Thursday, January 30, 2020

Q&A with Hollie Overton

Hollie Overton is the author of the novel The Runaway. She also has written the novels The Walls and Baby Doll. In addition, she is a TV writer and producer. She lives in Los Angeles.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Runaway, and for your characters Becca and Ash? 

A: When I set out to write my third novel,  I knew I wanted to write a mother/daughter story. Being adopted, I'm interested in families that aren't blood related so that's how they came to life. 

I've also been trying to have a baby, and a lot of Becca's experiences and struggles were informed by my own. 

My decision to make Becca a therapist seemed like it would have a lot of built in conflict, especially if she were dealing with a troubled teenager. 

Ash was a product of a lot of research I did about homeless street kids. She's such a survivor and I really love her, even though she makes some pretty terrible decisions in the book.  

Q: You note that you had to do research on a variety of topics to write the novel. How did you do your research, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?

I researched a lot about the homeless and L.A. and how they survive and the ways in which the system fails them.

I knew that in order to properly portray the work Becca does as well as the police investigation that makes up a lot of the book, I'd have to talk to experts.

I was so lucky to find a psychologist who worked with the LAPD and did the job Becca did for over eight years. He read the entire book and answered hundreds of emails.

I also was fortunate enough to have several police officers I turned to. One was from L.A. and one was a friend from high school and their input was invaluable. I really don't think I could have written a book without their help. 

Q: Do you usually know how your novels will end, or do you make many changes along the way?

A: As a TV writer, it's drilled into your head that you need to outline. I'm a stickler for that. But when I wrote my first book, I sort of winged it and figured out the ending halfway through.

It would be a much easier process if I was a bit more of a plotter and it's something I may attempt with Book 4, but I'm also a big fan of doing whatever works for you. The process is the process and as long as you're getting to the end of your story, it doesn't really matter how you do it. 

Q: How important is setting to you in your writing?

A: It's interesting because in my first book, Baby Doll, I set it in a small town in Pennsylvania but it wasn't an important part of the story.

The book ended up doing quite well and sold in a lot of countries and I think it's partly because it felt like those events could have happened in any small town. But it wasn't a calculated choice. It was the right choice for the book. 

That changed with my next two books. The Walls was set in Houston and The Runaway was obviously L.A. Those cities have a great deal of personality so I knew once I picked the setting, it would end up being pivotal to the storytelling. 

Q: What are you working on now? 

A: I just wrapped the second season as a writer/producer on Tell Me A Story for CBS-All-Access. I'm currently developing several TV projects of my own, and I'm working on my fourth novel. I'm also teaching TV writing at Script Anatomy, an L.A.-based TV writing company. 

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: If anyone wants to follow my writing journey, or see what I'm working on next they can visit my website or my instagram @hollieoverton  

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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