Today we welcome Wendy Holden as we travel to Suffolk and learn what dogs, Goldie Hawn, Ganesh, a woodland cemetery, and The Wacky Races mean to Wendy. Slip on your gardening gloves. Let’s go …
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a British author, originally from London but now living in Suffolk, three hours north east of London, near the sea. I was a journalist for almost 20 years, including time as a war correspondent, and have been writing books full time for 22 years. Have more than thirty titles published, ten of which are bestsellers.
In which genre do you write?
Non-fiction historical and war biographies mostly but also fiction, humour, celebrity memoirs and novellas. I have written two bestselling books with the actress Goldie Hawn and I wrote Lady Blue Eyes with Frank Sinatra’s widow Barbara.
I also love to write about dogs, who are one of my great passions. I wrote the number one bestseller Haatchi & Little B, about a disabled boy and his three-legged dog, and Uggie: My Story, about the canine star of the Oscar winning movie The Artist. I also wrote Mr Scraps, the little dog with the big heart, a novella about a dog caught up in the London Blitz –
How many published books do you have?
Thirty-two, most of which are listed on my website – www.wendyholden.com
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?
I always wrote poems and kept a diary but wrote my first school play when I was six years old. It was called The Queen’s Birthday Cake and featured a naughty knave who switched the baker’s flour for cement so that the Queen broke a tooth when she bit into it.
The play won a schools’ competition and was put on by the drama students so my career path was set. It was not as if I ever had a choice. Writing comes as naturally to me as breathing.
What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?
I’ve worked with Goldie Hawn who introduced me to meditation and to the Indian elephant god Ganesh, who is said to remove obstacles on your life’s path.
Twice a day, I stop writing and meditate for 10 minutes, slowing my breathing (and my thoughts) and then I rub my little Ganesh’s feet for good luck.
What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?
My two adorable German wire-haired pointers, Eli and Huxley.
What does your ideal writing space look like?
The one I work in now – upstairs in our 17th century oak-beamed cottage with green-painted walls. I write at my grandfather’s leather-topped desk with my father’s oak desk to one side and am surrounded by the framed book jackets, photos, cartoons and art that mean the most to me.
What are you currently reading?
Educated by Tara Westover and The Pianist of Yarmouk
What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?
Walk the dogs on the beach, read, garden, cook, entertain friends, travel, and paint.
If you could have a fantasy tea date with an author or famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?
Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women whose character Jo I immediately identified with. I have been to her house in Concord, Massachusetts, and see the tiny table where she sat and wrote longhand and I would love to invite her to tea and ask her how a young woman with very little life experience from a rural background was able to conjure up such vital, life-changing characters.
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?
How much of myself comes out in the books I write, even when they are about other people. There is something of everyone in each of us and when you really focus on someone you often realise that the nature of the human condition is universal.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve done in researching for a book?
I found myself deep in a woodland cemetery in rural Poland on the edge of dark hunting for the grave of someone I was writing about in quiet desperation. I found it just as the light was fading and then had to feel my way back to the car and civilisation.
Do you journal write or keep a personal diary?
I did up until my teens but I found that I have such a visual memory so that I no longer needed to.
What is the most inspiring thing that has ever happened to you?
Meeting my husband and accepting his marriage proposal three weeks later. I was 19 and we have been happily married ever since.
You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What song do you listen to before speaking and what do you do to prepare yourself?
I do ten minutes deep breathing to clear my mind of clutter. I remind myself to talk slowly and take deep breaths in the pauses. If I were to listen to any music it would be Paul Simon’s Late in the Evening and I would have a dance to loosen myself up.
What do you miss about being a kid?
My dearly departed parents who were my greatest champions and blessed me with a happy childhood, from which I emerged feeling invincible.
If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?
The Wacky Races. I wanted to be Penelope Pitstop, but I also loved Mutley.
If you write non-fiction or memories, what fictional character would you invite into your story and why?
Jo from Little Women so that I could spend time with her and tell her how much she inspired me as a girl.
What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?
Tolkien. It was on locally and we went because I love films about writers. I was much more impressed than I’d expected and gave real insight into his life and inspirations without hardly mentioning The Hobbit (of which I am not a great fan). It is a lovely, well-rounded film.
A penguin knocks on your door and is wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he there?
He escaped from the local zoo when his keeper went for ice cream and accidentally left the gate open, so the penguin waddled off down the road looking for something to eat.
At the seaside, he accidentally caused a commotion outside one of those stores that sells everything from joss sticks to water pipes, backed into a hat stand and a sombrero dropped onto his head.
Hardly able to see, he staggered on and – lifting his beak – detected the unmistakable scent of fish. Padding up to my front door, he tapped his beak on it and made his little penguin cry so I opened the door with a fillet of sole in my hand.
Before I knew it, he had snatched it from fingers and gobbled it down in one. He has lived with me ever since. We have called him Charlie because he looks and walks like Charlie Chaplin in his little penguin suit.
Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?
I always have and I always will. Whenever one door closes for me, another opens, often taking me in a direction I never expected and which excites and challenges me.
If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?
Why don’t you ever get a cold?
What do you dream of when you twitch and whimper?
Why can’t you live as long as us?
Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?
Resilience and fearless optimism
What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?
Suffolk, England, which is why we moved here having had no previous connections. Endless beaches. Huge skies. Fabulous stars. Great seafood. Lovely people. Old-fashioned atmosphere. What’s not to like?
Describe the perfect solo date you’d take yourself on … where, time of day, weather, place, etc.
Umbria, Italy. Early autumn. Watching the sun set over the golden hills and ripened vineyards with a chilled glass of prosecco in my hand.
Tell us about your most recent book.
I have three books out this year:
A relaunch of my novel The Sense of Paper. A Novel of Obsessions, it is set in Suffolk and is full of passion, secrets and lies. Please see the trailer —
One Hundred Miracles, a memoir of music and survival with Zuzana Ruzickova, published by Bloomsbury UK and several European publishers. The remarkable story of a Holocaust survivor and internationally renowned musician who not only lived through the war but under Communist ant-Semitic rule for decades. This is my first Holocaust book since writing my international bestseller Born Survivors: Three Young Mothers and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance and Hope
A Woman of Firsts, the woman who built a hospital and changed the world with Edna Adan Ismail, to be published in this month. The story of the ‘Muslim Mother Teresa’, an indomitable force of nature who survived great hardship and civil war only to return to her ravage country and create something wonderful.
Thank you Wendy for being a part of MTA. It was incredibly interesting to learn more about you, your history, and writing style. I am a Goldie Hawn fan, as well as having a mindfulness and meditation practice. I found your interview to be deeply moving. And, oh my goodness! I LOVE the short story you created with the penguin question! Thanks again! –Camilla
Where to find One Hundred Miracles:
UK Amazon: https://amzn.to/31xG9wc
US Amazon: https://amzn.to/31v9VSm
If it feels right and you have the time (and you enjoy the interview) please like or comment or share it. The nature of the online world … the more eyes that see it the more it will spread and benefit the author and the website! Thank you!
And if it feels the thing to do and you are inspired to do so, I would be deeply grateful if you’d like to “Buy Me a Coffee” … Camilla – Host of Meeting the Authors …