Pull back the curtain and see how a suspense writer puts the thrills and chills together.


The world is full of unexpected opportunities.

They happen when…um, you least expect it. (Didn’t see that one coming, did you?)

Almost everything in my life has come about via an unexpected opportunity.

An entire freelance career was born when a friend of mine was offered an assignment she couldn’t take. She passed it on to me, and I ran with it. The rest is history. (And a very long, lucrative career. You can read more about that here, if you like.)

I met my boyfriend of five years when he joined a Facebook page I’d created for work.

I found my best kitty friend when my vet felt sorry for my loss of two other pets and offered to show me a litter of kittens.

I wound up moving to this city when I won a writing contest in high school that sent me to Ottawa. Once there, I met a boy who lived in Thompson, Manitoba. We fell in love. When I moved to Thompson to be with him, I heard about this awesome writing program in Winnipeg. I broke up with the boy. I applied to the program. I got in, and I’m still here many years later. I never would have considered moving to Winnipeg if I hadn’t won that trip to Ottawa.

From a simple email that took me a minute to write, I ended up spending a month in Africa–all expenses paid.

Whenever I get a devastating bill–like the time my hot water tank, my furnace, and my fridge needed to be repaired all at once–something comes along out of the blue to help me pay for it. (Thank you, Universe!)

It’s funny–my life is full of plans. I have a plan for everything: my writing career, how I’m going to spend the day, where I’m going to live, the future. But the plans I make usually don’t end up happening, or at least not the way I’ve envisioned them.

Almost everything good in my life is due to something I never predicted.

That’s why it’s so important to keep our eyes open for those unexpected opportunities. You never know when one might pop up and change your entire life.

What’s the most unexpected thing that’s happened to you?

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  1. Stephanie Faris

    Interestingly, my freelance writing career is the unexpected surprise for me, as well! I thought I’d be a state government employee until I was 53, when I could retire after 30 years and try to make enough writing to survive on the small pension I’d make from that. I started freelancing on the side and, within 2 years, I was making more than I was making at my day job doing it part-time! so I left…and now I freelance full-time and have plenty of time for fiction writing.

    • Holli Moncrieff

      That’s amazing, Stephanie! I’ve found the same to be true. People keep trying to throw “day jobs” my way, when I can make a lot more as a freelancer. Everyone assumes freelancers are poor.

      Congratulations on escaping your government job! You seem very happy now.

  2. Chrys Fey

    I could use some of your luck! I don’t think anything like what you mentioned in this post has ever happened to me. The universe certainly hasn’t dropped money into my lap when I most needed it, like now.

    A month in Africa, all expenses paid, because of one email? Who can I email to get that? haha

    • Holli Moncrieff

      Well, I should mention there’s a flip side. The guy I moved to Thompson for was a psycho who broke my spine in two places when I broke up with him. And there have been a couple of jobs I applied for and didn’t get that would have taken me away from freelancing. There’s definitely been some things I’ve had to survive.

      As for Africa, that was pretty incredible. I really wanted to go, but I didn’t have the money. A colleague in the newsroom said, “why don’t you see if someone will pay for you to go and write about it?” I did a web search for “African safari companies”, emailed the first one on the list, and they agreed to it. I only had to pay for my airfare, and my best friend got to come along as my photographer.

      You just never know. As for the money, it’s usually a freelance job that I put the feelers out for that just happens to come along when I need it.

      Do you write non-fiction ever? It can be a good way to get some money coming in.

  3. Rhonda Parrish

    Uh… I don’t know what the most unexpected thing to happen to me was. Like you while I’ve had my share of really low lows, often if I just keep keepin’ on something will turn up to surprise me in a good way.

    • Holli Moncrieff

      That’s awesome, Rhonda. I don’t think we pay attention enough to the fact that the work we do provides the foundation that allows these things to happen. When they do, it can seem like magic, but often it’s a lot of hard work.

  4. Lisa

    For me it was falling in love…I never found love when I was looking for it…(going to the bars, joining dating websites)…none of that brought me to anyone I was even vaguely interested in…
    As a runner I usually ran by myself but one day I received an invite to a local running shop that had just opened…They had Thursday night group runs and what do you know…after running with the same group of people every week, I really got to know one guy in particular. You share things while running that you wouldn’t normally share on a “date”. Apparently he felt the same way…We have been together for 5 years, and married for three…and he is still my favourite running partner!
    If I hadn’t joined that group I might still be running alone…

    • Holli Moncrieff

      That’s an awesome story, Lisa. I’m so glad you were able to find love that way. It’s interesting how often these things happen when we stop “looking” for them and just focus on being ourselves and doing what makes us happy.

      I remember very well when you got married–I can’t believe it’s been three years already!

  5. Jess * Jessie * Jessy

    I guess the most unexpected thing to happen to me was when I interviewed a group of toastmasters for a story. I didn’t know the president of a university continuing Ed department was one of them. Unexpectedly he asked me to help him create a CE writing program and teach courses. I was intimidated… And thrilled. I did that for several years. You never know who you’ll meet in this business!

    • Holli Moncrieff

      That’s a great story, Jess! And it’s so true…you never know. By being open to the opportunity, you found yourself in the right place at the right time. It’s awesome when that happens.


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