Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Hello, Fiona, thank you for inviting me to interview. My name is Meghan
Holloway, and I am in my thirties.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I grew up in the south, in the foothills of the Appalachians.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I found my first Nancy Drew mystery in a sun-dappled attic at the age of eight and subsequently fell in love with the grip and tautness of a well-told mystery. I flew an airplane before I learned how to drive a car, did my undergrad work in Creative Writing in the sweltering south, and finished a Masters of Library and Information Science in the blustery north. I spent a summer and fall in Maine picking peaches and apples, traveled the world for a few years, and did a stint fighting crime in the records section of a police department. I now live once more in the foothills of the Appalachians with Aidan, my standard poodle, and spend my days as a scientist with the requisite glasses but minus the lab coat.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
My historical thriller, ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH, has been picked up by Polis Books and will be published May 14, 2019. I am thrilled to share this story with everyone. The protagonist is an ordinary man drawn into extraordinary circumstances, and I think the tale will appeal to fans of historical dramas, literary fiction, war and military fiction, and mystery thrillers. Rhys Gravenor, Great War veteran and Welsh sheep farmer, arrives in Paris in the midst of the city’s liberation with a worn letter in his pocket that may have arrived years too late. As he follows the footsteps of his missing son across an unfamiliar, war-torn country, he struggles to come to terms with the incident that drove a wedge between the two of them.
Joined by Charlotte Dubois, an American ambulance driver with secrets of her own, Rhys discovers that even as liberation sweeps across France, the war is far from over. And his personal war has only begun as he is haunted by memories of previous battles and hampered at every turn by danger and betrayal. In a race against time and the war, Rhys follows his son’s trail from Paris to the perilous streets of Vichy to the starving mobs in Lyon to the treacherous Alps. But Rhys is not the only one searching for his son. In a race of his own, a relentless enemy stalks him across the country and will stop at nothing to find the young man first.
The country is in tatters, no one is trustworthy, and Rhys must unravel the mystery of his son’s wartime actions in the desperate hope of finding him before it’s too late. Too late to mend the frayed bond between them. Too late to beg his forgiveness. Too late to bring him home alive.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Writing, telling stories, has always been a compulsion for me. My love of stories began with reading and with sitting on my grandfather’s knee begging for tales from his boyhood. As soon as my hands learned to fashion letters into words, I’ve written. I do not know if there was ever a conscious choice to write. Storytelling is simply part of what it has meant to be me. If I had to pinpoint a source, I would say it is the Celtic blood in me, and I inherited the tendency from my grandfather, who spins tales with as much talent and care as a master weaver.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I have long considered myself a writer. Writing is simply part of what it is to be me I considered myself an author when I received my first contract with a publishing house back in 2011.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your book?
I grew up hearing stories about my grandparents’ experiences during World War Two. It is an era which has always fascinated me, and I think the title “Greatest Generation” is a fitting one. The men and women of that era lived lives of honor, sacrifice, and commitment. I have long wanted to write a story set during the war, but it was not until a friend gave me a writing prompt that the character of Rhys Gravenor came to me and the story of ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH was born.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH is about a veteran of the Great War who is still very much suffering from the shell shock that plagued the remnants of the generation that made it home from the war. After his experiences in the 38th Welsh Division in WWI, Rhys swore that he would never set foot in France again, but that is exactly where he finds himself in August of 1944, propelled back into a war-torn country in a desperate search for his missing son. I wanted a title that encapsulated the dogged determination my protagonist shows as he breaks his promise to himself. The line is Shakespearean, from Henry the Fifth in Act III, scene 1. The scene begins in the middle of the blockade of Harfleur, as Henry’s army has blown up some French fortifications. His rallying cry to his troops is
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; Or close the wall up with our English dead. In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man As modest stillness and humility; But when the blast of war blows in our ears, Then imitate the action of the tiger. . . .
I thought that first rousing utterance was a perfect title for my story about a poetic man, still emotionally wounded from the last war, forging his way into the most important battle of his life.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
A friend told me once that when he reads my work, it is akin to watching a play. I am a very visual writer, and I want my readers to see the story unfold in their minds as they read. The challenge with that is finding a balance of detail. I love to include rich detail, but I also have to strive to ensure the details are enriching to the story and do not slow the momentum of the plot.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Well, I do write fiction, so there is always an amount of suspension of disbelief involved. That said, I try to create an immersive story that reads authentically. To achieve that authenticity, I portray the historical details—setting, speech patterns, attire, weaponry, world views, etc—as accurately as I can, bolstered by the research I have conducted. And while none of the events of ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH are based on the lives of anyone I know or on my own experiences, to achieve that immersion with the read, I did draw on some of my own experience to flesh out certain aspects. For example, I am an avid hiker and mountaineer. A portion of the story takes place in the French Alps, and I incorporated my own experience into that of the protagonist on his trek through the mountains.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I did not take a trip specifically to write this story, but I am familiar with France and have travelled through various parts of the country in the past. For several of my future books, though, I have some research trips in the works.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The fabulous designers at Polis Books came up with the cover for ONCE MORE
UNTO THE BREACH, and I could not be more thrilled with it.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I think regardless of the era or setting in which I write, I am always exploring the human condition, the labyrinth of the mind, and the grittier side of our existence. ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH is a tale of war and loss, but also one of family and hope.
