Allison Holland is a Southern California native who enjoys sunny weather, spending too much time on the internet and making up stories about anthropomorphic farm animals. After spending years as a cog in the machinery of corporate America, she decided to follow her dream and dedicate herself to writing full-time. A little older and a little wiser, she's found that dreams don't have an expiration date and happiness isn't found in a paycheck. She hopes readers of all ages will enjoy reading about Raspberry Sassafras as much as she enjoys writing about her.
Could you tell us a bit about your book(s)?
The Raspberry Sassafras series is about a cow named Raspberry Sassafras who leaves life on the farm and moves to the big city, where she lives in a luxury, high-rise apartment with her best friend Jane and her parents. The books follow the adventures of Raspberry and Jane as Raspberry adjusts to her new life in the city and along the way the reader learns that perhaps Raspberry isn't the simple little farm cow she initially seems to be.
What inspired you to write your book(s)?
I'd always liked the idea of writing a children's book. I had nieces and nephews that I kept entertained with stories when they were little, and I'd actually written a story about a similar cow for my nephews. So the idea was kicking around in my brain for quite a while. I'd been blogging and doing some other types of writing and I really just wanted a change. I wanted to do something more creative, and writing for kids really opens things up to just get free and write without constraint.
What’s the most surprising thing you learned while writing your book(s)?
Probably how seriously I take them. I got protective of Raspberry and Jane very quickly. I've had people say, "Oh, you should write about this or have Raspberry do that," and a lot of it is too obvious or too heavy-handed. Raspberry is finding her way into a new world, and she's learning things along the way, but I want the lessons to be subtle. I want the story to be the main thing, I guess because I mostly see myself as a storyteller. I never want to shout at the kids THIS IS THE POINT! I want Raspberry Sassafras to be entertaining, first and foremost. And I feel a real need to take care of Raspberry and Jane to make sure they stay fun and silly and subtle.
How did you come up with the title for your book(s)?
The name Raspberry Sassafras has been around for a long time. When my two nieces were young and expecting their little sister to be born, I convinced them that her name was going to be Raspberry Sassafras. I can't quite remember how I came up with Raspberry Sassafras, except that I liked the sound of it; but I'm sure their sister is glad her mom went with Kelsey instead of taking my suggestion!
Do you have any unique or quirky writing habits?
I do most of my writing in bed. Unless I'm hit by an idea while I'm driving, in which case I have to pull over and take notes on my phone. I know I could probably record my thoughts, but I'm still too caught up in the "is that really what I sound like?" self-consciousness to take that route, which is a shame because it would be SO much easier. When I'm not frantically thumb-typing on the side of the road, I need my space to be in order before I can really get down to writing. I tend to procrastinate, and I get distracted easily, so if things aren't just right, I'm not likely to be very productive.
On a more personal note: Tell us a little about your “real” (non-writing) life — family, job, hobbies.
Well, I don't have any kids, and my nieces and nephews are all grown up, but I still like to think of myself as the fun aunt. I've always had kids in my life, and they all influenced me in terms of me wanting to entertain them. I loved it if I could make the kids laugh, and was always more than willing to embarrass myself to try and make that happen. My family is spread out miles-wise, but we're close in all the important ways. Currently, I'm pretty focused on my writing and growing the Raspberry Sassafras series. That's my only job right now. I ditched the corporate life a while back because writing has always been my dream and I knew if I didn't start chasing it soon I was going to get too old to run. I'm trying to give back a bit and just started a new feature on my website called Storytellers (https://raspberrysassafras.com/storytellers/) where I'll be featuring the writing of young people, so I've been trying to drum up submissions for that. It's free and it's not a contest, I just want to give budding authors a place to show off their work, and I hope I can find some kids who want to participate.
Do you have any advice for the yet-to-be-published writers reading this?
It's worth all the hard work. If you're someone who paints or draws, you can hang up your art and people will look at it. But when your medium is words, you have to ask people for their time …. you have to take the risk and say, “will you read this?” And then you have to wait. It's hard. But when you get that good reaction, when you get to see your words in print between the covers of a real book, it's all worth it. But there are so many ways to be read now … you can share your work online, you can blog, you can do something. We can all get read, and we should all read each other. I guess that would be the best advice: Work hard and support one another.
What's next for you in lit (literature) and in life?
I like writing for kids! It's not easy because if they don't like your story, they'll tell you. And they're smart! It's a fine-line, you can't go over their heads, but you can't talk down to them, either. I'm enjoying the challenge for now, and I'm far from done with Raspberry Sassafras. But I also enjoy other types of writing. I find I'm good with observational, essay-type work. I don't want to compare myself with David Sedaris, but if anyone ever compared me with David Sedaris, I'd probably just die and go to heaven right on the spot.
Where can we find you online? Are you on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media platforms?
I'm on Twitter @RazSass and online at https://raspberrysassafras.com
If you had to persuade someone to buy your book(s) in a tweet (140 characters), what would you say?
If a cow who leaves the farm for life in a luxury high-rise apartment isn't enough for you, come see what else Raspberry Sassafras can do!