Rising Star Spotlight: April Holthaus!


Have you always been a reader?
When I was young, I wasn’t much of a reader. My parents divorced when I was five and my dad, who had won full custody, moved us around quite a bit. Between kindergarten and high school, I ended up going to ten different schools, and we often moved during the middle of the school year. Most of the time when I entered a new school, they were either re-teaching something I had already learned or ended up being so far ahead that it made it very difficult for me to pass classes. This highly affected my reading level and comprehension. In high school, I never enjoyed the required readings, so I often skimmed through the books looking for the main idea just so I could write some sort of book report which were never any good and I was lucky enough to get a C in English.
It wasn’t until I was 19 that I decided to read my first book in a genre I thought I would enjoy…Historical Romance. I always had a passion for knights and damsels in distress. My aunt had a box full of Harlequin romances that were collecting dust in her basement, so I picked out all the books that were based in medieval times. The first book I read was called the Bride’s Portion by Susan Paul. It took me a long time to finish it because I was a slow reader, but it was the first book I had ever read where I felt like I was watching a movie instead of reading a book. I could “see” what was happening in the story. It was very descriptive and beautifully written. After reading that book, I fell in love with reading.
When did you decide you wanted to write a novel?  What was that journey like?
In 2011, I discovered Kindle. It was the best thing because I was able to read any book from anywhere. Since I had a love for Historical Romance, I was introduced to some of my new favorite authors such as Suzan Tisdale and Eliza Knight. It was interesting to find out that they were self-published authors. At the time I knew nothing about publishing, and even less about self-publishing. I began following these authors and a few others on social media and read their stories of success and how they got started.
At the time, I had a story idea in my head but never thought I would publish a book. For fun, however, I decided to give it a try. I had a few close friends read my story and several of them really enjoyed it. I began searching for an editor that wasn’t going to charge me a ton of money since I had nothing to invest. Then in September 2013, I published my first book “The Honor of a Highlander”. In all honesty, I never thought I would sell more than 10 copies in its lifetime and figured it would maybe get a 3-star review at best.
I gifted my book for free to several authors I had befriended on social media to share with their readers as a giveaway and to get my name out there. By October, my book reached the Top 100 Best Selling books in the Scottish Historical Romance category. I was floored! Then reviews started coming in. My first ever review, I remember was five stars from a complete stranger. Now, 9 years later, 77% of my reviews for that debut novel has a star rating of 4+ stars. For my first book, I am very proud of that. Since then, I have gone on to publish a total of 9 novels and co-wrote 3 others. I have learned so much about the writing business and have become a better writer. I have won a few awards and nominations and am very much looking forward to branching out into other historical genres.  
What made you choose Scottish, Western and Regency as the genres of your choice?
Most of the romances I have read center around the historic battles between England and Scotland. What I enjoy about the Scottish Highlanders is that they are often depicted as the “perfect hero”. They fight for honor, their family and clans and for love. Even though they can be arrogant and stubborn, I find it fun to pair them with woman who are just as sassy and stubborn themselves. The heroines of my stories have a common theme: strength. I empower my heroines to overcome all odds. Even though my heroines may start out appearing as damsels in distress, a reader will soon discover that deep down they are fearless and unstoppable.
This year is the first year I have decided to branch out into other historical genre eras with my upcoming American Western Romance, “Four Aces: the 1880s Deadwood Diaries”, that will be published in January 2023. It is a romance/mystery with lots of twists and turns. The story idea pretty much came to me overnight. It is a story about second chances in life and love and features my newest hero, U.S. Marshal Jameson "Jake" Reid. My plan for this series is to follow Jake on different adventures.
This coming year, I am also writing a Regency era romance for the first time as well. The series is called Rebel Hearts. Book one, “Kilts and Roses” is currently on pre-order for May 2023. With this series, I really wanted to expand my knowledge and education with the events of that era.  One thing I love most about writing is the research that goes into my books. I try to be as detailed as I can and as historically accurate as possible. I want each one of my books to really reflect what life was like back then. I think spending the time to really build the world and create the setting helps bring them to life for the readers.
