Monday, April 23, 2012

Interview with Debra Holland, Author of Sower of Dreams

Join us as we chat with Debra Holland, author of Sower of Dreams on Blog Talk Radio this Wednesday, April 25th at 3:30 PM Pacific Time.

Hello, Debra! Wow! Quite the amazing resume here! *grin* Why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m a psychotherapist, corporate crisis/grief counselor, author, and speaker. I live in Southern California with my boyfriend. We have a dog and two cats. I’m a martial artist—second degree blackbelt, and I teach karate. I love to do women’s fitness bootcamp three or four days a week.

You said something in your bio that I wholeheartedly agree with! “The common publishing philosophy is that an author should take different pen names for different kinds of books or "the reader will be confused." Debra thinks her readers are smart enough to distinguish between her various books.” Now that you’ve put that into motion, what can you tell us about your experience?

So far, I haven’t had anyone complaining about the different books I write--Sweet Historical Western Romance, Fantasy Romance, and Romantic Space Opera, as well as a nonfiction book on grief.

The Sweet Historical Westerns are the really popular books. I don’t have a lot of cross-over readers between them and the Fantasies, but I have some.

What inspired this story?

I loved the works of Andre Norton, the Grand Dame of Science Fiction and Fantasy. In fact, when I was thirteen, she was the first fantasy author I read. I particularly loved her Witch World Series. At one point, Andre had a Witch World anthology that authors could submit stories to. I thought of a story, and queried her.

She sent me a letter, telling me she no longer did those anthologies. It was an actual letter, telling me about what she was doing, the weather, her cats… So I wrote back. She wrote back. Thus, began a correspondence that spanned the last couple of years of her life.

I decided to expand the story into a book, which under a different title was a Romance Writers of America Golden Heart finalist. But at 42,000 words the book was too short to do anything with. I expand the story into a full-length book, then into a trilogy. I sent Andre the first book, Sower of Dreams. She made a few suggestions, like change the name of the country from Seaview because it sounded like a modern apartment building. I chose Seagem, which is a much better fit.

Andre gave me a lovely endorsement, probably one of the last she did before she passed away: “Desert and sea provide backgrounds for action and real emotion in Sower of Dreams—outstanding and well-presented fantasy, which will keep the book in one’s hands, eyes on the page--A GOOD READ.”

The people who review your books say that your world is very vivid. One reviewer went so far as to say, “This book would also make a wonderful movie.” Can you tell us a bit more? What is it about Seagem that makes it so vivid in your mind?

I guess it’s because I can see the city on the cliffs by turquoise ocean under the lavender sky--the greenstone buildings, the castle with balconies and flags flying from the round turrets. The temple of the SeaGod…

I’m so attached to the characters, even the minor ones, that I cried when I killed one off recently. He died valiantly, but I so wished he didn’t have to!

What inspired these characters?

I liked how in Andre’s Witch World series, characters escaped from Earth to Witch World. I changed her world to my own. The hero, Khan, a Middle Eastern man, was inspired from a man I dated and am still friends with. I chose my friend’s first name and appearance for my hero.

I wanted Daria to be a warrior princess, who had some magical power. In my world, Kimtair, the power comes from a connection to the gods.

What was your favorite part of the research to create this book?

I didn’t do a lot of research—that’s the fun part of creating your own world! Some on Middle Eastern clothing and knives. Some Arabic words.

So you’re writing Book 3. Is there anything you can tell us without giving away the plot? A teaser?

I won’t say who the hero is because that will give away some plot from book one.

The heroine is an American Jew, an Olympic caliber sabre fighter, who’s in Israel, visiting her dying grandmother, a holocaust survivor. After her grandmother dies, Sadie explores the Middle East, and is lured to the portal between worlds. With her background, she’s going to be very impacted by the damage done to Seagem’s people in book one, and will take up the fight against the evil God. Her sword fighting ability will come in handy!

This book is the one I had to research a lot. I needed to learn about the sabre and how Sadie would be able to transition to using a sword. Luckily, one of my karate students is a world class sabre fighter. What a coincidence, eh. He wandered into my class just as I’d set the book aside, thinking I couldn’t write more until I’d done the research.

