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Oct 31, 2015

First novels are hard. Writing them is a challenge, finding a publisher is a major mountain to climb, and promoting them may be the hardest task of all. But when my friend Howard Finberg told me that a friend of his was writing a mystery series set in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, I committed without even reading the first book. After all, Mr. Media has been describing St. Pete as “the NEW new media capitol of the world” since 2007 – whether the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce likes it or not – so how I could I not help out an up-and-coming writer?

CHERYL HOLLON podcast excerpt: "The glass shop in Pane and Suffering is a premise and it comes along with the genre. It's like the Cabot Cove Syndrome: Why would anyone live in Cabot Cove? Because she would write about you and your murder! But the Webb's Glass Shop gives me license to play. I can concentrate on a different type of glass in each book. The first book is about stained glass. The second is about fusing glass and about judging an art festival. And the third book is about recycling glass."

Cheryl Hollon’s first mystery is Pane and Suffering. The pane she is referring to is spelled P-A-N-E as in a pane of glass. That established, it is nonetheless a story of the pain – P-A-I-N – endured by our heroine, Savannah Webb, following the sudden death of her father, the owner of Webb’s Glass Shop in the booming-yet-still-quaint Grand Central District of downtown St. Petersburg. Hollon uses the invented location to share some love with an endless array of real-life St. Pete landmarks and restaurants, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Casita Taqueria, Queen’s Head, 3 Daughters Brewing and so much more.

CHERYL HOLLON podcast excerpt: "I think my writing finally matured to the point it was enjoyable to read. That sounds so simple but it is devilishly hard. I enjoyed having a person-to-person critique group. That was incredibly useful."

It is, of course, a first novel and so it’s not perfect. But it is a mix of intrigue, detective work and recognizable places that anyone who lives in the Burg or who has visited in the last five years will find entertaining.

Key interview moments:

• 5:45 Cheryl Hollon cites influences such as Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and Louise Penny;

• 13:30 Webb's Glass Shop is a vehicle for Hollon's storytelling the same way that Cabot Cove is for Jessica Fletcher in "Murder, She Wrote";

20:15 After years of writing, what pushed Hollon from unpublished amateur to published author?

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