Welcome, today we are talking with Holly Bargo! I would like to thank you for taking time out of your busy writing schedule to answer a few questions. First, let’s delve into who you are. Some of the questions may be untraditional but you’d be surprised at what readers connect to, and sometimes the simplest ‘I can relate to that’ grabs their interest where nothing else can.

Can you share a little something about Holly Bargo that’s not mentioned in your bio on your website?

I dearly want to travel, but I loathe traveling. There’s nothing fun about waiting in airports, being crammed into uncomfortable seats, and the general inconvenience and discomfort of travel. To take care of that desire to experience other cultures and places, I enjoy watching travel shows. 

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? 

Since high school. As a young child, I flirted with the idea of becoming a nurse like my mother. Then I wanted to become a veterinarian. Then I learned I was squeamish. So, healthcare was out of the question.

Since I liked to write stories and seemed to be pretty good at it if my grades in English classes were any indication, that seemed to be a good direction. However, there wasn’t much in the way of job opportunities in publishing unless one wanted to be a newspaper journalist—which I did not. I looked into advertising, but never found a job there either. My skills took me into clerical work which I detested—and there I became slotted. Once clerical, always clerical: finding a hiring manager who could see past that was almost impossible. I did, however, manage to edge my way into other work that involved research, newsletters, and brochures, which helped to satisfy that impetus to write. 

How long have you been writing? 

Forever. I’ve been telling fantastical, wacked-out, absurd stories since I learned the alphabet.

What have you found most challenging about it? 

Commercial success. There are many ways to count success and I’ve met many of them: producing a manuscript, publishing, etc. However, the only metric that really counts in society is the almighty dollar. This is why I freelance as both an editor and ghostwriter: something’s got to pay the bills.

What does writing do for you? Is it fun, cathartic, do you get emotional or exhausted when you write those hot scenes?

Writing gets those voices out of my head and is more or less a survival mechanism. I have on obsessive personality, so a story that sparks my imagination will play out over and over, developing, adding, cutting, revising, etc. in my mind until it drives me batty. I lose sleep. I can’t concentrate. When I say that if I don’t write my brain will explode, I’m not really kidding.

I don’t necessarily get emotional when writing, but I will feel drained because I just bled all that emotion onto the page. When writing hot scenes, I’ll feel the arousal, but it’s gone when the scene ends—bled onto the page. I guess you could say that writing is primarily cathartic for me. 

Describe what your writing routine looks like. Are you disciplined with a strict schedule or do you have to be in the mood? 

Routine? What’s a routine? When it comes to client (meaning paid) work, I establish a robust routine to make sure the work gets done. I dislike procrastination. For my own writing, that depends on my mood. I’ve learned that writing when I’m not in the mood produces utter garbage. 

Did you go into writing thinking that it would be a hobby or a job? 

When writing for clients it’s a job, no two ways about that. Writing for myself has never sustained the commercial success necessary to elevate itself from hobby status, because I can’t justify giving up paid work. 

What inspires you? 

If you mean where do I get ideas, the answer is everywhere. The Falcon of Imenotash was inspired by a movie to which it bears no resemblance. Pure Iron came about because I’d read one too many angst-filled New Adult romance and said, “I can do better than that.” As for what inspires me in general to write, that’s the compulsion to get those voices out of my head. 

Let’s move on and give readers some insight into your personal life.

 What is your favorite:

  • Animal – Just one? If I have to pick just one, I’d go with cats.
  • Food – Chocolate, so cliché.
  • Movie – I have three favorites and refuse to choose: Auntie Mame, Phantom of the Opera, Last of the Mohicans, and Sabrina—not necessarily in that order.
  • TV show – MASH or WKRP in Cincinnati. Yes, they’re both old, but you just can’t find excellent writing like that in TV anymore.
  • Singer – Gordon Lightfoot.
  • Author – Robin McKinley.

 What are your pet peeves?

That’s opening a can of worms! I have too many to list, so we’ll stick with pet peeves as related to publishing. Those would have to be authors who don’t have their manuscripts edited. I cringe when I come across homophone errors, grammatical errors, and the like. And cliffhangers. I hate cliffhangers.

 Who is your hero? 

I can’t say that I have one. 

Give us one thing on your bucket list. 

I want to travel to Italy.

What would readers find surprising about you? 

Politically and culturally, I’m conservative while still being a feminist in the true sense of the word; however, that doesn’t automatically translate into intolerance.

If you could go to heaven, who would you visit? 

Who says I’m not going? Or do you know something I don’t? 

Any bad habits?

Tons. I’m working on them. 

Now that our readers know who Holly Bargo is let’s get down to the business of your book, FOCUS.   How long did it take you from beginning to end before your novel was finished, and how did you decide on the topic and title?

FOCUS took me three months to write, although the first scene of the story came to me probably a year or so before I actually buckled down and wrote the story. If I recall correctly, I had once again tried to read a BDSM-themed romance and DNF’d it out of disgust. That disgust manifested in the book’s opening scene. Finally, in February, I committed to doing something with it.

Please tell us a little bit about, FOCUS.

FOCUS originated from my attempt to write a realistic female protagonist who’s strong enough bend to circumstances without losing herself. Dana imbues a few of my traits and values—such as her concern with the welfare of her cat. Sam, the hero, is physically modeled on a young man I knew a long, long time ago. Because I do like alpha males as heroes, he fits the mold, but isn’t an utter jerk about it. It’s important that I like my heroes and heroines.

What was your hardest challenge writing this book? 

Keeping the characters from becoming flat, cardboard cliches and working out the mystery. I love mysteries, but I’m not usually clever enough to solve them; therefore, writing one really made me think. 

What kind of research did you have to do?

I researched parks around Chicago and a little about photo developing and cameras.

What in your opinion makes good chemistry between your leading characters? 

Neither one is spineless. Sam has the strength to accept and appreciate a strong-willed, intelligent woman. Dana grows to appreciate his alpha qualities; her stepfather serves as a good role model. 

Any other works in progress?  

I always have something in progress, probably three dozen manuscripts started. However, there are two under continuing work: an untitled sequel to Hogtied and an as-yet untitled paranormal, historical romance.

Any advice for aspiring authors?

Quit worrying about what everyone else will think. Write the damned story. It will be horrible. The real work begins in self-editing and revision—a critical phase that too many indie authors skip. Another often-neglected step is hiring a professional editor. Yes, it’s expensive. However, a professional editor will elevate your story to the next level. Truly.

Think of it this way: If you won’t invest your money in your own book, then why should anyone invest theirs to buy it?

Final words?

Year 2020 has been hard on everyone. Cut yourself some slack if you haven’t made the progress you wanted.

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