Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Cheryl Hollon Interview by E. B. Davis

“Who drinks Bud Light in a British pub? Liars, cheaters, and killers. Oh my.”
Cheryl Hollon, Pane and Suffering (Loc. 1592)

Cheryl Hollon’s debut novel, Pane and Suffering, was released by Kensington Books yesterday. Readers sympathize with talented glass artist and main character Savannah Webb. With her own life on hold, Savannah soon realizes she has trouble on all fronts—a murder investigation to cope with, the fate of the glass store in limbo, contracts to fulfill, an assistant with Asperger’s, his service dog, and her father’s puppy to foster. Coming off a breakup with her boyfriend, she’s wary, strong, and capable—but her severe fear of heights inhibits her investigation and jeopardizes her life.

Kensington signed Cheryl to a three-book deal. I can’t wait to see how Cheryl develops Savannah Webb and where it will take her.  

Please welcome Cheryl Hollon to WWK.          E. B. Davis

Would you give our readers a synopsis of Pane and Suffering?

After Savannah's father dies unexpectedly of a heart attack, she drops everything to return home to St. Petersburg, Florida, to settle his affairs—including the fate of the beloved, family-owned glass shop. Savannah intends to hand over ownership to her father's trusted assistant and master craftsman, Hugh Trevor, but soon discovers him dead also of an apparent heart attack.

As if the coincidence of the two deaths wasn't suspicious enough, Savannah discovers a note her father left for her in his shop, warning her that she is in danger. With the local police unconvinced, it's up to Savannah to piece together the encoded clues left behind by her father. And when her father's apprentice is accused of the murders, Savannah is more desperate than ever to crack the case before the killer seizes a window of opportunity to cut her out of the picture.

After her father’s funeral, Savannah’s first hurtle is teaching glass-working classes to novices, a commitment her father made. Why is she unprepared?

The death of her father affected Savannah deeply. She knew him to be a man of commitment, therefore, the continuation of classes at Webb’s Glass Shop became a way to honor her father’s memory. She felt unprepared because her current glass expertise focused on glass blowing, which demands a completely different set of skills and techniques. She was out of practice, that’s all.

Although Savannah feels guilty because she relocated to Seattle and hasn’t been home for a while, she and her father were close. Close enough, that when he leaves her a set of clues to his murder, she understands his logic and specific language to break codes. Why does her father use code?

John Webb was paranoid and knew that about himself. But, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that you might not be in danger. He knew he could be very, very wrong, but just in case. . .

How old is Savannah?

As I am fond of saying: a woman who will tell you her age will lie about anything.

Her father also has contracts to re-create stain-glass panels for a church at twenty-thousand dollars a piece (and there are twenty panels). Earlier in her life, Savannah won a single scholarship beating thousands of applicants to attend the prestigious Pilchuck Glass School. She’s now an artist. Why does she have self-doubt about her abilities to fulfill her father’s contract?

The church panels are stunning and intricate. A little self-doubt is good for an artist especially when contemplating the central panel of The Last Supper. Who wouldn’t be a little hesitant?

Is the Pilchuck Glass School real? Is the Payne Glassworks of Paterson, NJ (in the story, the original creators of the church’s stain glass windows) real?

Yes and yes. The Pilchuck Glass is real, founded in 1971 by Dale Chihuly, Anne Gould Hauberg and John H. Hauberg. Visiting both the studio on a former tree farm in Stanwood, Washington and the administrative offices in Seattle is high on my list of research locations to visit.

After George L. Payne passed away in 1981, the Payne Studio lives on in the form of a merger with its main competitor and collaborator, Rohlf’s Stained and Leaded Glass. Both were family-led forces in the early stained glass industry. The church in St. Petersburg, FL is one of the finest representations of their early work. There is a sign outside the church that announces a tour of the panels every Wednesday.

Is glasswork your hobby?

My husband and I have a small glass studio in a separate building behind the house. In Florida, this is known as a mother-in-law cottage. We are advanced amateurs and have sold pieces through Grand Central Glass Shop in the past. We now happily spend our studio time making gifts for friends and family. I also make promotional swag for conferences and book signings.

