I've enjoyed Holly Schindler's books for several years now. She writes for multi-generational audiences so I thought I would pick a few of my favorites and ask Holly a few questions about each one.
MFPT:Your latest release is HOW BIG IS A HEART? Why did you decide to write a picture book? Where did the idea come from?
HS: I’ve had the text for a long time. Years, actually. I nearly sold it to a publisher at the very beginning of my career, but the deal ultimately fell through, even though the publisher felt that the writing was strong…so much so, they held onto the manuscript for a considerable amount of time.
Recently, indie publishing has allowed me to branch out in new ways. I’ve done quite a bit of cover art and even illustrative work for younger readers. I’ve always loved this story, and felt it could really be of help to expanding families. I used Rebelle, a great digital watercolor program, to create the textured hearts throughout (the idea with the art was to highlight the text, not overshadow it).
I’m really pleased with the final results, and I’m so glad to finally get this book into the hands of readers!
MFPT: I loved the book and think it is the perfect read for children who will be getting a new brother or sister in the family! And I loved the artwork!
MFPT: THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY is an MG that focuses on a young girls’
HS: I’ve always really loved reinvented objects. My parents bought and sold antiques, so I was always going to auctions with them. You can usually find some of those repurposed items at farm auctions—the Coke crate that’s now a stool, the old burlap sack that’s been embroidered with wildflowers, that sort of thing. I love seeing people’s creative minds at work—love seeing how they’ve taken something that really should be headed for the trash and given it a new life. (As a side-note, that’s a big part of why I chose to include so many metaphors and similes throughout the book. Auggie’s always making comparisons in her mind, seeing, for example, how a rusted pipe really is “like” a flower stem. That language shows what kind of artistic eye she has.)
I also love checking out folk art environments. If you Google them, you can find a ton of just incredible places: The Watts Towers in LA, the Orange Show in Texas, the Whirligig Park in North Carolina, even Bishop Castle in Colorado. What’s great about these environments is that they’re pieces of art you can actually go (or live!) inside, unlike paintings that simply hang on the wall.
MFPT: I absolutely loved this book! Auggie and her Grandfather were so talented and I loved their creativity and their relationship. Such a wonderful story with so many lessons in it, accepting others and being your own person to name a couple.
MFPT: FERAL is a fantastic YA psychological thriller. Your previous YAs had been realistic. Why the switch?
HS: At its core, FERAL is about what it takes to recover from a violent act. (Claire, the MC, survives a brutal retaliatory gang beating at the beginning of the book.) The psychological thriller is a genre that strives to keep people constantly on-edge—which is how it must feel to suffer from PTSD. In researching the condition, I learned that in extreme cases, those suffering from PTSD can occasionally suffer from hallucinations as well. Finding that out was a big part of weaving the story threads together for FERAL.
Even though FERAL incorporates many elements of the thriller, it also does introduce many aspects or issues you’d expect to find in realistic YA fiction. Specifically, it focuses on issues related to friendship. Claire’s beating occurs after she stands up for her best friend. As she recovers, her friend’s life continues on as before, while Claire is scarred (physically and emotionally). We all brag we’d do anything for our friends—even give up our lives for them. But FERAL addresses the aftermath and asks, “Would you really not have any resentments? Especially at such a young age? How could your friendship continue on?” It’s a smaller thread, but a truly important part of the book.
MFPT: FERAL was haunting! But also there were so many different layers to it. I think it is a fantastic YA book!
MFPT: FOREVER FINLEY is my absolute favorite. You wrote it as a monthly serial. Did you know where you were going at the beginning? Or did it come as a surprise to you?
I didn’t intend on writing an entire series. To begin with, I wrote a short story called “Come December.” I originally thought it’d be a stand-alone holiday short story. But I wound up moving a surprising number of copies; the story introduced me to a slew of new readers. I thought it’d be a shame not to expand on it.
Of course, the most obvious way to extend the story would be to pick up again with Natalie (the MC of “Come December”). But I was actually more intrigued by the setting. What kind of magical place would allow Natalie to meet George in “Come December”? I started brainstorming, and I discovered that I wanted the town of Finley to be the thread tying all the stories together.
Even then, the ending remained elusive. It was honestly the most “pantsing” I’ve ever done putting any large work together. I didn’t realize how integral the cemetery caretaker was until about halfway through. That character was the piece that helped me pull it all together at the end!
MFPT: Well the ending totally surprised me! I loved getting a new installment each month! I looked forward to finding out what piece of the puzzle was going to be next. This is a new cover for the whole compilation and I love it! It is perfect, and captures the whole essence of the story.
MFPT: MILES LEFT YET centers around the latter years of life. I LOVE IT! Did you do research? How did you capture the tone so well?
HS: I live in a multi-generational household. So that’s given me a bit of firsthand knowledge about issues or feelings that can pop up at that time of life. And to be honest, I’m hitting the age myself where I now also find myself drifting toward stories that feature slightly older main characters. I love going on a journey with a character who’s had significant life-altering experiences—it adds a different dimension, allows them to choose different paths than a younger character would take.
Even in juvenile lit, the age of your characters dictates the level of mobility or independence. A fourth grader can’t drive a car or have the same kind of access to money as a high school junior. The same is true with adult characters. Adults of different ages have different access to tools, contacts, funding, etc. They have different responsibilities and concerns (employment, marriage, children, health, among others). It can have a big impact on your protagonist’s journey.
MFPT: I too am getting to "that age" so MILES LEFT YET totally resonated with me! I loved that we got to meet up with Norma again in the town of Finley.
MFPT: What’s it like to write for so many age groups? Why have you chosen to be so varied in your work?
HS: When I took the headfirst plunge into full-time writing, I didn’t know where the first “yes” would come from, so I tried everything: romance, mystery, literary fiction. To pay my bills, I was teaching music lessons out of the house—my young students inspired me to start writing for younger readers. But I’ve continued writing for different ages, in different genres. I love looking at the world through the eyes of such different characters!
MFPT: These are my favorites of Holly's books. Each one spoke to me in a different way and caused me to contemplate the characters long after closing the final pages. Thanks so much Holly for writing such fantastic books! Each of the books I have featured have been reviewed here on my blog. If you want to know more about them you can check out those reviews by clicking on the Review tab. Holly has numerous other books out that you can check out on Amazon or hopefully your local library!
One last word from Holly:
GIVEAWAY: I’ve recently updated the cover of FOREVER FINLEY. To celebrate the release, I’m giving away a review copy (e-book or paperback). To enter, just shoot me an email: hollyschindlerbooks (at) gmail (dot) com.
You can also find all of my books at my Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Holly-Schindler/e/B003E3TJ7UOr learn more at my author site: HollySchindler.com