Nancy Holder, a graduate of UC San Diego and a former San Diegan, is the author of many popular tie-in works of fiction, most famously those based on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and its spinoff series “Angel.” A successful horror and science-fiction writer, she is also the creator of the “Possessions” and “Mary Shelley Presents” series, and she has been a regular fixture at the San Diego International Comic-Con.
Q: In what genre would you classify yourself as a writer?
A: I have three main areas that I’m known for: I’m a horror writer, I write a lot of material that’s tied into TV shows and movies, and I’m a comic book writer. I was a horror writer first. Then I started writing a ton of “Buffy and the Vampire Slayer” material. I write for two comic-book companies. One is Kymeria. The other is Moonstone Books. They’re known for doing comics and pulp fiction about a lot of older pulp characters.
Q: How long have been you writing?
A: I sold my first novel in 1981.
Q: You’re a UCSD graduate. Tell us about your experience there.
A: I got a degree in communications (from Muir College) and that meant I could take as many writing classes as I could. My mentor was Dr. John Waterhouse. His letter of recommendation when I applied for graduate school said that if I wanted to be a full-time professional freelance writer, I could do it. I’ve always kept that letter. I thanked him in a dedication of one of my novels.
Q: What was your first published work?
A: My very first novel was a young adult romance novel written under a pseudonym. It was a wonderful story about a young girl who was very smart and who falls in love in high school with a jock who wants her to cheat so that he will pass.
Q: How did you get into your genre work?
A: I started writing romance novels because I was very interested in history. I became one of the first members of the Romance Writers of San Diego, which is a chapter of the Romance Writers of America. After awhile, I got kind of bored. A horror writer told me “Go to your bookcase and see what you’re reading and that’s what you should write.”
So I moved from romance into horror. I was a very serious literary horror writer and wrote nothing but short stories for about four years. I sold a couple of novels, including a tie-in show for “Highlander.” When “Buffy” first came on the air, that’s when my first Buffy novel came out (in 1997).
Q: Do you have a favorite book or book series?
A: Most of the time people who write for other intellectual properties don’t feel like they own that, but one thing I’m proudest of is I was asked to novelize the Guillermo del Toro movie “Crimson Peak.” No movie is long enough for a writer to write a novel about it. You have to figure out ways to add material. I wrote my own take on “Crimson Peak” and it was one of the best things I’ve ever written. I’ve also novelized the first “Wonder Woman” film and the all-woman “Ghostbusters.”
Q: What did you read growing up?
A: I read comic books and I read Nancy Drew. I subscribed to two comic books. I read really scary comics. I’d have to turn all the books over on their covers when I went to bed, I was so scared.
Q: Tell us about your relationship with your readers, your fans.
A: It’s come full circle. When I started writing young-adult romance and my readers were very young, I had a post office box and they would send me letters with little stickers on them and ask me questions like I was ‘Dear Abby.” When I became a very serious horror writer, things were more adult and more intense. When social media started up, it was much more like fan letters: chummy and personal. At first I was a little taken aback, but I’ve gotten used to it.
Q: You’ve appeared many times at Comic-Con. Any special Comic-Con memories?
A: I was involved in the spinoff of “Buffy” called “Angel.” One year they had a special panel of “Angel” writers and producers. I was asked to be the moderator of the panel I was pretty starstruck.
Q: Do you have a regular writing routine?
A: The first novel that I ever wrote, I sold three chapters and an outline and I had to finish it to a short deadline. I was really early, and they complimented me. But I couldn’t figure out any other way to write it. Now I’m much more aware of all the ways I can weight it or change the perspective. I’m more measured. I don’t just gut it out and turn it in.
Q: What makes a good story in your genre?
A: What makes a good story in almost any genre? You have to super-care about the characters, to be invested in them and really worry about them.
Coddon is a freelance writer.
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