Interview with Holli Castillo

When did you first feel like a writer?

The first time I felt like a writer was when I finished writing my novel and started querying agents and publishers. The first time I felt like I could legitimately tell people I was a writer was when I signed my contract with my publisher. The first time I truly believed it was when I actually held my book in my hand. It was like holding one of my kids at their birth, but much cleaner and a lot less noisy. And I had on underwear. Big difference I guess, but the feeling was the same.

Tell us a bit about your latest book?

GUMBO JUSTICE is a mystery/thriller set in New Orleans, my hometown. It features a female assistant district attorney, Ryan Murphy, who is an aggressive, competetive prosecutor but somewhat dysfunctional in her personal life. Her daddy is a police captain, her brothers are all cops, and her romantic interests tend to center around the boys in blue. When the D.A. assigns his prosecutors, including Ryan, to visit crime scenes, a whole series of murders begin that are somehow related to Ryan.

Ryan is vying for a promotion, and her only concern initially is how the murders will affect her running for the elite Strike Force posiiton. But Ryan has secrets and mysteries of her own, as well as a habit of drowning her sorrows in tequila. When the murderer begins to focus his attention on her, she finally realizes her job is not the only thing she has to worry about, and her actions have consequences she could never have anticipated.

Where did you get your inspiration from for this book?

Although this is fiction, the book was inspired by my prior job as an assistant district attorney in New Orleans, as well as my current position as an appellate public defender. The cases in the novel are fiction, but the setting, such as the courthouse, the projects, the D.A.'s Office, and most of the places in the book, are all based on the real places such as they were before Katrina.

Who is your publisher and why did you choose them?

Oak Tree Press is my publisher, owned by Billie Johnson. I went with Billie because she doesn't mind taking a chance on new writers, and she gets what I write. I had a lot of rejections from agents with comments that it was too dark for them, or too dark for them to sell. Billie loves New Orleans, and appreciates the seamier underbelly I write about.

Do you have any tips for other writers wanting to enter this genre?

My biggest tip to a new writer would be to have a good story in your head before you write, but don't fall in love with it. My original draft ended up so different from the final draft, that I seriously doubt I would have been able to get the first draft published. Also, if you're just starting out, join writing groups, whether in person or online, because they can help you avoid some of the pitfalls of writing, publishing and promoting.

How have you gone about marketing this book? Which method has been most effective so far?

I have done a lot of online marketing, joining author and reader websites. I also try to get reviews from various people on different sites to expand the audience. I keep two websites, and am on Facebook, Myspace, and a member of Sisters In Crime among other groups. It's important to network with people who like to read mysteries. I also try to attend writer's conferences and meet new people in the industry. Every contact could result in multiple book sales, so I try to be nice to everyone.

As far as real life promotion, I have to be selective, because in June, 2008, I was hit head-on by a drunk driver and am still not fully recovered. I broke my left femur, my right tibia, fibula and metatarsal, shattered my left elbow and fractured some lower lumbar vertebrae. I started walking again after six months of immobility, but am full of hardware and can't walk for long before everything hurts and I need to rest. I am constantly improving, but personal appearances are still difficult. Because of that, I am picky about where I try to go. I am also not driving yet again, so for me to get out in public everyone around my house has to rearrange their schedules.

What takes you longer to do, writing the first draft or editing?

Editing definitely takes longer. The first draft flew from the keyboard. Then I took about three years to edit, deciding what to cut, how to improve it. My first round of queries were all standard rejections, so I took a workshop online and the first thing I was told was that my word count was obscenely high for a first time writer looking for representation. So I took a break, edited, cut down, sent it out again, and started getting interest until I found a publisher.

Where can people find out more about you and your books?

I have two websites,, where you can find out more about me and the novel, as well as order signed copies of the book. My other website,, also has information on other things I am working on.

You can also follow me on Facebook,
or Myspace at

Anything else you'd like to add?

Gumbo Justice is the first in the Crescent City Mystery Series. The second in the series should be out summer, 2010, called Jamabalya Justice, and will pick up where Gumbo Justice left off. So if you've read Gumbo Justice already, don't worry, your questions will be answered by the second novel.


  1. Great comments, Holli! Looking forward to seeing you in March!


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