Did you know...

Along this circuitous publishing journey, I've been doing Q&A sessions with book bloggers. Sometimes the questions are about me and my writing process, sometimes the book. And sometimes they have nothing to do with anything, but are just plain fun. So...in the name of fun I'm sharing some of these questions: 

What are three things people may not know about you?

1. I once played spin the bottle with Nicolas Cage and Roman Coppola.

2. Because of a near drowning incident when I was a child, I didn't learn to swim until I was 34.

3. I've driven cross-country twice. Three times if you count the time my whole family moved from Massachusetts to California on a Greyhound bus when I was six.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An actress. My parents were very encouraging, despite my early performances in musicals and I can tell you right now that I have no business being in musicals. Oh, but I loved them. So when I actually did grow up and attempted acting (2 years in L.A., acting on rare occasion, waitressing all the time), I quickly learned I had no desire to be judged on my appearance the second I walked through a door. Also, turns out I don’t like to be in the spotlight. It was a childhood dream gone awry! But I have no regrets.

When did you know you wanted to be an author?

It was a process, actually. In fifth grade I had this amazing creative writing teacher who I remember vividly. Long hair, wire rim glasses, lanky. He had us call him Victor. Through him, my interest in writing was sparked. But it wasn’t until years later, after writing only journal entries, that I began to think of stories. When I was 28 I wrote a screenplay, which was a finalist in the Massachusetts Screenwriting Competition. That boosted my confidence and I started thinking of writing novels. I took a class at GrubStreet (a great writing organization here in Boston), and one thing lead to another. Before long I was writing a novel (my first, still on my hard drive!). It’s hard to say exactly when I knew. Perhaps it was fifth grade. Or maybe it was later, when I couldn’t stay away from my computer.

What inspired you to write "Nation of Enemies"?

My inspiration was a five foot tall, white haired eighty year-old named Beatrice. About ten years ago we were talking and she was recounting the story of her family fleeing Poland during WWII. Everything and everyone she knew was suddenly gone. The houses and streets were empty. Regardless of their hopes and fears they had to escape. In what must’ve been a whirlwind, they emigrated to the United States. Now, I’ve heard stories about WWII, seen the movies, as we all have. But something about her story resonated with me. She looked directly into my eyes that day and asked, “Imagine that? Everything you know, just gone one day?” And I did. I brought the war home to the United States. Imagined people emigrating en masse from this powerful, “safe” country of ours. And Nation of Enemies was born.

What is your editing process like?

I try (desperately!) not to go back and revise until I have a first draft. Sometimes I will, but only if it’s something major that has a ripple effect in the book. I’m in an amazingly supportive and highly critical writers group. I submit about 25 pages to them every month, and when I’m finished they read the entire manuscript. Once I receive all the feedback (along with my own notes I keep throughout writing, things to go back and check/fix),  I begin revising a second draft, working out the kinks in the structure and refining plot as well as characters. My writers group gives it a last once-over to catch any major issues. Then after a final revision and read-through, it’s ready to be sent out!

Who is your favorite character from your book?

This is a tough question. I actually started out writing the book from the perspective of Hannah, who now is more of a background character. But I knew her voice right away and I feel deeply for her. I also love Jonathan. And Cole. And Sebastian. And Steven. I don’t think I can commit to one!

Tell us more about your book.

It was a three-year love affair with that manuscript. I never got bored, I loved my characters and both lead and followed them on the journey. Living in the U.S., we watch war on TV, on the internet, read about it on different formats. But we’re all so far-removed. We truly can’t relate. When an act of terror does hit our soil we feel so shocked, so violated. But imagine if this were normal. Imagine we lived in countless other countries where they wake up and simply live amidst the death and destruction because they must. I imagined this for us, made the setting my hometown of Boston. It scared me. And I thought of the situation from all sides. How would the government react to war on our soil? A regular family? A teenager? The questions kept coming, and I didn’t stop answering until Nation of Enemies was complete.

How much time per week do you spend writing/editing your work?

Since I work part-time and have young kids, I have to set aside time for myself to write. And I have to be very regimented about it. I write on Fridays while the kids are at school, plus two hours on both Saturday and Sunday every weekend. During that time, I don’t answer the phone or emails. I always hope that wifi goes down to ensure no distractions!

Why did you choose suspense/thriller as genre to write in?

I didn’t. I’m sort of an equal opportunity writer and reader. At the heart of any book I love, there’s a good story with good characters, people you root for. I started out writing about a young girl caught up in a war in the United States. I ended up with a thriller, the center of which is the girl and the war.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Make time. No one will give it to you. It should be a priority so be sure and schedule it on your calendar. Don’t answer your emails or phone calls or texts. Even if it’s just an hour or two once or twice a week. Be devoted to your craft during that time.  Even if it’s research or playing around with an idea, it will open your imagination and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised what happens.

Do you have a dream cast for your book?

Oh, fun question. I couldn’t choose for some and had to list two! Here goes:

Dr. Cole Fitzgerald: Matt Damon

Lily Fitzgerald: Amy Adams

FBI Agent Sebastian Diaz: William Levy

Taylor Hensley: Jennifer Lawrence

Richard Hensley: Gary Oldman or Ralph Fiennes

Jonathan Hudson: Logan Lerman or Dylan O’Brien

Steven Hudson: Edward Norton or Robert Downey, Jr.


What has been your greatest pleasure in writing Nation of Enemies?

My writing life has been very private, almost secretive for years. People I’ve known for ages had no idea I write. I was apprehensive about sharing my work initially - writing is so personal, you really are exposing yourself when you share it, like any art. I think my greatest pleasure so far is the overwhelming support I’ve received since the release of Nation of Enemies. Friends, family and strangers have reached out and expressed their love for the book. The feedback has been consistently positive and it’s been a great pleasure to finally be recognized my writing.

Holly Raynes