St. Petersburg writer Cheryl Hollon knows firsthand the stresses and rewards of running a business. “There have been lots of small businesses within my family,” she says. “My husband, George, has been part-owner of a printed-circuit board manufacturer and sole proprietor of a screen-printing shop. Our oldest son, Eric, has owned three marine science research companies, and our youngest son, Aaron, owns a patent research agency. I understand completely that being able to work your own hours translates to needing to work 24/7 just to stay afloat.” Hollon is using her experience to create a unique series of mystery novels set in our very own Grand Central District – the Webb’s Glass Shop Mysteries.
For Hollon, an Ohio native, becoming a writer was a circuitous journey. She attended Sinclair Community College and was later offered a position as an executive secretary at NCR. There she read and typed reports, eventually learning so much about computer protocols that she was able to program keypunch machines and de-bug codes. She was promoted to assistant programmer, earned her engineering degree, moved to Florida, and wound up designing and building military flight simulators. As fulfilling as she found her career, she developed a passion for glass art, and, along with her husband, began creating original artwork in a small glass studio behind their house. This was the impetus for her foray into writing.
Hollon, an avid reader, credits a “fabulous high school English teacher” with encouraging her love of the written word. “She was the kind of teacher you want your kids to have,” she recalls. Then, about ten years ago, Hollon read what she describes as “the worst mystery on the planet” and thought she could certainly do better. She began writing on long business flights, joined “Sisters in Crime” (a support group for mystery writers), and became part of a critique group. She soon learned that “it’s easy to write, but difficult to write well.”
Ten years later, Hollon completed Pane and Suffering, her first novel. “I know a lot about stained glass, and I know a lot of the people who own businesses in the Grand Central District,” Hollon says. “I thought combining my love of stained glass with writing would be a winning combination.” The book introduces Savannah Webb, a glass artist who returns to her family’s glass shop after her father’s unexpected death. When her father’s assistant is also found dead, Savannah discovers a note from her father warning that she might be in danger, and she must decode his cryptic clues to find a murderer. “Savannah has all the attributes of an independent business owner,” Hollon explains. “She’s named after my favorite place. Savannah is a wonderful town with wonderful characters. It’s comforting, strong and proud of its heritage, all attributes shared by Savannah Webb.”
In Hollon’s second Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery, Shards of Murder (released on February 23, 2016,) Savannah judges an art festival in downtown St. Pete, and the winner is found dead in Tampa Bay. Savannah was the last person to see her alive. Book three, Cracked to Death, was released on June 28, 2016. The story centers around a vintage glass bottle that may be connected to the treasure of the Gaspar pirates. The fourth book in the series, Etched in Tears, uses the Dali Museum as a backdrop to the death of Savannah’s high school sweetheart and prominent glass artist. It is scheduled for release on November 28, 2017.
“I’m trying to show readers what small business Florida is all about,” Hollon explains, “and what’s behind the beaches, t-shirts and shell shops – real people, families and a sense of community. It’s a tiny microcosm of civilization. Everyone works together so the community can succeed, and one bad apple can upset the whole thing. There’s a story in each of the stores.”
For more information, visit the author’s website at www.cherylhollon.com.