Author Interview: ‘The Ugly Teapot’ by Fred Holmes

About the Book:

Fourteen-year-old Hannah Bradbury loved her father so much that she worried about him constantly. After all, he was a photographer who traveled to the most dangerous places in the world. To allay her fears, each time he came home he brought her silly gifts, each one with supposed magical powers: the Seal of Solomon, the Ring of Gyges, even Aladdin’s Lamp. It was that lamp that Hannah found most unbelievable, for it looked like an ugly teapot. Nevertheless, her father assured her it was real, and made her promise to save her three wishes for something very special. Then . . . six months later . . . the unthinkable happened. Her father was killed while on assignment to Baghdad. And so on the day of his funeral Hannah did something she never thought she would ever do. She took out that teapot and gave it a rub . . .

What people are saying:

“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for writing this book. It is BRILLIANT!” –Writers Digest

“The plot twist at the end took the book from a fun enjoyable read to a timeless novel of family and loss.” –Sarah Curtis @ BooksBeforeBandaids

“This book made me laugh;then it made me cry. (And that takes TALENT because this is a middle grade book and I’m 22…) Really though, go read this book! It’s an easy 5 stars!” –Rachel

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Purchase Links:

Amazon: UK / US

Author Interview:

1: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you in to writing?

I’ve been writing since I could hold a pen. Way back in elementary school (and I do mean WAY back in elementary school when they used stone tablets) my parents bought me a DIY printer’s kit and I turned out my own neighborhood newspaper. Then, like everyone else, I wrote stories in school. However, when I left school I wasn’t interested in being a writer. I wanted to be a director of television and films. I started out in TV commercials and documentaries, travelling all over the world for a few years, then directed two feature films starring Lou Diamond Phillips, one for Miramax and one for Lionsgate; then I directed a Bollywood feature film shot on location in India that starred two huge Bollywood stars, one of whom had won the Indian version of an Academy Award.

During this time I also directed a lot—and I do mean a LOT! —of American television. Most of these shows were in the area of children’s television. According to IMDB, I’ve directed north of 250 episodes of TV, and along the way I’ve won quite a few awards, including three CINE Golden Eagles and two Emmys. But I was often disappointed with some of the scripts I was being asked to direct, so one day I decided to start writing my own scripts. Over time this led me into the more lucrative area of writing spec screenplays for feature films.

One of those spec scripts was called FIREFLIES and my agent shopped it all over Hollywood. It was very well received and several high profile producers optioned it, including my friend Jerry Molen. Jerry had won the Academy Award for producing SCHINDLER’S LIST and was known for producing big-budgeted blockbusters (HOOK, MINORITY REPORT, TWISTER, etc.). Unfortunately, FIREFLIES was a sweet, small-budgeted film, so he was never able to get it off the ground. Then a friend of mine at Disney read it, loved it, and suggested I turn it into a novel. I’d always been intrigued by the idea of writing a novel, but I never thought I could. Why? Well, the best analogy I can give you comes from some of my actor friends. A lot of them will tell you, “I’m only acting in television and films to make money. My goal is to be a star on Broadway where the real actors are.” And that, in a convoluted way, was my attitude about writing for television—the “real” writers were writing novels—and I was only writing screenplays and teleplays.

At the time, however, I was working in South Africa a lot and those seventeen hour plane rides to Cape Town gave me ample time to fuss around with the idea of writing a novel. I soon came to a discouraging conclusion: all of my work in television and film was irrelevant. It didn’t matter one bit. Okay, maybe it did matter one bit—writing so much television had taught me what a good story looked like, sounded like, tasted like (they taste like chicken and go really well with some fava beans and a nice Chianti), but I still had to learn how to translate that knowledge into writing prose. And there is a difference between writing prose and writing screenplays. Oh yeah, trust me on this. There’s a huge difference.

In order to educate myself, I began by reading a lot of books on the process, and I spoke with my friends who were novelists. I also read a lot of children’s fiction. I’ve always loved children’s literature, plus I’ve been fortunate to work on television shows that starred children. All of this helped. It also helped that screenplays and novels do share a common rule: “Show not tell”. Unfortunately, they’re also completely different in that novels are meant to be read and screenplays are meant to be filmed. Yeah, I know, duh…but what this means is that you only write down in a screenplay what the audience will see and/or hear. You do not dig into the characters’ psyche—that’s for the actors to portray, and the director to cover visually—and they both get really upset with you if you mess with their territory!

So in order to write THE UGLY TEAPOT, I had to learn how to write fiction. This was a challenge for someone who had never taken a writing course. What I did have, fortunately, was a lot of experience telling stories. So to make a long story only slightly shorter…I wrote copious drafts, ripped out more hair than I could afford to rip out, started over more times than I care to admit, but now, finally, have a story I’m very proud of.

A final postscript: There is a joke in Hollywood that if you ask an actor a question, he will give you his credits. This must also be true of writers.

2: Do you have a favourite time and place where you write?

