ABOUT THE BOOKA terrorist’s plot, the assassination of a prime minister, holds the key to an apocalyptic plan to destroy Europe’s economy. It’s impossible to stop, but one man doesn’t know enough to think the world can’t be saved. He’s no hero; not clever or capable, talented or tested. The Hollow Man is just trying to survive in an uncertain climate where terrorism is changing the rules of how we live.
INTERVIEW WITH PAUL HOLLIS
Paul, how did you get started writing and when did you become an “author?”
After retiring early from my day job, I used to sit with friends on the porch of my country home to reminisce. We spat tobacco juice into the yard as we took turns telling old stories. Okay, it was the local pub and none of us dipped or smoked. Curiously though, the group was always interested in my stories. One encouraged me to write a book about a few of my early exploits. She asked, “Do you have something better to do?” Apparently, I didn’t.
It was more fun than I imagined. The manuscript took a year to draft, rewrite several times, professionally edit, and publish. But I didn’t feel like a real author until I held a copy of the paperback in my hand.
That is an awesome feeling. What's your favorite thing about the writing process?
I love writing dialogue. This is where characters come to life. We can describe their idiosyncrasies and characteristics. We can position them with thoughts and feelings. We can thrust them into circumstances to watch them squirm. But what comes out of their mouths immediately adds a third dimension to their being and the character jumps off the page.
How long is your to-be-read list?
My to-be-read list is down to about twenty. It contains the latest from Michael Connelly, James Patterson, Jonathan Kellerman, Kathy Reichs, and Lee Child. I learn something about plotting, characters or building suspense every time I read their books.
What books do you currently have published?
To date, I have published one book called The Hollow Man.
The Hollow Man traces some of my experiences traveling through Europe as a young man. At the time, terrorism was on the rise and I had been assigned to learn as much as I could about it. Most early acts of terror were specific, personal and damage was focused on a distinct, definable enemy. But terrorism was beginning to change its strategy to the familiar, senseless chaos we recognize today. The death of political figures no longer seemed to bother us as much as these new, random attacks against our children. Targets of innocence became preferable for these people because this kind of shock and hurt hit closer to our hearts and the fear inside us grew larger with each incident.
How long have you been a writer?
My early life showed no signs of literary talent; in fact, I paid a girl to write a required poem for me in high school. But as they say, circumstances change. I entered university at the end of 1967 and fell into a blossoming subculture that reshaped my reality, figuratively and perhaps a little too literally. My majors became physiology and English literature so I could better understand people and maybe someday write about it. I began writing my own poetry and short subjects, but life happened soon after graduation. I placed all aspirations on hold and jumped into the world head first.
That is, until I retired from IBM in 2009. For forty years, something Ben Franklin said had bounced around my brain. “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing.” I thought I might cover both bases by writing about something I did as a young man. I’ve been a full-time writer since 2011.
How often do you tweet?
On average, I tweet about ten new and unique messages per day spread out more or less evenly over a sixteen hour period. With book marketing messages, I intersperse writing tips designed to help other writers with our craft.
I also retweet several hundred or more messages per day for followers. As important as my own tweets are to me, retweets demonstrate a real support of fellow authors and other followers. Retweets tell Twitter followers you have read and liked their tweet and believe it is valuable information more people should read. As a result of this mutual respect, my own tweets are retweeted dozens of time and reach as many as a half million viewers.
Many of my strongest relationships over the years have been cultivated via mutual support. The followers who help get your message out to potential customers are key to selling books. Along with an author website/page and the type of visibility coming only from wonderful bloggers and reviewers like you, Twitter should be considered another cornerstone of any author’s social media platform.
How do you feel about Facebook?
Facebook is great for connecting with old friends and virtual friends, watching animal videos, pretending you’re an amateur psychiatrist, making fun of what everyone is eating, and being glad you ate what you did. A Facebook poster also has the option to send posts directly to other forms of social media like Twitter in case anyone missed their misery, attempt at humor, or this morning’s waffle special at Denny’s.
But it also has its downside. This form of social media is very time-consuming and a total distraction from writing. Every time I login, Facebook is like the worst movie I’ve ever watched but for some reason only a neurologist can answer, I must see the end to feel complete. There is no easier way for me to crawl under the covers with procrastination.
For what would you like to be remembered?
I want readers to remember I was a decent writer who entertained them for a while.
What scares you the most?
The dead. Here’s the true story of how I got my nickname, Doc:
When I was in high school, I took a job as a clean-up guy in a very busy mortuary owned by twin brothers. A few days into the first week, I was sweeping the basement where bodies were kept for embalming prep. A scratching noise broke into the music in my head. I glanced up through the dim light and dust to see a body slowly rising from a metal gurney. Strange sounds were coming from beneath the sheet. The thing was between me and the door.
