Five Things You Should Know about HUNTING GROUND
by Meghan Holloway
My first crime thriller released today, and HUNTING GROUND is a story I have been so excited to share with readers. It is a marked departure from my previous novel, a historical saga set in World War II. This is the first story I have written where the first iteration looked nothing like the final version sent to the presses. This is the first book where I went back to the drawing board after the first draft, scrapped 50,000 words, and took the story in a completely different direction than its original course.
I wrote and rewrote and rewrote HUNTING GROUND. The end result is a story I cannot wait for you to get your hands on. It is dark, gritty, and chilling. In reader reviews, I keep seeing the word “creepy” pop up. And it is. I certainly scared myself a few times writing it.
A lot went into my first foray in the crime fiction genre. Here are five things I think you should know about the story:
1. My previous work involving the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and cataloging police records inspired the plot.
I did an internship at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science while working on my masters and had the privilege of processing a grant project for the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. My own work on a NAGPRA project inspired Evelyn’s new position at a [fictional] museum in the story. At the same time I was interning at the museum, I was working in the records section of a police department. My thesis for grad school consisted of cataloging a year’s worth of police records. During my research, I discovered the Urban Indian Health Institute’s case study on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The data is staggering and sobering, and I knew I had to write about it.
2. The setting is its own character.
My previous novel, ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH, was set in France in 1944 in the wake of the Allied liberation of the country. HUNTING GROUND is a vastly different story in a different genre, but I wanted to capture that same sense of the setting being an antagonistic force working against the characters. I visited Yellowstone National Park for the first time in the deep grip of winter, and I was enchanted. It is a landscape that is harrowing, majestic, and haunting. I love what Hector, one of the protagonists, says about winter in Yellowstone: “Winter was a hardscrabble, gritty season in this part of the country. The wildness was whittled to a fine blade, everything rendered sharper in the cold. This was a land as beautiful as it was dangerous. In other seasons, the beauty could hide the danger. Parred down to bone in the winter, there was no hiding how brutal this land could be. Winter was nature at its most hard and authentic.”
Yellowstone is a region where civilization has not encroached upon the landscape. It is a place where the wild still shapes life and humans grapple for a foothold, struggling to survive and eke out an existence. Each season harbors its own dangers and secrets. This first story is honed with the blade of winter. The next two books in the series are shaped by the blood of spring and the fires of summer.
3. I wanted to write a story about a serial killer, because it so clearly illustrates that the victim should never be blamed.
We see it all the time. “Well, what was she wearing? Did she flirt with him? Did she entice him?” That patriarchal insistence that women orchestrate their own abuse, assaults, and murders permeates the way society thinks and judges. Women are never simply victims. They are the provocateurs, the enablers, the seductresses who inspire men to hurt them.
Nothing illustrates the erroneous, egregious nature of that mindset quite so succinctly as a serial killer. Writing such a warped psyche was my effort to highlight that the fault in women lies solely in the twisted and depraved who would harm them—and in those who place the blame on her.
4. I had too much fun writing an antagonist in my previous novel.
I had such a grand time writing the antagonist in ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH that I wanted to try my hand at writing an antihero. Crime fiction is a genre that offers a writer more freedom to delve into protagonists who eschew the principles of heroism. With Hector, I wanted to explore a character whose actions you question but whose motives you understand. I love that with an antihero his or her final goal is that of a hero’s but the journey toward that goal looks incredibly different. Hector has his own moral compass, and his true north is a bit skewed.
I hope he is a character who leaves you a little torn.
5. Evelyn is my ode to strong, resourceful heroines.
I get frustrated at times with the women who show up in the pages of crime fiction. They usually fall into distinct roles: the victim, the damsel in the distress, the femme fatale, or simply on the page to fill the “sex scene” slot in a male-pioneered story. The protagonist Evelyn was my quest to strike a match to those character tropes. With her, I wanted to explore the fact that even though a woman has been a victim, that is simply a box checked on a police report. Her past experience may have impacted her life and shaped how she views the world, but a victim is not who she is. And as she proves, she does not need anyone to save her.
I hope you will grab a copy of HUNTING GROUND and let me know what you think of my first foray into the crime fiction genre.