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  • Interview: Three Part Harmony by Holley Trent with Heidi Cullinan

Hi everyone! Today I am so excited to welcome back Heidi Cullinan, who is here with another installment of her Author Interview series. Today, Heidi is joined by author Holley Trent. Please join me in welcoming both Heidi and Holley!


Hi, everyone! Heidi Cullinan here, with the next installment of my monthly column talking about books and authors I’ve discovered I think you might enjoy. As much as possible, I’ll be talking to those authors in an in-depth interview. We’ll dish about their projects current and future, the books they love, and any and everything that comes up along the way.

Today I’m talking to Holley Trent. Holley Trent was raised in rural coastal North Carolina. In 2011, her adventurous spirit drove her to Colorado for new experiences. She lives on the Front Range with her husband, two kids, and two elderly cats. She writes paranormal and contemporary romances ranging from sensual to erotic. As H.E. Trent, she writes extra-sexy science fiction romance.

We’ll be talking about her upcoming release, Three Part Harmony, out August 19 from Carina Press.

Raleigh McKean has borne witness to every conceivable way one person can take advantage of another. He sees it all the time in his job as a book publicist, especially working alongside his boss’s daughter. Everley Shannon would be amazing if she wasn’t such a pain in his ass.

All Raleigh wants is something real. But when the captivating stranger he agrees to go home with turns out to be Bruce Engle, the elusive rock star, it’s a harsh reminder that users are everywhere. Raleigh’s his route to a book deal, nothing more.

What Raleigh doesn’t realize is that the brooding musician is also searching for something real—and it’s possible he’s already found it in Everley’s arms. But is there room in those arms for one more?

With Everley’s own dream of getting out from under her father’s shadow crumbling into chaos, it feels like the perfect time to embrace something new. But when Raleigh’s insatiable attraction to both Everley and Bruce makes it impossible to keep his distance, there’s only one obvious solution…assuming they can learn how to share.

My sense of time on when I discovered Holley is vague; I heard other people talking about her and her works, saw some tweets from her, and somehow I sort of fell into her books. The Coyote’s Comfort was my first, but discovering Holley Trent is like lifting a stone and finding a world. I’m excited to introduce her to you, and I hope you enjoy trying out Three Part Harmony. Welcome, Holley!

Holley: Thanks for the introduction, Heidi! And I think most readers discover me the same way—they have some vague recollection of having some random novella thrust into their e-reader and then they spend the next couple of weeks lost in my weird backlist. I guess it’s become something of a niche romance superstore at this point.

Heidi: LOL, that’s a fair assessment.  I was trying to think of how to best sum up your body of work, and in the end I decided where I had to land was that while you’ve written in a variety of genres, from sci-fi to shifter to paranormal to contemporary, the consistent element is a deep dive into characters with real, visceral elements. Flaws, assets, foibles, screw ups. The setups are the same way. The conflicts, I mean. They’re going to make a mess and we get to watch them flail and then get out of it. That’s super addictive. So what I want to know is, did you set out to do that, or is that just kind of what happens? I could see it being a bit of both, but I’m curious about your answer.

Holley: What people need to understand about me is that if I write a mess, it’s because that’s the part of life that makes the most sense to me. It would be harder for me to write a story that didn’t have that layer of…gracelessness, I suppose, because I didn’t come out of an upbringing where predictability was a normal thing.

My family is massive and filled with what I’ll call “unpredictable secondary characters,” so outrageousness is familiar for me. I’m always thinking ahead to  “What could possibly go wrong?” so that I already have a mitigation strategy in mind—just in case.

Heidi: I love that. I completely see that in your work. What a fun way to write.

Speaking of: how did you get into writing? Is it something you did for a long time before you got published, and how has your journey been so far?

Holley: As a kid, I was a storyteller. My sister and I would write plays and our own attempts at stories with big casts and layers of complicated relationships like in Terry McMillan’s books, which, admittedly, at those ages, we shouldn’t have been reading.

I honestly didn’t think about fiction writing being something I could do for pay until I was in college. Even then, I assumed I would end up on the editorial side, but there really wasn’t a huge field for that in North Carolina. After a few years working in other areas, I started writing and querying again, but didn’t figure out that I was a romance writer until around 2011.

As a “voice” author, it was a wild ride, trying to fit myself into the framework of an established industry while still trying to maintain the things about my storytelling style that make it distinctive.

Heidi: One of the things I love about your work is the full spectrum content. Writing Her In is fully bisexual and polyamorous. The Coyote’s Comfort is lesbian. You’ve done a significant amount of menage and polyamory. I get the sense that you’re always widening that spectrum, though, that you like to explore not only genre but let the characters take you to interesting places within themselves. Is there anything you’ve been wanting to try that you haven’t yet? Anything you want to do more of?

