Born near a swamp, Mika Ashley-Hollinger wrote Precious Bones as a tribute to a way of life that has all but disappeared. In writing about herself on her website, Hollinger shares of how she grew up respecting and loving all wildlife. She explains to Random Acts of Reading that, “Swamps are often depicted as useless, but they are actually the womb of the world. Countless life forms; mammals, birds, reptiles and fish, begin their journey in swamps and wetlands.”
After leaving home in her late teens and experiencing a failed marriage, Hollinger spent ten years sailing around the oceans. Once she reached Australia, Hollinger notes on her website, it became obvious that there were Somalia pirates patrolling the Indian Ocean. She turned around and returned to Fiji, where lived for several years with a Fijan family, before returning to Hawai’i, the place that today she calls home.
In 1988, when her first granddaughter was born, she and her husband traveled to Florida in search of her old homestead. Instead there was a trailer park. Hollinger tells Random Acts of Reading that she was “stunned and saddened at the changes” that had taken place. That was the beginning of Precious Bones.
Now Hollinger lives with her husband Mika lives with her husband along with an assortment of endangered birds and wild chickens on a protected wetland in Hawai’i. She encourages everyone to: “Get involved and protect our precious wildlife and environment!” I’ll review Precious Bones tomorrow. Save the date: February 12!
ALLISON: Describe a memorable moment of exploring a swamp during childhood.
MIKA: There are so many, I don’t know where to start. Every time I ventured out into the swamps, something memorable happened. Seeing the animals in their natural habitats, from alligators to the returning whooping cranes. I was blessed to have been part of it all.
ALLISON: Who or What influenced you most during your adolescence?
MIKA: I would have to say my Father….he loved the swamps and all of nature. Although he did kill animals for us to eat, I never took part in that. But that was life then. Nothing was confined or suffered.
ALLISON: What was life like sailing the oceans? Which was you favorite ocean?
MIKA: Life on a sail boat was the absolute best….each moment was an adventure….and our crew truly depended on each other . The Pacific Ocean was endless and there were countless islands and different cultures to explore and learn from.
ALLISON: What did you most like about Fiji culture? Are you still in contact with your Fijan family?
MIKA: I loved the Fijian people and their simple way of life. Both my parents have passed on…they died within 3 days of each other….a true love story. I am still in contact with all my brothers and sisters and I still go and visit them.
ALLISON: If readers were to visit Hawaii to see nature, what sights would you point out to them?
MIKA: Hawaii is the endangered capitol of the world….we have lost so much. But there is still so much wonder to see….in the winter the humpback whales return to give birth….we have albatross nesting, and monk seals visit our beaches. You only have to walk around and pay attention.
ALLISON: How difficult was it to write about the swamp, when it no longer existed?
MIKA: There were many times I literally had to stop writing because I was crying so hard!
ALLISON: You did a lot of research before writing Precious Bones. How were you able to turn that research into a story?
MIKA: My research was amazing….I learned so much, that I never knew before….it was easy to incorporate all my new knowledge into the story.
ALLISON: What steps were involved in re-introducing native habitat for endangered ducks and birds?
MIKA: I went to Nature Centers and did lots of research and asked lots of questions.
ALLISON: Why should young people become advocates for animal welfare/ How can they start?
MIKA: If our next generation doesn’t get involved with our animals and environment….there will be very little left to enjoy. Start by just walking around outside…go to a part, a Nature Reserve, pay attention…it’s an amazing world out there….please protect it!
ALLISON: What’s next?
MIKA: I’m working on my second novel…again YA Historical Fiction…I love writing that. It takes place in 1969 in the deep South. It was a pivotal time for our nation.