Tag: cate holahan

cate holahan

What Dave Chappelle taught me about Public Speaking

I think faster through my fingers. This is how my brain works. Behind a screen, words flow through me. My stories become entertaining, my descriptions visual and apt, my ideas clear and concise. Post editing, even more so. In person, I fear I’m not nearly as eloquent. My biggest failing is verbosity, which follows from my fear of awkward silences. But I have others. I make jokes and then spend hours afterward wondering whether they were truly funny or, worse, potentially offensive. I get passionate and repeat the same previously expressed idea without adding anything new. I say so many self-deprecating things in an effort to be entertaining that I start to seem like I am putting on an sad comedy performance. Queue pity claps. These were more sarcastic than pitying. Unfortunately, public speaking is a necessary component of all jobs, particularly that of a published author. There are book signings and readings, which no one attends to hear anyone simply read. There are engagements, like the one I will be helming on April 11 (shameless plug), in which I am supposed to be entertaining. But I have learned a way for me to be better in these events thanks […]

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Let's Talk About Sex… Scenes

Continuing on my theme this week of how much of our human bodily functions should make it into fiction, I would like to discuss sex scenes.  Human beings have sex. If you’re a believer in Freudian psychoanalysis, it’s a primary reason why we do much of what we do. Freud postulated that how a person pursues intercourse, as well as what he or she does while having it, betrays that individual’s true nature.  “The behavior of a human being in sexual matters is often a prototype for the whole of his other modes of reaction in life,”-SIGMUND FREUD, Sexuality and the Psychology of Love  Even if a novelist doesn’t subscribe to Freud’s theories, they still have to deal with the fact that interactions between people have a physical component that can give rise to sexual tension.  With few exceptions, if a novelist wants to create believable fictional characters and show them over any length of time, interacting with anyone, they have to address sexual desire, attraction, and, sometimes, the act itself. And that means they have to grapple with how much to show or tell. There are different rules on how much detail to go into for different genres and sub-genres. In cozy mysteries, the action typically must happen off screen, if […]

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Irish Inspiration

Seanchaí: An ancient Irish oral storyteller whose tradition carried on through centuries.–Museum of Irish Emigration. EPIC.  I recently returned from a family vacation in Ireland with my immediate family, parents, siblings, and nephews. We planned the trip, in part, to trace the roots of the Holahan surname and learn more about my father’s heritage. Both sides of my dad’s family–the Holahans and the Whalens–are Irish, though they emigrated so long ago we weren’t sure that we would be able to learn much about them.  We learned quite a bit, as it turned out. Apparently, the family is descended from knights and the forbearers of the word hooligan, which may or may not explain a lot–depending on whom you ask.  The best part of Ireland, for me, however, was seeing how much the country celebrates its storytellers. As an author and semi-Irish American, I feel part of that storytelling tradition by virtue of watered-down blood and very much unfiltered passion. Not surprisingly, one of the highlights of the trip for me was visiting the museum of Irish Emigration, which devotes an entire exhibit to Irish (and Irish descent) storytellers from celebrated avant-garde 20th century literary icon James Joyce (Ulysses, Portrait of The Artist As A Young […]

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Make A Book Trailer Worth WatchingWithout Breaking The Bank

 The best movie trailer that I ever saw was Quentin Tarantino’s for Pulp Fiction. It starts out with slow classical music and an authoritative voice detailing the movie’s awards—interrupted by a gun shot. What follows is a variety of scenes from the movie overlaid with the film’s now iconic soundtrack. It lasts three minutes and features enough stars to populate the Pacific Palisades. A book trailer—particularly an author-financed one—can’t be anything like that. Forget dreams of a fast montage that gives viewers a sense of how the story flows. Setting up each scene and hiring the actors necessary is cost-prohibitive. I’ve learned that the hard way after producing three book trailers for my first three thrillers: Dark Turns, The Widower’s Wife, and Lies She Told, all published by Crooked Lane Books. For a reasonable book trailer that doesn’t look like a hodgepodge of stock photos strung together with a Ken Burns effect (as so many do), you get one scene, one setting, and one actor to tell your story. For my latest book trailer, I hired Alice Teeple, a NYC-based photographer and videographer to come to my house and take a series of still shots that she would turn into the trailer. We found […]

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Throwback Thursday

Remember when I would wait like a high school junior at the mailbox for my latest rejection letter from an agent? Remember when I got so many that I lost count….  Whenever I start feeling overwhelmed by launching a new book and all the what-ifs–am I promoting enough, am I selling enough, will folks like the story, will I ever have another book contract, etc.–I remind myself that there was a day when I aspired to be plagued with these doubts as opposed to the what-if-I-wrote-this-for-nothing what-if.  Writing on spec is one of the most difficult things to do (I know. I did it in between book contracts just last year). You are pouring yourself into a project and you’re not even sure that it will be read by anyone save immediate family members. You hope, but you know that writing and reading is subjective. Just because you like a story, doesn’t mean anyone else will. And, even if you write a brilliant story, it doesn’t mean that your artistry will come across in an elevator pitch. I am fortunate to have a wonderful agent that makes me confident that everything I write will eventually find a home. I also remember all too well when I didn’t.   So, […]

