Q&A: Fred Holmes (Author of The Ugly Teapot)

Q: You work on a lot of shows and movies; what is that like?

A: Directing TV shows and movies is a lot of fun—I mean a LOT—but it’s physically demanding. Mentally, too, sometimes, especially when things aren’t going well. It also pays very well. But the hours are horrendous. A minimum day is 12 hours, but most days run 15 or more. A lot of times you’ll be working on two to four hours sleep per day for a month or more; and as a director you’re on your feet most of that time. And of course some shows are more fun than others. I directed a Bollywood feature film on location in India and that was a blast. It starred Divya Dutta and Prem Chopra, who were very popular Bollywood stars, so everywhere we went we were swamped by paparazzi and fans. And some of the TV shows I’ve directed have been fun. It’s cool to think you’re creating something that millions of people all over the world will see in a multitude of languages.

Q: What TV shows and movies have you worked on?
A: A bunch of TV shows. Too many to name, but some of the more fun ones were WISHBONE, BARNEY & FRIENDS, MARY LOU RETTON’S FLIP FLOP SHOP, IN SEARCH OF THE HEROES, and HORSELAND. I’ve directed over 250 episodes of TV and have won two Emmys. I’ve also directed three feature films: DAKOTA, starring Lou Diamond Phillips for Miramax; HARLEY, starring Lou Diamond Phillips for Lionsgate; and HEART LAND, starring Divya Dutta and Prem Chopra, a Bollywood feature film that I directed in India. And to answer the question everyone always asks...yes, Lou Diamond Phillips and I are old friends. I cast him in his first professional project, a TV movie called ANGEL ALLEY, and we’ve been great friends ever since.

Q: Is there a big difference between screenwriting and writing books?
A: Yes, there’s a huge difference. In screenplays you only write down what the audience will see and hear. Actors do not like you giving a lot of screen direction in terms of how they should be feeling or behaving, and directors don’t want you telling them how to block the action. Consequently, a well-written screenplay is simply a blueprint for how the movie should be constructed; and at its best simply conveys emotion. In a novel you are given more leeway. You can get inside the character’s minds and portray their thoughts and emotions; so it’s much easier to build well-rounded characters. Also, screenplays have their own unique structure, use as few words as possible, and are meant to be shot, not read. Novels, on the other hand, have a stronger emphasis on good grammar, etc. What is true in both mediums is that the screenwriter and the novelist both must be able to write dialog.

Q: How did you decide that you wanted to write The Ugly Teapot?
A: THE UGLY TEAPOT began as a screenplay called FIREFLIES that I wrote in response to the death of my brother. He died very young from cancer; it took seven years to kill him because he tried so hard to live; and I was with him through it all, and it was awful. After he died, I was struggling with a lot of emotions that I was finally able to vent in FIREFLIES. Then later FIREFLIES the screenplay became the novel, THE UGLY TEAPOT.

Q: Can you describe The Ugly Teapot in five words or less?
A: Love never dies.

Q: What was your favorite part about writing The Ugly Teapot?  
A: After years of writing screenplays and teleplays, it was the first time I’ve been able to truly flesh-out my characters. You do the same thing ultimately in a movie or TV show, but movies and TV shows are collaborative art forms; you’re getting feedback from tons of people; whereas in writing a novel, it’s just you; and I really enjoyed that.

Q: The Ugly Teapot was originally a screenplay; how did it become a novel? 
A: As I mentioned above, THE UGLY TEAPOT started life as a screenplay that I wrote years ago in response to the death of my brother. The name of the screenplay was FIREFLIES, and my agent shopped it all over Hollywood and it was optioned numerous times by several high profile producers. One of those producers was Jerry Molen, who had won the Academy Award for producing SCHINDLER’S LIST (with Spielberg and Branko Lustig). Jerry loved FIREFLIES, but for a lot of frustrating reasons he was never able to get it made. Then one day a friend of mine at Disney read it, loved it, and suggested I turn it into a novel. I’d always wanted to try my hand at writing a novel, so I turned FIREFLIES into THE UGLY TEAPOT, sent it out into the cold, cruel world, and hopefully it will bring solace to those who have been through some traumatic experience in their lives.

Q: Do you have any tips for people aspiring to be writers?
A: You will hear this from everyone, but it is true—in order to be a writer you must write. Don’t worry about whether you are better than someone else. Don’t worry about whether or not you have talent. Write. And someday if you work really, really hard, you will be the absolute best...YOU.

Q: Who are some of your favorite authors/books?
A: Wow, I have so many favorite books and authors, it would be impossible to name them all. I will say that I’m a huge fan of Neil Gaiman, Patrick Rothfuss, George R. R. Martin, J K Rowling, Stephen King, Ken Follet, Orson Scott Card, Stephanie Meyer, Terry Pratchett, and a little known, very obscure writer named Fred Holmes. Yes, it is perfectly fine, in my opinion, to like your own writing. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. But perhaps my favorite writer of all is Ray Bradbury. He wrote my favorite novel of all time, DANDELION WINE. Why I connect with that book so viscerally, I have no idea, because 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. Jerry was telling me about working with Ray, and I told Jerry what a huge fan I was of DANDELION WINE. Sure enough, the next day when I showed up in Jerry’s office at DreamWorks, he handed me an autographed copy of DANDELION WINE. And on the inside of the cover, Ray had drawn a picture of a dandelion and written, “Fred, this dandelion is for you!” It remains one of my most prized possessions.

Q: Now, the most important question that I ask. Aliens are circling the planet; good news, they’re communicating with us; bad news, they plan to blow us up. The government has chosen you to convince them otherwise (congrats!). What do you say to the aliens to convince them to not blow us up?
A: I think I’ve seen that movie! There have been several incarnations over the years, and the point of all of them was the same—that human beings, despite their many faults, are worth saving. I believe that. Perhaps that’s why I love reading Charles Dickens. He had some truly evil villains in his novels, but they were overcome in the end by the goodness of his heroes and heroines. So what would I tell those judgmental aliens with their death rays? I would tell them not to look at the adults among us, but at our children. Our children aren’t just our future, they’re our hope. And the hope they represent is that each succeeding generation will be better than the last. Hopefully, in the end, we will become kinder, more loving, more accepting, and more generous. So don’t look at us. Look at our children. They represent the best of us. They are worth saving.
Photo: ...and the fly was this big, honest!THE UGLY TEAPOT is Fred Holmes’s first fiction novel, having previously ghost written a nonfiction book, LETTERS FROM DAD, published by Thomas Nelson. 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 www.flholmes.com
The Ugly Teapot: Book One: HannahBook: The Ugly Teapot: Book One: Hannah
Author: Fred Holmes
Published: March 30, 2016
Number of Pages: 251

Synopsis: 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 Hannah found the 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 . . .

The Ugly Teapot by Fred Holmes is a timeless tale, filled with magic and adventure. More importantly, it will make you believe in the overwhelming power of love.



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