Christina Holbrook is a native of New York and the White Mountains of New Hampshire who now lives in Breckenridge, Colorado with her husband, Alan Dulit. Her debut novel, “All the Flowers of the Mountain,” is a 2023 IPPY Award Bronze Medal winner and 2023 Colorado Book Award winner. “Table for One,” her collection of short stories, was released in July. For more information, visit Follow Christina on Instagram @christinaholbrookwrites.

SunLit: Tell us this book’s backstory. What inspired you to write it? Where did the story/theme originate?   

Holbrook: “All the Flowers of the Mountain” is both a coming-of-age story and a love story that takes place in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Moving from the present to the 1970s, the book is about secrets, love and ambition, and the struggle of one young woman to be true to herself no matter the odds or the cost.

Like Katherine Morgan, one of the two protagonists in this story, I grew up in New York and spent summers in the New Hampshire mountains. For years I’d wanted to write something about growing up in these two opposing worlds: New Hampshire in the summer, where the days were characterized by immense freedom and a slow, sensual experience of nature and the outdoors; the New York school year, marked by intense parental, social and academic expectations that didn’t always take into account the kind of person I felt I was, or my own hopes and dreams. 

My family has some old New York society roots, like the Morgan family. When I was growing up, debutante cotillions, the Social Register, and exclusive country clubs were considered important by my parents, who’d come of age in the 1940s and ’50s. Though I love my parents and have more understanding today of their nostalgia for a past that made sense to them, as a young woman in the 1970s their values seemed ridiculously oppressive and represented a major point of conflict. 

In case readers are interested, here is a link to some visuals of the New Hampshire I loved, in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.

SunLit: Place this excerpt in context. How does it fit into the book as a whole? Why did you select it?  

Holbrook: This excerpt is Chapter One of the novel, and takes place more or less in the present day. This chapter introduces the reader to both protagonists, Michael Pearce and Katherine Morgan. My hope is that this excerpt will draw in the reader and provoke them to want to know more – not only about the past relationship between these two characters but also about why this middle-aged man from Colorado now finds himself hunting down the work of a particular sculptor in a Paris art gallery.


Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at

SunLit: Tell us about creating this book. What influences and/or experiences informed the project before you sat down to write? And once you did begin to write, did the work take you in any unexpected directions?

Holbrook: What really moved me from ruminating about this story to sitting my butt down to write it was a re-reading of “The Great Gatsby.” Suddenly, I saw how I might structure this story. 

I should say that this lightning bolt struck early on, and helped me produce a first draft. But from there, it required another four years of writing and rewriting to create the finished manuscript. I wrote my very first draft in the first person, from the point of view of a young Michael Pearce. I thought I was done! Many, many rewrites later the story evolved to include both protagonists’ points of view (Michael and Kit), now written in the third person.

SunLit: Are there lessons you take away from each experience of writing a book? And if so, what did the process of writing this book add to your knowledge and understanding of your craft and/or the subject matter?

Holbrook: Writing a novel – or even a short story – is a long and layered process. It is obviously hugely motivating to get that first draft down … but I now understand in a way I did not previously that, for me, to write something that I feel proud of will likely take many, many rewrites. I count on the help and insight of my editor and my “team” of talented writer friends to point out blind spots and inconsistencies.

SunLit: What were the biggest challenges you faced in writing this book?

Holbrook: The biggest challenge for me came in March of 2022. Just a few days after I turned in my final manuscript to my agent (after another long year of rewriting) I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Everything changed. 

My agent felt extremely confident about the novel’s prospects, but I no longer believed I could wait for a major publisher to acquire the project. Even in the best of circumstances, getting a book acquired, edited and out into the world through a traditional publisher is a long, sometimes multi-year process. And I was determined to hold a copy of “All the Flowers of the Mountain” in my hands.

“All the Flowers of the Mountain”

>> Read an excerpt

Where to find it:

SunLit present new excerpts from some of the best Colorado authors that not only spin engaging narratives but also illuminate who we are as a community. Read more.

A local independent publisher named Karen Wyatt of Sunroom Studios offered to help; friends I have in the New York publishing world jumped in to get the project edited, copyedited, designed and proofread in record time. In July of 2022, three months after I had had brain surgery, Sunroom Studios published “All the Flowers of the Mountain.” Holding a final copy of this book that has meant so much to me, and that so many people stepped up to help me with, has been one of the great experiences of my life. 

I recently had the chance to present a copy of “All the Flowers of the Mountain” to Dr. Kevin Lillehei, my neurosurgeon at UC Health Anschutz. I am immensely grateful to the team at the University which includes neuro-oncologist Dr. Douglas Ney and radiation-oncologist Dr. Timothy Waxweiller. Upon receiving the book, Dr. Lillehei teared up and gave me a huge hug. Without this team that includes a number of other incredibly empathic professionals, I would not be around today.

SunLit: If you could pick just one thing – a theme, lesson, emotion or realization — that readers would take from this book, what would that be? 

Holbrook: Believe in second chances. As long as you are alive there is always another opportunity to learn and grow, to become a better version of yourself, more of the person you would like to be. And if you are really lucky, sometimes love offers you a second chance, too.

SunLit: In a highly politicized atmosphere where books, and people’s access to them, has become increasingly contentious, what would you add to the conversation about books, libraries and generally the availability of literature in the public sphere?

Holbrook: In my opinion, one of the biggest problems for writers comes as a result of the forces of capitalism that reduce the number of individual creative voices in favor of profits and “sure bets.” 

