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.
Author Meghan Holloway spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her historical thriller, ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH:
Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?
ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH is the first novel I have written with a male protagonist, and as I wrote Rhys Gravenor’s story, I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed exploring this perspective. There is that old adage of “write what you know,” and I think many have interpreted that statement erroneously to mean that writers can only authentically explore the things they themselves have experienced. Personal experience certainly imbues the stories we choose to tell, but we storytellers are operating on a much broader scope than personal experience. We are writing what we know to be the universal truths of human experience, endeavor, and existence. In writing ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH, I discovered that sometimes the most gripping voices for exploring those archetypal truths are the voices completely different from our own.
What attracts you to this book’s genre?
I am an avid reader of the thriller genre, but it has always been my goal as a writer to pen a WWII story. The setting and the time period allowed me to marry a historical tale with my favorite genre. Historical thrillers pair what I love most about both genres: the careful attention to authentic historic detail, vivid settings, and sweeping storylines of historical fiction with the taut pace, breathtaking action, and edge of your seat suspense of thrillers.
What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What about the biggest opportunity?
The biggest challenge in writing ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH was the amount of research I felt I needed to do before I could even set pen to paper. After two years of research, I finally decided that if I waited until I felt like I knew every single detail about the WWII era, the story would never be written. The biggest opportunity was connecting with historians to flesh out details about the plot. The two who were most helpful were Mr. Ian Young, whom the Military Vehicle Preservation Association put me in touch with when I approached them about experts on the Austin K2/Y ambulance, and Ms. Fabienne Gelin, at the Médiathèque Valéry-Larbaud in Vichy. When I contacted her in regards to the history of the libraries in the city, she graciously shared her academic paper, entitled Histoire des bibliothèques de Vichy 1866-2016, 150 ans de péripéties, with me.
Which took shape first: plot, character, or setting?
In the first scene I ever wrote for ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH, my protagonist is unable to sleep. He is far from home in a tiny apartment in Paris in the days following the city’s liberation. He was attacked on the streets earlier that day and was saved by the woman who lies sleeping in the next room. And there is a worn letter in his pocket that he is afraid arrived years too late. Rhys Gravenor— his background as a WWI veteran and a Welsh sheep farmer, his determination and trepidation and compassion—was so vivid to me in that moment that I have to say the story began with the character.
What’s the one question you wish someone would ask you about this book, or your work in general?
Authors are often asked about their inspiration, the people who influenced their journey, what was the impetus for becoming a writer, but I don’t believe I have ever been asked what my goals are as a writer. It is not an easy question to answer, and I wager my goals will evolve as I get further into my career. But at this time, I would pinpoint these as my goals: I would like to be able to venture into bookstores and libraries and find ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH on the shelves, and I would like to see my book generating enough interest that it is translated into other languages for readers across the world.
Meghan Holloway found her 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. She flew an airplane before she learned how to drive a car, did her undergrad work in Creative Writing in the sweltering South, and finished a Masters of Library and Information Science in the blustery north. She 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.
She now lives in the foothills of the Appalachians with her standard poodle and spends her days as a scientist with the requisite glasses but minus the lab coat. To learn more about Meghan and her work, please visit her website.