Psychotherapist Debra Holland, Ph.D is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of the Montana Sky Series, sweet, historical Western romance. She’s a three-time Romance Writers of America Golden Heart finalist and one-time winner. In 2013, Amazon selected Starry Montana Sky as a top 50 greatest love stories pick. Her latest book is Beyond Montana’s Sky.
Dr. Debra is also the author of The Gods’ Dream Saga (fantasy romance) and the nonfiction books, The Essential Guide to Grief and Grieving and Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude: a Ten-Minute eBook. She’s a contributing author to The Naked Truth About Self-Publishing.
Learn more about her at https://debraholland.com
We’re here today with the multi-talented author Debra Holland, who will be talking about her award winning Montana Sky series and her writing.
Jann: You may have had a slow beginning, but when Wild Montana Sky made its debut in 2011, your writing career took off like a shooting star that is still shinning!! There are more than 28 books in this award-winning series. What is your secret to creating these wonderful characters and books?
Debra: Wait, there’s a secret? Haha. I don’t know the answer. I’ve had a lot of Montana Sky stories in my head for a long time, years in some cases. I’d often write the first scene of a book long before it was time to write that book. Then I keep a file on each story idea and add snippets as they come to me.
By this time, my town of Sweetwater Springs and the people in it are very real to me. That helps when creating new stories.
Jann: Do you think this series could someday come to an end?
Debra: Luckily, I have plenty more Montana Sky stories in my head. Getting them on paper…that’s always the hard part. I do plan to move to Montana Sky contemporaries at some point.
Debra: Yes and yes. The problem is that the fantasy series (The Gods’ Dream Saga) doesn’t sell nearly as well as the historical series. So it makes more sense to write Montana Sky stories. In fact, I priced the ebook of Lywin’s Quest book one of Twinborne Trilogy at $9.99, because I’m hoping no one will buy it. I don’t want to feel guilty for not (yet) finishing that series.
Jann: You have a busy schedule as Dr. Debra Holland, psychotherapist and corporate crisis/grief counselor. How do you keep your life balanced?
Debra: I don’t do anything full time. Pre-Covid, I spent a day at my office seeing psychotherapy clients, and the corporate crisis/grief work would drop on me any time and last for a few hours to several days. I’d write on the days I wasn’t working as a psychotherapist. (During Covid I’d saw people on Zoom.)
But I also carry around my laptop or hardcopy pages of my book, so I can write or edit between seeing clients.
I’ve been working almost full-time at a hospital since February, which is unusual for me. The job is supposed to last until the end of July. Unfortunately, the hospital staff are busy, work long shifts, and have a mentally tough mindset, so they haven’t really been coming to me for counseling in the way they should. So I’ve had a lot of time to write.
Jann: Tell us about Montana Sky Publishing? How did it come about?
Debra: Amazon approached me to open up a Montana Sky Kindle World, where authors wrote in my “world” and uploaded the books to the Kindle World portal. The authors would have a contract with Amazon, and I wouldn’t have anything to do with the editing or publishing process. So I invited many of my friends to write MSKW stories. Then, after a few years, Amazon closed down Kindle Worlds, stranding my authors.
So, feeling guilty, I opened a publishing company for those books as well as for new ones. A lot of my authors are from OCC—Louella Nelson, Linda Carroll-Bradd, Kristy Phillips, Alexis Montgomery, Patricia Thayer (Pat Wright,) Shauna Roberts (a former member,) and the late Linnea Alexis (Joyce Ward).
I’m slowly putting the books into audio, starting with Louella Nelson’s Harper Ranch Series, and OCC member Mary Castillo is our awesome narrator.
Jann: You have a great website. How involved were you in its creation?
Debra: Very involved. The same company has done all my websites–my writer’s site, my professional site, and the Montana Sky Publishing site. The graphics were done by another OCC member, Lex Valentine.
Jann: What are you working on now?
Debra: It’s been a year since I published Beyond Montana’s Sky. I’m jumping around between a novella trilogy and two other novellas and a contemporary short story.
I’ve also written three long nonfiction articles for medium.com.
But what I’ve really been working on since December is adapting both the Montana Sky Series and The Gods’ Dream Saga into television streaming series. Writing a pilot involved a whole new learning curve. So it’s been a lot of work (about four drafts each) but also a lot of fun. I’ve been working with industry mentors (a different one for each series) and the pilots are ready to go out.
But before that, I’ll have to put together a pitch document, which is almost as much work as writing the pilots and not nearly as much fun. Actually, not fun at all!
I have Sower of Dreams in a screenwriting contest and so far it’s moved through being a semi-finalist to a quarter-finalist. Luckily, if it actually becomes a finalist, I can exchange the script for the latest one, which is a lot different than the original.
Jann: Do you find yourself returning to certain themes in your stories? What? Why?
Debra: As a grief counselor, I have a lot of themes of loss and grief and moving through painful challenges to find love and happiness.
Jann: What’s the worst writing advice you ever received?
Debra: The worst advice is an author or guru who tells you to write a certain way. (I’m not talking issues of craft, which is something all writers need to learn.) I think everyone has their own writing style and what works for one person won’t work for another. That doesn’t mean you can’t experiment to see if something will work for you. But stay true to yourself.
Jann: Have you ever suffered writer’s block? If so, how did/do you get past it?
Debra: Not really. There might come a part in the story where I’m stalled, mostly because I’m missing what comes next or how to make the story work. Sometimes, I just skip that section and keep on writing. I’ll go back and finish it when I figure it out. Other times, I’ll stop and take a day or two to think through what comes next, sometimes brainstorming with another author or authors.
Jann: Where can we get your books?
Debra: All my books are on Amazon.
Jann: Do you have a website, blog, twitter where fans might read more about you and your books?
Thank you Debra for spending time here on A Slice of Orange. It’s been a real pleasure. Have a Happy 4th of July everyone!!
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by Louella Nelson
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