As I sprinted by, I used the end of the broom as a jousting pole, knocking the body backward off the table. A thunk and a moan reached after me, but I kept running; up the stairs, past the chapel, through the main office, and out the front door. I was two blocks away by the time one of the brothers caught me in his car. He had to cut off my path to get me to stop.
“Hey,” he yelled out the window. “That was just my brother Bob having a little fun with you.”
“I quit,” I said.
“Sorry. All right then, come on by and pick up the money we owe you.”
“You can keep it.”
He sat looking at me a long time before speaking again.
“Can I have my broom back,” he finally said.
That's a great story. What five things would you never want to live without?
I thought a lot about this question. The five things I couldn’t live without are indoor plumbing, hammers, automatic weapons, a third grade education, and Wal-Mart Super Centers for all my hunting and gathering needs. Life would be good.
Who would you want to narrate a film about your life?
Chris Rock because life should be a comedy, not a tragedy.
If you had a swear jar, would it be full?
Great answer. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
I’m a little of both in a passive aggressive sort of way. I’m an extrovert until my mouth gets me into trouble, then I turn introvert fueled by indirect resistance to the demands of others and an avoidance of direct confrontation.
What is the most daring thing you've done?
The most daring thing I’ve ever done was imagining I had a story to tell that people might want to read. I hadn’t written anything of this magnitude before and knew being an author was no easy job. To succeed, I had to see it as simply another of my first-time adventures like Woodstock, living in Paris without a word of French in my pocket, or jumping from an airplane then wondering if my chute was going to open.
In writing and publishing The Hollow Man, there were remembered experiences to sort through. Bits of which I never imagined would ever come to light. Yet there were the events, the people, and the stress, neatly packaged into a strange sequence of words called a novel. And I hoped no one would run away.
What’s one of your favorite quotes?
“There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” -Oscar Wilde Authors take note. Even a bad review is still a review.
True. What’s the worst thing someone has said about your writing? How did you deal with it?
A gentleman from County Cork, Ireland gave me my worst review, a two star slapping across the face. “I gave up on this novel after chapter 11. I kept waiting for the story to ignite and engage my attention but it failed to do so. I am at a loss to account for the rave reviews it has on Amazon.”
My first reaction was, he’s really not going to like the sequel to The Hollow Man. London Bridge Is Falling Down chronicles the ‘Troubles’ between England and Ireland during the 1970’s. But honestly, a writer should remember your book isn’t macaroni and cheese. It will never please everyone, every time. Listen to criticism and extract meaningful thoughts. Examine the critic’s statements from all sides then apply what needs to be applied. Be honest with yourself and you’ll know what should be done.
You're right. You can be the ripest, juiciest, sweetest peach, but there will always be people who don't like peaches. Do you have a favorite book?
More than any book I can read over and over, I continue to be drawn back to my favorite twentieth-century poets. The poetry of T.S. Elliot, W.H. Auden, and Dylan Thomas has done more to shape who I am as a writer than any other. An American, an Englishman, and a Welshman have taught me in my writing to search for the exact word needed by its sound, its meaning, its shape, and its feel to create my own form of poetry in my prose. At the very least, their words never fail to lift me above whatever sea bottom I may be roaming at the moment.
How about a favorite book that was turned into a movie? Did the movie stink?
One of my favorite books is The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. The book is an early classic thriller from John Le Carre portraying Western espionage methods as morally inconsistent with democratic values. Though movies must represent the details of a full length novel in an hour-and-a-half slice across the top of the iceberg, I thought the original movie version generally kept the author’s feel and intent intact. Scenes had an air of authenticity throughout, helped by the black and white photography.
If you had to choose a cliché about life, what would it be?
A rolling stone gathers no moss.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on a sequel to The Hollow Man called London Bridge is Falling Down. By the early 1970’s, animosities between England and Ireland had become razor sharp. Mass bombings and cross border clashes were constant reminders of Ireland’s struggle to be united and free. The media had dubbed these conflicts “The Troubles” which had already claimed almost a thousand lives and there was no end in sight. Militant activities were spiking amid rumors the IRA had developed a list of targets designed to bring England to her knees. Like The Hollow Man, London Bridge is Falling Down is based on true events and includes some of the same, unforgettable characters. Surviving Prague is the third installment.
Cake or frosting? Frosting
Laptop or desktop? Laptop
Chevy Chase or Bill Murray? Bill Murray
Emailing or texting? Both
Indoors or outdoors? Indoors
Tea: sweet or unsweet? Unsweet (diabetic)
Plane, train, or automobile? Any, as long as it’s going somewhere.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul’s travel experiences inspire the novels in The Hollow Man series, bringing the streets and villages of Europe to life and offering a unique viewpoint to his mesmerizing thrillers.
Connect with Paul:
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