J: With me today is Hoot N. Holler, hailing from the great state of Maryland. Now, I understand that you’re an expert in brainwashing, as all three of your kids graduated from your alma-mater, University of MD.
H: Go Terps!
J: We’ll have to discuss some of those brain-washing techniques after the interview… I also understand you were a government employee (God help you… I know what that’s like), and you’ve also received numerous awards including the Bronze Medal Award when at the Department of Commerce, and what you value most are the times when you helped others succeed.
H: Yes, I genuinely enjoy mentoring, encouraging, lifting up friends and coworkers, or just lending a much-needed ear.
J: Then, of course, your book Terror in Boring Town has won 3 book awards! 1st Place – Mystery – 2019 Purple Dragonfly Book Awards, Bronze Medal – Pre-teen Mystery – 2018 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards, Honorable Mention – Middle Grade Fiction – 2019 Purple Dragonfly Book Awards. Congratulations! I understand you write under multiple pen names in different genre’s. So, what’s your favorite genre to write?
H: That’s correct, I actually write under two pen names, Hoot N. Holler is my children’s book pen name, and I wear Alex Bailey’s mask when writing for adults. I love writing all genres, which can be a problem when trying to define who you are. I’ve written mystery, romance, early readers, middle grade, women’s fiction, time travel, fantasy, adventure, and even thriller. I’m too much of a chicken to attempt horror, because I like to sleep at night and often wake up thinking of my current WIP. But my favorite stories always have at least a splash of magic in them. When I was a child, I’d dream of escaping the situation I was in and those dreams always involved magic. I believe great books are the magic in the world during lonely, mundane, or difficult situations, when they carry you away from your distress and for a moment, leave you with hope.
J: There is something indeed magical about opening a good book and being swept away to a foreign land. Who’s your favorite author/ favorite book(s)?
H: I don’t have a favorite author, because there are far too many great authors who’ve touched a piece of my soul in some way or another. But I do have a favorite book, “A Christmas Carol.” I love Dickens’ writing, but it’s the story that resonates so deeply with me. The story of transformation and redemption is a powerful one for me because of a deep longing for a metamorphosis of an Ebenezer in my own life.
J: I love that story! I’ve read the book, naturally, but I have my favorite film interpretations ranked by who played Scrooge. First is Alastair Sim, Second is George C. Scott, third is Bill Murray in Scrooged… but I’m getting off topic. When did you start writing?
H: May 15, 2000. It may sound bizarre that I remember the date, but it was a rather life-altering event. Let’s just say, something hit me during my daily lunchtime walk around the National Mall. I’d never written fiction; didn’t believe I had an ounce of creativity or any stories inside me. But once Pandora’s box was opened, I couldn’t slam the lid shut again. And believe me, I tried. I walked away from stories numerous times, and each time when I submitted to the hand on my back, I felt a wave of relief. When people ask me why I write, the answer’s always the same—I’m compelled.
J: Indeed, writing is a difficult habit to break, and seems to often take over. What do you enjoy most about being an author?
H: There are so many wonderful things about writing – getting revenge on real-life foes, seeing my book in print, meeting other authors, making up words, donating my books, stifling that nagging compulsion – but it’s the creation process—creating something from nothing that I love the most. And hearing that someone enjoyed my book is always a huge thrill!
J: Ah, yes… sweet revenge. So, what’s your secret? Any practices you find particularly helpful?
H: When I first was drawn into the writing arena, I hadn’t a clue how to write a story, much less a full-length novel. I read books, took classes at our local college, and attempted to write. For fifteen years. It wasn’t until I joined a writer’s critique group that my writing markedly improved. Our group formed four years ago from a writing class from among the students, whom I adore. We’ve had members come and go since, but our core group is still intact.
Being in an author critique group has been the most beneficial thing for my own writing that I’ve come across so far. It was difficult at first to hear your work criticized, but knowing that everyone is going through the same feelings and we’re all in it to help each other, quickly eased any discomfort. Having different perspectives from authors writing a variety of genres has opened my eyes to issues in plot, characters, or setting that I would have missed on my own. It’s difficult to see your own errors, just like it’s too difficult to edit your own work. Another advantage to the group is that by critiquing other authors’ work, it helps me to see the same issues in my own writing. I highly recommend finding a group if possible.
Another strategy I’ve used is to swap manuscripts with other authors for a much faster critique. This has worked well with some of my online friends. I know many authors use beta readers, and I do have a few, but not a formal targeted group for my genres yet.
J: Great advice! Might be a good idea for me to seek out a military post-apocalyptic sci fi thriller critique group (if such a thing exists). Tell us about your most recent work.
H: Terror in Boring Town is the first in the “A Sam and Rex Adventure” series written for kids 9-12 with my son in mind. When he was growing up, Chris had a difficult time reading and rarely could find a book that interested him enough to struggle through it. I wanted to create stories that would help boys especially, who struggle or don’t like to read. My daughters were (and still are) both avid readers (and writers) and read anything and everything, but my son wanted stories with boys as the main characters – perhaps because he had two older sisters and we never gave him the brother he begged for all those years? So I created Sam and Rex who live in a boring town (that actually exists). But can it be all that boring with characters named: Les Gross who works at the Boring Post Office, letter carrier, Daisy Whoopsy, handy man, Rich Oldmann, 3rd-grade teacher, Mrs. Attaboy, truck driver & comedian, Harry Pitt, and Mr. Junker who owns the Boring Antiques store.
Sam and Rex are friends who are very different. Sam is level-headed and hates his boring town. Rex sees adventure at every turn in the town they live in – Boring, MD, aptly named. Nothing ever happens there, until mysterious strangers come to town for the summer. Why would anyone want to visit their town? There’s nothing to do there.
Luckily, Rex has a wild imagination and sees criminals and spies in every stranger who visits. Because when it turns out these men actually do have a nefarious plot, the boys investigate to find out the strangers’ intentions. And when no one in the town believes the boys, including Rex’s dad, the deputy sheriff, they must take it upon themselves and risk lives (but whose?) to save their town.
J: Sounds like my step daughter would love it! I’ll have to pick up a copy. Before you go, tell us a little about you as a person. Is this your primary job? If not, what? Hobbies? Family? Future plans and goals. Any plans for world domination, or winning a Pulitzer prize in the future?
H: After retiring three years ago as a Writer/Editor with the Federal government, I began my author journey and got serious about sending stories out into the world. At that time, my husband and I also started a small organic farm (so small one could call it a large garden) to donate fresh produce to our local food bank.
Recently, our three grown children +1 have descended upon our home (temporarily – one way or another!) which has hindered the pace of my writing production – again, temporarily! You’d be surprised how needy grown adults can be after living on their own, when they deem their parents, “have nothing to do all day.”
World domination – no thanks, I can hardly keep up with the demands I’ve been given thus far. Though, travel is certainly on the list of future plans. We have a family trip planned to WDW, even though we were just there in April. We’re a seriously-goofy Disney family and the thought of too many trips to Disney would never cross our minds. It’s our happy place – The Most Magical Place on Earth – for us.
J: Thanks so much for joining us! I’ve read excerpts of your work and can tell you that’s it’s certainly worth the price of admission. I’m sure a number of fans would like to connect; how do we follow you?
Website for suggestions on donating books: http://alexbailey-writes.com/
Other places to purchase: https://books2read.com/u/3J8wWJ