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EXPRESSIONS: Local author Holley at home with horror

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EXPRESSIONS: Local author Holley at home with horror
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

BEMIDJI -- Justin Holley considers himself lucky.

Many of the Bemidji author's recent short fiction stories have been picked up by regional and national anthology publishers and magazines.


Holley, who also is the vice-chair of the Region 2 Arts Council, said he grew up writing poetry and song lyrics. He started writing short stories in 2006.

"I think I wrote 250 thousand words before I could say I was ready to seriously start writing," he said. "Those stories were all a learning experience for me as I learned sentence structure and many other grammar rules that are with me today. And read, read, read the other authors that you admire: what does their voice sound like; do they always use complete sentences; and techniques?"

Holley's stories lean to the horror genre. "I grew up watching the classic horror movies —"Amityville Horror," "The Exorcist," "Dracula" and "Psycho" to name a few."

Holley, a psychology major in college, admits he has a penchant to watch a person who stirs his imagination from a horror story point of view. He will observe and then chew on the plot for months until the storyline solidifies. A young lady at the Moondance Jam festival this past summer provided the fodder for his current novel "Burn" and he plans to start the submission process soon. His short story "Jigsaw Jimmy" was in the most recent edition of the "Eerie Tales 666" anthology.

"My stories are definitely for adults and I would not want anyone younger than 18 to read them. There is a young romance author in town who writes under the non de plume Amity Hope who does make a living writing, which does not usually happen so quickly," he said. "There are so many steps that all authors have to go through unless they are self-published, but I definitely think that an editor is essential for continuity and sentence structure, etc. If your story has been accepted for publication, the editors who work at the firm will edit the story."

Holley works with a national writers group, Goat Posse, which is a group of agents and published authors. They accept members who publish young adult romance fiction, adult romance, mystery, science fiction, etc., he said.

Holley is also a member of the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers. He said it's essential to circulate as much as possible within the circle of semi and professional writers.

"A lot of my stories start with a seed of an idea and go from there," said Holley, "and then there are a couple of other people who help me out. There are two schools of thought: 'You're from Minnesota so the story must be good or you're from Northern Minnesota, they can't be that good.'"

Holley said the novelist at the pinnacle of horror writing started out submitting short stories to whomever he could -- Stephen King. Others who came after King, such as Dean Koontz, followed a similar path, as well.

"That's how they built a name for themselves publishing short stories that developed into novellas and then full length novels because the editors and were impressed with their work," he said. "I am not a 'write by the seat of your pants' guy and have the story pretty much worked out, I also know how the story will end before I start and I always work to that end, and I always write with the voice that is in my head. It has to have an emotional impact at the end or it's not good."

For more information about Holley, visit