HOLLY GOLDBERG SLOAN was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan and spent a peripatetic childhood (following her Professor father and architect mother) living in California, The Netherlands, Istanbul, Turkey (where she went to high school), Washington D.C. and Oregon.
She attended college at Wellesley in Massachusetts (with her junior year of study done at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire). After graduating, Holly went to New York City and took a job at Grey Advertising answering phones and writing at night and on weekends (and when no one was paying attention to what she was doing at work).
A year later she had moved to Los Angeles where she sold her first screenplay at the age of twenty-four to Paramount Pictures. Holly continued to write, but supported herself for the next ten years by working in commercial advertising as a production assistant, then a script supervisor, a producer, and finally as a commercial director.
The year 1982 was a big year for Holly, because that was also when she got married to Chuck Sloan. They were married for ten years, and had two sons. While their marriage didn’t work out, their friendship did. Holly is certain that none of the things that she has achieved would have been possible without his support.
Holly has written eight successful family feature films, three for the Walt Disney Company, including the baseball classic Angels in the Outfield, and the soccer movie, The Big Green, which she also directed (filmed in Austin, Texas). She also wrote the Universal Pictures comedy Made in America starring Whoopi Goldberg, Ted Danson and Will Smith, and the late Steve Irwin’s feature film for MGM: Collision Course: The Crocodile Hunter Movie.
Holly wrote and directed the children’s film Heidi 4 Paws where she put dogs in costumes in all of the roles of the famous children’s story. This film used the voice talent of Angela Lansbury, Stephen Rea, Richard Kind, Majandra Delfino, and Julian Sands and recently aired on Public Television in the United States and Canada. For more info on Holly, visit her website.
What’s the funniest prank ever played on you?
I think I play pranks on others but I actually don’t remember the ones played on me. In high school, I wrote a letter that was fake to Dear Abby. I said I was a wife with a husband who had taught a bird to swear all day. She printed it, with her solution. I then wrote her and told her it was a fake. She wrote me back. She wasn’t very amused.
What’s the naughtiest thing you did in school?
I don’t think I was very naughty in school. I liked so many of my teachers. And classmates. I’m sure I had acts of rebellion, but I had a very rebellious brother, so that position was already taken in family.
Do you believe in UFOs?
Well I certainly believe when I look up into the stars, that there are other forms of life out there. I don’t have any idea what those may be, but as Buzz Lightyear says, “To Infinity and beyond!”
What song best describes your work ethic?
Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water.
If you were to attend a costume party tonight, who would you be? Why?
I’d be a ladybug because I have that costume in my closet.
What classifies as a boring conversation? What classifies as an interesting one?
A boring conversation is endlessly talking about what’s wrong with other people. An interesting one is about ideas. Books. Film. Art. Food. Plants and gardening. Medical conditions. Animals. Travel. History. Politics. Public Policy.
Are there any stores you refuse to shop in?
I don’t go to really expensive stores. I wouldn’t say I refuse, I’m just not interested in Rodeo Drive (I live in Los Angeles).
What are some of the rules your parents had for you as a child?
My parents had very, very few rules. That was one of the best parts of their parenting style. We made a lot of our own decisions.
What’s the worst thing you did as a kid?
I hit Johnny Larson with my blue ski jacket in kindergarten and the zipper hit his face and cut his forehead. It sliced it open. Johnny Larson had taken a nickel I had and I was very upset about this. I had to go to the principal’s office and I had to apologize.
When was the last time you cried?
Thirty minutes ago. I found out that Counting By 7s was Amazon’s #1 Book of 2013 for Middle Readers. I tend to cry at good news and go very quiet at bad news.
What is the most awkward date you have ever been on?
Wow. So many were awkward. I can’t single out one for this distinction.
If you were a road sign, what would you be and why?
Yield. When I decide something, I want to see it get done.
What’s your favorite blog?
Andrew Sullivan’s political blog.
Coffee or tea?
Tea. I don’t drink coffee.
After a day of writing, how do you recharge your creative batteries?
I cook. I watch movies. I hang out with my husband. I walk down to the beach. I go on eBay and look at vintage light fixtures.
If you could be any superhero, who would it be? What would you do?
I have never wanted to be a superhero. But flying would be nice.
If you could stay one age forever, what would it be?
Life is fundamentally about the understanding that nothing is forever.
Favorite TV show?
Breaking Bad ties with The Sopranos
What’s your idea of an ideal day?
A productive day of writing. A long walk. Dinner with my family and friends.
Have you been told you look like someone famous?
I was once told I looked like Olive Oil from Popeye. I don’t think this is true.
If you could eliminate one thing from your daily schedule, what would it be?
Getting stuck in traffic. Driving in Los Angeles requires a lot of planning if you live on the Westside of the city.
What initially inspired you to pursue a career in writing?
I always wanted to be a writer. My second grade report card says: “I hope Holly continues to tell stories.” What kind of stories could I possibly have been telling? I guess I was a chatterbox even then.
What books are you reading right now?
I just started The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I read one book at a time.
Name someone who supported your writing journey outside of family members.
My teachers. I had fantastic teachers. Ray Scofield from Roosevelt Junior High school in Eugene, Oregon comes to mind as so important.
Was there ever a time in your writing career where you wanted to seriously give up? If so, how did you find the motivation to continue?
No. I sold my first screenplay (besides books I write film and television) when I was 24 years old and it gave me the confidence to believe I could make a living as a writer.
What’s your favorite writing quote?
I don’t have a favorite quote. I do have a favorite flower, which is the sunflower.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Read. Read. Read. And then write. Write. Write.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Life inspires me. I write contemporary realistic fiction. Every day incidents and people are my canvas and paint.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I think I like short sentences. I like certain words. I don’t like too much explaining. What isn’t said can be as important as what is.
What do you think you do best in your writing? Bragging is encouraged.
I think that I can be emotional, but I have a sense of humor.
What books have most influenced your life?
Everything written by William Faulkner.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
If I could have anyone, I would have hung out with Harper Lee. Instead I just read her book over and over.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in writing? What comes easily?
It’s all a challenge. It’s all work. It all takes muscle. You have to care a lot.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
My favorite writers right now are Maria Semple. Julie Berry. John Corey Whaley. My husband Gary Rosen. George Saunders. My sons Calvin Sloan and Max Sloan. E. B. White. And William Faulkner (always).