My student was able to give me wonderful details, reactions of the other soldiers, even bits of dialogue. It was great.

Where can readers purchase your book? (please provide links)

You can purchase them at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Other retailers, too. Amazon:

Barnes and Noble:

May we read an excerpt from the book and can you provide it here? (please paste here)

This is from Chapter Five where the hero and heroine meet. Sort of. J

Khan's ears rang in the sudden silence. He could feel his heart knock against his ribcage, and he gasped for air. Several minutes passed before his vast need for breath subsided, and he took a few minutes to assess the situation.
The floor under his hands felt like the same brick as the road outside, but smooth, without the deterioration caused by nature, and sloped downward. Nika nickered, the sound the stallion used when he scented water.
Sudden hope sent Khan staggering upright, legs still shaky. He groped against his mount and searched for the flashlight. Luckily it was close at hand. He grasped the plastic handle and clicked it on. The wide beam of light revealed a narrow brick corridor, no writings or designs on the wall.
Grabbing Nika's reins and Daisy's lead, he moved along the descent. The horses pulled away from him, eager to reach the water. Their hooves clicked eerily, at first the only sound beside his labored breath. This tunnel must go underground. We've already walked farther than the diameter of the building.
In the distance, the tinkle of trickling water urged him to quicken his steps. As he drew closer to the sounds, Khan smelled the damp scent, and coolness misted his dusty cheeks.
The floor under his feet changed from brick to white marble. Golden flecks embedded in the stone glittered in the beam of the flashlight.
The passageway ended at the edge of a shallow pool cupped inside a circular room. The thirsty animals surged forward, dropping their muzzles to drink.
Khan waved his flashlight around. The far side of the pool lapped against curved marble walls, the gold flecks sparkling in the light like tiny stars. In the middle of the pool, water trickled from an outstretched hand of a statue on an oval pedestal, the veiled and draped figure of a female larger than life-size. Her other hand faced palm up, fingers curled, protecting something. Seeds? He couldn't quite tell.
Khan skimmed his fingertips over the surface of the chill wetness, then dipped his hands in and scooped it up. First he sniffed the water, and then, at the fresh smell, gingerly drank. At the taste of the cool sweetness, he leaned forward and plunged his face into the pool.
Although tempted to roll into the water for a cleansing bath, Khan pulled back to an awareness of his responsibilities, allowing Nika and Daisy, who were still sweating from the gallop, only a short drink. He unloaded supplies from the horses, dropping the packs on the floor. Taking the lead ropes, he walked both of them back and forth from the entrance to the pool, cooling them after their long day's trek.
He allowed them another brief drink, then fished out a currycomb from Daisy's pack. As Khan brushed the dust and sand from Nika's black coat, he reflected on the miracle of his survival. "Allah has blessed us, hasn't he, boy?" he murmured.
The horse leaned into him. Khan stroked his nose, using a damp cloth to clean out Nika's nostrils and around his eyes. He repeated the procedure with Daisy, then fed the animals.
The familiar routine, and the feeling of safety provided by this miraculous shelter, stilled him into contentment; the stress and fear of the last few days dropped away from him. He didn't stop to wonder why the anger and grief from his family's betrayal had vanished.
After he finished with the horses, he filled the water canteens, then stripped off his dusty clothing. Stepping into the shallow pool, he waded out to his knees, then sat down. He ducked backward into the water and floated on his back. The water seemed to buoy him up, as if laced with sea salt, yet it tasted fresh. The pain of his abrasions and bruises drifted away. He could almost believe the fountain and pool contained healing magic.
The floating sensation lulled him into dreaminess. Eyelids half-closed, he studied the statue. She seemed lifelike, as if underneath her coverings she breathed. And while the veil covered her face, her hair spilled in a free fall to her feet. For the first time, he noticed a pattern in the hem of her robe--ivy leaves intertwined with sheaves of grain. A goddess of the harvest? He liked the idea. The Muslim religion forbade art forms representing human images. He wondered what long-ago culture the unknown sculptor had belonged to.
