Interview with Holly Weiss, Author of Crestmont + Giveaway!

I recently had the privilege to interview a new author, Holly Weiss! Since she's just released her first novel, Crestmont I thought it would be fun to introduce her to you. If you have any questions for Holly feel free to email her at hollysing43(at)gmail(dot)com and put my name in the subject line so she knows you have a question about this post. Also I'm offering a giveaway of a signed copy of Crestmont. PLEASE read after the interview for the rules.

Without further ado here's Holly Weiss!


R: How did you get started writing?

H: First of all, thank you so much for inviting me to interview on your blog. I’m honored to be here.
I’ve always enjoyed writing, but was not serious about it until 2006. I sang professionally for thirty-five years. My main means of creative expression was through song. But five years ago, I contracted Post-Polio Syndrome, a late-life extension of the polio I had as a child. The increased weakness and fatigue put an end to my singing career. God led me in the direction of writing. One voice led to another, so to speak. Writing is now my means of creative expression, but music will always be an integral part of me.


R: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

H: Here are the three most important things to me. Other authors may have different ideas.

Think about your target audience before you write and then keep them uppermost in your thoughts. I interviewed so many people who knew the “old Crestmont.” Every time I wrote a new section, I thought about them, hoping they would be pleased.

Believe in your characters and your ability to make them come alive.

Write even when you are not sure it is your best work. You can always edit later. The creativity has to gush out unchecked. The most destructive thought we can have about our writing is “will it be good enough?” The healthiest is “I will delight in this God-given ability to create and express my innermost feelings.”


R: Where did you get the inspiration for your characters? I really like the interesting secondary characters of Olivia and Isaiah.

H: Isaiah evolved from a comment made by a former employee of the Crestmont Inn during an interview—that African-American chefs were the only ones hired because they were the best. I wanted Isaiah to be a role model and mentor, a loving husband, and a lot of fun. His wife, Olivia, compliments him because she is more intuitive, quiet and sensitive.

The secondary female character, Margaret Woods was rather easy because I identify with her so. She and I are both type A people who have busy lives and must answer to a lot of people. Writing Margaret’s grief over her father’s death was therapeutic for me because my mother died while the novel was written. I decided to interject my grandfather, Warren Sloan, into the novel, because that would have made her happy. He invented the automatic pinsetter for bowling alleys (although he sold it shortly after) and gave me the perfect way to round out PT’s earlier life with Sloan as his mentor.

Singing has been a huge part of my life for over thirty-five years—as a soloist and as a teacher of singing, so I think it was inevitable that much of that spilled over into Crestmont. Because of my singing experience, the creation of the other characters came easily. When one plays an opera role, the singer must create a whole world for the character she sings. In a recital of fourteen songs, that many different characters must be refined to fit the poetry being sung. I had a great deal of practice, I suppose! My opera background was also instrumental in the decision to include the real-life opera singer, Rosa Ponselle, in the story and to infuse the main character, Gracie, with the desire to sing.


Any specific reason you chose to set the story in the 1920s?

H: What a fascinating era! Women fighting for the right to vote, prohibition, the growth of jazz, fashion, cuisine—I found all of this intriguing. I stayed overnight at the present day Crestmont Inn in 2006. An old staff dormitory built in 1926 has been converted into luxury suites for present day guests. I started to think about what life would have been for staff staying in a hot dorm while working hard over the summer at this inn. The research was fun. My husband bought me a 1927 Sears Catalogue as a gift, which helped me to understand everyday items people used back then. Did you know you could buy a house from the Sears Catalogue? They had several different models and would ship it in pieces with construction details. When I discovered that, I patterned Mrs. Cunningham’s house after a “Maytown Sears house.”


A strong theme of family runs throughout the book. How important is family to you and to Crestmont?

H: I wanted family to be key in the concept of the book, but not in the traditional sense. My father always said, “If you don’t have family, you don’t have anything.” I agree with him completely, but one thing I wanted to show in Crestmont is that family can also be found outside of one’s biological family. Neither Gracie nor PT has family to speak of, but find it at the Crestmont.

I also decided to include my husband‘s poetry – he is the “Paper bag Poet” whose poems prompt a yearning for love in Gracie. He actually wrote one of the poems to me while we were courting. How could I leave that out?


R: Do you plan to revisit the small town setting like that of Eagles Mere? I myself live in a small town so I enjoy stories set in out of the way places.

H: I’d love to if I could find another jewel of a town like Eagles Mere. The real reason Crestmont is set in Eagles Mere is because of the inn itself. May I tell you more about the Crestmont Inn and why it affected me so much?

I wrote the inn as a caretaker and an agent of grace. The inn functions as a refuge for many characters in Crestmont and has been a comfort in my own life. Gracie found family there that she never could imagine could be hers. The present-day innkeepers have been wonderful to me by telling me their stories and giving me pamphlets and newspaper articles about the inn’s past. They are part of my extended family now.

