dr. Debra Holland said...

Thanks, Mary. So far, so good! :)

Sarah Raplee said...

Your road to publishing is inspirational to me, an unpubbed writer. Loved the excerpt from your book.

Now I need to go out to the Kobo store and see if i can buy it. :)

Louisa Bacio said...

Continued congrats on your success. You are quite the engaging writer, and I look forward to reading more!

Anonymous said...

I am looking forward to reading stormy Montana sky. I have read the first two books in four weeks and can't wait until November!! Hope to read it soon,