Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
I’m Holly Worton, podcaster and author of nine books. I help people get to know themselves better through connecting with Nature, so they can feel happier and more fulfilled in their lives. I enjoy spending time outdoors, walking long-distance trails and exploring Britain’s sacred sites. I am a member of the Druid order OBOD.
What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?
The real-life story behind my latest book, If Trees Could Talk: Life Lessons from the Wisdom of the Woods, might be a stretch for most people’s belief systems. I was working on my first novel, and it wasn’t going well. I’ve always found writing nonfiction to be easy, and working on my first eight books was a very smooth process. Not so with the novel.
In January 2018, I went on a forest bathing meetup in a local woodland. Forest bathing is the concept of spending time in the woods to reduce stress and improve wellbeing. Near the end of the meetup, we found ourselves in an ancient yew tree forest and were asked to find a yew tree and connect with it.
The yew that I chose gave me the idea for this book. He said that the trees have stories, and that it’s important for people to hear them. He gave me the task of collecting stories from the local trees in my area and putting them together in a book, which is exactly what I did!
This wasn’t my first experience talking to trees (and hearing their replies). I’d been practicing tree communication for many years, talking with the spirits of the trees I passed on my walks. This book, however, greatly deepened my connection with Nature, and also with myself.
What inspires/inspired your creativity?
I’m a natural creator. I have so many ideas for books that I don’t have enough time to write them all. I keep a list of ideas for future books, and when it’s time to start a new project, I sit down with the list and choose the one that feels right.
How do you deal with creative blocks?
Because I write nonfiction, I rarely come up with creative blocks. I map out the chapters for each book, and then write each chapter. It’s more a process of downloading what I already have in my head into a book, rather than making up new things. I think that’s why I found writing fiction to be so challenging! I’ll need to come up with a new strategy to unblock myself with that book, because I do want to write fiction some day.
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
With nonfiction, I think it’s really important to choose a catchy title with a descriptive subtitle that ideally includes lots of keywords that someone might use to search for a book like yours. While the title can be creative and fun, the subtitle should absolutely give the reader a clear idea as to whether or not the book is something they might be interested in reading.
With covers, it goes without saying that they should be professionally designed by a graphic designer who specializes in book cover design. I worked with 99Designs.com for my last book cover, and I’m so happy with the result. This is a service where graphic designers compete to create your perfect book cover, and I received over 150 designs, many of which were fantastic. I’m really happy with the final design that I chose.
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
I try not to read them. My first one-star review for one of my earlier books hit me like a punch in the gut. I was really open and vulnerable about my story in that book, and the bad review hurt. Because my books are nonfiction, and I really open up and share my personal experiences in them, I find it hard not to take the occasional poor review personally.
The fact that I never seem to get constructive criticism in the negative reviews makes me avoid them. If I were actually receiving useful feedback, then I’d definitely check my reviews on a regular basis, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
How has your creation process improved over time?
I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had a great creation process from the very beginning. Because my brain is great at long hours of hyperfocusing, I do the vast majority of my writing on what I call my workcation weekends. I book a hotel for a night, and I check in early and spend the whole first day writing. I arrange for late check out the following afternoon, and continue writing the second day until just before check out.
This is the process that’s helped me to write nine books. I know that writing a little bit each day works for some people, but not for me. I really need to get into a project and focus on just that for long blocks of time. Writers need to try different things and find what works for them.
What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
This latest book really stretched me out of my comfort zone. My previous books were pretty “normal” in that they were about sensible things like business mindset and walking long-distance trails. This book required me to get very public about something that’s honestly very weird for most people: talking to trees.
Because I knew this was an issue for me, I hired a book publicist for the first time, and really threw myself into promoting the book, more so than with any of my previous eight books. My publicist got me on national television in the UK, and that had a ripple effect in terms of getting other interviews on radio and online.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
I aim to serve my readers by telling my own personal stories. My books are written with the intention of helping others through my experience. I do get a certain personal satisfaction in creating them, because I love writing. But more than anything, I love getting emails from readers who found my books to be really helpful in their own lives.
Do you have any creativity tricks?
Yes! My workcation weekend, which I mentioned earlier. I know this isn’t the right solution for everyone, especially for people with children who might find it harder to get away for a weekend, but I wish more writers would give it a try…at least once!
What are your plans for future books?
I have so many ideas for future books! For my next book, I think I’ll be finishing a personal development book that was my very first book idea, back in 2011. It’s a topic that I’ve revisited over and over again on my podcast, and it’s a concept that still really excites me. I’m looking forward to this one.
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
I am on the autism spectrum, which I think gives me a really unique perspective on life. I’m really open about this in most of my books, because I think it gives readers an idea of why my way of seeing things might seem a bit different: my brain doesn’t work like other people’s!
I had wanted to do a martial art ever since I was six years old, but never got around to it until four years ago when I started kickboxing. I’ve progressed over the last few years, and I’m hoping to get my black belt next summer (fingers crossed!).
I was a voracious reader as a child (that probably comes as no surprise), and I started writing my own books at age seven because I was going through books faster than my parents could get me new ones, so I just started creating my own. I wrote on and off through childhood and my teenage years, and after high school, I abandoned writing and didn’t pick it up again until 2006 when I started my first blog. It wasn’t until 2016 that I wrote my next book.