Molly, as a fellow author
of children's books and mystery books, I would like to ask you
which is your favorite form of writing, fiction or non-fiction.
For my mysteries and
fantasy the circumstances are fiction, although many of the characters
are patterned after people I know: Jono in my fantasy series
is my oldest son, Marc is my youngest, etc. My children's books
are often rooted in things remembered from my own children and
from the children my classes. Can't say whether I prefer fiction
or non fiction the best. I like both.
I note that you have
written several essays about 'the War of 1860s. Do you consider
yourself an historian? Why did you write these articles?
A student of history,
although I have been called 'local historian' now and then by
some here in Oklahoma. As with many who live here in the US,
I have ancestors who fought on both sides of the war between
the states. It is a period of United States history I find especially
fascinating. Have studied the era from childhood. Have visited
many battlefields in the deep south as well as those here on
91the frontier' as this area was considered during the 1860s.
Nearly everyone knows something of this war, however few realize
bitter, bloody war was waged in Missouri, Indian Territory, Arkansas
and even Kansas as well as the better known areas further south
and east. I write the essays to help those who may have limited
knowledge learn a little more about the time. And, I write because
I find it a compelling time in our history.
Is 'Sadie' the Red Dog
featured in your book 'Sadie ' still alive?
She is lying behind me
as we speak! Sadie has grown to be a dear girl, who is content
most of the time. She is now so comfortable with me that she
knows I have no intention to ever hurt or otherwise abuse her.
As a matter of fact not long ago I was working on my computer,
didn't know she was behind my chair and when I stood, fell spread
eagle all over her. She opened one sleepy eye, gave me a "walk
much" glance and when back to sleep. Quite a change from
the cowering craven I met in 1990. I wrote Sadie in the hope
that someone may read the book, and decide they too will try
to rehabilitate another abused and abandoned dog. Sadie's trust
for humans was so low when I first met her in 1990. It took nearly
the whole decade of the 90s for her to really realize that we
are not going to starve, beat, abandon or otherwise mistreat
Do you have plans to
write any sequels to this book?
Maybe, I do write other
stories of the critters who have "come for dinner"
and stayed a decade! We have a real soft spot for the creatures
who come to our front door as frightened, abandoned, starving
and thirsty, near hopeless former house pets.
Is there a special reason
why you chose the pen name tomsdattar, for your children's books?
Daddy was Tom, I am his
daughter. Heh, I do genealogy in my spare time and have found
a Viking tie, I find their patronymic appealing. I wanted to
use a name separate from the one I use for writing mysteries
while keeping the name ME. I am actually m j hollingshead, it
is my maiden name. And, I am Tomsdattar.
You like to write the
'cozy' style mystery. Who are your favorite mystery writers?
Have always liked Agatha
Christie, Ellery Queen, and Erle Stanley Gardner of the old time
folks. As to contemporary writers I like especially would include
William Manchee and Christine Spindler. I like old fashioned
story telling type of writing, and each of these authors do that
How much research goes
into your writing?
I usually throw some
reference or two regarding the war of the 1860s in all of my
books other than the children's books. I have a pretty nice library
of my own on the subject so it is easy to find "tidbits"
to include. For my mysteries I have books, maps and etc of London,
and Arlington, Virginia so that my characters can walk down the
correct streets, etc. When writing on my London series I like
to turn the television to BBC to get me in the right frame of
Do you start your stories
with characters first or do you start with the setting? Why?
I like series rather
than one single book here and there. Inspector's Wife was the
first in my British series, I used my knowledge of the fog and
police problems we had in the San Joaquin Valley, California
and moved the whole shebang to London. The characters seem to
crowd my thinking as I write. By writing series it is easy to
really flesh the characters out, get to know them, etc. When
I start a book I may think the story will go thus and the characters
will do that, however, as I write I often find the characters
have other ideas and they propel me along.
Do you have a 'dream'
Gosh, I don't know. Chuckle,
they are all kind of dream projects I guess. Would like to see
each of my series grow and grow.
Which is your favorite
I especially enjoy reading
and re reading a series by Dana Fuller Ross. The books begin
with western expansion here in the U S and follow characters
lives, and the lives of their descendants for several generations.
Also am very fond of anything written by Lewis Grizzard. He was
a columnist in Atlanta, Georgia for many years, had a home spun
manner of speech and writing. I learned to love Mark Twain as
a child, still enjoy his books.
Would you like to comment
about the e-book versus the p-book debate?
I like both mediums and
know there are advantages for both. There is something very nice
about holding a printed paper book in the hands. And no matter
how popular eBooks become I don't think paper and ink will just
disappear. I love my beautiful historical volumes and wouldn't
want to see them eliminated.
However, for those who have limited
storage space, money, want to tote along a half dozen or more
books on a camping trip, etc. nothing beats an eBook. Books on
CD can be stored in a drawer. The new eReaders can hold many
books in a single device smaller than a pocket book, and because
they are self lighted camping trips out in the wilds without
electricity cause no problem for those who like to read in the
evening. Downloads and other eBook formats cost a fraction of
paper and ink tomes.
What advice would you
give to aspiring writers?
Write everyday. Develop
a real thick skin. Expect rejection letters. Steven King says
he too had rejection letters and he is now one of the foremost
of writers here in the states. And keep writing in spite of all.
I am convinced that writers write because they must, it isn't
something we do just to earn money, or fame or anything else
that may or may not be ours because we write. We write because
we are driven to do so.