For Day 19 of the Open Mic Creativity and COVID-19 Special Project, I check in with thriller author Meghan Holloway. Her debut historical thriller “Once More Unto the Breach” was one of my favorite books of 2019, and I am anxiously awaiting her new release, “Hunting Ground.”

 

OM: You are a scientist by trade.  How has this pandemic impacted you? 

Holloway: Those scientists and professionals who are on the frontlines have my utmost respect. I’m a researcher and information scientist, so thankfully I deal with data over germs. The year began uncertainly for me, though, even before the outbreak reached pandemic levels. In January, I received news that I was being laid off from my job due to budget cutbacks. The first couple months of the year were stressful ones, but I’ve been lucky. I started a new job a few weeks ago, and it is one that allows me to work from home. I may be one of the few people who was actually hired during the pandemic.

OM: How about your writing routines? Have you been able to keep to your normal writing schedule, or have you developed new routines?

Holloway: It’s really easy to let uncertainty and chaos derail my creativity, but I find that times like these are when I need to be very strict about my writing routines. I make a point to get up early every morning and spend thirty minutes to an hour getting my 1,000 words in for the day. Sticking to my routine has helped keep a feeling of normalcy.

 

This may be a bit off color, because I know this is a sensitive, tumultuous time. But I think states of heightened emotion—even fear and sadness and isolation—often benefit the creatives in society. People turn to art in times of uncertainty. I’ve also found that I do some of my best, most emotionally authentic writing when I feel the greatest sense of upheaval.

 

OM:  The news cycle is so depressing, which can really kill creativity. Do you have any suggestions to help writers who might be struggling with tearing themselves away from the news?

Holloway: To be completely honest, I haven’t watched any news since the end of February. I scan the headlines online, but I curtail my news intake in times like these. I think it’s the only way to preserve sanity and hope. I think we have to focus on what brings us joy and what is good in the world right now. We always see humanity reach out to one another in times of crisis. We feel a deeper sense of appreciation for kindness and moments of light, which we might have taken for granted before. I would rather focus on the resilience of the human spirit than on the news. So my advice is this: Turn it off. Watch a show that makes you laugh. Seek out the stories that lift your spirits.

 

OM:  What is your go-to thing now to help you keep your spirits up?

Holloway: The things I enjoy that help me take a step back and give my mind a break—swimming, hiking, going for a bike ride—are all on hold right now. But I can still cook a good meal, enjoy a glass of wine, tend to the garden on my balcony, text friends and family to check in… All of that keeps me grounded.

 

I find animals a great source of solace right now. My go-to thing to keep my spirits up is to hug my standard poodle and take him for a walk. If it were not for Aidan, I would not leave my house during this time, but he forces me to feel the sun on my face and the breeze in my hair every day. He doesn’t know how fragile the world feels right now. His purity, innocence, and unwavering pleasure in life always lifts my spirits.

 

OM: You have a new book coming out. Tell me about it.

Holloway: I do, and it is completely different from my 2019 release, “Once More Unto The Breach.” My upcoming contemporary crime thriller, “Hunting Ground,” is set in one of my favorite regions of America: the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. The plot revolves around a woman who moves west after a series of losses in her life. Evelyn knows what it is to be prey, and she recognizes a predator when she meets him. Soon after moving to the remote town of Raven’s Gap, Montana, she finds herself in the fraught position of proving a man everyone believes to be a charming, upstanding citizen is, in fact, a serial killer. The only person who believes her is Hector, a police officer who is not entirely dedicated to upholding law and order, who is ruthless in pursuit of answers regarding the disappearance of his wife and daughter fifteen years ago, and who is determined to use Evelyn as bait in a deadly game of cat and mouse.

 

This story is dark, gritty, and disturbing. I certainly scared myself a few times writing it. The original publication date was May 5th, but because of everything going on right now, the release has been pushed back to later in the summer this year.

 

 

Rich Ehisen

Rich Ehisen has been a reporter and editor for almost 30 years, and is currently the editor in chief at Capitol Weekly, which covers the California State Capitol in Sacramento. For two decades previous he was the managing editor of the State Net Capitol Journal, a LexisNexis publication that covers state public policy issues and trends nationwide. In that role he was also the producer and host of the SNCJ Deep Dive podcast and the SNCJ Hot Issues webinar series. He is also the producer and moderator of The Open Mic: Writers in Their Own Words, a podcast and YouTube show that features his discussions on writing with crime fiction, mystery and thriller authors.

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