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


You can grieve, but you can’t live there: what kickboxing taught me about writing

Becoming a fighter was one of the best things I ever did for my writing career.

It gave me the thing one needs to survive any difficult industry.


You see, I had some really hard days in fight camp. Lots of them. Humiliating days, painful days, days when I just wanted to curl up in a ball and cry. But when you’re in a small, select group of fighters who are counting on you to get back up–you do it.

Quitting was not an option. There was no way in hell I was going to let those people down. So I wiped my tears, iced my wounds, and got back in there. By the time I got in the ring, the outcome didn’t matter. I knew exactly how many battles I’d won just to get there.

I wish I’d learned this lesson sooner.

When I got a big NYC agent, I gave her four years to sell one of my books. Four years of excuses which were so bizarre that they’d make a great comedy book–Shit My Agent Said. Illness, deaths of extended family members, countless vacations, inability to quit her editing job, her assistant quitting, power lines going down in New York, more vacations, the husband going on vacation, children’s illnesses, etcetera. The list went on and on.

Four years is a long time, but I wasn’t ready to accept that I’d chosen the wrong agent and needed to start over again. So whenever I confronted her, and she said things would be different, I believed her. Until I couldn’t any longer. She still hasn’t sold a single novel on her own, so I know I did the right thing.

What I did after that is the problem. It took me FIVE YEARS to market my work again. Five long years! Sure, there were reasons–a.k.a excuses. All-consuming day jobs, fight camp, intense relationships, blah blah blah.

What really held me back was fear. I didn’t trust myself any longer. If I’d been fooled once, it could happen again, right?

Sure. But nothing good was going to happen if I didn’t get back in there, either. A fighter could have told me that.

You can grieve, but you can’t live there. Life will knock you down, but when it does, you have to dry your tears, ice your wounds, and get back in the ring. Please don’t let it take you five years.

What’s the biggest setback or hardship you’ve faced? What helped you overcome it? Thanks for reading!

1 part newsletter, 1 part unnerving updates,
2 parts sneak peeks of new projects.


  1. Anita

    Great post! I can only imagine how brutal fight camp was–I did muay thai kickboxing as a hobby at one time and even that was brutal enough for me 😉 I really liked the line in which you said: “By the time I got in the ring, the outcome didn’t matter. I knew exactly how many battles I’d won just to get there.” That really resonated with me. Thanks!

    • J.H. Moncrieff

      Thanks so much, Anita. I’m so glad the post struck a chord with you. I really appreciate that you took the time to comment.

      Yeah, fighting is a whole ‘nother level of commitment. I trained for two years–six days a week, four hours a day, to get my red prajioud and then finally fight. I was pretty burnt out after that!

  2. Elle

    You’ve never been a quitter, Holli. All it took was some time to find your feet again. Now go get ’em!

    • J.H. Moncrieff

      Thanks, Elle. I appreciate that. And as for getting ’em, I’m trying! 🙂

  3. peterjam

    Great post. I think that for some people fear can be a bigger problem than lack of discipline or perseverance. Fear that if you don’t make it as a writer, then you’ve got nothing left. This fear prevents you from writing, because you don’t want to fail, yet you are failing because you are not writing. It’s a vicious circle that traps you and it may take years to get out of it, and some of us are still inside it. It sounds dumb, I know, but from what I read I guess you understand how it feels.

    • J.H. Moncrieff

      Hey Peter! Welcome to my blog, and thank you so much for reading and commenting.

      I can totally relate. In my case, the fear kept me from marketing and submitting rather the writing, but it’s the same self-destructive tendencies at work.

      I don’t think it sounds dumb at all. Writing is one of the few fields where everyone thinks they can do it, and everyone has an opinion about it. It can be really intimidating to show others your work, especially in the beginning.

      Fight the fear!

  4. Javier

    As someone that witness your intense preparation and then your fight, I was privileged to see the transformation in your confidence. It was a heck of a fight. Just don’t put me through it again, we all have learnt the lesson, LOL.

    • J.H. Moncrieff

      Ha! Well, I can’t promise I won’t fight again, but for now, the provincial government is in your corner. No more amateur fights.

      It was a great experience for me, and I’d definitely do it again. I think fighting ultimately makes you stronger at home, at work, and at life.

      Thanks for commenting!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.