Editor’s note: “Baby Doll” is a fictional story, not based on a true incident.
Eduardo Santiago, in addition to helming the Idyllwild Author Series and continuing his own major career as a novelist, is very proud of his work coaching other writers.
Hollie Overton, one of his students, closes year six of Santiago’s series on Sunday, Aug. 7. “It was year five and I thought it was time to go,” he said when he wrapped up the series in 2015. “Then [Hollie] got her book accepted so I thought I have to do the series one more time.”
Overton’s debut novel, “Baby Doll” (Hatchette/Redhook 2016), is a fast-paced thriller centering on a teenager who has grown into an adult, kept for eight years in a basement by a man who considers her and her now 8-year-old daughter “his girls.” Then one day he forgets to lock the deadbolt to the basement stairs.
Overton has a cinematic approach to writing. Her book is filled with visual and audio details — the sound of a deadbolt being locked, the creak of her captor’s footsteps on the floorboards above, the breathing of her daughter Sky, who has never been outdoors and has never seen the sky. “A deadbolt has a very specific sound,” is the first line in “Baby Doll.”
A reader sees the environment in which Lily and Sky live, and feels the brilliance and bite of the snowy landscape into which they escape. “I very quickly had the first line and chapter,” said Overton. “And even in rewrite, the first chapters really didn’t change significantly. At the beginning, you have to know who your narrator is and get the audience to trust you.”
Overton’s visual style is a natural outgrowth of her work as a television writer. At first, she followed her dream of being an actress, moving to New York and making the rounds. But soon she realized that acting required being hired before one could do the work. But with writing, she could do it on her own.
She had always, from childhood, been a writer and storyteller. So with support from her mother, Overton switched coasts and found her way, through winning contests and workshop placements, into television writing and story editing — first on “The Client List” and now on “Shadowhunters.”
Through serendipity, and cancellation of “The Client List,” Overton had a break between series — a break that gave her the time to write “Baby Doll.” “Eduardo [Santiago] got me through the process,” she said. “The first step in writing a novel is admitting you’re writing a novel. Once I started, I just kept going. I was surprised how much I loved the process.”
Overton said she enjoys her work in television. “The process is very collaborative. We [‘Shadowhunters’] just got picked up for a second season. I’ll stay in TV for as long as it will have me,” she said, but noted she had already completed the rough draft of her second novel “The Wall” in May. “I’m reworking it now and have 10 weeks before it’s due. Working in TV definitely helps me keep on schedule with my novel writing – you have to meet deadlines and be ‘on it’ at all times. It’s definitely fear-driven.”
Santiago interviews Overton at 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 7, on the deck of Café Aroma.