Today Atlanta author Roslyn Hardy Holcomb stops by for a chat. She’s sharing the inspiration behind her small town series (yes, it’s based on a real town) and her series featuring a group of female assassins working in exotic locales and stories prompted by international headlines.
You’re a small town girl now living in Atlanta. How does your small town upbringing impact the characters and settings in your stories?
Being a from a somewhat provincial area has had tremendous impact on my stories. My first book was set in a place called Maple Fork, which is a HIGHLY fictionalized version of my own hometown of Gadsden, Alabama. Like Maple Fork, Gadsden is in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, and is bisected by the Coosa River. Dark Star, which is a Rock Star sequel, has a climactic scene at a major landmark, Noccalula Falls. I did a question and answer session at the local library when it was first released and the readers had a lot of fun telling me about the sites they recognized, and speculating on who some of the characters “actually” were. (All the characters are fictional, BTW, but it made for an interesting afternoon!)
I deliberately chose to set many of my books in small towns because I love the dynamic it brings. Busybody neighbors, being related to everybody for miles around. It’s fun, and can be silly at times, but character development is one of my favorite things about writing, so I love it.
I laughed when I read your bio about loving rock music and how that made you an “oddity” growing up, because I was also an “oddball” due to my eclectic musical palate. Tell us how it inspired your first book, Rock Star.
When you grow up black in blue collar town and all the other girls worship the Jackson 5 and you’ve got posters of Robert Plant, yeah, you tend to stand out a bit. Over the years, I’ve met lots of other black “rocker chicks,” and wanted to write a book for us. I wanted the rock star to write a song for his love, because most of us black rocker chicks have never had the thrill of imagining ourselves as Lady D’Arbanville or Layla. (Please don’t mention Brown Sugar, yuk).
You recently released another book in your Pussycat Death Squad. Give us a brief overview of the series and what inspired it.
The Pussycat Death Squad is a series about a squad of women who’ve trained all their lives to be bodyguards for a North African strongman. Now they’ve escaped and provide their lethal services around the world. I was inspired by a picture I saw years ago of the late Libyan leader, Colonel Qadaffi, and his all-female Amazonian Guard. Allegedly, they took a vow of chastity and had to be beautiful. With a set-up like that the first book practically wrote itself. Drop in a hot alpha Marine and stir. In something of an homage to the old Harlequin romances I read as a kid, I try to set the stories in exotic locales. Those books introduced me to a world far from my hometown. Back in the day it was called “armchair traveling,” and it’s still fun.
The Lion in Russia’s oligarch hero has wound up on the wrong side of the Russian president who sounds suspiciously like Vladimir Putin. So yes, these stories are definitely “ripped from headlines.” The most recent story, Pussycat in Peril is a return to Laritrea which has fallen into a highly-factionalized civil war, much like Libya, the country it’s based on. The next one, Diamonds on the River, will take place in Ghana mainly because I love the way NPR correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton says “Accra.” Listen to her sometimes, her voice is AMAZING.
What can we expect from you in coming months?
My current work in progress is a Christmas series with my writing partner, Lisa G. Riley, called Christmas at House and Home. The leads grew up in foster care together, working in the family restaurant, House and Home. Though it’s set in Atlanta, there’s a definite small-town vibe in that these kids grew up in a multicultural suburban enclave so tightly enmeshed they developed their own language. The series was inspired by my experiences as a social worker, and also my joy in discovering the dining experience that is Buford Highway in Chamblee Georgia. The whole street is lined with international cuisine and one evening my husband and I were scarfing down Korean barbecue and listening to the owner of the place talking to his employees in a Spanish/Korean mash-up we quickly dubbed Sporean. Though I often complain about the Babylonian Exile that is my life in Atlanta, I do love the level of diversity to be found here.