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Write On, Wednesday: Bestselling Author Holly Peterson Talks about her new book, early morning writing, & more

By Leslie Lindsay

What a thrill to interview Bestselling author HOLLY PETERSON. She has a brand-new snappy book coming out this spring (oh, dear…let’s *hope* it’s spring-like come April) which explores love, marriage, and friendship in a whole new way–one which leads us to more questions than answers.

L.L.: Thank you, Holly for chatting with us today about your upcoming book, THE IDEA OF HIM (April 1, 2014 William Morrow, where books are sold, Amazon, Barnes & Noble). I think many of us are enamored with the idea of being happy and thus surrounding ourselves with the things we think will bring that happiness—the perfect job, the well-decorated home, the handsome husband. But when we dissect the situation further, we realize none of its making us feel happy and secure. Do you feel this is a phenomenon—or a trap—we as a society have fallen into?

Holly Peterson: Interesting question. I do think when we get an idea of a person into our head that will fulfill our emotional needs, it’s very easy to be unrealistic or downright delusional about that person because the psychological needs are propelling us to believe that this person will save us, solve everything in our lives.  Love is powerful and can be all consuming…millions of authors and screenwriters and artists of all kind tap into this basic truth.

Question is: are you confusing actual love for someone with and idea of someone? “Oh, he’s so strong and determined, he’ll make a great husband…but is he fun and do you actually want to go to a movie with him?” Or, “She’s so hot, she’ll make me look young and virile…but when you’re at the breakfast table reading the papers, is she engaging in your interests?” As for concrete things like great meals or clothes or the perfect shoe, I’d say it’s much harder to delude ourselves and those things do have a chance of legitimately brightening our day.

L.L.: You’re obviously quite accomplished in your career—a former producer for ABC news, a Newsweek reporter, not to mention the author of the best-selling THE MANNY–and a new book about to be released. What do you think has contributed to your overall success—luck? Hard work? Connections? A combination? 

Holly Peterson: My career is definitely a combination of hard work bordering on workaholic as I get up at 4am to write, my intense drive, and an inability to accept the word “no” which very very much helps in journalism as so much of the work we do is to get people to talk.  James Carville the political consultant once told me no reporter had ever called him as many times as I had…like 72 or something because I absolutely needed a quote and I tried for 3 months to get him to talk about his work with the former Israeli Official Ehud Barak and he didn’t want to…but in the end he did out of exasperation from my phone messages.  I do also have family connections mostly through a father who was a Cabinet official and a Wall Street executive. Until I was about 35, I didn’t like to use them as I was so intent on doing everything overseas etc with ABC News on my own…but as I had children, and as certain magazine bosses wanted me to call his business colleagues for stories etc, I gave in because it was the path of least resistance at times.  So I’d say it’s a combination of hard work and connections for journalism work but for novel writing…I’m going to definitely say it’s all me slogging through on my own steam through it at 4am with a blinking cursor.

Holly PetersonL.L.:As a mother, I am always interested in how authors balance their writing time with their family obligations. At one point I think I read you worked on THE MANNY from 9:45pm until 3am weeknights after the kids went to bed. What if you’re just not a “night person?” but still a drive to get a book out?

Holly Peterson: The problem is this: emails are important. Your kid is telling you the cable guy is there when you’ve been waiting for weeks with no Internet. The price on the airline tickets goes up if you don’t respond to your travel agent NOW…and as a mom these emails pour in all day so it’s impossible to get into a writing groove with all the “important” disruptions that feel so crucial at the time.  So last book was me working from 930 pm to 3am with diet coke and wine at the same time, one to keep me up, one to loosen me up for good sexual tension scenes.  This time, for some reason, it’s all 4am with tea and protein shake until 7 to get kids out to school for an hour or so, then at library for at least the morning…with the iphone hidden across the room behind some books.

L.L.:  Speaking of kids, how do yours respond to you being a successful author? In their eyes, is it cool or nerdy? “Just another job?”

Holly Peterson: My kids are teenagers and preteens…so they are so focused on their lives and I don’t think they care much. They like that I work and like my work as an “idea” but I can’t say they ask questions or are thinking about it much!

L.L.: Let’s move onto obtaining a literary agent. What advice might you give to an emerging writer desiring to get published in the traditional sense, NYC publishing house, etc.?

Holly Peterson: I would watch the self-publishing industry/movement very carefully as you can publish your book in an hour and get about 75% of the proceeds if you do on your own.  Yes, traditional publishing houses are the best route for sure, but getting their interest and obtaining an agent are very very hard these days.  No other advice than to send your manuscript out, or your first three chapters with a GREAT LETTER AND A GREAT FRESH CONCEPT THAT IS MARKETABLE to a lot of potential agents and call them for follow ups.

L.L.: What are you reading now—for fun? For education?  

Holly Peterson: I read so much press all the time…a bunch of newspapers and magazines all day: New York Times, New York Post, Wall Street Journal on weekends…Vanity Fair, the New Yorker, Vogue etc…As for Fiction, I’m reading Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch right now.

L.L.:  What is obsessing you? 

Holly Peterson: With no television covering fiction, very few magazines donating space to it, no bookstores for people to browse in, how on earth does a fiction writer get the word out about their book? All day I think about creative ways to find my audience.

L.L.: Finally, what will you be working on next?

Holly Peterson: Two things in the works: A novel about the Hamptons because no one has done it right yet…and…an outdoor cooking cook book.

L.L.: Thank you, again for your insight and inspiration, Holly!

Holly Peterson: Thank you, Leslie!

Bio: Holly Peterson is the author of New York Times and internationa best seller, The Manny. She was a Contributing Editor for Newsweek and editor-at-large for Tina Brown’s Talk magazine. She was also an Emmy Award-winning producer for the ABC News for more than a decade, where she covered global politics. Her writing has been published in the New York Times, Newsweek, Talk, the Daily Beast, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and other publications.

You can learn more about Holly at: www.HollyPeterson.com

FaceBook: http://www.Facebook.com/HollyPetersonny

Twitter: @HollyPetersonNY

With special thanks to Holly Peterson, Susie Stagland, Heidi Metcalfe Lewis, & HarperCollins for this interview opportunity. Cover image retrieved from Amazon on 2.28.14.

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