Nicholas Holloway

2020 Claymore Award Winner – Nicholas Holloway

I first came across the Claymore Award after submitting my debut novel, The Loop, for the 2020 Silver Falchion. I read the requirements for the Claymore and while Three Houses on a Hill was still in its infancy, I had about a hundred pages already written.

I figured, Why the heck not? I certainly have nothing to lose.

So, I submitted the first fifty pages for a Killer Nashville critique. Having been trained in screenwriting, I was used to creating beat sheets and outlines for my creative work, but this time, I took a different approach.

In Stephen King’s memoir, On Writing, he talks about his process – he devises a simple one sentence idea for a story, and then, he just starts writing. He allows the story to lead him on the journey and has no idea where it will end up on the other side. I decided to try King’s technique for myself, and thus began the ascent of the mountain that would become Three Houses on a Hill.

It was a grueling process, to say the least, and one I may not replicate in the future. I was nervous about receiving my critique from Killer Nashville but was pleasantly surprised when it came back with a primarily positive review.

I thought, Maybe I have a shot at this thing, after all.

And so, I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

I knew there were dozens, if not hundreds, of other hopeful authors submitting their work for the Claymore, and I began to feel like a single shiny fish in a vast school of others that were potentially much shinier. There came a point where I had to force myself to just give it up to the universe and stop thinking about it.

I pressed on, and I continued writing.

Toward the middle of the summer, an email from Killer Nashville popped into my inbox. Those familiar feelings of hope and dread welled up inside me, and I didn’t open it for two days. When I did, I was through the roof. I had been named one of the Top 20 Finalists.

For me, that was good enough. That satisfaction was enough to make me want to finish Three Houses on a Hill. So, I kept on writing, and found that the contentment I felt broke down the looming walls of writer’s block, and the story began to tie up its own loose ends.

Then came the email titled Killer Nashville Awards Announcement. When I received it, I was enjoying a game night with friends, and more out of curiosity of who won (because I didn’t expect to win), I opened it up. I scanned the contents of the email, set my phone facedown, looked around at my friends, and sighed.

“I won,” I whispered, more to myself than to anyone else.

I re-read the email. I passed my phone around to my friends. They confirmed I wasn’t hallucinating. Three Houses on a Hill won the 2020 Claymore Award. I was speechless.

While unboxing the extraordinarily beautiful Claymore Award in the mail (this thing is huge, y’all) was an incredible experience all its own, I silently cursed COVID-19 for causing the actual Killer Nashville Conference to be cancelled. I wanted to thank everyone in person, to shake hands with the people who deemed my story (my baby, really) as award worthy.

Winning the Claymore provided such incredible affirmation knowing this particular story (which took me on an emotional ride of its own) was so well received by different readers. It encouraged me to continue on in my pursuit of getting my name and my work to more and more readers. To make them feel something.

Because, at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about – to make readers feel. That’s what I strive to do in everything I write.

Thanks again to all the fine folks at Killer Nashville. The Claymore stands high and tall on the central bookshelf in my office. I look at it every day. I take it down occasionally, just to feel the soft wood and the cold steel in my hands. It keeps me keepin’ on.

Hope to finally meet everyone at Killer Nashville in 2021!

** Three Houses on a Hill was published by JPM Publishing Company on December 29, 2020. Paperback and Kindle ebook versions are now available on Amazon.