Khan forced himself to emerge from the water, dry off, and pull out his sleeping bag. Not bothering to dress or eat, he crawled inside, asleep within seconds.
He slept deeply, making up for days of fitful rest.
Khan stood in the shelter of a high green bluff, awed by the seascape around him. A vivid lavender sky arched overhead. Sunlight sparkled over a turquoise bay cupped in the ring of cliffs. Knots of rocks jutted from the water. In the distance, a grim tower pierced the horizon. Moist wind laden with the briny smell of the sea pressed the cloth of his robe against his body. A crescent beach made of minty sand stretched along the shore, beckoning him to stroll along the waters.
I'm not on Earth anymore. He waited for fear to hit him, but instead a sense of anticipation sped his heart rate.
He noticed a woman, frisking with a chocolate-brown dog. As she gamboled with the animal, she moved like a dancer, all strength and grace. She tossed a piece of driftwood into the water. The dog yipped and shuffled after it, diving into the water, and, with a slap of a thick tail, disappearing under a wave. The woman laughed, her face alight with happiness. The animal reappeared, carrying the stick in its mouth.
Mesmerized by her golden beauty, desire pulled him closer. He ignored how his boots sank into the sand,
Absorbed with the dog, she didn't appear to see him. But the animal did, dropping the stick and barking at him, then dashing forward with a curious humping motion, like a seal. Up close, he could see the animal wasn't a dog, yet didn't look like a seal either. More a combination of the two, with a flap of skin linking the front and back paws. The creature could probably float like a hawk could soar through the air.
The woman took a step toward him. Curiosity twinkled in her eyes. Her dark lashes and brows were a contrast to the brightness of her blond hair, caught back in a braid that reached her waist. A few tendrils escaped the confines of the plait, to curl around her smiling, oval face.
The joy faded from her expression, followed by a brief flash of apprehension. She whirled, staring at the beach behind her. "Yadarius." She scanned the horizon. "Yadarius!" After a pause, she turned to him, her features stern.
Khan held up his hands. "I mean you no harm."
Her expression didn't change. "You need to leave, stranger. You're not welcome here."
Startled and disappointed by her response, he moved closer. "What are you talking about? Where is here, anyway?"
"Seagem of Kimtair."
He shook his head, hoping the gesture might shake some sense into what she tried to tell him. I'm in a different world. How is it that I understand and speak her language? He shrugged. Did it really matter?
"You must listen to me, you are in grave danger."
He tried for a light tone, "Unless my brother's followed me here, I'm actually quite safe."
"This is not a joking matter, stranger. You must leave my othersense dream."
"Othersense dream?"
She audibly exhaled in exasperation. "We are dreaming. But this is still real. What happens here affects us when we awake."
He looked around at the picturesque seascape, taking his time to study his surroundings before returning his gaze to her. "This doesn't feel like any dream I've ever had."
A hint of her previous curiosity showed in her eyes. "You've never had othersense dreams? Yet your othersense is so powerful. Never have I felt its like."
Her brow crinkled. "Where do you come from that you don't know of othersense?"
Khan glanced upward, then back at her. "Where I live, the sky is blue."
Her brows scrunched as if remembering something. "Blue? You must live a vast distance, then."
You don't know how vast. "Yes."
"You must return there."
"Since I don't know how I came here, I don't know how to go back there. Besides, I don't want to. Here…" He gave her a flirtatious smile. "Here, looks infinitely more interesting."
The animal became bored with their inattention, gamboling away, and sliding beneath a wavelet.
Concern etched deep on her beautiful features.
Khan tried to lure her away from her seriousness. "You've lost someone." He nodded toward the water.
"Oh, the seapup." She shaded her eyes. "He's gone off to find his pack. He'll probably rejoin the ones sunning themselves on that rock." She pointed.
Khan's gaze followed her hand. Sure enough, the sleek animal propelled itself out of the water to tumble amid a cluster of dozing seapups. The mass of somnolent bodies shuffled, making room for him, then returned to the serious business of soaking up the sunrays.
