Today it’s a pleasure to welcome Holly Geely, dracopodiatrist extraordinaire, to the Spotlight mic. Please don’t be alarmed by the sheets and sheets of newspaper spread across the stage; it’s just that Holly’s brought along her new BFF, Robin Goodfellow. This is Robin:
This is Holly:
This is a microphone:
And this is her new book, The Dragon’s Toenail, whose cover Holly says you should click on so you can see where to buy it.
Now that we’ve introduced you to the main characters, all that’s left for me to say is ADD A COMMENT at the end, and you’ll have a shot at a free copy of this brand new book, which, it happens, is called The Dragon’s Toenail! And now, without any further ado, heeeeeeeeeeeere’s Holly!
Most important question first: your book’s title, “The Dragon’s Toenail.” Now of course you know dragons’ toenails are normally considered a very personal topic. Why did you choose such a personal topic for a title, what qualifies you to speak about this, and what sorts of hoops did you have to jump through to get the dragon’s permission to name a book after his toenail?
The toenail is actually a vital part of the story. The dragon in question will tell you that I didn’t ask permission first, and indeed, the toenail is not the worst thing that happens to him.
I knew that for my debut novel I would have to include a dragon. I didn’t realize it would be about his toenail until I’d finished the first draft. It’s an attractive toenail, of course, I just didn’t know how important it would be.
I suppose we should do our due diligence and back up a little. Word on the street is this isn’t your first novel. I dare you to share the opening lines and a drawing from that fine, fine 3rd grade work. And tell us your inspiration.
I searched high and low with no luck – my first novel is lost forever. I can tell you that it had an orange construction paper cover. It starred all of my friends and we went on an adventure together to meet a unicorn (with wings!). One of my friends got mad – I described her as “short, short-haired” and she thought I was calling her “short short” (she wasn’t tall) and she yelled at me. It was my first bad review.
I’d love to know the journey of Toenail. When you started writing it, did you know how the story would end, or did the Finnaly brothers keep changing things up for you? Did you ever have to pick drafts back out of the trash, or was your love constant and unshakeable? What kept you going?
When I started, The Dragon’s Toenail was a serious story. (…I know, right? Impossible to believe.) I thought I had to write something meaningful. My brother suggested that it was too mopey, and that I’m better at humour. My second attempt won me approval (and chuckles) and the first draft was completed on those terms.
The first ending was completely different. More of the book was dedicated to the Finnalys’ cruel father, and that didn’t fit. In the final version, their father was a good man who loved them – but he also loved to gamble. The original ending is about somewhere in the middle of the book now, and more of that gets resolved…but not all of it, since this is a trilogy…
Critique groups? Beta readers? How did you approach and/or survive the editing process?
My brother read the first, second, third…well, every draft. When it was closer to complete, a good friend of mine edited the heck out of it. I’ve got day job (that I love dearly) but I’m not rich; writing is what I do on the side and I can’t afford to pump a lot of money into it (especially now that I’m getting a new puppy :D)
That being said, I take my writing seriously, even if the content is outrageous. It has been polished to the best of my (and their) ability to provide a light-hearted but well-done product. Also there are pictures of a chubby goblin.
This is a HUGE challenge for a ton of us writers: how FOR THE LOVE OF AN OGRE’S WART did you know when to write “The End” and stick to it?
I didn’t know it was a trilogy until I was making the final edits. The epilogue is a bit open-ended but I thought I did that for laughs…turns out there’s two more books in my head. I didn’t want to be done with the Finnaly brothers.
As for the ending of this first book, like I said the original ending was different. It didn’t feel right. When I thought of the title of the epilogue I knew just what to do.
Titles usually come last for me and they tend to be a pain in the butt. Once I realized that this book is called The Dragon’s Toenail, a new world opened up. Chapters titles came flooding in. Once those final edits were complete and the next two books had been plotted, their titles came to me as well. It was like title Christmas.
Did you query it first a la the traditional route? What made you decide to go indie — and what is going indie like? did you hire artists, editors, lawyers, hairstylists? was the indie experience harder or easier than you thought?
