It’s time for another Cuppa and Catchup! Today we have the lovely Holly Raychelle Hughes on the blog. Holly’s a fiction writer and essayist who has written about the many pitfalls for people trying to get by in the film production and creative industry, as well as her own painful experiences. She wants to see a safer, more respectful Hollywood, where everyone is treated with dignity and can speak freely of their troubles without fear. She’s also my friend and fellow Pitch to Publication comrade. 🙂
Hi there, Holly! Thank you for stopping by the blog 🙂 Tell us a little about yourself and what you’re working on at the moment.
Thanks so much for inviting me to visit, Rachel! I’m a writer juggling querying and revisions on a young adult manuscript called DEAR DEAD DRUNK GIRL.
When I’m not hitting refresh on my inbox, I’m working on character development for my next young adult book. I also I try to write several essays a month, too. And when I’m not writing I’m in my office working as an intuitive healer and medium.
A comic called GLITTERBOMB was recently released by IMAGE comics. At the back of the comic is an essay you wrote about a pretty difficult time you had while working in film production. Do you have any advice for anyone going through something similar?
That’s a really interesting question and hard to answer. I think if you love being a creative person and want to make it in Hollywood there are going to be many hurdles. If it’s your passion you’re gonna jump over them.
You’ll endure the long hours and brag about making it through a 26 hour long work day and then commuting over an hour and not falling asleep at the wheel.
You’ll share stories of working with actors who are kind and others who are jerks. You’ll pull off a miracle or two and never get credit.
You may cross a few lines you never thought you would and you may even get to see your name scroll by in the credits.
My wish would be that as you jump over the hurdles and obstacles in your way, you remember to reach out and help others over the hurdles.
Don’t let the fear of never working again stop you from calling out bad behaviour. Fight for yourself. Know when to make noise and when to walk away. Have a trusted friend and watch your back.
When sharing what you experienced with others, how do you find people react generally? Does anyone ever mention experiencing similar treatment?
When my first essay went live, I didn’t even know it. It was published without my final edits and strangers on Twitter started following me and saying kind things.
I wrote the essay because I looked at my daughter and I want to show her she has power. She matters and has a voice and I really wanted her to know if someone does her wrong- there’s no need to stay.
Everything that’s come from sharing my story is a surprise. All sorts of people have found me on social media and been supportive and even men in film and television apologized for what happened to me, on behalf of those who should have. Several colleagues of mine have shared similar stories of their harassment, but 20 years later they’re still too afraid to speak up or publicly support me because they’re afraid they’ll get blacklisted. The fear of not working and losing their livelihood is real.
Aside from writing essays, you’re also querying a novel. Please tell us all about it!
I’m in a very good place and don’t want to jinx it so I’d prefer if readers are curious they stop by my website.
I’m always curious to know what sparks a certain idea in a writer’s head. Do you remember how this story first came to be?
The main character, Mary, was a secondary character in a previous book I wrote and I fell deeply in love with her sass and voice. She kept me up at night with her hijinx and I knew I had to write her story. Her voice has a beat and her pain was intoxicating thing that I just had to help her heal.
Who’s your favourite character from your novel and why?
Mary all the way. Mary is a hot mess in the best possible way. Her feelings overwhelm her, she’s raw and an alcoholic who doesn’t sugar coat anything. She loves her sister and makes mistakes, but ultimately doesn’t let her mistakes define her. She doesn’t let what happens to her in life make her a victim.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from writing?
Writing is hard. People who don’t write don’t always value the hard work and determination it takes. Writers sit for hours a day, crafting a story for no pay with the possibility that no one may ever read what can take years to write and revise.
Writing a novel takes immeasurable self-determination, hope, and a bit of delusional thinking.
A writer must believe in their story and believe their story matters. They must fight for it when no one else will.
We met through Pitch to Publication 2016 and have commiserated may a time over our writing and querying woes! Do you have any quick and dirty querying tips to share?
I wish I knew something magical to make the querying process easier. Write a bad query and have a CP read it and then fix it. There’s so much out there on querying, find a resource that speaks to you and your work and use it.
The hardest lesson for me to learn was this: Last year I was ready to query, but my book wasn’t. That was a hard pill to swallow. Really. Hard. Once my ego got over the fact agents didn’t like the story the way it was written, I got a R&R and did a major revision. It took me nearly 6 months to complete. That’s when I started getting bites.
Querying is about persistence, being open to explore revising what doesn’t work, and making friends across the pond who get you. 😊
Anything else you’re working on at the mo?
I am, but again, I don’t like talking about new ideas. It’s too rosy pink and raw to receive any feedback. I want to complete the entire first draft before I open the story up to any form of feedback. My friend Emma D Dryden says, “First drafts are for falling in love and being passionate without the inner editor.” I take that very much to heart.
On the blog, I like to talk about things writers can do to nurture their wellbeing. What do you enjoy doing to recharge your creative juices?
The best things for my writing are exercise and discipline. Neither is sexy. If I don’t exercise my brain gets anxiously carried away zooming in circles.
When I get out of my head, and am either dancing, walking outside, or doing yoga, an idea has room to sneak in and grab me.
I also totally get narcoleptic when working on a hard scene. So I’ll lay down with a blank notebook and pen next to me and as the ideas slide in through my subconscious I write them down. It’s not always easy to read my drowsy handwriting, but I won’t remember the idea if I don’t write it down.
Also, talking to friends in all phases of the process helps too. I talk and text my other writing friends and critique partners and read lots.
Are you reading any good books at the moment?
I have a pile of 17 books waiting to be read. Eep!
Do you have a favourite book? What is it and why?
I don’t. I have books that have made an impact on me, but no clear favorite.
Are there any books that you think every writer would benefit from reading?
Ooh, that’s interesting. I have no idea. I’m not the sort of person who’d make a statement like that. I do recommend reading outside a person’s comfort zone. One mentor, had me read books I’d never pick up– non-fiction books that were out of my league and filled with words way outside my 100-word vocabulary, and they made me think and re-evaluate my character’s perspectives.
Let’s talk about movies – what’s your favourite and why?
I so don’t have one. It took me years and years to recuperate from making film and television before I could enjoy movies again. all my brain saw when I looked on the screen was the cost of a location, did they lock down the street, shoot day for night? How many extras, how long the hair and make-up team worked on the actors and if I knew anyone who worked on it.
I’m moody, so my tastes range from Guardians of the Galaxy and Star Trek to Pride and Prejudice. Hidden Figures is my favorite film I saw this year.
What’s something you absolutely cannot live without and could never give up ever?
Cheese and dancing!
Tell us about one of your favourite fictional characters and why.
I love the Vampire Lestat. He’s everything I love in a character, he’s bold, annoying, delicious, flawed, he loves and destroys. I picked up Anne Rice’s novel at a bus station in London just before boarding a bus up to Scotland. I was so engrossed I didn’t even mind it when the bus broke down and we got stuck. Lestat seduced me with his first line.
Do you have an item of clothing that you can’t live without?
Absolutely- I love my bathrobe.
I love random facts! A cookie for you if you have one to share:
I’ve owned a pair of purple shoes since I was eleven years old. Not the same pair, mind you- but every year if the previous year’s shoes didn’t fit or wore out I replace them.
For the past ten plus years, whenever one wears out I get another pair of purple Uggs.
Thanks again for stopping by, Holly!