I am so very pleased to have Meghan Holloway, author of "Once More Unto the Breach" here on A Bookish Affair today. I thoroughly enjoyed this debut novel and you can check out my review here!
What was the inspiration behind "Once More Unto the Breach?"
I love the World War era. That entire first half of the 20th century speaks to me. I grew up hearing my grandparents’ stories of the Second World War. I had a number of great uncles who were in the European theatre. Each one came home, but each one returned so marked from his experiences. It was such a period of tumult and horror on a global scale that had never been seen before, and it was met with this incredible tenacity and courage. There is a reason that generation is called the Greatest Generation. This period shaped entire generations in their art, literature, philosophy, politics, everything. The World Wars had such an influence on society, and we still feel that influence today. That period of history is close enough to still feel very real to a modern audience, and it is such rich, rich fodder for the intensely human story.
I have always wanted to write a tale set in the era, and when the character of Rhys came to me, I knew this story of love, family, home, and the regrets we carry with us was one I needed to tell.
What is the strangest or most interesting thing you found out in your book?
I think one of the most interesting things I learned about writing while working on ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH is the challenge of creating a seamless balance between story and rich historical detail fleshed out through research. I found it easy to get carried away with including every fascinating tidbit I found related to the period, and I had to be mindful of adding detail only as it related to the plot and furthered the tale. For example, try as I might, there was no way for me to include details about the slugs used in WWI to detect mustard gas. That might have been the strangest historical detail I discovered, and, while fascinating, it would not have served the story in any way. There is a difference between rich detail and enriching detail, and it is a fine line to walk, particularly with a historical setting.
What do you want readers to know before they read your book?
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.
I would also like readers to know how much I appreciate their willingness to spend their hard-earned money and valuable time on my story. I would like to thank readers for joining me on the journey Rhys undertakes in my tale.
I loved so many characters in the book but there was something special about the inclusion of Otto. Can you tell us why it was important to you to include a dog like Otto?
Unlike my other characters, Otto is actually based on someone near and dear to me: my standard poodle, Aidan. Standard poodles are a phenomenal breed. They are intelligent, sensitive, sweet, and incredibly human in their mannerisms. And in the spring of 1942, they were one of the thirty-two official breeds classed as war dogs by the Army. It was not until 1944 that poodles were cut from the list before the German Shepherd was declared the official dog of the US Army in 1946. The Nazis were infamous for their use of K-9 unites and had up to 200,000 dogs trained. While they primarily used German Shepherds as war dogs, poodles are of German origin, and I took a bit of creative liberty with the character of Otto. I did not originally have Otto outlined in my plot, but as I was writing, a big, black poodle crept out of the Forest of Fontainebleau and joined my protagonist’s journey. Anyone who knows me knows I have a deep and abiding love for dogs, and the inclusion of Otto was an ode to the constant, pure, faithful companionship dogs offer us.
Rhys and Charlotte were such great characters! It's hard for me to pick who I liked better. Who is your favorite character in this book?
That is really a hard pick. Each character is a favorite for a different reason. I love Rhys’s steadfast nature, his unwavering code of honor, and his willingness to do what needs to be done, even when it is painful for him. I love Charlotte’s pragmatism, her strength, and her cunning. And I have a soft spot for Henri, my antagonist. He views the world through an artist’s lens, but he has a very warped viewpoint. He is undeniably a sociopath, but he also loves dogs, believes women are highly underestimated, and has his own sense of justice. He and Rhys are truly two sides of one coin, but he utterly lacks Rhys’s humanity and compassion. Henri is an appalling character for many, and rightly so, but he was the character I enjoyed writing the most.
This is your debut novel - do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
This is my debut as Meghan Holloway, but I actually had two books published under a pseudonym years back. The publishing house I worked with went under, and both stories have been out of print for a few years now. But my advice to writers is this: 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.
If you could choose any three people (fiction or non fiction) to be with you on a deserted island, who would you pick and why?
Hm…As long as I could summon rescue when I was so inclined, have plenty of food provisions, and am not having to rough it too extremely, could I just take my poodle? Some days, a deserted island feels like the perfect writing retreat.
Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Meg! I would love for readers to join me on social media. My website is www.meghanholloway.com, and readers can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram under the handle @AMeghanHolloway. ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH is available in e-book, paperback, and audiobook format.