Holley: I’ll definitely be writing more lesbians and unrepentant bisexuals because it’s just fun to play around with different sorts of dynamics that don’t involve traditional power imbalances. And, I’ll certainly incorporate more gender diversity into my casts in the near future, though I don’t know yet which series to tell you to look for that in. I’ve got about 17 pans in the fire right now.

Heidi: I look forward to all of them!

Let’s dive into Three Part Harmony. Not to harp on this point too much, but those characters.They’re all such beautiful messes. Marie Kondo and I both, we love mess. Clearly you do too. Did you have a favorite in the trio? Favorite aspects of each one?

Holley: I can’t say if I have a favorite. I really do always try to balance the personalities in trios so that readers can find something relatable about all of them, butthere is definitely a character I have very soft feelings for. I’ll leave it to readers to guess who!

And I love Everley’s honesty with herself and the fact that she can be her own obstacle at times. Raleigh is probably just a man version of me. I’d guess 75-80% similarity. So. And my favorite thing about Bruce is that he has SUCH BIG THOUGHTS.

Heidi: I think my favorite character was Bruce. I saw elements of my spectrum daughter in him, the same need for solid rudders and world translators. I loved how everyone helped each other, but I loved the most how they helped Bruce. He seemed like a wild character to write. A good time, a frustrating time, or a bit of both depending on the day?

Holley: A bit of both. He was definitely the character I had to be the most careful with in the drafting process, because I wanted to make sure this story was about what he’s done or said and not so much about what he is. Obviously, I couldn’t do some magical handwavium and not address a bit somehow that he does need accomodations for certain things, and I also couldn’t give him a pass for what most people would deem to be bad behavior.

I love the way his verbal filter is calibrated. Or…uncalibrated, depending on how you look at it, I guess.

Heidi: Raleigh is such a beautiful bastard, and of course we met him first in Writing Her In. Did you know the whole of Three Part Harmony when you were writing book one?

Holley: I knew what Raleigh was going to do. I had 80% of an idea of what Everley was about. Bruce kind of didn’t give up anything about himself until I was in chapter two of the first draft and needed to ruffle Raleigh’s feathers somehow, and I feel like there’s no irony in that whatsoever.

Heidi: Everley’s first POV was such a delightful twist for me. Raleigh had tainted her so much with his mistaken takes, and then there she was, absolutely not what expected. I loved what a lynchpin she was for the trio.

Holley: I like to write heroines of the ticking-biological-clock age who don’thave their shit completely together, and not for any reason that falling in love can fix. She operates in a haze of high-functioning depression like so many people do in this age, and what she wants for herself really isn’t so selfish.

Heidi: I loved too how they were truly a trio, that Raleigh and Bruce had intense passion and balance for each other, but they really needed Ev to even them out. Ev was soothing and good for Bruce, but Raleigh was a balance for Ev too. I’m still working out in my head what everyone was for Raleigh. He’s a complicated guy.

Holley: I feel like Raleigh just wants to have people he can keep, honestly. Both Everley and Bruce sort of see him as someone who has his head screwed on tight, and I think that’s mostly true. He can be painfully blunt and a bit impatient at times, but that’s not anything he’ll ever be cured of by True Love.

Heidi:So who are you reading? Romance and otherwise.

Holley: I’ve got an ARC of A.C. Arthur’s upcoming paranormal romance Awaken the Dragon from Carina queued up on my Kindle and I’m really excited about it because dragons.

I’ve also got Sarah MacLean’s Brazen and the Beast on my nightstand and a bunch of research texts about Afro-Mexican women for a PNR spinoff I’m still worldbuilding for.

Heidi: Yes to all of this. Especially dragons.

What’s next for you? Both in terms of what’s coming, and what you want to work on and are thinking about.

Holley: *insert shrug emoji here*?

I’m kidding, but really, there’s some fluidity in my schedule right now. I don’t have anything on contract and I haven’t tortured any of my indie editors with anything lately, either. It’s a hard time to be a creative right now, and spring and summer were rough for for writing for me, but I’m putting cranking out words again now (scattered across a few different projects, admittedly), but I’m hoping to scandalize readers with the next thing by the traditional start of pumpkin spice season.

Heidi: I hear you on punching through that sludge. Wishing you great strides forward and as many peaceful moments as can be had. Thank you for stopping by, Holley!

Holley: Absolutely! It was a pleasure chatting. I hope readers enjoy the wild soap opera that is Three Part Harmony. It was such a blast to write.

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An author of contemporary, historical and paranormal romances featuring LGBT characters, Heidi Cullinan is best known for stories of characters struggling with insurmountable odds on their way to their happily ever afters. Her upcoming release is the final book in the Copper Point: Medical series, THE DOCTOR’S ORDERS. Find out more about Heidi at www.heidicullinan.comand be sure to follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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