March 20th, 2020
I asked Steve where he would like to talk:
As we sit to talk, I can sense the tranquility of the location. It’s insidious and creeping – but in a good way. The only sounds embracing us are those of the birds, the insects, and the rustling trees as a faint, but welcome breeze wafts through the branches. Nearby, a stream merrily trickles away for all eternity as it meanders along between boulders and stones, seeking passage through our primeval setting on its journey to the sea…
Our senses are further graced by the soft, heady aromas of moss, damp bark, and wild flowers. This is truly my own special piece of Heaven…
I have brought some light refreshments with me. A bottle of home-made mead, cool and sweet, to complete the feelings of relaxation. Some freshly baked Honeycakes compliment our magical brew and, as I pour the golden liquid into two earthenware goblets, we settle back to begin our task.
We are alone in a sea of greens and browns, surrounded by life and nature. My interview begins, our words for us alone – and maybe, just maybe, the tiny ears of the woodland sprites and Faerie folk who live here too…
Laura Mae: What inspired you to enter the world of writing?
Steve Hollands: Back in the mid 1990’s our local free paper used to run a Halloween, ghost story competition each year. Although I loved reading other people’s stories, they were always the same – blood curdling curses, horrific deaths and assorted demons…. I wanted something different, so I wrote my own short story about a man visiting a medium to communicate with his wife one last time. I wrote it in such a way as to fool the reader that the wife had died and the man wanted closure – but the twist turned it around. All through the narrative, the young man was telling the story in first person, but at the end it was revealed that he was in fact, the deceased, coming back to give his grieving wife a spirit message. I won the competition, received a £100 cheque, and set off on a path of telling tales….
L: How long have you been writing for?
S: Since that competition in the mid-nineties, on and off. I went on to create a collection of short, spooky stories with a twist, but really got into writing around 1996 when I began writing a historical novel set in early Roman Britain and based around the revolt of Boudica. I never completed it – for several reasons, but it was an important learning curve and taught me a huge amount about writing, editing, research etc. I did take quite a long break just after the millennium, but a nagging voice kept on calling me back, and in 2013 I began writing my Eyedore trilogy.
L: What are you currently working on?
S: Well, as mentioned in the previous question, I completed my Eyedore trilogy in November 2019. It’s a YA fantasy that began as a stand-alone but turned into three books…. It tells the story of Willow, a Faerie heiress, banished to the human world by her uncle when he seizes the family lands and wealth. Willow is befriended by three teens (and a cat) who assist her to get home and reclaim what is rightfully hers. Along the way, they encounter a witch, dark magic, evil fauns, and a pagan moon Goddess….
As of now… I have an idea for something new. It will be YA fantasy again and will feature seers, assassins, gypsies, an evil queen and a little magic…. No title yet and only a beginning and an end – need to sort out the bit in the middle…
L: Are there any books or authors who inspire your work?
S: Yes. Marion Zimmer Bradley has been a great influence. I read her book ‘The Mists of Avalon’ back in the eighties and have re-read it several times since. It’s basically the King Arthur story – but through the eyes of the women of the court – predominantly Arthur’s sister Morgaine. There are heavy pagan elements, magic/fantasy and a lot of historical accuracy around the time period. Probably the best book I’ve ever read… I also love the ‘Dead’ series of books by crime author Peter James. I like the way he leads the reader down a given path only to turn everything you thought you knew on its head later on. I do like a good twist or two…
L: What has been the most challenging for you so far?
S: Marketing. The ongoing slog of trying to promote your books by coming up with new ways of presenting it. Finding key markets or readers, and firing up their interest. It’s probably the hardest part for me…
L: Besides writing, what is it you like to do?
S: Besides writing, I have several other interests. Reading – obviously – mainly fantasy, historical or crime. I also love cooking, gardening (particularly if I’m growing things I can eat), anything aviation orientated, and walking in natural surroundings. i.e. woodland, beside rivers or coastal paths. A lot of our holidays are spent in the UK wearing a backpack and carrying a map… The great outdoors is a great source of inspiration for my writing. I find woodland in particular, very relaxing and calming, and I draw a lot of comfort from that. It’s my ideal stress buster…
L: What would you say is your favorite book or series of all time? Why?