You live in St. Petersburg, FL, where your book is set. Webb’s Glass Shop, the family business, is located in the Grand Central District in St. Pete. Is Grand Central a historic commercial area? Why did you set your story there?

The Grand Central District was formed in 2001 and received the designation as a Main Street community by both the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Florida Main Street program. More than 1,500 communities across the country have adopted the Main Street Approach, which is one of the most powerful economic development tools in the nation, combining historic preservation and economic development in local revitalization initiatives. The stained glass shop that inspired Webb’s is one of the many eclectic businesses that have taken advantage of the preservation-based revitalization initiatives and as a result of the owner’s hard work, they have created a thriving business district. It’s the perfect environment for a sole proprietor business

Jacob Underwood, an apprentice of Savannah’s father, has Asperger’s. He’s an interesting character because of his character and his talent. Have you known those who have Asperger’s? Tell our readers about Jacob, his mother, and Suzie, please.

Jacob first came onto the page as a 14-year-old struggling to connect with the social pressures of everyday life. However, in order to be more fully engaged with Savannah, Amanda and Edward, he needed to be nearer their age. So one of my massive rewrites of Pane and Suffering was to age Jacob—I like him better as an awkward near adult. I know a few people who are ‘on the spectrum’ just like everyone else nowadays. I appreciate Jacob’s unique perspective and adore his service dog, Suzy, modeled after one of my childhood pets. I wanted his parents to be devoted, supportive, pragmatic, and sensible—a successful recipe for raising Jacob.

After Hugh Trevor, her father’s close associate and assistant dies, two men make Savannah offers on the shop. Why does she dislike them and put them on her suspect list?

Many of us are plagued with people in our lives that irritate, exasperate, frustrate and generally annoy us beyond our patience. Just like real life, we still have to deal with them. As I’ve seen on t-shirts: Careful, or You’ll End Up in My Novel.

Savannah inherits her father’s house, an original Craftsman bungalow and a puppy. Why were kit houses built at the beach?

The neighborhood where the family Craftsman house is built is located near the Historic Kenwood District. The Kenwood neighborhood was initially developed by Charles R. Hall, who in 1913 built 10 houses on Central Avenue for a combined cost of $30,000. At that time, the nearby area was an avocado grove. The area has one of the highest concentrations of 1920s Craftsman style bungalows in Florida. Most Kenwood homes were built on site during the early 1920s. But during the mid-1930s, approximately 170 were moved to the area having been displaced from downtown. True to the age of the area, Historic Kenwood features brick streets, large trees, and garages facing alleys.

Edward Morris, owner of the English pub located next door to Webb’s, befriends Savannah with tea and scones each morning. She’s attracted to him. Why can’t she trust him?

After the ugly breakup with her Seattle boyfriend, Savannah is naturally reluctant to trust anyone who is making overtures even when he seemed to have been a trusted friend to her father. The cranberry scones, however, are weakening her resolve.

You do a great job of keeping readers guessing whodunit. Did you know the killer’s identity when you started writing?

It’s funny that you mention that—I usually change the killer after the first rough draft. This is the first time my original villain remained the same.

How does Savannah react when police order her father’s body to be exhumed?

Savannah struggles with conflicting feelings. How maddening to finally get the investigation attention that you want and then endure a sickening punch to your emotions.

Are you a fan of tea and craft beer?

I have enjoyed small batch and locally brewed beer since I lived in England in the late 90s. When I moved back to Florida, I was delighted with the quickly growing list of microbreweries that make St. Petersburg a beer destination. There are at least fourteen in the Tampa Bay area and the growth is still on the climb. All the breweries and pubs in the book are real places with a thriving and lively patronage.

You go very light on Nancy, a student in Savannah’s class and a husband-nagger. I wanted this bothersome glass student to get a good comeuppance. Why didn’t you slam her?

Well, what can I say? In the end, I didn’t want to add to her husband’s already heavy burden. I haven’t forgotten her—she’ll be back.

