Author Spotlight Interview: Greg Holman
In today’s author interview, we chat with serial entrepreneur Greg Holman, who in the past has treated Hidden Gems subscribers to both his books – Bill Houston Rags to Riches and Billy Houston: Fall from Grace. Splitting his time between Noosa, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, and the idyllic beaches of Thailand, Greg has used his lifetime of experience in building businesses to create a vividly realistic and visceral tale with the ups and downs of Australian/American entrepreneur Billy.
HG: Hi Greg! So, in a nutshell for readers – how would YOU describe yourself?
GH: I’m a serial entrepreneur full of imagination and ideas – and always looking for new challenges! I’ve lived an interesting and challenging life with ups and downs. After selling my last business in 2017 to a public-listed company I decided to retire from corporate life forever. I got sick of living a life of wearing suits, attending countless meetings, and travelling across Australia building my business. No more hotel rooms, boardrooms and airport lounges for me. I now spend half my life in my hometown Noosa, Australia and the other half in a beautiful beachside community on the island of Phuket, Thailand where I have a house on the beach. You’ll find me most days walking along the beach in a pair of board shorts and singlet – whether that beach be in Noosa or Kamala, Phuket. An idyllic stress free lifestyle!
HG: I read and enjoyed both your books – and noticed there are CLEAR parallels between you and the character of Billy Houston. How did the idea for your two books come up (and there’s a third on the way, right?) And how much is fact and how much is fiction? Are there blurred lines between the two?
GH: I guess we all have a book or two in us and a number of people suggested I should write a book about my life after I retired from the corporate world. This then morphed into a work of fiction – hence the publication of my first novel, Billy Houston Rags to Riches. I enjoyed the experience so much that I completed the sequel to my first novel with the publication of my second novel, Billy Houston Fall from Grace.
I love walking along the beach, the sound of the waves, the salt air and the feel of the sand under my feet. It’s my creative time where the character Billy Houston was developed. Billy Houston is a fun loving character and, like me, Billy is a serial entrepreneur always full of ideas – who never gives up and never accepts failure. Billy is a figment of my imagination, though some of the adventures Billy experiences are things that happened to me while growing up in Australia. In real life we meet the good, the bad and – at times – the ugly. Whilst all characters in the book are fictitious, I guess we can all relate to some of the characters in the book and their specific traits. Billy is an inspirational character and hopefully he inspires others to turn their dreams into reality. How much of me is there in Billy? Perhaps that’s best for others who know me to answer! But, like Billy, if I was scared of failure I’d never have become a successful entrepreneur.
HG: Tell me about writing Billy Houston Rags to Riches. Did you plan out the plot first?
GH: Initially, I googled ‘how to write a book’ and read a couple of articles – along with commentary about various self published authors experiences. I asked myself: If everyone is reading the same articles that I’m reading, does that mean everyone is writing a book the same way? I also read about how hard it is to become a successful self-published author, so I thought I’d go about writing a book my way.
Only, I wasn’t sure initially what ‘my way’ was going to be! It was December 2017 and we had a beach bungalow booked on the island of Koh Samui, Thailand, where I planned to commence writing my novel. I went to the local Officeworks store in Noosa and bought a couple of rolls of butchers’ paper along with pens and blue tack. I thought I’d been spending weeks and weeks working out the flow of chapters, the characters, the story line all written on the butchers’ paper which would be plastered over every single wall of the beach bungalow.
Then, my girlfriend and I hopped on the plane in Brisbane flying Business Class to Bangkok. A couple of champagnes before we took off – then, once in the air, I pulled out the foolscap pad and started drafting the chapter outline of the book. Within 45 minutes I’d drafted 15 chapter descriptions, each consisting of only a few words,which eventually morphed into 29 chapters once I started the writing process.
I spent the first few days in Koh Samui walking the beach outlining in my mind the main character, Billy Houston – along with some other key players and events in the book. I had a visual impression in my mind of the story line from start to finish. Once i got the first 1,000 words out, the story line thereafter just poured out of my finger tips. I discovered mornings were my best time to write – it’s when I felt ‘in the zone.’ I’d normally rise by 6 am and walk along the beach for an hour. A quick shower and then I’d open the laptop with a cup of coffee by my side, with a view of the ocean and start typing away.
