Today, I'm excited to introduce you to S.M. Holland! She shares with us more insight to her writing, tips for aspiring authors, helplines for suicide prevention, and an excerpt from her debut novel. Definitely be sure to check S.M. Holland out!
Tell me about yourself:
I love to travel and eat all the food. I currently live in Asia with my husband and amazing kids. I write full time. My current project I am working on is a mature YA series on teens who struggle with mental illness.
What first inspired you to start writing?
I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was in middle school. At that point in my life, writing was an escape, a safe place for me to hide when the world around me was always moving and crashing in from every direction.
After high school I stopped writing, until a couple years ago. I hit rock bottom, suffering from depression and anxiety, I couldn’t even leave my bedroom without having a mental breakdown. A friend of mine encouraged me to write about it. The first day I wrote since high school was like a breath of fresh air. I haven’t been able to stop since.
Are you a cat or dog lover?
Dogs. Because they are awesome and the most loving animals on the planet. (Sorry cats.)
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
A mixture of both. In this series I am working on, every single main character shares one of my characteristics or quirks. I write a lot of my personal experiences into their story lines as well. But I’ve covered it up and hidden it in the fictional world I have created. However, what I write is realistic to true life, so really, I could be writing about anybody.
What author has most influenced your writing?
I have to be completely honest here. I am not a reader, I struggle with focusing and staying in the story (one of the joys of being ADHD). I am working hard on changing that, trying to not only read more in my genre, but trying out other genres I would have never picked out on my own. Right now, I am reading Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. Ask me in a couple of years and I may have an answer for this question.
Tell us a little about your plans for the future. Where do you see yourself as a writer in five years?
In five years I hope to be a strong advocate for mental illness. I would love for this series I am working on to help launch me onto a platform where I can help change lives. I want people to see that anyone can suffer from mental illness, it doesn’t matter your economical statues, your race, religion: People suffer.
The feedback after my first novel went out was unbelievable. I had no idea I could touch people’s lives in that way. I want to keep doing that with my stories. I want people to have a better understanding of mental illness if they don’t suffer, and I want those who do suffer to know they are not alone.
This is what I want my future to look like, doing more of the same. I want to continue and encourage the conversation on mental health.
Also, maybe venture out into some other standalone books that don’t necessarily center around mental illness. Maybe. Some day.
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favorite and why?
Oh goodness, this is a hard question. At this moment, I would have to say Jared from my first novel. I had no idea I could create such a powerful character. I didn’t know it was possible for me to dump that much of my soul into a fictional being. He being my first completed manuscript will always hold a sweet spot in my heart.
Any website or resources that have been helpful to you as a writer?
Because of the sensitive topics I write about, people have been the most helpful to me as a writer. Everything from educational therapists and psychologists on YouTube, to people who have let me interview them for their personal experiences dealing with mental illness or having to spend time in a hospital because of their illnesses. People want their voices to be heard, and through this project I am helping make that happen.
Oh, I also study the DSM. That has been an important and helpful resource as well.
What do you love most about the writing process?
It’s free therapy! Writing has allowed me to untangle years of hurt, suffering and abuse. I am not a very eloquent speaker in person, but when it comes to writing and putting words on paper, I almost feel as if I have a super power. Nothing can stop me! Writing has given me power I have never found anywhere else.
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
If I could spend time with any MC from my series I would probably choose Noah. I would probably annoy the hell out of him and follow him around asking questions about his childhood to understand how he turned out the way he did. I won’t tell you what mental illness he has right now, I don’t want to give it away just yet. But he has been one of the hardest MC’s to write and to understand. So, I think spending some one on one time with him would be insightful.
What are some tips you can give other aspiring writers?
If you want to be a writer, the write. It’s all about consistency. Write every day, even if it’s less than 500 words at a time. The moment you stop and skip a few days, or in my case, a couple months (But in my defense, I moved across the planet) it becomes difficult to get motivated and start again. Who cares about the quality of your writing or the subject of what you’re writing. Write every damn day. In a few months you’ll already be better than when you first started. In a year your skills will be even stronger. Never stop.
