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Every novelist, it seems, has a mentor, dead or alive. A man or a woman whose literary accomplishments and personal influence lit the fire within and kept it burning through trial, error and insensitive reviews.

Ayn Rand was very much alive during the period of my life when I first considered transitioning out of the practice of law into full-time writing.

It was during the 1960s, roughly six years after my husband and I had graduated from New York University Law School, that we.... »More

Ayn Rand: My Fiction-Writing Teacher

Click to Order The fascinating memoir detailing Ms. Holzer's mentor-protégé relationship with the author of Atlas Shrugged, including a selection of Holzer's rare short stories and writing exercises.

Paperback: 304 pages
Released: December 15, 2005
Publisher: Madison Press
ISBN: 0615130410

Damn you for taking me away from my work and compelling me, like a man possessed, to read your book from cover to cover. It's just wonderful. Humane, dramatic, humorous, touching, terrific on every level....” »More

— Chris Sciabarra, author of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical

Erika Holzer gave us one of the best thrillers of the 80s — Double Crossing — and gave us one of the best thrillers of the 90s — Eye for an Eye. She hasn't yet given us one of the best thrillers of the first decade of a new century, but I believe she will. In the meantime, she has served up this fascinating memoir of how she learned to write fiction so well, along with a collection of essays and short stories her readers may well have missed on their first publication....” »More

— Jeff Riggenbach, author of In Praise of Decadence

Thanks for a fascinating reading experience! Erika Holzer writes movingly of her mentor-protégé relationship with Ayn Rand. Reading this work, one has the double benefit of learning from both of them. I wish I were a Creative Writing professor; I would use it as a text.”

— Mimi Gladstein, author of Atlas Shrugged: Manifesto of the Mind and The Ayn Rand Companion

Reading your book was a great pleasure. It was intermittently instructive and inspiring and familiar. I heard the tapes of Ayn's writing "class" back in the 60s, took copious notes, and took those notes to heart. I was particularly interested in her talks with you about the editing procedure, the markets for fiction, and many tidbits of wisdom you sprinkled throughout — subjects not covered in her tapes. Her admonition not to overdo research but to stop when you have what you need delighted me! But it was your own experiences and attitudes and judgments that pleased me most and often gave me knowing chuckles — like your take on....” »More

— David Houston, author of the novel Gods in a Vortex and thirteen other books

Ayn Rand (1905-1982) was her generation's largest influence on libertarian thought. She was also a powerful novelist and a king-sized American personality. In this year of Rand's centennial, many of her friends and acquaintances are communicating their memories of her. I think it's especially fitting that Erika Holzer, herself a novelist (Double Crossing and Eye for an Eye), has contributed a memoir of Rand as a writing teacher. To tell the truth, I am on record as one of the many people who urged Holzer to do it....” »More

— Stephen Cox, Editor, Liberty Magazine

A chronicle not just of lessons learned, but of memorable personal experiences drawn from a successful fiction-writing career. Holzer's enthusiasm for that career and all its trappings is contagious. She makes real some of the unique rewards of commitment to the literary life. As such, the value of her book is not only informational, but inspirational. Erika Holzer had the rare opportunity to stand on the shoulders of an artistic giant. The view from that height was heady, and I am grateful that she has shared it.” »More

— Robert James Bidinotto, Editor, The New Individualist

Writers at all stages of development will find this book useful. All readers will be edified by the noble soul who shares so much of herself in these pages....” »More

— Patrick B. McGuigan for The MidCity Advocate and Tulsa Today

...Erika Holzer’s book [provides] ... an excellent overview of the craft of fiction-writing.... [T]he reader is treated to genuine exchanges of ideas between Rand and Holzer. Given the focus of the book on a process — creating good fiction — rather than on Rand herself, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Holzer achieves such a rich depiction....” »More

— Sunni Maravillosa at Endervidualism

... In part a memoir and in part a how-to book on fiction-writing, Holzer's book ... should also be of interest to the many admirers of Rand who, though having no writing ambitions, have fallen under the spell of Rand's powerful vision of life....” »More

— Kirsti Minsaas for The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies

I was thoroughly captivated by Erika Holzer's book — enjoyable on many levels. She is a writer of superb skill who, inspired by Ayn Rand's tutelege, developed her raw talent to become a first-rate novelist. Her ability to share with us, first-hand, Rand's thought processes, not only about writing, but the logic by which she drew conclusions is delicious! There were times when I found myself inside that bubble that encompassed the two of them as they sat on Rand's living room sofa, lost in rapt discussion. She brings Ayn Rand to light. She brings her to life for us, especially those of us who knew her directly, or even indirectly.

