Jodi Luna, the heroine of Hollow Beasts, trades academic life in Boston for a job as a game warden in New Mexico. It’s not as crazy as it sounds because her family roots bind her deeply to the gorgeous natural landscape and compel her to protect that beauty. But when she captures a poacher, her chosen path gets much more treacherous – leading directly to a kidnapping ring run by a white supremacist. Jodi soon teams up with young deputy Ashley Romero and merges her knowledge of the land and its people with her fierce pride and loyalty toward them, creating a metaphorical double-edged sword to cut down the hate group and bring them to justice. We’re so delighted to share this interview with the author!
Amy Wilhelm: Hollow Beasts is your first thriller! What were some of the challenges or surprises you faced writing in a new genre?
Alisa Lynn Valdés: Pacing and plot are huge in the suspense genre. So finding a way to tell the story that propelled it forward was a lot of fun to figure out. While relationships are still important, they weren’t the main focus of the story. This was actually a welcome relief. The story felt extrinsic. Whereas, in the past, my novels were more interior-focused.
AW: What’s the significance of your title Hollow Beasts?
ALV: It’s a bit of a triple entendre. The terrorists are hiding out in a literal hollow in the forest, and they are, in the monstrous sense, beastly and devoid of soul. They are also poaching and carving up beasts, and they equate people of color with beasts and do not see these humans as having substance.
AW: What inspired you to create Jodi’s character and have her take on domestic terrorism?
ALV: I was a staff writer for the Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times. Current events inspire my books. The villains in Hollow Beasts are white supremacists because the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security say they’re the most dangerous terrorists the U.S. currently faces. Additionally, hate crimes targeting Latinos are skyrocketing, thanks to xenophobic scapegoating by both political parties. In 2020, a white terrorist in Iowa hunted down a 14-year-old girl named Natalia Miranda “because she looked Mexican.” Natalia’s attack inspired the plot for this novel. I needed to see the terrorists lose, even if only in fiction.
AW: Do you see any qualities of yourself in Jodi?
ALV: Jodi and I have a few things in common. We are both single moms. We’re both writers with deep roots in New Mexico. We both love the outdoors, and we both despair for the fate of the wild places and things in the face of climate change and human stupidity generally.
AW: Why was it important to set your new series in the wilderness of New Mexico?
ALV: My family goes back 11 generations in New Mexico, and this place is home. The state has its own unique culture, history, and beauty, and lots of wisdom it can offer to the rest of the world.
AW: What’s next for Jodi and her fight for justice?
ALV: In book two, Jodi will be immersed in a more typical locked-room mystery, trying to figure out who is killing people stuck together at a luxurious fishing lodge during a freak snowstorm. It will be a little less political than book one and a lot of fun.
Alisa Lynn Valdés is an award-winning print and broadcast journalist and a former staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe. The New York Times and USA Today bestselling author has more than one million books in print in eleven languages. Her bestselling novels include The Dirty Girls Social Club, Playing with Boys and The Husband Habit. Born in Albuquerque, Alisa can trace her New Mexican roots back eleven generations on her mother’s side.
Alisa once owned her own boutique scone bakery and is now working on her keto and paleo baking skills. She’s also a volunteer with New Mexico Volunteers for the Outdoors. If she could start over, she imagines she’d be a game warden instead of a writer. So now she’s doing the next best thing— writing novels about a fictional New Mexico game warden named Jodi Luna.