Now a resident of Portland, ME, Holly and her husband (an architect, photographer, and food writer – though why anyone would want to write on food instead of paper escapes my logic) enjoy the company of their independent dependent cats. With several novels and anthologies to her credit, Holly authored “Summer Friends,” a tale of two nine year old girls whose friendship blossoms and traverses decades of life’s hills and valleys.
Once again returning to the Maine coastal setting of “Summer Friends,” Holly’s soon to be released “Last Summer” combines the elements of youthful curiosity and seemingly insurmountable dilemmas with the adult problems of raising a teen while trying to maintain a foothold on life’s slippery slopes. This is the story of two teens and their mothers, friends all, and the divisive events that will damage imagined unbreakable bonds. But it’s also the story of how hope shattered, can be pieced together, one fragment at a time.
Q) You have lived in a variety of locales besides Maine, including New York and Boston. Do you believe such varied lifestyles have added to your storytelling?
A) I grew up in New York City, moved to Boston when I was thirty-three, and then to Portland, Maine when I was in my early forties. But before you asked this interesting question, I’m not sure I ever gave any thought as to how living in these various environments might have made me a better storyteller. But now that I think about it, yes, I think that the particular friends I made in each place, as well as the particular dynamic of each community in which I’ve made my home, certainly provided (and continues to provide) me with a wealth of information I’ve used in my work in a variety of ways. The more you experience, the more you can imagine various lives into existence.
Q) Your novels regularly focus on the discovery of the inner strengths of women. What is it about this topic that brings you back to it? And, have you considered other genres?
A) Everyone’s heard that old bit of advice: write about what you know. I suppose that for me writing about girls and women and their journey to (one hopes) strength and peace of mind, is in some ways a no-brainer. That said, as I certainly haven’t experienced first hand half of the adventures my characters have lived through, there is a good deal of empathetic and sympathetic imagination required in my work – meaning, I’m often writing about what I don’t know - yet!
As for considering other genres, well, I’m not sure I have the talent to write in many – if any – other genres. For example, I love reading mysteries, especially historical ones, but the very idea of what it would take to plot a mystery causes me to black out. My friend Brenda Buchanan is a writer of contemporary mysteries based here in Maine and when I review her plotting strategies I’m in awe.
Q) In “The Trouble with Witchcraft,” a novella in the “Sex and the Single Witch” anthology, you unveiled a delightfully crisp and sexy humor. Will we see that side of your writing style again in the future?
A) First, I thank you for your kind words about the writing in “The Trouble with Witchcraft”. It’s one of my favorite pieces! And yes, I’d love to try my hand again at the kind of – to quote you! – “delightfully crisp and sexy humor” – found in that novella. Now, the opportunity just needs to present itself.
Q) Broken friendship such as in “Last Summer” isn’t a light subject, but one many of us have suffered through. What inspired you to broach this theme?
A) Yes, the subject of broken friendships certainly isn’t a light one. I’m not entirely sure why I decided to write about a damaged friendship at that particular point in my career, but I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t done some emotional damage to others once close to me, and that I haven’t been the recipient of some emotional damage, as well. Another big theme in SUMMER FRIENDS and in many of my other books, especially in LAST SUMMER, is forgiveness. I think I was most interested in writing about forgiveness and renewed understanding between the main characters. I hope that in the end readers find the story to be an uplifting one.
Q) Why cats and no dogs? We have both, though I swear the cat’s dyslexic because it says “Woem” instead of “meow.”
A) Well, the jig is up. I’m a crazy cat lady and there’s no denying it. One of these days I’ll be coughing up a fur ball. Don’t get me wrong. I love dogs, too. In fact, I go mad over most all animals. But there’s something about cats . . . I don’t know. Maybe I was a feline in a former life. Still, I promise to try to introduce a canine character very soon!
Q) What recharges your batteries so you’re prepared to write your next novel?
A) The easy – and true – answer to that is: sleep, sleep, and more sleep! If sleeping were a paid profession I’d be a millionaire. Also, and coming in a close second, reading is another very good way to recharge my batteries so that I’m (eventually) ready to tackle the next book. And did I mention sleep?
Q) Any parting comments for those who have yet to discover your wonderful stories?
A) Once again, I thank you for your kind words about my work. I try really hard to write books that touch people’s hearts and that challenge them to be, as I mentioned above, forgiving and open-minded. And, of course, I try really hard to entertain people, too. So, I certainly hope that anyone in the mood for a story that will make her laugh and cry, as well as a story that will in the end leave her feeling better for having read it, will consider picking up a book by Holly Chamberlin.
DA Kentner is an author and journalist. www.kevad.net