When Daria turned back to him, her expression had softened, although wariness lingered in her eyes.
"I'd like to stay, learn more about your city," he coaxed.  "About you."
"I'll not be party to someone else dying in an othersense dream with me."
"Dying? We're in a dream."
"You have no idea of what you speak."
"At least tell me more about this othersense."
She hesitated. "Very well, stranger."
"And my name is Khan."
"Welcome to Seagem, Khan. I'm Daria," she said with an edge to her tone.
"Daria." He reached for her hand and brought it to his lips, making sure she felt the press of his kiss on her skin.
Pink crept into her cheeks, and Daria broke contact, waving her hand toward the stretch of beach. "Come walk with me, and I'll tell you about othersense."
Without a word, they fell into step, strolling along the edge of the ocean.
Daria tossed her braid over her shoulder. "Othersense," she murmured. "How to explain it?" She stopped and faced him. "Do you know the SeaGod, Yadarius?"
Khan shook his head, fighting the urge to lean forward and kiss her. "That's who you were calling?"
"Yes. I've never walked in othersense dreams without Him. Not since…" She shook her head, obviously not wanting to continue. "If you don't know Yadarius, what God, then, do you worship?"
"My people worship the one God, Allah."
"Allah." She shook her head. "You must truly come from afar. I only know of Yadarius, our SeaGod; Besolet, the Goddess of Ocean's Glory, and Guinheld, the Goddess of Zacatlan.
So many questions tumbled through his head; he didn't know which one to ask first.
She took his arm to get them moving again. Her light touch sent a jolt of pleasure through him.
Perhaps she felt something similar because a startled expression crossed her face, and she drew her hand back. As if shy, she glanced sideways at him under lowered lashes, then took a few steps away. She waved to the cliffs. "Othersense connects us to our Deity."
Gazing up, he could see buildings hovering above them, made of the same green stone as the cliff.
"The people of Seagem to Yadarius. All of us have the gift of othersense. That's what allows Yadarius to communicate with us, mostly in our dreams. Some of us have the othersense more strongly, and most of those become priests and priestesses." Daria looked as if she meant to say more, then she stopped.
They walked for a few minutes in companionable silence.
She seemed deep in thought, strolling over to a flat rock and sat, patting the stone surface next to her.
He joined her, feeling the warmth of her leg next to his.
Daria didn't shift away. Instead, she looked out at the sea. "I often come here to think. Sometimes I come here to mourn." She hurried on, as if not wanting him to ask. "I stare at the waves, until they mesmerize me. Sometimes Yadarius speaks to me."
"What does he say?"
A wry smile played around her lips. "Many things. Sometimes, He's stern, sometimes teasing. Other times He utters those cryptic God statements, that I have to spend days figuring out."
"Sounds different from the kind of relationship my people have with Allah."
She tilted her chin. "Tell me."
He gave a rueful shake of his shoulders. "That might take forever, and you'd probably not understand. Besides, I don't know how much time we have together, and I'd rather not spend it talking about our respective Gods."
She jumped to her feet. "You made me forget. You must leave now."
Damn I shouldn't have reminded her. "And if I don't?"
Daria lifted her chin to a haughty angle. "Then I will." She waited a beat for his response. "Goodbye, Khan." She turned and walked down the beach.
He watched her go, wondering if he should follow… see if he could kiss her into changing her mind about him. But then Daria faded away, leaving him with a strange sense of loss.
Khan drifted from sleep into awareness of the present. Relaxation weighted his limbs, and calmness centered in his stomach. For the first time in days, peacefulness replaced the constant anxiety that had nipped at his heels ever since he'd heard Amir's death threat.
Still drowsing, he tried to cling to a memory of a beautiful woman, but her image blurred into

Where can your readers connect with you on the web? (provide links)

I’m on Twitter and Facebook as drdebraholland.


  1. Great interview Debra! I agree with the whole pen name thing...I think it's confusing to have them for different genres. I haven't downloaded your books yet, but plan to very soon...the excerpts hooked me. Great to see you in Houma, La. the other day.
    Lori Leger

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