After college, Andy fell into the travel industry by accident and was able to grow a travel business into an Inc. 500 company. The agency grew through the use of the Internet and by acquiring three other companies. Late in the 1990’s, he became familiar with the story of one of the company’s clients who was murdered in Durham, NC and was a suspected drug smuggler. This story and the subsequent downfall of the travel agency industry (and Andy’s company) after 9/11, planted a seed in his head that grew into his first published novel, SHADES OF GRAY.
Today, Andy lives in the Raleigh, NC area. He is the father of three, and has been happily married for 20 years. He enjoys (mostly) attending my kids sporting and school events, supporting the local real estate industry, and watching fine films with his wonderful wife.
MWU: Let me start by saying thank you for agreeing to let Mystery Writers Unite interview you. Now on to the good stuff (she says smiling)...aside from the main character in SHADES OF GRAY, who is your favorite and why?
Andy Holloman: Hmmm, haven’t thought much about that so thanks for kick starting my brain! Beyond the main characters, my favorite is Mary Thomas who is the manager of my protagonist’s (John) company. Mary is very talented and capable and her ability to run the company in John’s absence allows him to spend time with his daughter and pursue his main quest in the novel. She is the type of manager that every small business needs and if you were to query most small business owners, I think they’d agree that this type of person is VERY hard to find!
MWU: What is one of your favorite chapters or scenes from SHADES OF GRAY and why is it your favorite?
Andy Holloman: Now that is an easier question to answer. My favorite scene is the one where John and his brother Travis go surf fishing on the beach near Hatteras NC. I loved constructing this scene as it allowed me to relay more back story about John’s ex-wife and this scene focused on the bond between the brothers. If you read the book, you’ll notice that I love the Outer Banks and surf fishing is a BIG deal in the fall, so I enjoyed that part of the scene also.
MWU: Is there a character from SHADES OF GRAY that you feel like you could explore further and may like to go back to at another time and write about them again?
Andy Holloman: Undoubtedly that character would be Travis. In the novel, Travis is presented as a young boy and then the story skips to him in his late 30’s but I know that his development through his teen and young adult years would be terrific fodder for more writing.
MWU: How do you “stay in character” when writing?
Andy Holloman: I try to keep my head clear of all preconceptions that I have and, because I use a lot of dialogue, I “practice” my characters by reading the dialogue out loud to see things from their perspective.
MWU: Are any of your characters in SHADES OF GRAY based on you or someone you know?
Andy Holloman: All of my characters are foreign to me. They don’t represent anyone that I know.
MWU: How did you choose the title for SHADES OF GRAY? Do you decide on it right away or do you let the story brew for a bit and then choose?
Andy Holloman: WOW – the elusive “good title”. It was a struggle for me to come up with a title that I truly could get behind. Originally, I had 4 titles that vied for my affections, the most compelling one for me was The Fine Line That Surrounds Us. I switched in August 2011 to Shades of Gray and it became the chosen path.
MWU: If you had less than a minute to tell a perspective reader what they could expect from SHADES OF GRAY (you are at a trade show and someone has stopped by your booth) what would you tell them? Go….
Andy Holloman: If the worst possible thing you could imagine was going to happen to you, what lengths would you go to in order to prevent it? Do you feel that you know your friends and family really well or could they harbor some secrets that would change your life were you to discover them?
MWU: I ask this question to every author I interview. Do you ever experience writer’s block? If so, how do you cope with it?
Andy Holloman: I feel fortunate in that I have never been through a period where I couldn’t write, so I haven’t had to deal with that issue, yet. I’m sure it will happen. Can I call you for advice when I hit the dreaded block? *smile*
MWU: I always ask a published author what advice he would give to those of us still working away at their first novel, first draft?
Andy Holloman: Be dedicated, persistent, and patient. Never throw away anything that you’ve written. Expect your first and second drafts to be awful. Writing is not truly about “writing the story” it is about “re-writing the story”.
MWU: What have you learned about writing and self-publishing and what advice would you give to someone just entering the self-publishing arena?
Andy Holloman: Twitter, twitter, twitter. An amazing place to make writing friends. I have been totally blown away at how helpful people are and the value of having a “writers network” is immeasurable. Did a mention that twitter will help?
MWU: Is there anything you would like to say to new writers, new readers or current fans of your work?
Andy Holloman: I would say one thing - I LOVE YOU ALL !!! Contact me, send me pictures, send me your thoughts and dreams. Nothing matters more to me than hearing from my readers. Everything I write is for you folks. * big hug *
Synopsis for SHADES OF GRAY
In the Fall of 2001, John’s life has fallen off a cliff. His six- year-old daughter, Lucy, needs a kidney transplant and his Durham, NC travel agency has been wrecked by the events of 9/11. He must find a way to secure a large amount of money quickly in order to pay for Lucy’s surgery. He’s been in tight places before but he’s currently out of solutions.
Wanda, a client of John’s travel agency, has had her livelihood hit hard by 9/11 also. She can no longer transport cocaine via airline flights due to increase airport security. Like John, she is a single parent and has wanted to get out of her line of work for several years. She needs more money to allow her and daughter Tonya, to move from Durham to California and break free of her boss, Jamel.
John and Wanda form a partnership around a plan to smuggle cocaine via cruise ships. His industry knowledge and connections would remove the transportation risks and she could handle the distribution and selling once they brought the drugs back to Durham.
Despite being nearly killed on their first run, it worked. Wanda coaxes John into another trip while Jamel is becoming suspicious of Wanda. John’s half-brother Travis, a Durham police detective battling his own demons, can’t connect the dots between John and Wanda . He continues to line his pocket with ill-gotten gains. Lucy and John are the most important people in his life and he would gladly provide them with financial help, if only John would ask.
How far should a father go to save his child? Can a man and woman from completely different worlds help each other? Could they fall in love? And which one of these people will live to see the summer of 2002? Find the answers in Shades of Gray, a debut novel by Andy Holloman.
This post is part of a DECEMBER BOOK LAUNCH EVENT ---->> Join ANDY HOLLOMAN and 9 of his author friends at WoMen's Literary Cafe's Mystery Book Launch, December 13-15. Ten authors will discount their eBooks to just 99 cents. Buy 3 get 1 FREE!