Searching for Pilar – Author Interview

Genre: Contemporary Suspense / Thriller
Publisher: River Grove Books
Publication Date: April 10, 2018
Number of Pages: 320 pages

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Pilar, an innocent young wife and mother, is abducted during a fake job interview in Mexico City and forced into sex slavery in Houston. Can she survive the horrors of a world—one which many good Americans don’t see or ignore—long enough for her brother Diego to find her?

Searching for Pilar breaks open the secretive and dangerous world of sex trafficking while exploring human nature and our connections to each another. Diego’s guilt transforms him from a rudderless youth into a man of purpose, and courage. While he searches, Pilar finds a strength that could save herself and a young girl who needs her. The themes of family, love, faith and the law intertwine in this action-packed tale of the Bayou City.


“Patricia Holmes fictionalizes the heartbreaking reality of cross-border sex trafficking in her novel, Searching for Pilar. This cautionary tale should be required reading for high school classes to foster awareness, understanding, and ultimately solutions to this horrific epidemic.”  —Joanne F. Phillips, author of Revenge of the Cube Dweller.

“In Searching for Pilar, Patricia Hunt Holmes makes us aware of the terrible nature of sex trafficking in the context of a fast-paced, exciting Houston story that moves from affluence and glitz to barrio cantinas and the federal courthouse. The charitable, can-do nature of Houston is reflected in the wide cast of residents who help a young man on an extremely dangerous mission to find his kidnapped sister.  This book will be an added weapon in our fight against sex trafficking.” –Sylvester Turner, Mayor, City of Houston



Where did your love of books come from?

I grew up in a small town in the Southern New Jersey Pine Barrens. It was a great place to grow up, but not much happened. I always wanted to know more about the greater world. So, I read every fiction book in the public library by the time I left there in 1965 to attend college. When I was in high school, I was reading Atlas Shrugged and War and Peace. I never stopped loving Tolstoy’s writing. Years later, I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation on Leo Tolstoy’s Theory of Nonviolent Social and Political Revolution and His Relationship with Mahatma Gandhi.

How long have you been writing?

A long time. I started writing stories while I was a teenager. I went to the University of Missouri to major in journalism but fell in love with European history. I earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in Russian and South Asian History, doing research and writing many papers along the way. During the 30 years I practiced public finance law, I wrote securities prospectuses, research papers, etc. I also published legal articles and book chapters. In retirement, I took creative writing workshops at Inprint. Publishing Searching for Pilar is the realization of my childhood dream to be an author. I guess it is never too late!

What kind of writing do you do?

I loved writing a fiction novel. But I also write essays, several of which Texas Lawyer, the premier Texas law journal, has published in the past six months. I also write memoir about my experience as one of the generations of women who broke the glass ceiling in big law firms in the 1980s.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I took satisfaction in knowing I was doing something to bring attention to the brutal crime of sex trafficking of young girls and women. I enjoyed figuring out what came next in each of Pilar’s and Diego’s parallel journeys to find freedom and redemption. Finally, I loved describing the many socioeconomic layers of the population of Houston, a diverse, vibrant, sometimes dangerous, but mostly empathetic city.

Which character from your book is most like you?

Mary. She is smart, analytical, compassionate and not afraid to do things she had never done before in order to bring justice to Pilar and the other unfortunate girls in her situation.

What was most useful in learning to write for publication?

Tolstoy, the many writing courses I took at Inprint and my excellent developmental editor at Greenleaf Book Group, April Murphy.

How important are names to you? How did you choose names?

They are important. I tried to use names that were symbolic or useful in constructing the story of Mary and John’s heritage, for example. Pilar, Conception. Consuelo and Jesus had a double meaning. It was challenging working with Mexican names. I had to keep calling my Mexican friends and asking them, “Where does the mother’s name go in the litany?” or “If a woman is married, does she go by her mother’s name or her husband’s?”

What book do you wish you had written?

A Gentleman in Moscow or The Nightingale.

What would be your favorite writing location?

Sitting on a porch in a beach house near the Caribbean Sea or the Mediterranean Sea. That would be heaven for me. Last summer I rented a casita in Old Town in Santa Fe, N.M. to finish the revisions to my novel. It was peaceful, and the air was fragrant with pinon. When I got tired, I would go for a walk to the Plaza or stop to eat at the Shed. The food and the arts in Santa Fe are wonderful. It was very inspirational.

How has Texas influenced your writing?

I wasn’t born in Texas, but I was meant to be here. I love the friendliness, openness, “can do attitude” and the weather in every month except July, August and September. There are so many different cultures in Texas that there is a lot of material for a writer to work with.

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

The power to fly, like Wonder Woman, but with warm clothes. And money in my pocket. Then I could go all over the world whenever I wanted to go. I have travelled a lot –in the U.S., Europe, Russia, Tahiti Turkey, Egypt, India, Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico, Costa Rica etc. But I haven’t been to South America, Asia or New Zealand, places I’d like to visit.

What’s your worst flaw?

I am a slob. My mind is organized but I don’t care if my bed is made or the floor is spotless. I tell people that I am a big picture person.

What do you want your tombstone to say?

She had a world of curiosity and the courage to explore every opportunity that came her way.

Patricia Hunt Holmes spent 30 years as a public finance attorney with the international law firm of Vinson & Elkins LLP.   She was consistently listed in Best Lawyers in America, Texas Super Lawyers, Top Lawyers in Houston, and awarded the highest degree by her peers in Martindale Hubbell. She was a frequent speaker at national public finance and healthcare conferences.  Patricia has also served on the faculty of the University of Missouri-Columbia, University of Tennessee, and University of Texas Health Science Center Houston. She has written and published in the fields of intellectual history and law.

Patricia has been a member and board member of social service organizations in Houston that focus on helping women, including the United Way of the Texas Gulf Coast Women’s Initiative, Dress for Success Houston, and the American Heart Association’s Circle of Red.  She was a founding member and first board chair of Houston Justice for Our Neighbors, which provides free and low-cost legal services to immigrants.  For the past five years, she has been taking writing workshops with Inprint, associated with the outstanding University of Houston Creative Writing Program.  She began to write Searching for Pilar in a workshop after learning that Houston is one of the biggest hubs for sex trafficking in the country.

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1st & 2nd Prizes: Signed Copy of Searching for Pilar + Mexican Necklace
3rd Prize: Signed Copy of Searching for Pilar + $20 Amazon Gift Card
(U.S. Only)



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