There’s only one aspect of your book that doesn’t ring true to me, Cheryl. Coming from rainy Seattle to sunny St. Petersburg, where she grew up, why doesn’t Savannah go to the beach to contemplate murder?

One of the odd aspects of being a long-time resident of Florida is that you don’t go to the beach very often. I know – I know, that’s why we moved here in the first place so many years ago. We used to go to Treasure Island beach at least once a week if not more. Now, we may go for a long weekend at a beach resort perhaps once a year. Yep, it makes no sense, but that’s how it is with locals.

Have you plotted the next book in the series? What’s next for Savannah?

The next book is Shards of Murder (Webb’s Glass Shop #2) due for release on February 23, 2016. Here’s a synopsis:

As the new proprietor of Webb's Glass Shop, Savannah has been appointed to fill her late father's shoes as a judge for the Spinnaker Arts Festival, held in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. With her innovative glass works, the clear winner is Megan Loyola, a student of Savannah's former mentor.

But when Megan doesn't show up to accept her $50,000 award, rumors start flying. And when Savannah discovers the woman's dead body on festival grounds, the police immediately suspect her of murder. To keep from appearing before a judge herself, Savannah sorts through the broken pieces of glass scattered around the victim for clues as to who took this killer competition too far.



  1. Dale Chihuly's work is breathtaking. He just finished an exhibition at the Fairchild Tropical Garden in Miami. My only regret is that I wasn't able to go back for a night show to see the pieces lit as well. Reading this review resulted in an immediate trip to Amazon for a satisfying click. Looking forward to a great read and getting to know Savannah better.

  2. Thanks for sharing on WWK. Your book sounds like a great read.

  3. We have a permanent Chihuly Museum here in St. Petersburg so I can get a fix wherever I want. Sometimes I just stand in front of one of the chandeliers to get my creative juices restored.

  4. looking forward to learning something about stained glass. My favorite is the moon rock window in the National Cathedral in DC.

  5. Warren, thanks to WWK for inviting me to stop in for a chat.

  6. Margaret, I agree completely. I saw it for the first time this year while I was attending Malice Domestic. Fantastic!

  7. Hi Cheryl, thanks for stopping by WWK. Your series sounds fascinating. I love reading about artists and their work, and then you toss in a good murder- perfect. A visit to my daughter when she lived in Tacoma, WA introduced me to Chihuly - wow!
    Happy book birthday and I hope there will be many more.

  8. Shari, Thank you so much for your good wishes. I want to visit Chihuly in Seattle soon -- research, of course.

  9. Welcome to WWK, Cheryl.

    I think you are right that we often forget the reasons we first moved to a place. People who moved to be near the beach rarely go and instead use their backyard pool because it's easier. People who moved to the woods, stay in their house instead of walking the woods, etc.

    Best of luck with your series.

    ~ Jim

  10. Jim, Thanks! No group I've ever met are as kind and generous to beginners as mystery folk. It's a warm welcome and one I will share.

  11. Welcome to WWK, Cheryl. Your book sounds fascinating. I visited the Dale Chihuly museum in Tacoma several years ago, and was mesmerized by his work. I understand not visiting what is close at hand. I have yet to visit the Packard Museum with the Packard cars that were originally built in the town closest to me, and it's been there for years now. Someday, I will.

  12. Your book sounds terrific, Cheryl! I quickly clicked over to Amazon and ordered it.
    Stained glass is beautiful. I was in awe when I saw Dale Chihuly's glass sculptures at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. Seeing a large glass cactus next to a real one was breathtaking.

  13. Thanks for the interview, Cheryl. I've admired the glass at the Venetian when I was in Vegas. If it weren't for having to clean it, I could get into art glass. One shop in Hatteras has glass Christmas Trees--very angular and modern. I've admired them as well, but what I really lusted after was a lamp. Its base was a glass jelly fish--its tentacles formed the feet of the lamp. Of course it was $1300 so I didn't buy it, and I also thought it would be dangerous to any toddlers who might be in my future. The descriptions in your book of how the glass was cut fascinated me. I loved field trips when I was in school so I've combined that love with mystery. Good luck with your series!