Eva Holland

Freelance Writer and Author

Bachelor of Arts (Honours), History, 2005

King’s opened up a lane … for me to expect excellence from myself, which I hadn’t done before.

Eva Holland has always been a writer. But she didn’t always think it could be a full-time job.

“I had always been involved with writing and journalism-type work. I had always wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t think you could do it as a job,” Eva explains. Her original idea was to become an academic and to write books in the summer. “I had this rosy vision of academic life, where I would have the summers off to just write my bestselling popular history books!” Eva laughs.

As a high school student with a keen interest in the liberal arts, Eva was drawn to the Foundation Year Program (FYP). After FYP, she studied classics and history before eventually focusing on history, all the while writing for King’s student magazine, The Watch. Eva then moved to England to study for a master’s at Durham University.

During her master’s degree, Eva began writing for her local paper back home in Ottawa. “I started doing some stories for my hometown paper, the Ottawa Citizen. I started writing travel stories, as I was travelling around the UK on weekends,” Eva says. Becoming increasingly disillusioned by the requirements of academic writing as a postgraduate, Eva started to realize that she was most passionate about the kind of writing she had been doing as a hobby for years.

“I realized maybe I should just do the kind of writing I wanted to do instead of building my life around doing it on the side.”

Upon returning to Ottawa, Eva took a job in her field and spent some time working as an archival researcher, but it wasn’t long before she took the leap of faith and started freelancing full-time.

Initially, she focused on travel, then, after a move to the Yukon, added outdoor adventure and sports writing, followed by environmental, nature and science writing. Eva now describes herself as a general interest features writer, primarily for magazines. Nonetheless, writing books has always been her goal. “Books were always the dream and the goal for me, and the kind of medium that I loved the most,” she explains. In 2020, the dream became a reality, when Eva published her debut book, Nerve: A Personal Journey Through the Science of Fear.

Determined to address a topic that would appeal to a universal audience, Eva chose the subject of fear. “I was dealing with this fear of heights and I was newly afraid of winter driving after some car accidents, and I was thinking about these ideas around phobias and anxieties and traumas.” That’s when she started to shape the idea for Nerve. “Everybody can relate to this,” she thought. And she was right. Nerve was one of four Canadian titles named to Time’s “100 Must-Read Books of 2020” and was listed on Smithsonian Magazine’s “Ten Best Science Books of 2020.

The book sets out to understand fear, and to see if fears can be cured. Eva identifies in the book her greatest fear of all—her mom dying. In the summer of 2015, she lost her mom very suddenly.

“When she died, and then a few months later, I realized I had come through the worst of my grief and ultimately, I knew I was going to be ok, that sort of felt like I had survived my worst fear coming true,” Eva says, “which made me feel like maybe I could tackle these other things that were hemming me in. So that’s the premise of the book – I set out to see if I can understand and cure my other fears too.”

Eva’s debut book is just the beginning of her career as an author—she is already thinking about what her next book will be.

“Knowing the landscape is really important in figuring out how you fit yourself into it,” Eva explains. Her advice to anyone who wants to establish themselves as a writer is to, “think about what you bring to the table… maybe you bring some other knowledge or expertise, or something that lets you have some insight into a story that someone else wouldn’t have.”

“Critical thinking, reading widely and thinking about how the different pieces of the things you are reading fit together,” are most important for anyone trying to establish themselves as a writer. Eva thanks the Foundation Year Program (FYP) at King’s for helping to teach her these skills, and for helping her to overcome a fear of deadlines!

“FYP really helped to cure any fear of deadlines,” Eva says. “As a freelancer, I don’t have the terror of the blank page, and I always feel like I can get it written by a deadline… I think some of that is down to FYP Mondays!”

In addition to working towards her degree at King’s, Eva immersed herself in campus life, bartending in the Wardroom, playing sports and joining committees. “It was a place that really built up my confidence … King’s felt like it just opened up a lane for me to be excellent and to expect excellence from myself, which I hadn’t done before.”

Date posted: February 2021