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Author Q & A with Houstonian Holli Fawcett Clayton 

Cindy Burnett
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Holli Fawcett Clayton

Houstonian Holli Fawcett Clayton has released her first book, Somewhere Above It All. (Photo: Chris Gillett)

I have known Holli Fawcett Clayton for years and am excited for her to have launched her first book, Somewhere Above It All. The book features small-town widow Marren Halleck, whose husband died from opioid abuse. Following his death, she journeys to Tanzania to summit the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro. Along her trek up the mountain, Marren finds hope for a new beginning and forms a special connection with her climbing team, including a mysterious cowboy named Chris. Her promising path forward is derailed, however, when she discovers that Chris isn’t who she thinks he is, and she must search inside herself to learn how to truly stand on her own.

Houston author Tabitha Forney, author of Paper Airplanes, says about the book: “Holli Fawcett Clayton has written a sweet tale of love, loss, and finding love again in unexpected places. This ultimately hopeful page-turner will resonate with anyone who has ever suffered abuse, the death of a spouse, or good love turned bad."

Holli is a former attorney turned freelance writer. She has written pieces for the websites HuffPost and Grown and Flown. Holli is passionate about human connection and is currently pursuing her MSW at the University of Houston’s Graduate College of Social Work. Originally from Arkansas, she currently resides in Houston with her husband and children. Somewhere Above It All is her first novel. I hope you enjoy our Q & A.

What inspired you to start writing your book?

My husband Bill summited Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2012 and kept a detailed journal of his expedition along the way. Once I read this journal, I knew that I wanted to write a book based on his experience. I conducted extensive research on the journey to the top of this majestic mountain, which taught me a lot about the unique plant and animal life and various climate zones there. It was a lot of fun - kind of like going back to biology class! My goal was to transport the reader to a whole new world and have the reader experience the climb along with my protagonist, Marren. 

What comes first, the plot or the characters?

For this book, the plot definitely came first. For my next project, which I will discuss further below, it was the characters. The journey to summit Kilimanjaro is a fascinating one, and it involves so many interesting parts from start to finish. From things like climbing gear to acclimatization issues to weather conditions to the ever-changing experiences on the mountain, the plot is really what drove this story. 

What do you hope your readers take away from your book?

I hope that readers will see Marren as an inspiration - someone who faces such tremendous adversity that she feels like she can’t go on, yet she pushes herself beyond her comfort zone to find the strength to continue. Furthermore, I want readers to feel the power of human connection and its ability to heal a grieving heart. 

Do you have any say in what your book cover looks like?

I definitely had a say in what my book cover looked like, and I have to tell you that I couldn’t be happier with it! It’s even better than I expected. I worked with my publisher’s graphic designer to craft something that really represented the story, and I feel that he really listened to what I wanted and came up with a perfect fit. Interestingly, I have a friend who also summited Kilimanjaro, and she recently sent me a photo of the mountain that actually resembles the book cover!

Are you working on anything at the present that you would like to share with me?

I’m currently working on a new book called What If I Can’t Forgive You? It is the story of two women - a young, aspiring singer and a middle-aged divorcee - who meet by chance and end up supporting one another on their individual forgiveness journeys. Forgiveness is such a difficult topic and as these two very different women find their similarities, their journeys to forgive become much easier. 

What are you reading now?

I’m currently reading Reminders of Him by Colleen Hoover. I’m a huge CoHo fan, and I even mention her in Somewhere Above It All

For more book recommendations and bookish thoughts, see Cindy’s monthly Buzz Reads column, her Thoughts from a Page Podcast or follow @ThoughtsFromaPage on Instagram. Find upcoming Conversations from a Page events here.

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