Everyone experiences fear at some point in their lives. This universal emotion and our response to it forms the core of Eva Holland’s first book, Nerve, which was released in Canada on April 7th. 

The book traces Holland’s own relationship with fear, and by doing so shares some deeply personal experiences with readers – from finding herself unable to move part way up a frozen river with night setting in, to the experience of the sudden loss of her mother.

“Writing the first draft dealing with my mom’s death came quite easily,” said Holland, “it provided me with the opportunity to blurt out all of the messy feelings. What was really challenging was the revision process – I had to force myself to evaluate if portions were just me airing my feelings or if they were really serving the book.”

Holland secured the book deal for Nerve in April 2018 after working intermittently on a proposal for the previous two years. At that point she had eleven months to turn around the manuscript. 

“It came with the ‘oh crap moment,’” she explained, “First there was the celebration – ‘yeah, I have a book deal’ – followed very closely by the realization of ‘oh no, now I have to write the book.’”

She added, “I’d love to say that I jumped in with both feet, but the truth is that I procrastinated at the beginning and ended up spending the winter writing for twelve hour days.”

Six months of revision followed the initial drafting. “I’m grateful that my two editors, one from my Canadian publisher and one from my US publisher, and oddly enough, both named Nick, worked together on what they wanted to see change before coming back to me,” explained Holland.

Some chapters needed more structural tinkering than others. “The fifth chapter focusing on using rock climbing as DIY therapy had originally been an article for Esquire,” said Holland, “When I wrote the first draft of the book I just plunked it in and thought to myself ‘there’s one chapter done’, but book chapters aren’t magazine articles. Books are quite a bit more freeing, you aren’t having to fit yourself into an institutional voice.”

Nerve was released in early April, in the midst of COVID-19 lockdowns. “I was initially worried that it would get buried in the news of a pandemic,” said Holland, “I thought to myself, ‘oh no, my book is doomed.’”

But despite having to cancel her book launch party at Wayfarer Oyster House and her book tour which was slated to run through May and June, the response so far has been very good. “I don’t know to what extent the fact that people are interested in fear at the moment – it’s urgently timely due to COVID – is helping with how it has been received,” said Holland, “or the fact that people seem to be really trying to support independent bookstores and writers and artists, but I’ve found a lot of different entities have been stepping up to support me in a lot of different ways.”

Since the book launched Holland has found herself on Facebook live and Instagram live events, she has skyped into tv shows, called into podcasts and has done interviews via Zoom. She’s been featured in the New York Times and in the National Art Centre’s NAC Performs line-up delivering a reading and question and answer session. And she has Yukon’s local independent bookseller behind her. 

“Mac’s Fireweed has been really supportive and wonderful through all of this,” said Holland, “I’m so grateful to them that they’re finding ways to stay open and serve customers right now.”

Writers