If I had my druthers, I would write wearing a swimsuit and sandals in a bungalow on a beach somewhere…preferably Hawaii. Then again I probably wouldn’t get any work done. So I write in my office without any distractions, pretty much seven days a week, for about eight hours a day. I do take breaks now and then to go direct something, but even then I’m writing in hotel rooms and on planes.

3: Where do your ideas come from?

The short answer is my imagination. The idea for THE UGLY TEAPOT came from real life. My brother died of cancer at a very young age and his death had a devastating impact on me. At the time, I decided to funnel my grief into a screenplay (FIREFLIES), but I didn’t want to write a sad, depressing ode to my brother. He wouldn’t have liked that. So I wrote an action/adventure film filled with magic and humor. When FIREFLIES metamorphosed into THE UGLY TEAPOT, I stayed true to my original story, but tried to make TEAPOT more “novel-like”. This required, for one thing, expanding my story. FIREFLIES was 110 pages long (normal for most screenplays, but too short for a middle-grade novel), so expanding it allowed me to flesh out my characters and situations. This was fun and intimidating at the same time, but I was helped along by the fact that I had kept most of my notes on character and plot from the original screenplay, and I had tons of material I’d been forced to cut from the screenplay in order to get it down to length.

4: Do you have a plan in your head of where the story is going before you start writing or do you let it carry you along as you go?

I’m a plantser by nature—in other words I plan my stories somewhat, but still write by the seat of my pants. I love the spontaneity of this approach, but before I start I do know the beginning, middle, and end of my story, plus most of my plot points.

5: What genre are your books and what drew you to that genre?

At the moment I’m writing middle grade to young adult fantasy. I love this genre because I’m really a kid at heart, plus I have had the privilege of working with a lot of kids in my target age range during my career. I do, however, have a couple of adult thrillers that I would like to get to one of these days.

6: What dream cast would you like to see playing the characters in your latest book?

Dream cast? I would love to see Natalie Portman in the lead role when she was fourteen. The father I would love to see Harrison Ford play, and the mother, Sandra Bullock, both when they were the appropriate age. You did say dream cast!

7: Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors.

I read voraciously and eclectically. I have so many favorite authors it would be impossible to pick just one, but I will say that I’m a huge fan of Neil Gaiman, Patrick Rothfuss, Ray Bradbury, George R. R. Martin, J K Rowling, Stephen King, Ken Follet, Orson Scott Card, Stephanie Meyer, and Terry Pratchett, along with a whole long list of others.

8: What book/s are you reading at present?

I just finished re-reading EQUAL RITES by Terry Pratchett. It is absolutely hilarious, brilliantly written, and a whole lot of fun to read. As a writer, it also teaches me a lot about the shorthand you can employ in good writing.

9: What is your favourite book and why?

My favourite book of all time is Ray Bradbury’s DANDELION WINE. Why I connect with that book so viscerally, I have no idea. It is about a time in which I did not live and a place I’ve never been, and yet I absolutely adore it. A big reason why is Ray’s use of language. His writing is about as close to poetry as one can get. As a side note: Years ago, before Ray died, he was working with my friend, Jerry Molen, on the movie version of THE MARTIAN CHRONOCLES for Universal. When I told Jerry what a huge fan I was of DANDELION WINE, he got Ray to autograph a copy for me; and on the inside of the cover, Ray drew a picture of a dandelion and wrote, “Fred, this dandelion is for you!” It remains one of my most prized possessions.

10: What advice would you give for someone thinking about becoming a writer?

First, write the absolute best book you can write. Next, make sure it is professionally edited, etc. Then finally, decide what release route is best for your novel. If it’s a children’s book, you might want to seriously consider getting an agent and a publisher. But whatever you decide to do, resolve to be in this business for the long haul. Do something every day toward meeting your goal of writing the best novel possible, and never, ever give up. The only people who fail are those who accept failure as an option. And know this: You have my very best wishes. Oh yes, if I had Aladdin’s Lamp, I would give you all three of my wishes. Why? Because you are attempting something good and noble and honorable. You are writing something that future generations will grow up reading. You are making the world a better place.

11: What are the best Social Media Sites for people to find out about you and your work?  

Fred Holmes Productions –

Amazon author page –

Facebook Fan Page –

Goodreads Author Page –

Twitter – @FLouisHolmes

Google+ –

YouTube Channel –

About the Author:

THE UGLY TEAPOT is Fred Holmes’s first fiction novel, having previously ghost written a non-fiction book, LETTERS FROM DAD. He is known primarily as a writer and director of films and television, working primarily in family films and children’s television. His work can be seen on Mary Lou Retton’s FLIP FLOP SHOP, BARNEY & FRIENDS, WISHBONE, HORSELAND, IN SEARCH OF THE HEROES, and many other shows, for which he has won two Emmys and three CINE Golden Eagles, among numerous other awards. He has also directed three feature films, including DAKOTA, starring Lou Diamond Phillips, distributed by Miramax, and HEART LAND, a Bollywood feature film shot on location in India. He lives with his wife and son in the southwest United States, and can be found online at


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