Two to three hours a day and I could crank out 1,000 words. Most evenings, my girlfriend and I would walk along the beach before dinner. I’d share with her the adventures of Billy Houston that day, and where I planned the story to go the next day when I opened the laptop. But next day I’d open the laptop, go in a zone oblivious to anything around me and start typing away. The story line would go somewhere I’d never even contemplated the day before!
I’ve used exactly the same approach for my second novel. I can’t sing, I can’t dance, I can’t paint but one of my strengths is my imagination. It’s why I’ve been successful in business – I’ve always been able to develop ways to market and grow my businesses. As a parent I could always make up imaginary stories and tell my kids while they lay in bed before going to sleep.
HG: You really can weave a tale. One of the things I thought was really unique about your writing was your dialogue. So, you wrote longhand when you were drafting? I love the image of the butcher’s paper for the plotting etc.
GH: I didn’t end up using the butchers’ paper. I threw it out at Koh Samui once I realized I didn’t need it. Once I started to type the story line on the laptop, I’d always keep a notebook next to me – where I’d write the names of the main characters, along with various dates, and other such information to ensure consistency.
HG: Why did you pick for Billy to have grown up in Santa Monica?
GH: Why Santa Monica? I personally believe books set in America have more appeal to a far wider audience than those set in Australia. A few years earlier, I’d taken a couple of my children on a holiday to America. We stayed at Santa Monica for a few days while sightseeing Los Angeles. Its a beautiful area with great beaches including Malibu where Billy used to surf with his mate Chook Burns. Santa Monica High, the school Billy attended, is quite a famous school in America by virtue of some of its past students – namely Sean Penn, Charlie Sheen, Rob Lowe, Emilo Estevez and Robert Downey Jr.
HG: What has been the best piece of advice you’ve ever received about writing?
GH: As a self published author, writing a good book is only part of the job completed. You need a professionally prepared book cover, professional editing, proof reading and formatting. Without these your not even in the game. Then, of course, you need to market your book because without that you’ll never make any sales.
HG: How did you research all of that? And you’re right – self-publishing is a business just like any other. I imagine it would be right down your street, with your entrepreneurial kick.
GH: Believe me, I spent countless hours researching book publishing, working out fact from fiction. Literally hundreds of hours. Towards the end of my research I came across a successful self published author, Mark Dawson. I subscribed for his course and it reaffirmed everything I’d previously researched and learnt. Perhaps it would have been far easier if I came across him initially but then of course I wouldn’t have known whether what he was saying was right or wrong. It was through Mark Dawson that I came across Hidden Gems.
HG: Mark Dawson really knows his stuff. What would your advice be for anybody considering writing or publishing?
GH: Give it a go! We all have a book in us. Be disciplined, set yourself a goal of writing a certain number of words each day, each week. Work out when the best time for you to write is, be it morning, evening, afternoon. Set aside a few hours each day or if already working full time, a few hours each week. You must have a great book cover, professional editing, proof reading and formatting.- without those you’ll never be successful. You also need a great book description – you only have 10 seconds to convince someone that your book would appeal to them. If selling your book on Amazon, then Amazon reviews are so important, hopefully they’re good reviews which will aid a persons buying decision. Then you must market your book whether it be via Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, email campaigns. And you need an author website where people can log on and purchase your book via direct link to the major retailers and learn a bit about you, the author.
HG: Who are your favorite authors and books?
GH: John Grisham, Stephen King, Robert Ludlum.
HG: You have one more book in the Billy Houston story planned, right? What is after that, do you think?
GH: Yes, the final book in the Billy Houston trilogy will be completed this year. What do I do after that? Well for those who read Billy Houston Fall from Grace – I’m actually working on building in real life the business Billy built in the book. I’ve just returned from a few days of meetings in Bangkok.
HG: Seemed like an incredible idea! How did that go?
GH: My meetings went extremely well! There is a major push by all governments for their people to get fit and healthy. Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam are among the top 10 Facebook users in the world. As Billy Houston says the prefect business is ‘systematized, process driven with the ability to quickly leverage’. With social media the ability to leverage is mind boggling.
HG: Hopefully you’ll share Billy’s success, but won’t fall foul of any of Billy’s mishaps!
GH: Well, hopefully not – haha!
HG: Speaking of the power of social media – where can readers connect with you?
GH: Here’s my website, and Facebook page!
Thanks so much to Greg for taking the time to chat to us! And, remember, if you like Greg’s books – you’ll receive invitations to read and review books just like his for FREE when you sign up to Hidden Gems, plus titles from many other genres!