S: I already mentioned The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. It’s beautifully written and explores the conflict between the early Christians and the Pagan religion of Dark Age Britain. It really makes you think of how different faiths have so many similarities. I love that book. I also mentioned the ‘Dead’ series by Peter James. Each one is a stand-alone murder mystery with a few running/continuing themes throughout the series. I also loved reading the ‘Falco’ series by Lindsey Davis. They are private detective novels set in ancient Rome during the reign of Emperor Vespasian. Fascinating and quite humorous in places too…
L: In a brief statement, have you self-published or traditionally published? What was your experience?
S: I self-published all three books of my Eyedore Trilogy. I also have a collection of short, supernatural stories on E-book only. All published via KDP/Amazon. The process itself is fairly straight forward. Of course, marketing is entirely down to me so I have to slog away at it whenever I can – usually via social media, but recently I have been approached by a local library to set up a book signing – so watch this space… The most difficult part of the self-publishing process for me was cover creation – I’m not at all artistic. However, I am blessed by knowing a local professional artist very well and he has been extremely kind and supported me throughout by creating the wonderful covers for my trilogy. Without him, I would, no doubt, have used the cover creator on KDP and maybe purchased some images through Fivver or something similar.
L: What does a typical day of writing look like for you? Any rituals or ‘must-haves’?
S: I don’t really have ‘typical’ days. I have a full time day job and I fit writing in when I can. Sometimes I can go a few weeks without touching it. Book I of my trilogy took me three years to complete. The other two I completed between 2016 & 2019. Generally, I write when I’m home alone as I like peace & quiet. I use music to inspire me. Usually things like epic scores to films or video games. Examples would be the soundtracks to Gladiator and Lord of the Rings or the Elder Scrolls gaming series. I can’t write with music playing, but when I’m mulling over ideas or scenes in my head, this is the kind of stuff I listen to, to give me ideas.
L: What’s a word or phrase that people say that always irritates you?
S: “Oh, you’re an author? You must be making loads of money!” Why is it that everyone believes if you write books, you are pulling in the cash? The reality is lots of hard work, heartache, and worrying over sales. Definitely one to wind me up…
L: Where would you say you get most of your inspiration?
S: As already mentioned, I find a lot of inspiration through nature – walks, woodland etc. and music. However, I grew up on a diet of books focusing on folklore, myths and legends. Good examples would be Robin Hood, Pirates, Highwaymen, witches, faeries…. All of these things have fascinated me all my life. In my teens, I devoured text books on all of them, and folktales or beliefs are probably responsible for most of my ramblings. The music etc. just helps me to flesh it out and bring scenes to life in my head.
L: What is your favorite writing trope? Least favorite?
S: Not sure if I have a favourite really, but I do like a good love triangle. I know a lot of people would disagree, but when writing, you can have some good fun with that when some characters get jealous or vengeful. Probably one of my least favourites is the poor girl who weds into a gangster family and becomes an alcoholic as she watches her children lead a life of crime. Read a few like that now – they can be very good, but can also be a bit predictable…
L: Are there any regrets you have or anything you wish you knew sooner?
S: I can’t say there is right now. My trilogy is completed and getting great reviews on Amazon, so that’s very good. Maybe, a small part of me wonders whether I should have pursued the traditional publishing route, but I didn’t, so I have to go with what I already have – for now anyway.
L: What are you currently reading?
S: I’m currently reading a book I just bought from a charity shop. It’s called ‘The Last Secret of the Temple’ and it’s written by Paul Sussman and was first published in 2005. I only started it last night, so only twenty six pages in, but already it’s very good indeed. It begins in the temple at Jerusalem in AD 70 just as the Romans sack the place. A boy is given a secret to guard and take away. The narrative then moves on to Nazi Germany in 1944 and then modern day Egypt. Sounds a bit like a Dan Brown thriller, so looking forward to really getting into it.
L: What genre do you typically read?
