The fabulous Nancy Holder took some time out of her busy writing to answer a few questions for us about writing for Buffy, Angel and the iconic Nancy Drew series.
You’ve gone from a romance writer to a horror writer to a short story writer – what are the challenges you find in writing in these different genres? Are they different or are they same?
I sold five novels before I ever sold a short story. There used to be a truism that you had to sell short stories before you “moved up” to novels. Thank goodness I didn’t listen to that! I’d still probably be trying to sell my first short story. The challenges of writing a short story are equal to a novel. Some people don’t bother with writing short stories because the pay is usually low compared to a novel, while they’re equally difficult to work on.
I’m writing a lot of young adult fiction including horror and dark fantasy, in addition to romance and paranormal romance. Almost everything I write has an element of the weird, although I did start out writing short contemporary romance for both adults and young adults, and I absolutely loved it. I’ve written short mysteries and science fiction as well.
Has any other genre caught your interest enough to want to write in?
I’d love to write and sell a screenplay or teleplay.
You’ve also written books for TV series, including Buffy and Angel, including the very first Buffy novel with Christopher Golden – how did that come about?
I had written a Highlander novel and a lot of horror. My friend Scott Ciencin told me that Random House was bidding on the rights to Buffy. I told Chris and asked him to write with me. RH didn’t get the rights–Simon and Schuster did–and we found out who the editor was and pitched her asap. We had a greenlight in less than forty-eight hours, and had to turn the book in in 3 1/2 weeks. The day we said yes was the day my fulltime babysitter quit. Talk about nervous.
What are the unexpected differences that you’ve found writing for a series compared to one of your novels?
When I’m writing for a series, I try to write “more of” rather than “more than.” I’m not there to break new ground. I’m there in service of the show–to portray it as close to how I see it on the screen as I can. That said, there’s a lot more freedom in writing for a well-established series because you can write a tragic story, then a caper, then a time-travel–whatever you’re allowed. When you’re writing your own thing, you don’t necessarily have that much flexibility. Some contemporary romance authors would love to write historicals, but their agents and editors discourage them because they’re already “branded.” THat doesn’t happen in tie-ins, although anything I write can be vetoed and to thrive as a tie-in writer, you have to say, “Okay, no problem,” and continue on doing the best you can.
And then to go on to teach a course about it at university – I think that would have gone to the top of my class list had my media course included anything similar! What was the general reception to the course from students, and perhaps generally? What were some of the unexpected reactions that you had to the course?
I’ve taught a number of classes at university–a culture investigation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer; short fiction; horror fiction; irrealism, etc. My undergraduate students were inquistive and a little shy about confessing that they wanted to sell something. I now teach in the Stonecoast MFA in creative writing program offered through the University of Southern Maine. My students are clearer about wanting to have careers, and working toward that end. I really enjoy teaching. At various stages of my life, I’ve started grad school to become a speech therapist and a special education teacher. I’ve taught all kinds of classes to kids and I find it very rewarding.
I recently found out that you also wrote a novel for the Nancy Drew series, one of my favorite books growing up – perhaps this might be too general, but what was it like stepping into write something for such an iconic, well known character?
I was absolutely thrilled to become a Carolyn Keene. I have a little Nancy Drew bracelet I bought for myself and I wear it with great pride. Writing Nancy Drew was definitely one of the highlights of my career.
Is there any other character/book series you would like to write for like that?
It’s more like shows or movies I’d like to write books for. I just queried about the EVIL DEAD reboot. I was thrilled to write for SAVING GRACE and, recently, TEEN WOLF. Buffy and Angel, of course!
You’ve co-authored the Wicked series with Debbie Viguie, and then had the book optioned to be made into a movie – how is that progressing? Will you have any input into the movie? Have you and Debbie ever discussed who would be your dream cast for the movie?
The option has expired, but could be renewed. After all, Wicked went out of print years before it resurfaced and hit the New York Times list! Debbie and I have worked and reworked our dream cast many times. Jensen Ackles, Zoe Saldana, Molly Quinn. Lots of folks!
You have written many titles with co-authors, something that you obviously enjoy. But, is there anything about co-authoring a title with someone that you found difficult to adjust to?
I love working with someone else, but in the early days it was difficult to achieve that “one voice” rather there her/his bits and my bits. With Debbie we do it very well, and we really enjoy each other’s company.
Can you tell our readers a little bit about your contribution to ‘Dear Bully’? How have your experiences as a child/teenager with bullying influenced your writing through your career?
I wrote about being a very popular–the “good” popular–girl, who still became a bully. I was so nice–class president, yearbook editor, etc., and yet I succumbed to hurting people’s feelings on purpose,sometimes to get a reaction, other times to be cool. It has actually helped my writing a lot, because people are not all good or all bad. They’re complicated. And I know this from firsthand experience.
Thank you, Nancy!
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