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Not Killing My Darlings

 Every now and again, as a writer, I pen a paragraph or phrase that I REALLY, REALLY like. The words flow in a way that I find personally poetic. The idea conveyed seems deeply honest. The descriptions work…  And, invariably, I wonder if I should delete it.  Surely, it comes across as too writerly, I’ll think. The prose is probably borderline purple. It betrays my own feelings too explicitly. It’s self-indulgent to leave it. I can say whatever it is in a simpler, direct fashion. My journalism training returns: just the facts man, leave your editorializing and flowery language out of it.  Many times I listen to myself and delete it. Sometimes, I try to sneak it in, and my editor suggests that I take an ax to it. Once in awhile, though, I’ll get to keep it. This paragraph (pictured) in Lies She Told is an example of it. I’m happy that I kept it. It’s my favorite in the book. It’s my darling. And I’m glad I didn’t delete her.  Do you kill your darlings or do you try to keep them?  

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Reviews: To Read or Not To Read

My third thriller, Lies She Told, launched Sept. 12 and the reviews have been coming in fast and furious. Last I checked, there are about forty-five on Amazon and 470 reviews/ratings on GoodReads. There are also reviews on Instagram, which I am learning about and just started obsessing over.  And I am reading all of them.  Why? The true artist might ask. The book can’t be changed now. As long as I feel good about my work, what does it matter what other people think?  There are a couple reasons that I read nearly all my reviews. The first is that, like any insecure creative, I must know what people are saying about my brainchild and, by extension, me. I’m as bad as any high school girl with a new haircut. I’ll pretend that it doesn’t matter if the popular kids think my bangs are cute because I like them, but I desperately want the validation.  The far more important, non-ego-centric reason that I read reviews is because they are the second part of the conversation that I initiated with my imagined readers when I started writing my latest novel. I told a tale intending for particular themes to emerge and for my characters to resonate in certain ways. I put in twists and turns that […]

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For Love of Libraries

Today, at 7p.m., I am speaking at THE RAMSEY PUBLIC LIBRARY in Bergen County, NJ, where I grew up and now live. I am so thankful that they invited me and that I live in a place with wonderful local libraries.   Librarians rock. By and large, they are amazing sources of information. Most read constantly and pride themselves on acquiring good books and then recommending them to their visitors. As a result, a strong library system can be the difference between a wonderful work of fiction getting discovered by the masses.  One of the most well read people in the mystery, thriller community is librarian and author Jeff Ayers. Track him down at the next mystery conference and ask about a book that you enjoyed which no one has been able to talk to you about. Chances are, Jeff will know it. Chances are, he’ll even personally know the author. The library was where I discovered my own love of reading. My mom would take me several times a month to the TEANECK PUBLIC LIBRARY to stack up on new books. I loved holing away in a corner of the building, surrounded by the sweet, faintly earthy smell of paper and ink, and getting lost in a fictional […]

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New Cover: Lies She Told

Catcher In The Rye, The Bluest Eye, Crime and Punishment, Middlesex, Gone Girl, The Dinner, One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Lovely Bones… these are some of my favorite books. The authors, styles, and genres are all different. But, they have one thing in common: though I could write the Sparknotes for all these stories, I cannot recall their covers. I don’t mean to suggest that cover art isn’t important. It is. Before a book browser picks up a novel and reads the riveting pitch on the inside flap or the praise from well known writers and critical publications, he or she needs to take the work off a shelf. I write this to underscore that I have no business deciding what my own cover should look like. I deal in character arcs and plot structures, red herrings and twists, research and, even, social commentary. I am not best qualified to pick the single image that will evoke my story and also beckon a reader from across the room. Not surprisingly, I had very little to do with the covers on my prior two books and had about the same amount of input on this one. My publisher has changed all my working titles as well. That’s fine by me. […]

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The Developmental Edit

Today is my birthday. It was also the initial due date for my developmental edit. As a birthday/Christmas present to myself and my family, I finished the second draft a week early. And, it was one of the most difficult things I’ve done in my life.  Novel writing is the long distance running of careers. You have to maintain a pace and get to the finish line, which is typically months, if not years, away.  People take a year or more to pen a first novel. It then takes months–if not a year–to secure an agent and several months to secure a publisher. (Obviously, some books never do. But I learned from the experience of NOT getting an agent for a few novels in drawers that it takes about a year to give up on them too and start something else). If you have a publisher and a contract for a next book, you still have six to eight months or so from the publication of the last novel to the delivery of the next one.  However, writing becomes a sprint during the editing process.  I got back my latest novel from my editors on December 3rd. I had until today to add fifteen to twenty thousand words to it (some […]

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