1--What is the title of your latest release?
2--What’s the “elevator pitch” for your new book?
A college professor must reckon with her past when she inherits a cabin, and with it, the ghosts who haunted her childhood. Enthralled by the century-year-old journal of young Carson Quinn, Caroline McAlister sets out to exonerate him for the murder of his brother, only to discover a love she didn’t know she was looking for. Historical and atmospheric, Hemlock Hollow is an Appalachian requiem soaked in love, loss, and redemption.
3--How did you decide where your book was going to take place?
This novel was inspired by my family’s real cabin in the mountains of Western North Carolina. I had long been fascinated by the history and geography of the region, and much of this novel came from the historical research I did about the area.
4--Would you hang out with your protagonist in real life?
There are two timelines in Hemlock Hollow, so two protagonists: Caroline McAlister and Carson Quinn. Caroline would be great to hang out with. She’s an archaeologist who loves the outdoors and has a habit of dating bad boys. Carson shows up through his century-old journal that she discovers. Since he’s dead, hanging out with him would require a Ouija board. Not that that didn’t stop Caroline.
5--What are three words that describe your protagonist?
Smart, awkward, and persistent for Caroline. Precocious, smitten, and perhaps murderer would describe Carson. You’d have to read the book to find out, though.
6--What’s something you learned while writing this book?
I learned a lot writing this book, as it’s my debut novel (which doesn’t mean it’s the first novel I wrote.) I’m still learning a lot as I work through the publication process and the promotion process for the first time. Perhaps the most impactful lesson is the power that comes from persistence combined with passion. I worked on this manuscript off and on for 18 years. I wrote an entire first draft, of which not a single sentence survived to the final draft. I tossed it, rewrote it, edited it, revised it, and edited it again until it was something I was satisfied with. It’s easy now with a book in hand to say “persistence paid off.” But persistence was a manifestation of my passion. I loved doing the work. I loved the history I was learning, and most of all, I loved the mountains themselves that I was writing about. I don’t know that I would have stuck with it were it not for being tapped into my passion.
7--Do you edit as you draft or wait until you are totally done?
I tend to edit as I go. I typically start my writing session by editing what I wrote in the prior session. It gets the creative juices flowing.
8--What’s your favorite foodie indulgence?
Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream.
9--Describe your writing space/office!
I’m lucky to have a dedicated room that serves as my office. I have a nice hand-me-down desk from my in-laws, a bookcase full of books, and good southern light that comes through during the day. But I often wind up writing on my laptop in the dark in my easy chair, because during the pandemic my writing office became my workspace for my day job. It helps the creativity to remove myself from where I do spend most of my time.
10--Who is an author you admire?
There are a lot of authors I admire, from Barbara Kingsolver to Ron Rash to Lee Smith. But the author whose life has impacted mine the most is Carl Sandburg. He was the poet of the people during the 1920s, became the preeminent biographer of Abraham Lincoln, and lived the last 22 years of his life in Flat Rock, North Carolina. He was an activist and an artist. He wrought poetry from of the lives of men and women whose labor made this country into what it is today.
11--Is there a book that changed your life?
I’m sure there’s more than one book that has changed my life. The first book I read that wasn’t for school was a Louis L’Amour book when I was around ten or eleven years old. I’m sure the discovery that books could be entertaining in addition to educational changed the course of my life. But the one book that stands out is The World According to Garp by John Irving, which I read as a senior in high school. Garp opened my eyes to the fact that writing can be a profession and led me to believe that was a future I could aspire to.
12--Tell us about when you got “the call.” (when you found out your book was going to be published)/Or, for indie authors, when you decided to self-publish.
It kind of snuck up on me. I had “finished” Hemlock Hollow multiple times, sending it out to agents, getting feedback, revising, and re-submitting. Eventually, I ran across this independent publishing house called Regal House Publishing that had published work similar to mine, and I submitted a query to them. They came back a month later and requested the full manuscript. They apparently liked it because soon I found myself on a Zoom call with Jaynie Royal, the Editor-in-Chief, and Pam Van Dyk, the Managing Editor. We talked for about an hour before I realized they wanted to publish the book.
13--What’s your favorite genre to read?
I’ll read any genre. I like westerns, thrillers, fantasy, mystery, sci/fi, and Southern Lit, among others. But my favorite books tend to lean literary or up-market with a social justice lens, like Barbara Kingsolver, Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, John Steinbeck, Isabel Allende, or Kurt Vonnegut.
14--What’s your favorite movie?
Dead Poets’ Society
15--What is your favorite season?
I love that I live in a place (North Carolina) where I get to experience all four seasons. I enjoy them all, but if I had to pick a season to live in forever it would be summer. I love being outside, swimming, hiking, and soaking up the sunshine.
16--How do you like to celebrate your birthday?
I’m not a big birthday person, but I do usually take the day off if I’m not traveling. I like it to be a low-key day spent hiking in the woods or swimming in the river.
17--What’s a recent tv show/movie/book/podcast you highly recommend?
Right now, I’m addicted to Better Call Saul. The last book I read was Damnation Spring, by Ash Davidson. Set in the 1970s in the logging world of the Pacific Northwest, it’s a gripping, well-written novel that captures a time and place as well as any book I’ve read.
18--What’s your favorite type of cuisine?
As with book genres, I like a variety of different cuisines, but my favorite is probably Indian. I love the mix of colors and flavors and textures of food made with great care.
19--What do you do when you have free time?
Free time? What is that? When I have it, I tend to spend it outdoors. I hike and paddle quite a bit in the area close to where I live as well as in the mountains of western North Carolina.
20--What can readers expect from you next?
I’m working on a novel set in Western North Carolina during the Civil War that follows the exploits of a little-known secret organization that worked to support the Union from within a Confederate state. It occupies similar territory as Hemlock Hollow and includes a couple of Carson Quinn’s relatives, only earlier in their lives.
Caroline McAlister, college professor and life-long skeptic, is reeling from the loss of her father and her marriage. Her once promising career has come to a standstill. When her father bequeaths the family cabin to her, it comes with a ghost who haunted her childhood. When she discovers a century-old journal in the attic, she awakens the voice of Carson Quinn. The journal reveals Carson's love for the same hollow that enthralled Caroline growing up. A little sleuthing uncovers rumors that the kind, curious boy in the journal grew up to murder his brother. Caroline plunges into the project of exonerating Carson, only to find herself in the throes of a personal past she's spent her life trying to avoid. Hemlock Hollow is about how we forever haunt the places we love and how they haunt us in return.
Suspense Psychological [Regal House Publishing, On Sale: December 6, 2022, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781646032860 / ]
Culley Holderfield learned to love storytelling on the porch of a cabin in the mountains of North Carolina. After graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill, he ventured to South America, Africa, and Europe. When not writing or working in community development finance, he spends his time hiking, paddling, and wandering the outdoors. His short stories and poetry have appeared in a variety of publications. Hemlock Hollow is his debut novel. He lives in Durham, NC.
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