Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Complicated families and Hollywood life: an interview with Hollie Overton

Kia ora and haere mai, welcome to the ninth instalment of 9mm for 2018, and the 181st overall edition of our long-running author interview series!

Thanks for reading over the years. I've had a lot of fun talking to some amazing crime writers and bringing their thoughts and stories to you. You can check out the full list of of past interviewees here. What a line-up. Thanks everyone.

If you've got a favourite crime writer who hasn't yet been part of the 9mm series, please do let me know in the comments or by message, and I'll look to make that happen for you. We've got a few more interviews with cool writers 'already in the can' that will be published soon, so lots to look forward to over the coming weeks and months.

Today I'm very pleased to welcome the remarkable Hollie Overton to Crime Watch. Hollie burst onto the crime writing scene a couple of years ago with her internationally bestselling debut BABY DOLL, which was a Richard & Judy Book Club pick in the UK and has been translated into several  languages. In BABY DOLL, Lily Riser is abducted as a sixteen year old and finally escapes eight years later with her six-year-old daughter. The story focuses on what happens after her escape, as she tries to reconnect with her family (including her twin sister), and bring a man that no-one in the town would suspect to justice. The great Tess Gerritsen called Hollie's debut "a brilliant first novel that kept me transfixed and entertained until the very last page", one of many great reviews it received.

While BABY DOLL was her debut novel, Hollie was already an experienced storyteller, having worked as a television writer in Hollywood, after studying acting in New York. She'd moved to Hollywood for acting, only to fall in love with working behind the camera. After earning a place in the coveted Warner Brothers Writers Workshop, Hollie wrote for the final season of hit crime drama Cold Case, then worked on television series The Client List and Shadowhunters.

Her books are psychological thrillers featuring characters dealing with complicated family dynamics, something Hollie experienced growing up. She and her twin sister were adopted when only days old. Her father was part of the notorious Overton gang in Texas, spent time in prison for manslaughter, and Hollie and her sister were raised by a single mother after her father's addictions consumed him.

Hollie's second novel, THE WALLS, was released last summer, and is the story of a woman working on death row to support her son and ill father, who meets a man who seems perfect only for him to become abusive after their wedding. How far would she go to protect her family? Hollie's third novel THE RUNAWAY, comes out later this year, and is the story of an LAPD psychologist and foster mother who travels into Los Angeles' criminal underworld in search of her missing foster child.

But for now, Hollie Overton becomes the latest crime writer to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective? 
I love Patrick Kenzie from Dennis Lehane’s Kenzie-Gennaro series. No matter how dark and depraved the world Patrick’s drawn into, he always maintains his sense of humor and sense of decency. That’s what makes you root for him.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why? 
I always have a hard time naming one book that shaped my love for reading because I was such a voracious reader and I feel like they all combined to influence me. But I credit Mary Higgins Clark for being one of my early influences in the crime genre. I read her novels when I was young (probably too young for the subject matter) and they had a profound effect on me. Her female heroines were always strong and complicated and willing to do whatever it took to survive. 

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles? 
When I was nine, I wrote a terrible crime thriller about a Hollywood starlet who was framed for a murder. Then in a fit of self-doubt, I threw it away. It took me many years to stop listening to that voice. Most of the writing I did was just for me. Years later though, I wrote a short screenplay which won a writing contest and that gave me the confidence to pursue screenwriting and I eventually landed work writing TV. Of course I always wanted to write a book but it was intimidating. I told myself I’d do it if the right idea came along. Thankfully when the idea for BABY DOLL began to percolate, I listened.

Outside of writing, touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise? 
I’m going to sound very LA when I discuss my leisure activities so I apologize in advance. I love doing yoga and hiking with friends. The foodie scene in LA is amazing, so my twin sister, Heather and I are always trying new restaurants. Living in California there are so many amazing places you can drive to so sometimes my husband and I pick a place we haven’t been to and head off for the weekend.

What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?  
When people visit Hollywood, they do the typical sightseeing, the walk of fame, Venice Beach, etc. But you’d be surprised by how much interesting culture and art LA has to offer. The Getty Museum is beautiful and always has fantastic exhibits on display as well as gardens to explore and lots of great restaurant options for lunch of dinner. If you’re going to the beach, you should also visit The Getty Malibu. It’s located steps from the ocean and is a quintessential Californian attraction.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you? 
Jessica Chastain or Amy Adams would be ideal! I’m not picky.

Of your writings, which is your favourite, and why? 
I took a memoir class and wrote a series of non-fiction essays about my sometimes turbulent childhood. Years later those essays helped land me a literary manager and get lots of meetings for film and TV so those will always be close to my heart.

What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf? 
When BABY DOLL sold, I kept saying to myself “this too good to be true”. Right up until publication, I held my breath hoping they wouldn’t change their minds. I was so excited. One of my favorite neighborhood restaurants, Fat Dog, has an outdoor patio that allows dogs, so my sister, husband, and Stevie, my dog went to dinner to celebrate.

A week later, I took five of my closest girlfriends who had supported me through it all to to dinner. After almost two years of working on BABY DOLL, this felt like an occasion that deserved more than one celebration. The other major highlight of my publishing journey was the BABY DOLL book launch. Over a hundred friends and family turned up to hear me read from the book and buy copies. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival? 
I’m still new to author events and so far I’ve had nothing but wonderful experiences. But I’m kind of looking forward to having more stories to tell.

Thank you Hollie. We appreciate you chatting to Crime Watch. 

You can learn more about Hollie Overton and her thrilling tales at her website, and follow her on Twitter

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