I’m pleased to post this interview with ML Holton, author of Trillium.
- What is your author name and in what state do you live (or country if not in the US)?
My full literary name is Margaret Lindsay Holton. When starting out 35 years ago, my first novel, ‘Economic Sex’, was published under a pen-name, Ali Janna Whyte …
Generally, today, I abbreviate my name to M.L.Holton to save room on covers and to put some distance between myself and the other great ‘Margaret’ writers known in Canada, ie. Margaret Atwood and Margaret Laurence.
I come from a small rural farm nestled on the Niagara escarpment overlooking Lake Ontario. I lived in Toronto for 25 years and travelled a great deal in my 20s to 40s. Now, my art and writing studio is on Lake Ontario, down on the Hamilton beach strip.
- What is the title of your newest book and what is the genre?
My new novel – written and released 20 years after my last award-winning work, ‘The Gilded Beaver by Anonymous’ – is ‘TRILLIUM’. I consider it a hybrid, coming-of-age, adult historical fiction. Hybrid because, in many ways, I hope it is timely to our time and era. Many thoughts are expressed therein that wouldn’t have warranted discussion or attention a mere five years ago.
- What is the book about?
This epic family drama spans 250 years after three adventurous young men arrive to the southern shore of Lake Ontario, on the Canadian side of the newly created frontier border, and make a go of it. Over the extended time period, from the mid 1750s to the early 2000s, their distinct families intertwine, much like the new grape vines developing in the region. Love is lost and found. Lust is acted upon. Families blend. Tragedy and revenge strike as families grow and transform over the decades. This consortium of colourful characters churn towards a conclusive yet shocking end. Lots of fun!
- Where did you come up with the idea?
Surprisingly enough, I had the kernel of this idea over a decade ago. I knew then that I wanted to write a believable and convincing story about family and rural life in southern Ontario. I did a rough outline based on some preliminary research. I knew that that I had the makings of a good work ahead of me. But, as so often happens, I just did not have the time or means, at that point, to pursue the idea further. The extended outline sat in my writing box for another decade …
- How long did it take you to write it?
Once I had the means and had the time to write full time, I settled in. I started February 1st, 2018 and finished Oct 15th, 2018, working 8 hours a day, minimum: crafting and editing the text. I was fortunate because the outline that I had done 10 years earlier was a very good working blueprint. I did not need to deviate too far from that early construction to get to where I needed to go.
I released a very limited Artist First Edition to a select readership in November of 2018. It sold out. The public edition, now on Amazon in Canada and the US, was released in January, 2019.
- Did you learn anything from the project?
Plenty. In some respects, I merely touched the surface of the very rich and vibrant history of this region in southern Ontario, Canada. So much early North American settler history evolved in this area, including the first telephone exchange! Railroads and the continued reshaping of the waterways quickly opened up the area to eastern Canada and the West. Significant and noteworthy schemers, dreamers and industrious doers rapidly shaped early Canadian commerce around these Great Lakes. There are so many different kinds of stories to tell! Equally, I was determined to fuse this particular work with timely topics. That did prove challenging at times, but I think I got it in the end. We live in interesting times.
- Do you have an author website and/or blog? How about a book video?
I have created an author’s website for this particular work, https://mlholton-author.weebly.com/ .
If readers are interested in a broader perspective of what I’m all about, they can dive into my wider-ranging art blog. There, they will find examples of other written works, including my recent film work, as well as my painted artworks and pinhole photography – https://canadadaphotography.blogspot.com
As for a book video, I’m afraid I do not really have one that is good enough to share at the moment. I did have some fun creating an audio sound-track. I think it adds a playful dimension: tune in here – https://soundcloud.com/canadada/tone-poem-trillium-mlh-sept – I am green at this kind of promotion though, so I would be interested and intrigued in what others might have to say about it. What do you think? Does it lead you IN? Do you want to learn more about this story?
- Do you have any success tips to pass on to fellow authors? How about any great editors/cover artists?
There is seldom overnight success in this discipline. Of course, there are exceptions – that usually include a cadre of promoters, publicists and influencers with extensive social media networks. But, in the main, writing demands quiet dedication, focus, skill, humor and determination. Just stick to it: if writing is really what you want to do.
As a multi-disciplined artist, I decided in the early 90s to create my own press in order to control the quality and visuals of my literary, poetic and art-book titles. I do the design for all my work and draw on my own art for cover illustrations. TRILLIUM’s front cover of a man holding a grape cluster, as example, is a detail from an oil painting I did several years ago.
- What genres do you like to read? Are you open to reading new authors and reviewing their work?
I am up for reading new authors in a multiple of different genres, but I find that if the title and back cover copy don’t immediately grab my attention, the book will soon go to the shelf.
I have recently discovered the pleasure of exploring unknown authors’ audio books via the library. I enjoy the unique male or female narrator’s voice interpretations of the author’s original words. Audiobooks are like extended radio-plays (without the realistic sound effects of doors closing, as example.) I also believe that this ‘live’ act of storytelling will increase in popularity. Two-thirds of humanity cannot read, yet they are being quickly assimilated into the dominating cyber-sphere via cellphones and tell-a-vision. Thus, to my way of thinking, learning audio skills is essential for any contemporary writer. Writers must appeal to the EAR as much as to the mind’s eye …
I seldom write book reviews on spec. That said, I have begun to write a few very short ones on Goodreads.
- What is your favorite book of all time and why?
This is a very tough question because I believe books speak to us at different times in our lives. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse was a life-altering book when I read it in my early teens. I wonder, if I discovered it today, if it would have the same impact now after several decades of living and life … Hard to say. I might have to pick it up again just to find out!
- Fun Question: Do you have any pets? If so, what kind?
I do not have any pets at the moment. I was raised on a farm and miss domestic and wild critters a great deal. Realistically though, it is just not viable at the moment.
- Fun Question 2: Do you own an electronic reading device? If so, what kind and how do you like it?
I do have an Apple ipad (2nd generation) and ipod (6th generation) and both have an assortment of book apps that I tip into when not reading an actual book. At present, for the audio books, I prefer to tune in via my ipod.
I have also discovered that the Dropbox app is very useful for ‘hearing’ my own words spoken back to me. It has proven very useful in the writing part of what I do as a living artist.
Listening to an arrangement of words has sharpened my own ear and helped to clean up several cumbersome sentences.
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