I hired an artist – my brother Ethaniel (ethanielritchot.com). He’s my favourite artist of all time, and not just because we’re related. There’s no one I’d rather give my money too! Seriously, if you look at the six illustrations in the book and the stunning orange cover, you’ll see what I mean.
I didn’t query it first. I thought, here is a ridiculous book that has a niche market (people who have or enjoy my sense of humour and like a good parody) and querying is only going to lead to heartbreak. I was going to trash the whole thing but when I re-read it, I realized how much I love it. The Finnaly brothers have become near and dear to my heart.
Neal’s my favourite though. I think you can tell when you read it.
Did you find flash fiction — which you write and whose contests you win all the time!!! — a help to writing and editing a novel? in what ways?
Competing in flash competitions has certainly helped me with editing. It’s also been a journey of self-discovery. I have learned that I’m a short story writer with a couple of novels in me. I like a good punch line and the short format is great for that.
Flash has taught me that every word counts. Even in this interview you can see that I like to say “actually” “indeed” and other such things. They can add to the humour but they also clunk up a manuscript. Sometimes it’s hard to let go.
Now that you’ve got a published novel under your belt: what have you learned from the experience that you’ll do differently for the next one? anything that worked well for you that you’ll do again? did you have a theme song when writing it? do you have specific requirements for writing — coffee, silence, loud music, chocolate-scented candles?
I’ve started book two, and this time it’s humour from the beginning. It’s a first draft, but I’m formatting as I go to make my life easier at the end. Otherwise I won’t change much; Finnalys will do as Finnalys have always done.
There’s no specific theme song I use, but depending on my mood I’ll fire up certain playlists. I have a “Japanese Mellow” list that’s good, and I have a “Pretty Female Voices” list that definitely helps. It’s easier to write when it’s just me and my music but I have been known to crank the volume and keep at it even though the husband is chasing the dog around.
Speaking of the next one: Toenail’s cover says this is the first in a trilogy. Give us a hint of what’s in Book Two, and when we might expect to see that, please!
My dream-time goal is to have the book out about the same time next year, but it’s slow-going. The Dragon’s Toenail took me two years to write, but that was when I had no idea what it was.
Book two introduces a couple of new characters and another dragon. At its core, it strives to be a parody of a murder mystery. There will be more romance. There will almost certainly be more poop jokes. Here is a sneak peek at Chapter Two:
Finally, one last word of advice for the dear readers, please. What is Knight Brogan’s secret, that despite being dressed in full body armor which covers every last bit of him, he is still able to pick up a date? Despite how many people wish to kill him out of jealousy, are you considering bottling up that magical formula and selling it somewhere??
His face is visible, so that helps. The Finnalys are dripping with good looks. The Finnaly charm cannot be bottled and sold, unfortunately, but Brogan would tell you that the key to Finnaly seduction… is being a Finnaly.
Bonus Q. Any shouts out?
First off, I want to say thanks to the Flashdogs, especially the top dogs, because without them I wouldn’t have considered publishing this book. Having my name in print in the Solstice Anthology (psst: go buy it if you don’t have it; it’s wonderful) inflated my ego and made me want more. My head has swelled up and blown away, but my heart remains. The heart wants what the heart wants…and this heart wants The Dragon’s Toenail to be how I’m remembered.
My brother has been my biggest help through all this (I hope he’s reading this) and I thank him from the bottom of my cold, shriveled heart. My editor friend is also near and dear to me, and though she’s halfway across the world, she’s still one of my best friends and biggest fans.
Also, thanks to you, Dragon Boss, for encouraging me – and all of us – to challenge ourselves and our creativity. Without you, I would never have made the online buddies I have now, and I’d be a lonely little writer laughing at her own jokes.
I still laugh at my own jokes, but now (I hope) there’s someone out there laughing with me.
Thank you, Holly!!! And now to the rest of you: LEAVE A COMMENT! Holly is giving away a free copy of The Dragon’s Toenail to a randomly selected commenter. (Name drawn Wednesday 7:30am, Wash DC time).
And while you’re waiting, Holly suggests buying several copies (click on the book cover below to see where) and distributing them to friends, family, and most particularly good-looking total strangers you are hoping will become friends.