Do you have a preference between those three as to which is easiest or hardest to write?
For me, I would say the easiest one for me to write is the Scottish Historical Romance genre but only because of the years I have spent researching the era and the history. I think I will forever write in the Scottish Historical Genre because that is where my heart is.
The hardest genre for me will be the Regency era. I do not have a lot of education about the history of that era, and I refuse to write unless it is as accurate as possible. I like to keep a high standard when writing any historic book, and I would like for my readers to have those same high expectations when they read a book from me. I want my readers to not only enjoy the story but also to learn from it.
What is your favorite thing about writing?
The best part of writing for me is when readers reach out to me to tell me that they enjoyed my story. I have always said that if at least one reader likes my book that is motivation enough to keep going. There was a time a couple years ago where I had taken a break from writing. I had just got divorced and had some financial struggles. I was working three jobs while raising my son. I became very depressed and bitter which you can imagine makes writing romances a little hard. After missing from the writing world for any given amount of time, trying to step back into it is a challenge. It took me 3 years to publish,” Heart of the Highlands: The Raven”. It was encouraging to me to find out that many of my loyal readers were still there cheering me on. The love and support from readers, has meant more to me than I can explain. They were there for me when no one else was, so I write for them.  
What is your least favorite?
My least favorite thing about writing is my difficulty to “quiet the internal editor”. Whenever I write, I find myself going back to the same pages over and over and adding in more detail or changing a word to make it better. I end up spending more time on the same chapter and scene than just writing. It makes the writing process a lot slower.
I also do not write starting at Chapter 1 to “The End”. I write my stories in scenes, which are completely scattered throughout my manuscript forcing me to go back and fill in the gaps and the transitions showing how the characters get from one scene to the next. It’s kind of messy, but I like writing all of the exciting scenes first. Especially when something comes to mind, and I don’t want to forget it.   
Is writing your full-time profession or do you have a "Day Job”?  If so, tell us about that!
My day job is most certainly not my dream job by any means. For the past twenty years, I have worked in the mailing and commercial printing industry as an Account Manager.
How does writing fit into the rest of your life?
I consider myself a closet writer. In my personal life, I don’t talk about it very often with people or draw much attention to myself. I’ve never been the “look at me” type. Most people I work with have no idea I write books and I am not friends with them on social media. I think it’s easier for me to open up a little more online than it is in person. I’m pretty shy at first, and if you are familiar with the quote, “I write better than I talk”, that’s written about me!
When not creating adventures, what adventures would YOU like to take?
I would love to travel more. I have always wanted to visit Ireland and England ever since I was young. My 2nd great grandparents were from Ireland and came to America around the late 1880s. Before my maternal grandmother passed away in 2005, she gave me a little of our family history that I could date back to my 5th great grandfather who was an Iroquois Indian named Chief White Eagle. Since I was so obsessed with history, I continued researching my family tree. After exhausting every document and resource I could find over the years, I have been able to date my entire family tree back to the 900s in England and have found over 700 direct bloodline relatives. As most of my family and DNA comes from England and Ireland, I have always wanted to explore the region where my history started.    
What is your favorite thing to do when not working?
I love being a mom. My son is 8 years old, and I am starting to experience all of his firsts with him. Our first baseball game. Our first hockey practices. Our first experience of third grade. I am loving every minute of it. My son is a very outgoing ball of energy. He is extremely athletic, very smart, and unbelievably funny. Living in Minnesota, hockey is unofficially our state sport. Little did I know how involved you had to be with hockey! But I love it.   
What would you most like readers to know?
Writing is enjoyable, but it’s a lot of hard work. There are a lot of ups and down with writing, so if you read a book that you enjoy, please consider leaving a review. Sometimes, it only takes a kind word to lift someone’s day.
As my gift to you, for a limited time, this holiday season, I have lowered all of my book prices to only $.99 each. I hope you find one you enjoy. Happy reading and happy holidays!