S: My preferred genres are historical, fantasy, crime or thriller/war. Historically – I tend to lean towards classical (Roman/Greek) or pre-history. I love the pagan gods, the ancient warfare and the everyday living of the ancients. On the fantasy front – anything magical, mystical or involving fae, goblins etc. I know this will be an unpopular opinion, but I’m not enormously into dragons – especially when they talk. Just not my thing. It might be fantasy, but I want to believe it… Crime has to be well written for me. I work in the police service in a civilian role for my day job, but know enough when I’m reading something to be able to identify it as just inaccurate or if it stretches the imagination too far. If I’m reading war books, I tend to stick with WWI & WWII – especially if it’s aviation related. I used to hold a private pilot’s licence and fly for fun, but raising a family is an expensive business, so I had to knock that particular pastime on the head. Still love aeroplanes though – especially vintage ones…
L: For aspiring writers out there, what would be the best advice you want them to know?
S: Just do it. If you have a story in you then let it out. Don’t be daunted by the first draft – it doesn’t matter if it’s full of errors as you’ll be editing and amending it later on. The important thing is to get it written down first. And edit, edit, edit… All my books have gone through ten incarnations each before I hit the publish button – and you’ll need a second set of eyes to read it too. You get blind to typos in your own work, but someone else will pick them up.
Finally, ‘Never Give Up On Your Dream…’ That quote comes from someone I greatly admire. She’s an outstanding musician, but because she’s a little different, the music industry wouldn’t touch her. Through sheer hard work and determination she has created her own brand and now does sell out world tours. That’s after being told by the ‘experts’ that she was no good and should quit. I almost gave up several times whilst writing my first book of my Eyedore trilogy, but each time I remembered her and her back story and that quote, and it got me through. I now have a completed trilogy with terrific reviews… Believe in yourself, and keep going – you can do it…
I was born in the county of Essex in the UK and I still live there with my wife and family. I have a day job, but I write Young Adult fantasy books in my spare time for fun, and to escape the madness of the modern world. I grew up reading a diet of books on folklore, myths, and legends, and this is now reflected in my Faerie based Eyedore Trilogy. Using folklore knowledge gained over forty years, I have created the magical world of Eyedore, inhabiting it with Fae folk who are rather more traditional than the modern concept we are more familiar with today. I like to sum them up like this:
‘I have made my Fae folk somewhat like us. They don’t have wings, some are magical and some are not. Size wise, they are comparable with humans, yet smaller in stature. They are based on Faerie belief prior to the Victorian period, before the more familiar, current day concept was created. The world in which they live reflects different historical periods through the architecture and folk customs. My Fae are all very nature orientated and Pagan in their beliefs…’
A Faerie’s Tale – ‘A Faerie’s Tale’ is a fantasy based novel moving between the modern human world and the Faerie Realm. This book is aimed at Young Adults betwen the ages of 12 – 99.’Cast out into the human world and branded a thief, Willow a woman of the Faerie realm is unable to return home.Without assistance she will perish and her lands and property will be taken from her. Abducted by those who would do her harm she is followed back into her own world by her human allies who assist in claiming back her family heritage. Danger and the threat of death are never far away and only perseverance and a little luck will see them through…’
Buy it here!
A Faerie’s Destiny: Book II of The Eyedore Trilogy – This is a prequel to book I of The Eyedore Trilogy, ‘A Faerie’s Tale’ and charts the early life of Willow and her family…‘At only two summers old Willow witnesses the birth of her baby brother and the subsequent death of her mother, Rowan. She goes to live an idyllic life at Oak Hall with her father and her uncle Flint. But unbeknown to Willow, her uncle harbours dark ambitions and aims to overthrow his brother and take everything. From the moment she arrives at Oak Hall Willow is in mortal danger, but she has an unknown protector who mentors her and prepares her for the coming conflict…’
Buy it here!
A Faerie’s Blood: Book III of the Eyedore trilogy – ‘A Faerie’s Blood’ is book III of The Eyedore Trilogy and completes the series. This book begins where book I ended (book II being a prequel to the original story ‘A Faerie’s Tale’…)With Willow abducted by Flint for a second time her friends must rally round once more to come to her aid. But this time, without Cinder they must turn to the witch Nightshade for magical assistance.But when full blown war finally breaks out between the forces of darkness and light it is only Willow who is capable of saving the day, and through her Moon Goddess she invokes an ancient and lethal power.But that power comes with a high cost and at the same time it reveals a dark secret that threatens to tear Willow’s family apart forever…
Buy it here!