Author Interview Series 2020: Margaret Lindsay Holton

I had the pleasure of being introduced to M. Lindsay Holton in October 2019 when she reached out to announce that with her book Trillium she returns to the indie publishing world after a 20 year hiatus. It has been such a pleasure emailing back and forth with this incredible author and learning from her responses to these questions. I haven’t even read her book yet, and I am really excited to do so now!

As someone with the future hope of writing a book one day, these interview questions were chosen for the purpose of learning from those that have more knowledge than me. ML Holton is the most accomplished author I have interviewed so far and I hope everyone basks in the wealth of experience demonstrated by her responses as much as I have. All of these responses are direct quotes.

For more information on and to purchase her other books, please take a moment to check out her Amazon Author Page, and for additional information you can visit her Artist Blog, Twitter Fan Page, and Facebook Fan Page.

What are a few of your favorite things? How did these influence your book?

I love what Nature offers us in all its daily and seasonal cycles of birth, growth, decay and death. As humans, we have invented so many ‘structures’ – social, and mechanical – to better control these natural rhythms, when, really, immersion is the best and most practical teacher. We are a part of Nature, not apart from it.

This understanding became the quiet flowing aquifer that flows through TRILLIUM. I wanted to ‘tell-a-story’ on top of those natural cycles. I had watched and learned from Nature while growing up on a farm in southern Ontario. Many city-dwelling, screen-addicts are so far removed from Nature’s generous gifts, they have lost the ability to ‘connect’ to that natural flow – at all.

Aside from Nature, I am very moved by thoughts and objects of, or about, beauty. Rachel Carson wrote – “when the mind is absorbed by beauty, those are the only hours when we really live.” – That is so true.

When we bring our attention to things of beauty, we are filled with a profound sense of gratitude that is never equalled by the frenetic ping-pong of daily living. Experiencing beauty, we find ourselves gliding on an awe-inspiring appreciation of the Wonderful. It suspends us in Time and Space.

Beauty is Truth and the Truth is Beautiful. Keats knew it. Ruskin knew it too. When we scoff and malign the beautiful, we belittle much more than the obvious. Cynics, skeptics, and those who relish the ugly or horrific, impoverish us all. Side-lining the beautiful is a downer. It makes us all petty and small-minded. Miserly even. – Why live like that when we have the power to CHOOSE?

I was very aware when crafting this story that I wanted both given elements – Nature & Beauty – ‘at play’.

Do you have any inside jokes with friends and/or family members that you like to sneak into your content?

I periodically insert family names for pets or loved ones, but affix them to different objects. As example, Jomo, Hazard, Folly and Quack or Cat have all popped up.

I have also re-told several amusing ‘family stories’ within the context of the novel only slightly altering them to better amuse or entertain readers.

What do you find is the hardest part of the writing process?

Letting go. I very much enjoy re-writing and re-structuring to make better sense of things, but I am well aware that at a certain point, I MUST move on and stop playing with words. (It’s like ‘playing with one’s food’. At a certain point, you’ve either got to eat what’s in front of you or throw it out … )

To counteract this ‘hold on’ tendency, I have learned to set strict targets and deadlines for myself. It is the best way to keep ‘on track’.

How long did it take you to write this book from the first idea to publication date?

I had the idea for this entangled rural family story over fifteen years ago. I wrote up a 15-page synopsis, drafted a detailed character list, spun out an opening chapter, then put the whole thing in my writing box.

At that time, I did not have the time or financial resources to under-take what I knew was going to be a big project.

By 2018, the necessary pre-conditions existed and I was able to sit and start. From February to October, I researched, wrote and edited for five days a week, Monday to Friday, from 10am to 6pm, with two small breaks and an hour for lunch. I then went to press at the end of the month with a very limited Artist First Edition of 100 copies. Those were published in Canada under my own private artist’s press label.

It was, in retrospect, a blistering speed to craft, edit and produce that 137,000-word historical fiction for publication. But, as mentioned, scheduling did keep me on track.

That’s not to say I didn’t make mistakes on route, I did. At the end, I rushed to publish without taking a breather away from the work. I am ashamed to say that that Author’s First Edition, published in late October 2018, is filled with typos. Those embarrassing mistakes were finally corrected in the American Amazon paperback and e-editions, first released in January of 2019. Somewhat ironically, that tiny Artist First Edition is now sought after by avid book collectors! Trust me, that goof, remains a tough one to live down. But, Live and Learn.

Above all, LEARN.

What advice do you have to other new authors?

See above. It is admirable to discipline yourself to ‘stick to a schedule’. But you MUST allow breathing space after the bulk of the writing is over. Take at least two weeks. A month is better.

Distance yourself from the work so that when you come back your eyes, ears and mind are fresh to do a proper final ‘read’.

Best advice: have another person proof your work. Take their constructive criticism and corrections in stride. Restrain the impatient ego.

Who do you think the biggest unexpected allies in writing a book are?

Strangely, the unexpected ally is the Self. People think that writers have this great luxury of lying around as they think and compose all day …

The truth is: writers are as pre-occupied with the necessities of earning a living as anyone else. Most writers must take other work in order to take care of their loved ones and themselves before they can take the time to write.

The luxury comes when you finally have some ‘alone time’.

After putting if off for months, even years, you finally get to have that much desired one-on-one conversation with Self.

In many ways, this experience is akin to catching up with an old friend you haven’t seen or heard from in years. Relish that alliance.

Who do you think the biggest unexpected enemies in writing a book are?

Time. Earning a living, and taking responsibility for the people and things in your life that need looking after, can easily become all consuming. If you do not have the time, you cannot write properly. If you want to write, you have to ‘take back’ time by having the money to buy it, and/or you have to step away, in part, from the joys and duties of being with the ones and things you love. A writer needs solitude IN time to write anything worthwhile. It is a love that demands your full attention.

What was your biggest inspiration?

My parents have inspired me throughout my entire life. Both were independent-minded, loving and curious individuals who gave much more than they took. My father was very disciplined about what he had to do on a daily basis. My mother was a delight-filled personality who intuitively understood the charm and reassuring, restorative value of a ‘good story’.

Both had lessons to teach about the Best Way to Live. I learned plenty from both. Their curiosity always inspired. Keep asking questions.

If you could send a letter back in time to yourself when you were first starting to write this book, what would it say?

Line up a good proof-reader to go over your ‘signed off’ manuscript. As much as you will resist, take a little time off before ‘going to press’. Make sure all your ducks are in a row before leaping over them. Otherwise, stick to your schedule, and tell an engaging and good story.

Why do you write?

I write to communicate with the greater Self that dwells within us all.