Welcome to author Polly Holmes and we’re pleased she took time away from sipping her favorite coffee and walking on the beaches on northern Perth, Australia, to chat with us.
Describe your favorite writing spot or space.
It’s strange because if I am writing at home, I like to work in silence listening to the wind outside my window, the children playing at the park across the road and being inspired by the flow of the words. On the flip side, I love, love, love to write in café’s and I have a few local ones that I frequent. I love people watching when I am writing, and cafes are the best place to watch the world go by and be inspired by what and who you see.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
It depends on the genre and book I am writing. If it is a cozy mystery, it is usually about 3-4 months and that is for a 50-60k book.
Do you write under a pseudonym? If not, have you ever considered it?
I write my cozy mysteries under the name Polly Holmes. I originally wrote them under my contemporary romance name of P.L. Harris and then after doing a branding workshop I realised I might run into trouble down the track with the genes being so different. I wanted a name that had the same initials as my romance author name and being a fan of Sherlock Holmes it was only fitting to use it as my surname, hence Polly Holmes was born.
How do you select the names of your characters?
For me, it’s rare that character names will just pop into my head or they will tell me their name. Although this does happen sometimes. I research them. What’s the latest popular name or who is popular in the media. It doesn’t mean I use them, but it is good to know what is current. I don’t select one that will go out of date, but there are names that they suggest don’t fit cozy characters so I try not to use them.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I did struggle with this in the beginning but now I love writing from my hero/leading man’s point of view especially if I have to write a romantic scene for my sub plot. I love exploring his emotions, feelings and the dynamics between my hero and heroine. I love a feisty relationship. It’s hard to explain, but I think it comes down to his backstory and how that affects his present.
By day I am a Drama teacher, and we do a lot of creating a characters backstory. Before I would just write how I think he should respond not why they responded that way. Now I look at what was in their past that affected them so much? They still want to be able to fall in love with him, but at the same time understand him
Can you hear your characters talking?
Oh, all the time and sometimes they just will not stop. The worst is when you are right in the middle of writing a story and a character, new or old pops into your head and demands their own story or scene. Often I have to stop writing and jot down the character and scene in my head and then put it aside until I finish writing the current book. But they never go away.
How much time do you spend on research before starting a book? While writing?
There is research that I have to do, but it’s more the planning and the world building of the story, character and town. From what I can gather, readers don’t want a one off cozy, they like a series. They want to be able to follow the lead character(s) on their life journey, their ups and downs.
I don’t know how logical my process is, but I generally work out who my murderer is first and how they fit into the town, then work out who they will murder and why, then fill in the pre-story. Sounds easy, right? It is so not as easy as it sounds because you have to work out how all the characters link together and who knows who and then you have to plant your red herrings and that is probably the bit I find the hardest. You need a few suspects that could have committed the murder, but didn’t, but the reader needs to think they could have.
If you are writing a series it’s a good idea to have a series bible where you write down everything, and I mean everything, not just the colour of your characters eyes. It also helps when you need to bring back characters or find a new victim. There are many ways to do this, but I love using the program Plottr.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
That is a hard one because there are so many, but I would say money spent on learning the craft of writing. A course or retreat are worth every penny if it ads something to my skills. Attending annual conferences is a must as you get to immerse yourself with like-minded people who inspire and help you to keep on striving for what your goals are and giving much needed encouragement.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I’m usually working as I am still currently working full-time as a Drama Teacher and have been for the past 30 years. I draw inspiration from my students and my career.
Do you ever Google yourself?
Not very often, but I like to see what is out there on my and my author career.
What is your favorite childhood book(s)?
I can always remember my mother reading The Magic Pudding and The Very Hungry Caterpillar to me which started my love of books. It’s not so much a book as a series. I LOVE (and still do) the Sweet Valley High Series. I still have the majority of them, albeit some worn and tattered. I wasn’t a fast reader, but if I had one of Francine Pascal’s SVH books in my hand you couldn’t get me to do anything until I finished it. I received a number of groundings from my mum because I wouldn’t put my book down. I must have read the series over twenty times. They were my first introduction to teenage romance, and I was hooked.
I also loved Nancy Drew, I suppose that’s why I love writing mystery novels. Also, Enid Blyton’s The Wishing Chair. While I write cozies, I also write romantic suspense and contemporary romance under P.L. Harris. I think the love of reading romance has stayed with me since I picked up my first SVH book.
Are you a plotter or an organic writer?
I know they say you shouldn’t categorise yourself, but I am definitely a plotter all the way, especially when I am planning my cozy mysteries. My problem is I often have the murderer and the victim, it’s filling in the information prior and linking it to the previous book that I have to focus on to make sure the story works. Same for my other stories. I find I know what the turning point or climax is going to be and then I have to fill in the blanks.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
A lot of my inspiration comes from my covers. Whether it be romance or a cozy, I have great cover designers and they provide me with the fuel to create my stories. At the start, I had no real idea what a cozy mystery was until I stumbled across Mariah Sinclair’s covers and brought 13 in one sale and then a writer friend said they were cozies and I had to learn what they were and how to write them.
Having been an obsessed addict of Murder, She Wrote and Nancy Drew it wasn’t hard to put pen to paper. I can see a cover and then a story begins festering in my mind and I have to just go with it. I had the cover of Pumpkin Pies & Potions designed by Victoria Cooper and she took the exact idea out of my head and created it brilliantly. I often run ideas by my sister and niece, they are great to brainstorm ideas with and they can send me on a whole new storyline with just one discussion. Problem is, once we start talking over the one idea, it soon becomes three or four books. As a writer, it’s a great problem to have.
Polly Holmes is the cheeky, sassy alter ego of Amazon best-selling author, P.L. Harris. She lives in the northern suburbs of Perth, Western Australia, with her Bichon Frise, Bella.
When she’s not writing her next romantic suspense novel as P.L. Harris, she is planning the next murder in one of Polly’s cozy mysteries. P.L. Harris and Polly Holmes are award-winning authors.
According to Polly, the best part about writing cozy mysteries is researching. Finding the best way to hook the reader, a great way to murder someone, a plethora of suspects and of course a good dose of sweet treats thrown in for good measure.
P.L. Harris writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense and young adult with a twist of mystery and intrigue. Her books are rich in storyline and location with characters that stay with you long after you turn the last page.