It is about the love we have for those closest to us, the ease with which we can wound the people we care for the most, and the lengths to which we will go to seek atonement.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
I tend to read what I write. I love the thriller genre, and my To Be Read pile is constantly growing. Currently, my favorite newer authors are Peter Swanson, A.J. Flynn, and Jane Harper. I also enjoy the works of Harlan Coben, Tana French, and Mark Sullivan. I love authors who bring the past alive with a poet’s touch, authors like Michael Ondaatje, Eoin Dempsey, and Anthony Doerr. I love Mary Stewart’s novels, and she will forever hold the place of my all-time favorite author. I reread her mysteries annually, and I love her keen eye for setting detail and her witty dialogue and her classy heroines. I am also a big fan of nonfiction, particularly survival narratives and exploration stories.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
The Creative Writing department at my alma mater was an invaluable supporter of my commitment to become a published author. I was one of the first dozen or so students of the program, and the courses I took, the professors I studied under were phenomenal. I would not be the writer I am without the talented tutelage I received at the undergraduate level.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
At this point in my life, I balance writing with working full time. I am an information scientist, which involves a lot data gathering and analysis, content management, building databases, etc. I love what I do and I work in an exciting, cutting edge field. I would love to eventually reach the point where my career is being an author. That is certainly my longterm goal.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I am currently in the editing process of my upcoming release, so anything I want to change before the release is something I still have the ability to do.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
A tremendous amount, actually. I spent two years conducting research before I ever set pen to paper with this story, and throughout the writing process, I was still reading reference books and primary sources to ensure the details of my story are historically accurate.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I never have a specific person in mind when I am writing, but now that ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH is in the publishing pipelines, I could envision Clive Owen playing Rhys if the book were ever made into a film.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Keep writing and be willing to accept criticism, especially when it is constructive. Writing a story is hard work, but it is not until the editing process that it becomes a novel and you cannot edit a blank page. When it comes down to it, you have to treat writing like it is a job. Make the time every day to put words on paper. You are often entirely too close to your story to recognize its weaknesses and where it needs bolstering. Listen when others make suggestions. And realize that once your story is out there, not everyone is going to love it. The reader’s opinion is his or her prerogative.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
I have seen this tendency of late for authors to expect things of their readers— reviews, plugs for their books, etc. I think that is a very misguided assumption, that your reader owes you something. So I would like to take this opportunity to thank readers. Thank you for spending your hard-earned money on my book. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to read my book. I have put a product out into the world, and you have consumed it, and I appreciate that immensely.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I am currently going through the editing process for ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH, so I am actually reading my own book. But I am also reading Past Tense by Lee Child, Transcription by Kate Atkinson, and The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I do. It was a delightful picture book by P.D. Eastman called Are You My Mother? That book, along with Go, Dog. Go! by the same author were my favorites as a toddler.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I cannot watch or read anything—positive or negative—about animals without welling up. The purity, trust, and innocence of animals never fails to touch and move me. As for what makes me laugh, a good many things, but consistently my standard poodle’s comedic antics.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
I would have loved to meet Mary Stewart. She is my favourite author, and she was a pioneer in the romantic suspense genre. Her wit was so subtle, her heroines possessing such inner strength, her descriptions of settings unparalleled. I wrote her a letter years ago, and I received a handwritten response from her. I have it framed and consider it one of my prized possessions.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I am an avid fitness swimmer and swim ten to fifteen miles a week on average. I love to hike, conduct genealogical research, ski (alpine and cross country), crochet, bake, cook, and hang out with my standard poodle.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I love suspense and action thrillers. The Bourne series, Body of Lies, The Last Legion, Open Range, and Robin Hood are some of my favorites. I am also a bit of a documentary junky. I love nature, anthropology, archaeology, and history documentaries.
There are some great ones available on Netflix. As for TV shows, I love a number of the grittier mystery series like Shetland, Hinterland, and Happy Valley, along with some of the lighter ones like Midsomer Murders and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. I am also drawn to the shows that combine travel with something that interests me, e.g. Andrew Zimmern’s Delicious Destinations because I love good food and Josh Gates’s Expedition Unknown because archaeology never ceases to fascinate me.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Oh, I love good food, so it is challenging to pick a favorite. I have a few strands of Irish genes I’ve found through my genealogical research, which supports my vast love of potatoes in all forms and fashions. There is no way you could cook a potato and I not eat it. I enjoy a wide array of regional cuisines, so it would be easier to tell you what I won’t eat: fish because I am allergic, coconuts and apricots because I find them vile, and desserts with nuts because dessert should not be desecrated by nuts. My favorite color is purple, and I enjoy instrumental music, particularly piano, cello, and dulcimer music.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Go insane. Not writing is unfathomable to me.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
I would probably spend the a bit of time ensuring the people I care about the most know how much they mean to me, splurge on a delicious meal at a restaurant, and then curl up on the couch with my poodle and reread some of my favorite books.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
I cannot say I have ever given this any thought. I do not intend to have a head stone, but perhaps I will have my urn inscribed with my favorite poem, Dylan Thomas’s The force that through the green fuse drives the flower.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
I do indeed, and I would love for readers to join me on social media. My website is https://www.meghanholloway.com/ and I can be found on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram under the handle @AMeghanHolloway.