I travelled to Eagles Mere, PA, to the current day Crestmont Inn, several times during the writing of the novel to interview the current owners, former staff and townspeople. As soon as people heard I was writing a book about the Crestmont, they perked up and said things like, “My aunt loved working there.” Or “Oh, that old Crestmont was quite a place.” During one of my book signings, an elderly lady brought me photos and mementoes from when she worked there as a teenager. She was thrilled to share them with someone else who cared about the old Crestmont. Frankly, I felt a responsibility to these people who loved this place so very much. I wanted to be true to their memories.

I’d like to mention one more thing. The Crestmont Inn is a survivor. The “big house” that I wrote about in my novel, had to be torn down in 1981, but the Crestmont still exists in a different form. The laundry house was converted to a gorgeous dining room and reception hall. Luxury suites evolved from a hot, cramped dormitory. What clinched the concept of the book for me was the story about the Mennonites purchasing the wood from the old Crestmont, hacking it off the building and loading it onto their trucks to build barns and so forth. I saw the “big house” living on in different forms. The image brought tears to my eyes when I heard it and when I wrote the scene in the epilogue
.


To learn more about Holly visit her website: http://www.hollyweiss.com/

Purchase a copy of Crestmont from Amazon!



***********************************************

Giveaway Rules:
~ Void where prohibited.
~U.S. Residents only please.
~ Leave a comment. You MUST be a follower, if
you're not you can sign up now using Google Friend Connect on the right sidebar of this blog. Please leave a valid email address in your comment so I can contact you if you're the lucky winner! Disguise it something like this: steelergirl83(at)gmail(dot)com
~ For TWO EXTRA ENTRIES tell me if you think life in a small town would be fun or if you already live in one tell me what you like about it!!
~ Contest is open until November 15, 2010 at 11:59 PM EST. Any comments made after that time will not count.
~The winner will be drawn using random.org and their name will be announced on November 16, 2010, on this blog AND I will contact the winner via email. The winner has 48 hours from the time winner email is sent or another name will be drawn.

Comments

  1. What a fascinating era! INDEED! Would love to learn more about it!

    I am a GFC follower.

    Life in a small town:
    I grew up on a farm, so life in a small town would have been fun back then. We did go to 'town' on Wed/Sat nights, and I had a blast running around. Now that I've been in the City for so many years, I would find it hard to go back to either, as I'm spoiled with all the amenities so close to me.

    desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh, I want to win this! It sounds charming! I grew up in a small town, Kinderhook, NY. (The birthplace of Pres. Martin Van Buren--woo hoo!)

    What did I love about a small town? Summer band concerts in the town square. Taking off on a bike ride with friends and being gone all day, with no worries for parents. Playing hide and seek across each others yards at night. Sitting on my aunt's front porch to watch the local teams play baseball at the park across the street. The volunteer firemen dressed up as Santas and brought gifts to every single child in the village on Christmas Eve . . . I could go on and on!

    Thanks for the giveaway! Great interview, Renee!

    reneeasmith61 [at] yahoo [dot] com

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for posting the interview, Renee! I hope your readers enjoy it.
    Holly

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wonderful interview, Renee! You ask really good questions. As an interviewer myself (with an author interview currently) I am always looking to improve my own interviewing skills. I like what the author says about the concept of family. This book sounds enchanting--thanks for hosting this terrific giveaway.

    I live in one of California's larger cities, yet it still has a bit of a "small town" feel. Often when I run errands, I see people and friends I know, and we spend a few minutes chatting.

    I am a follower. :)

    suko95(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  5. This was a great interview Renee! I enjoyed it.

    I grew up in a small town, Pikeville, Kentucky, but I've since moved away. What I like is the sense of familiarity, and just the feeling of it being home.

    I am a follower.

    mchapman (at) windstream (dot) net

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi ladies thank you for stopping by and reading the interview! I feel like I should add that Questions 4 & 5 were added by Holly so I can't take all the credit for the great questions LOL!

    XOXO~ Renee

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great interview! I'm a follower. I live in a middle sized town. I have never lived in huge cities or small towns and I don't think I'd want to - but if I had to choose - I'd go for the small town. I think the feeling of family, the quiet... the sense of security and of people coming together to help one another... all those things would more than make up for the lack of stores and that kind of thing. I order most of my stuff online anyway. lol

    leesmithwriting@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  8. I am a new GFC follower:)

    I grew up on a farm 4 miles from a village with the population of 500. Now that's small town for sure! We were a close knit community!! We rooted for our small football team and volunteer firemen! Gotta love then:-)

    ReplyDelete
  9. For those of you from small towns, here's a bit of trivia. Eagles Mere, where Crestmont is set, has a year round residency of 126 people.
    Holly (the author)

    ReplyDelete
  10. This sounds like a great book! I would LOVE to win! Thanks for the chance! I am a GFC Follower.

    Life in a small town has it's pros and cons. A pro would be that you would probably have close relationships with your friends and neighbors Kind of like a big family. A con would be that everyone knew you business. Also, I NEED to have shopping nearby (like a Target!), if it didn't have that I don't think I'd be able to stand it!

    nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

    ReplyDelete

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