Also, save up your money for a damn editor if you want to self-publish. Take pride in your work and never let someone tell you that you can’t do it. I come from a rough background of ‘no’s’ and ‘you’re not smart enough’s’. I’m ADHD and suffer from other mental illnesses that make it hard to function some days. I don’t let that stop me anymore. I don’t let humans decide my future either.
Back to my first sentence: if you want to be a writer, then dammit-write!
What inspires you to keep writing?
Honestly? My own sanity. Writing makes me happy. It keeps me calm. If I skip a week of writing or editing, you can almost guarantee I will turn into a sopping weeping mess. Writing is life.
What are you working on now?
I am working very hard on this series, currently there are eight books. The second book, Sara’s Story is getting ready to head off to beta readers, and the book after that, Cameron’s Story is chillin’ with my critique partner. I excited for these books to come out!
Can you leave us with an excerpt?
Here is an excerpt from Get in My Head: Sara’s Story that will be coming out this January (fingers crossed).
"Earth to Sara, is anyone home in there? Or have your blonde roots finally infiltrated your brain?"
I shoot him a glare. I don't know why he always pulls the blonde card. He's blonde too. "I thought you were supposed to be nice to me this time?"
"Says the international handbook of twinerly love."
"No, that version is for identical twins only. You're out of luck."
"Wonderful." I open another box and pull out a family picture from years ago. I was probably six, maybe seven. We don't have very many pictures with the whole family together, so this one is special to me. Mom hates it, she says is makes her sad, but I don't care. I place it on my desk and push another box in front of it.
"Stop moping around and come join the rest of us. You know he's leaving in a few days, right?"
I throw a shoe at Shane. "I'll be up in a minute, I need to get some of these boxes unpacked."
"No, you'll get distracted and forget to come up and the rest of us will have to listen to Mom huff and puff around the kitchen slamming cabinet doors because you've left the rest of us waiting, again. You know how she gets before Dad's deployments."
Right. I suck in a sharp breath, too fast, it makes me dizzy.
A perfect start to Jr year. Not only did we just move across country to a new city, new school, to a land with no friends, we are going to a civilian school for the first time in years, and the icing on the cake? Dad's disappearing to some undisclosed location in the Middle East for the next twelve months. Or longer. Who knows? The military isn't one to share its secrets. A lot like the rest of my family.
Pressure builds up behind my eyes and I quickly step into my closet, pretending to organize a shelf. Push it down. You're fine. I clench my fists and dig my fingernails into the palms of my hands. I can't lose it, because Mom is going to lose it every day for the next twelve months.
"You okay?" Shane pops his head in my closet.
"Yeah, I'm fine. I'm just unpacking."
"It's kind of hard to unpack with your hands clenched so tight." He clears his throat and nods towards my hands which are quickly losing circulation.
"It's a new method I learned." I release my tingling fingers.
"What would that be?"
"If a box isn't worth unclenching my fists for, then I have to burn it."
"Right... well, I'm going to go eat. I'll tell Mom you're coming."
"Don't get lost in outer space this time space cadet." He shoves my shoulder and kicks a box on his way out of my room.
That sounds more appealing. I give permission for a few tears to slide down my face before I suck it up and step out of my closet. Last few days with Dad. I can do this.
I square my shoulders and head upstairs, preparing myself to be the foundation Mom leans on, the railing to stop Shane from going over the edge, the pillow for Tate to cuddle when he needs it, and the never ending well for Kyle to dump all the pressure that Mom dumps on him.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us before you go?
In the back of all my books in this series I have collected a list of resources for people to use if they need help, or just someone to talk to.
I want anyone who is struggling to know that they don’t have to struggle in silence. This is something that is very near and dear to my heart, and I hope by sharing this, maybe one person will reach out and get the help they need.
(text: HOME to 741741)
(text: TEEN to 839863. Open from 6pm-10pm PST. Email available for international use)
(For help with sexual assault call: 1-800-656-4673)
(For help with domestic abuse call: 1-800-799-7233)
(Specializes in helping young adults overcome self-harm and depression)
More About S.M. Holland:
Holland's debut novel 'Get in My Head: Jared's Story' is only one of a series depicting teenagers and their struggles with mental illness. Follow along to learn about the affects mental illness can have on a person.
If you or someone you love is suffering, please do not hesitate to ask for help. Remember: you are loved.National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Follow Holland on Twitter: @shy_holland