Everyone meet Crime Writer, and all round author/tv writer, Hollie Overton.
So I couldn’t be more excited to share this Crime Writers Q&A with you. From reading about Hollie Overton, I knew I wanted to feature her on here, and thankfully she said yes. As a little preview, Hollie attended the Warners Brothers Writers Workshop, which sounds amazing, and once I knew she had attended I made sure I dropped a question in about it.
Who are you and what books have you written?
Why do you write crime fiction?
I’m by nature a very upbeat and positive person, which is why people are often surprised by the dark nature of my books. But growing up my father struggled with addiction and his violent temper was a constant, so I was always analyzing him to try and ensure I stayed out of the crossfire. In some ways, I believe that’s translated to my own writing, allowing me to explore what makes people tick. I’ve always wanted to understand why bad guys commit crimes, how good guys overcome the worst and that’s what I do in my books.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I always loved writing and always seemed to have a knack for it. My mom bought me my first journal when I was seven and I filled dozens more over the years. But it took me awhile to realize writing was my career path. Acting was my first love and the way I learned to express myself.
Throughout those years when I was acting, I’d always jot down ideas for short stories or character sketches, but I stayed focused. Once I committed to my writing and told myself I was going to pursue it as a profession, great things started to happen. I realized after awhile that acting wasn’t where my heart was any more and I’m so glad I did. Writing is a much more natural fit.
You attended the Warner Brothers Writers Workshop, can you explain a little bit more about this?
The Warner Brothers Writers Workshop is one of the best things to ever happen to me. It’s basically a TV Writers boot camp (my description, not there’s, but I think it’s apt!)
It’s a truly incredible opportunity. Every year, thousands of aspiring TV writers submit a spec script (a sample of a current episode on TV) and out of those thousands of entries, they narrow it down to a few hundred and request a second original television pilot. Once they’ve narrowed those writers down to 20, you’re interviewed by a committee. If you’re really lucky, you’re one of seven to ten writers accepted into the program.
Once you’re in the program, it works like a simulated writers room, teaching the writers what it’s like being staffed as a writer on a TV show. While you’re in the program you write another script. Upon completion if they feel that you’ve proven yourself, they help you find representation and a job as a TV writer. It doesn’t cost anything besides the fifty-dollar entry fee and for me, it was like winning a lottery ticket. I have always been so grateful that I was got in. It’s what gave me my first big break.
You have written for some amazing TV programmes, and were staffed on Cold Case. How was this experience?
Working on Cold Case was an incredible experience. I was hired on the seventh and final season, so by then the show ran a well oiled machine. The best part about the experience was working with all these talented writers and absorbing how the room works. It’s a fast paced place where ideas are flying and you have to jump in and figure out how to make your mark. It was great that my first opportunity as a TV writer was working on a crime show.
What made you turn from screenwriting to writing books?
Frustration is the answer I’d have given back then. Now I believe it was serendipity. The show I was working on had been cancelled, and I was unemployed at the time. I was going on interviews and trying to develop my own TV show. I felt like a lot of what I wanted to write wasn’t resonating within the TV marketplace and I was really frustrated creatively. I missed just writing for the love of writing. Not because I wanted to sell something or because someone else thought it was a good idea.
One night after my husband went to bed, I had thought about two sisters who were separated and reunited. A line rattled around in my head, “A deadbolt has a very specific sound.” That was the first line in my debut novel, Baby Doll. I started writing this story about the sisters. I always hated when writers would say this, but in my case it was true. The first half of the story poured out of me. I loved writing that first book, I knew I had to do it again. Now I’m on my third and I’m definitely not stopping.
Do you prefer writing books or screenwriting?
I get that question a lot and I’ve yet to find an answer. It’s too hard to pick my favorite. The best part about TV writing is the collaboration and working with other people. Being in a writer’s room is like being at the cool kids table in high school, if the cool kids were also the smartest people you knew. Together you develop a script, you write it, and then a few weeks later, an entire team of people are working to bring it to life. It truly is like playing make-believe except with a much bigger budget.
When you’re writing books, you don’t get that immediate sense of gratification that you get when you’re watching a scene you wrote being filmed or your episode is airing on TV. But the writing process is purer in some ways, because you’re all alone, with just the story you’re creating. But that’s also what also makes it so special. All of that to say that I intend to keep doing both for as long people keep hiring me/reading my work.
Do you have to do lots of research when you are writing?
Research to me is a crucial part of my writing process. In TV you’ll often have assistants or researchers to help you, but in books, that all falls to you. It’s really important to me to understand how things work. A lot of what I’ve written lately focuses on law enforcement and unique jobs within that world.
In my 2nd book, The Walls, my protagonist is a publicist for the prison system and death row. In my new book The Runaway, my lead is a psychologist for the Department of Mental Health. Understanding how these jobs works, the in’s and out’s is important because their jobs are almost a character in the book. I also write a lot about current issues; like domestic violence, mass incarceration, mental illness, and homelessness, issues that personally affect a lot of people. It’s important to me that I do the research so I can properly portray them and make sure it resonates.
Do you have a writing routine?
I’d call my routine organized chaos. I wish it were more structured. When I’m not writing on a TV show, I work from home or an office space I rent. I am by nature a total night owl, so I struggle to work during the day. I wake up between 9-11, and I’ll write a few pages, but there are always emails to return and administrative tasks to take care of. The bulk of my writing is done late at night when it’s quiet and everyone is asleep. When I’m on a show, I have more of a 9-5 schedule and I adapt accordingly. But I always seem to get in the zone t around 10pm and continue until 2am. And when the muse calls, you have to answer!
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome this?
I’ve always answered no to this question, because usually I have a stack of stories I’m excited to tell. And then this summer rolled around and I was started freaking. I simply didn’t have an idea for my new pilot. Looking back, I was burnt out. I’d spent two years writing on a show, writing two books and my brain was like, “We’re tired.” It was a good lesson. I did some traveling and it was the recharge I needed. By the time I got back to LA, I had a whole list of ideas I was interested in.
Which authors and books do you like? The list is endless, but I’ll give you a few.
Gillian Flynn, Gillian McAllister, Sue Grafton, Mary Higgins Clark, Ruth Ware, Michael Connelly, Stephen King, Tess Gerritsen….
If you could recommend just one of your books to my readers which one would it be and why?
I’m partial to Baby Doll, even though I love them both. It was my first, and it gave me this whole new career so obviously that’s really special. But it’s a story about twins and family and a lot of my relationship with my own twin is in it, which is why I’d suggest checking it out.
Where can people find more information about you? (Website and social media?)
What are you working next?
I’m developing a TV pilot that I’m excited about and will hopefully be able to discuss in the coming months. I’m also finishing up my 3rd novel, The Runway, which will be out Aug. 2018.
Do check out Hollie’s books on Amazon, and connect with her on social media!