“Holzer's writing style is equal to the task, not an easy assignment when writing about a literary icon such as Ayn Rand. Rand's influence can be seen here, but Holzer's larger-than-life approach — the sense of life she projects — is clearly her own. This wonderful account affirms and reminds us of our need to find heroes, not only in Art but in everyday life.

“In addition to this fascinating journal of her mentorship with the great author, we are treated to two of Ms. Holzer's short stories. I found both to be intriguing and clever.

“Credit should be given to Graphic Designer Iris Bell who has imbued this book with a kind of stately elegance. Her creative touches make this wonderful book all the richer.

“I recommend, without reservation, Ayn Rand: My Fiction-Writing Teacher for its content, its engaging style, and for the gift of its spiritual and emotional fuel.”

— Jeff Warren, Los Angeles

To a lot of people in my generation, Ayn Rand was more than just a great novelist; through her books, Atlas Shrugged, and The Fountainhead, she was also the intellectual guru of a philosophy which held that most of society's advances were created by people who were primarily pursuing their own well-being. Call it the path of enlightened self-interest — as opposed to the idea of "Go to sleep; Big Daddy government will take care of everything for you....

“But despite her great influence on our lives, she has always been a character somewhat shrouded in mystery — until Erika Holzer's new book, Ayn Rand: My Fiction-Writing Teacher. Ms. Holzer, as a young lawyer in New York City, become a close friend of Ayn Rand's and her very personal memoir goes past the philosophy to help remind us just what an interesting, vital character Ms. Rand was in her lifetime.

“She was also one fabulous teacher of writing — (as witness Ms. Holzer's own novels) — and this book is highly recommended for anybody who wants to learn to write with power and precision. It belongs on every writer's shelf.”

— Warren Murphy, Virginia Beach, novelist, co-creator and author of The Destroyer series

There is a great method to Erika Holzer's madness in how she put together the excellent Ayn Rand: My Fiction-Writing Teacher. While I have no intention of ever becoming a novelist, I am a lover of movies, short stories and novels, so it is from that vantage point that I read this book....” »More

— Robert L. Jones, book and movie reviewer, journalist

Some writers, when trying to teach, fall back on generalities and cliches. However with really good writing, the more specific and personal the material, the more universal the theme.

“Happily, this is what Erika Holzer achieves with Ayn Rand: My Fiction Writing Teacher. On the surface it seems like a writing book, but it is really so much more.

“The author takes us on her journey in becoming a writer, and luckily for us, part of this journey includes her relationship with the great Ayn Rand.

“However, I have to admit, while the descriptions of Ayn Rand's advice and insights were fascinating, I equally enjoyed reading about the author's solitary struggles and her own personal revelations. This is the best kind of writing book — one that follows one of the most basic rules of good writing: "show, don't tell."

“Erika Holzer shows us how she became a novelist — and with this book she uses her experience to blaze a path for others.”

— K. M. Morgenroth, New York City

We should all be glad that Ayn Rand and Erika Holzer found each other. As with her other writings, Holzer once again proves to be a worthy protégé. Her new book, intelligently written, not only gives us precious insights into the thinking of one of the great writers of the Twentieth Century, but is also a useful how-to guide. I didn't realize that fiction writing was so complex yet so learnable. The ultimate reward of Erika Holzer's book is that the reader gets to see two great minds at work.”

— Stanley Gray, Los Angeles

To most Ayn Rand is a giant. To many she is mysterious and mythical.

“With her book about her mentor-protégé relationship with Ms. Rand, Erika Holzer demonstrates Rand's humanity, making her come alive through an insightful analysis of Rand's work — and, more importantly — through a very readable and intelligent explanation of Rand's style and method.

“We learn about Rand through Holzer's fascinating experience at Rand's "academy" — and there is no better way to learn about a great thinker like Rand than through her writings. Holzer's book helps us unlock the treasure of Ayn Rand's writing. Read this book and learn with her.”