Most bookstores will not stock books that do not come through the channels created by the Big Five publishers (let me add that my local independent bookstore is one staunch outlier to this trend). Because of their size, these five publishers – who own most of what were once smaller, independent houses – can afford to offer attractive “free returns” policies on all their books. A bookstore can order books and whatever they don’t sell they return to the publisher without having to pay for them.

Few if any small publishers can afford to print books, ship them to a bookstore, and then refund the money for books not sold and sometimes even pay for return shipping. Thus, hundreds of authors and books will never appear in your local independent bookstore. Because “All the Flowers of the Mountain” has now won several awards, my small publisher Sunroom Studios is offering a free returns policy — even though we risk a shellacking!

To get through the doors of one of these Big Five, a writer must first secure an agent. To secure an agent a writer must present a work that the agent believes one of these behemoths will be interested in – and that often comes down to politics, celebrity, and social trends that the publishers’ marketing departments find acceptably attractive and low-risk.

In a recent article in the New York Times, the opinion writer argued that in today’s world of publishing the (ultimately) celebrated writer Cormac McCarthy, author of such dark, disturbing works as “The Road,” would never have had his work published. 

My opinion is that we all lose when publishers, bookstores, libraries, and we the reading public are less willing to take a risk on new or original voices. 

SunLit: Walk us through your writing process: Where and how do you write? 

Holbrook: When I am in the middle of working on a project, whether short story or novel, I wake up early. Sometimes as early as 4:30 a.m.! My mind is open and relaxed; I experience that interesting connection to the unconscious dream state of sleep that feeds creative connections. 

Later in the day when I am wound up and feeling blurry eyed, a walk in the woods really helps to clear my head and re-open my mind to possible connections or solutions that may have been eluding me.  

SunLit: How do you write convincingly about characters you know the reader will not like – even characters who are just plain bad and that you, the writer, do not like?

Holbrook: In order to make that unlikeable character in a story believable to the reader, a writer has to reach inside themselves to find what is relatable. How did that character become who they are? Don’t we all possess a “dark side”? So what has made this character take it to the extreme? In some way, I think we writers do relate to all of our characters, be they good, bad or ugly. 

SunLit: Tell us about your next project.

Holbrook: For some time after my brain surgery, I was too depressed to write at all. Then, I began a kind of correspondence project with a friend who was dealing with some extreme challenges in her own life. 

Exorcising some of the fear and the anger through this correspondence, and creatively shaping these emotions into a narrative that was mine, gave me back a feeling that I had a small measure of control over my life. At least, in some way, I could control how I thought (and wrote) about my own story.

My health situation is still serious, but I feel differently about my life now. And I am starting to mull over the idea of a longer fiction project (maybe even a short novel?!) based on one of the secondary characters in “All the Flowers of the Mountain.”

Quick hits: A quirky collection of questions

SunLit: Do you look forward to the actual work of writing or is it a chore that you dread but must do to achieve good things?

Holbook: As I begin something new, I am always circling around – emptying the dishwasher, making more cups of coffee, finding excuses to do laundry or organize paperwork. In other words, I find it very hard to get started. But once I have a glimmer of a story – a character I like, a setup that works – I get hooked in. Then writing becomes more like an obsession.

SunLit: What’s the first piece of writing – at any age – that you remember being proud of?

Holbrook: “My Dog Cricket,” a short memoir (I was eight, after all, and Cricket only two), written for my Brownie Troop about life with my dog.

SunLit: When you look back at your early professional writing, how do you feel about it? Impressed? Embarrassed? Satisfied? Wish you could have a do-over?

Holbrook: My first professional writing was for business publications, like I had spent most of my early career in business, so it was a way for me to write about something I knew. Later I wrote for luxury travel publications, and I do cringe at how lovingly I wrote about the sumptuous marble bathrooms, the thread count on the Egyptian cotton sheets, etc.

SunLit: What three writers, from any era, can you imagine having over for a great discussion about literature and writing? And why?

Holbrook: MFK Fisher, Isak Dineson/Karen Blixen, DH Lawrence. Why? Food, adventure, sex.

SunLit: Do you have a favorite quote about writing?

Holbrook: This quote by Mary Oliver shook me up, and made me realize it was time to stop putting off writing my novel: “The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”

SunLit: What does the current collection of books on your home shelves tell visitors about you?

Holbrook: That I do not know how to organize or alphabetize. My mind just doesn’t work that way.

SunLit: Soundtrack or silence? What’s the audio background that helps you write?

Holbrook: Generally, I like to write in silence. But certain works – such as my novel – do have a mental soundtrack that goes with them. In the case of “All the Flowers of the Mountain” I listened to music from the 1970s, and particularly the Irish and Scottish folk music that is a favorite of the young Michael Pearce character. The title of the book comes from a 19th century poem that evolved over time into a popular folk song entitled “Wild Mountain Thyme” or “Will you go, Lassie, go?”

A music blogger I know, with a soft spot for music of the 1970s, created this playlist to go with my novel:

SunLit: What event, and at what age, convinced you that you wanted to be a writer?

Holbrook: At 16 years old, after a church confirmation service, I read a short piece up at the lectern about why I preferred to commune with God in nature, rather than in church. My parents were nonplussed. After the service, an old woman came up to me and said simply, “One day, you will be a writer.” It took me a very long time to take my writing seriously. But I never forgot this woman’s words, a kind of challenge. And eventually I took her up on it.

SunLit: As an author, what do you most fear?

Holbrook: Being unable to write. Writing is a way to make sense of life and experiences.

SunLit: Also as an author, what brings you the greatest satisfaction?

Holbrook: When I talk to a book club group, or even sometimes at an unrelated social event, a person may come up to me, take me aside, and say: “That story you wrote? That happened to me. Your story is my story, too.” Now, that gives me the chills.