— Ted Bartelstone, St. Louis

Erika Holzer, the only professional novelist to have ever had Ayn Rand as a teacher and mentor, has written a memoir of that relationship that will fascinate anyone interested in Rand, in the art and craft of fiction writing, and in the struggles of a novelist (Holzer) to get published in a hostile culture. Rand's luminous insights into handling theme, character, plot and style should be invaluable to those aspiring to become writers or simply to those who want to appreciate what goes into telling a fine story. The book has two added bonuses: A compelling portrait of the Olympian novelist-philospher as an endearing personal friend and infinitely patient writing coach; and — as proof that Rand's mentoring has paid off — Holzer's own short story, 'The House on Hester Street,' a unique and glowing gem.”

— Al Ramrus, Pacific Palisades
Table of Contents

Preface: Four Years as Ayn Rand's Literary Protégé


Chapter One
Lawyer Versus Writer: A Foot in Both Worlds

Chapter Two
Make Room for Passion

Chapter Three
Pitfalls and Traps

Chapter Four
Eye for an Eye: Back on track


Chapter Five
Stoking Your Subconscious

Chapter Six
Avoiding False Starts

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine
Interviewing: Subcategory of Research

Chapter Ten
Plot, Plot and Plot

Chapter Eleven
Take your Inspiration Where You Find It

Chapter Twelve
Style: The "How" of a Story

Chapter Thirteen
Romantic Realism Versus Naturalism

Chapter Fourteen
"All of Rand 's Novels Have Heroes"

Chapter Fifteen
There Are Heroes ... and Heroes

Chapter Sixteen
Ayn Rand's Famous "Crow Epistemology"

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen
Emotional Fuel

Chapter Nineteen
A Dynamite Combination

Chapter Twenty
Sense of Life: "A Profoundly Personal Matter...”

Chapter Twenty-One
The Moral of the Story...



The House on Hester Street


Double Crossing

Eye for an Eye


Ayn and I — Co-Authors: The Facts behind a 'Literary Coup'

Ayn and I Go to the Movies: Victor Hugo's The Man Who Laughs

Odd Blend of Naturalism and Melodrama: Dissecting the widely acclaimed movie In the Bedroom

Academy Award Reflections: An Imagined Conversation with Ayn Rand

Movie Magic: Casting Atlas Shrugged with Ayn Rand


Sample Chapter: Plot, Plot and Plot (Chapter 10)

I attended a lecture once where someone asked Ayn Rand to name the three most important elements of the novel. I've always been amused by her unhesitating answer: "Plot, plot and plot.”

Of course, it was a deliberate exaggeration to drive home the point that the three other elements — theme, characterization and style — are not nearly as difficult to do. (Quite apart from plot — as anyone who has read an Ayn Rand novel should know — Rand's major characters are painstakingly developed, her descriptive passages breathtaking, her abstract themes masterfully wed to complex events, and her characters unforgettable — men and women so real we feel we know them even as they symbolize universal qualities.)

Nevertheless, in Ayn's view, the ability to construct a well-plotted story — not necessarily a complex one, either — should be at the top of a novelist's list.

It was certainly at the top of mine.

In those days, I often despaired of ever acquiring that ability. The more I learned from Ayn, the more it seemed tantalizingly just out of reach.

I mean, you can have all kinds of plot ideas spinning around in your head. You can construct entire scenes. You may even have your climactic events down pat. But the trouble is likely to show up, either early on in... »More

Additional Excerpt: Would-Be Novel

Don't bite off more than you can chew.

People who know me assume Double Crossing is my first novel. It was my first published novel. Well before Double Crossing, I'd planned another novel in great detail.

Businessman as Atlas

What triggered my interest — soon to develop into a passion — was my memorable introduction to the businessman-as- unadulterated-hero in the wildly romantic, larger-than-life persona of my favorite Atlas Shrugged character, Francisco D'Anconia. Adding fuel to the embers (not yet a full-blown fire) was the shabby treatment of businessmen that was endemic to the culture at that time. (Alas, not much has changed.) I found ample evidence of what today's slang would label an "attitude" and what I would call an animus in the way they were depicted in books, movies, and especially television.

When the subject came up during an extensive interview with the contributing editor of a (now defunct) politically conservative magazine and I was asked what could be done to counteract hostility to books that supported free enterprise, I let loose with what, in retrospect, I can only characterize as pent-up frustration... »More

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