Atlanta best-selling mystery author Karin Slaughter decided to try out for a game show on ABC called “Holey Moley,” which is focused around a crazy, super-sized miniature golf course.
She will be appearing on Thursday night’s episode at 9 p.m., which will be available the next day on Hulu on demand.
The show, in its second season, is like a cousin of that 2008-2014 ABC hit “Wipeout” in all its wacky glory.
Slaughter wrote an essay about her experience on the show and what led her to try out in the first place:
In November of 2018, I was finishing my 19th novel, “The Last Widow,” when my father called to tell me he had scheduled a “minor” procedure for the end of January. Given that my father insists that he does not have high cholesterol or high blood pressure (because he takes pills every day), and that his chest X-rays are clear (despite smoking since he was 11 years old), I should not have been surprised when his “minor” procedure turned out to be a multi-level spinal fusion to correct what could be described as the Leaning Tower of Posture.
For those unfamiliar with the procedure, a surgeon drills screws into your vertebrae, then bolts them together with metal bars so that over time, the bones fuse together. There are all sorts of post-op restrictions to make sure the connection doesn’t break, and full recovery takes at least a year. Despite this, my father bristled at my insistence that I drive him to and from the hospital for surgery. He is an original bootstrapper, a Swiss Army Knife among men. His reaction to every challenge is to go for it, even if he has to figure out what it is along the way. That’s likely why he kept insisting up until the day of surgery that it was no big deal.
Spoiler alert: it was a very big deal. The surgery went as planned, but Dad ended up spending eight days in the hospital, followed by two days in rehab, before he was finally released to go home.
While I realize that many people go through more horrible health crisis than this, seeing my father—a man who hadn’t even been born in a hospital, let alone spent seven nights in ICU—in such a vulnerable state was a life-altering experience. This was my dad, the guy who fixed my bike chain and airplaned me in the pool. The man who thought it was hilarious when I had a sleep over to climb a ladder outside the window and scare the crap out of us. There are a lot of facts in life that are concrete and never-changing: the sun will rise, the earth will spin, and my dad is always there whenever I need him. Car broken down on the way to Florida? Dad to the rescue. Lonely in Auckland and can’t do the math for the time change? Dad’s on the phone pretending like it’s not 3 a.m. Need chocolate cake and too lazy to get it? There’s Dad on the doorstep.
To have the roles reversed was shocking, life altering, earth-shaking—all the clichés that sound like clichés until you’re in the middle of one. Seeing him reduced gave me a sense of his mortality. And like a lot of children in my position, it gave me a sense of my own horrific march toward old age.
In retrospect, this was probably why I bought the Porsche. I say “in retrospect” because at the time, buying a Macan in between visiting the hospital, touring rehab centers and trying to keep my dad’s three businesses running felt like a sane decision, notwithstanding when I pulled into the hospital, hit a curb and ripped out the bottom of the undercarriage.
In my business, this is what we call foreshadowing.
Once Dad was home and on the mend, I went back to work. My job requires a great deal of touring to promote my books, and I visited six different countries in 2019. This level of travel is not uncommon for me, but what was uncommon was I started filming myself dancing in hotel bathrooms. This might sound sexy if you don’t know me, but think Spongebob instead of J. Lo. Am I normally an outgoing, gregarious person who loves to dance? No. Am I even an OK dancer? Absolutely not. Had I even, at that point, danced since my thirteenth birthday party? Nope.
At the time, I thought I was finding a fun new way to thank my readers, but what I was actually doing was learning the skills that eventually led to my completely losing my mind and trying to become a contestant on “Holey Moley.”
Why “Holey Moley”? I’m not a game-show person. I’m not someone who wants any level of fame other than being an author, which is to say very little fame. Looking back, nostalgia played a big part in my quest. When I was a kid, my dad would take us to Florida every summer. Given that my complexion is the shade of Elmer’s glue and that I suffer from countless allergies (including to sunscreen), I would always end up reading a book inside while everyone else hit the beach. But here is the thing: during every trip, my dad would take me to play mini-golf, just the two of us, and I cherished these memories the rosy way that you cherish childhood memories when in fact (1) I generally suffered heat exhaustion because I had to be covered in a bed sheet and (2) I got a hand rash from the latex in the grips on the golf clubs.
I was in New York for the U.S. leg of my book tour when I mentioned to my book publicist, Heidi, that I love “Holey Moley” and thought it would be fun to be a contestant. Why did I tell her this? I still do not know. Telling your publicist that you want something is like telling a genie that you want a wish. Somehow, we ended up at Chelsea Piers a day later, where Heidi filmed me playing mini golf. I used my dancing video editing skills to piece together an audition tape, sent it off to “Holey Moley” and promptly forgot about it.
Fast forward to November of 2019, almost a year after that first call from my dad about his “minor” procedure. Again, I was working on a book, this one my 20th, “The Silent Wife.” I had finished writing for the day and checked my email. My eyes immediately went to the one that had “Holey Moley” in the subject line. Were my hands shaking when I clicked on it? That would certainly add to the tension, so let’s say yes. The producers wanted to talk to me. We talked. Then, they wanted a Skype interview. We Skyped. Then they asked for a background check. Then they asked for a medical release (I ignored the part about enduring mild electrocution and/or having an aversion to fire). By the time January rolled around, I had been in touch with multiple producers and assistants. I had also finished my book, and though I hadn’t gotten the go-ahead to be on the show, I decided that I should probably take golf lessons just in case.
This is where I should mention that I am a really, really bad golfer. As in, I play golf about as well as I dance, and I only play mini golf when I am on a beach vacation, and in my adult lifetime, I have taken exactly six beach vacations.
I guess in a lot of ways I am like my dad, the Swiss Army Knife of thriller writers. Writing a book is, if anything, a leap of faith—a belief that you can write it, that it will work, that people will actually want to read it. You basically have to jump in feet first and blow up the raft on the way. So that’s what I did with putting. I found two golf instructors, both named (through no fault of my own) Kevin. I separated them by workspace. Indoor Kevin helped me work on my close putting. He put obstacles in my way and made me run around chairs. Outdoor Kevin took me onto a real golf course (my first time!) and taught me how to judge distance and speed and, most importantly, how to strategize against another player. For six weeks, I took lessons almost every day—sometimes twice a day—to learn how to be a good golfer.
Here is the thing I learned about golf: 99% is in your head. Because of my book touring life, I am comfortable on camera. I’m good with crowds. I’ve embarrassed myself in every way possible, which has removed the stigma of screwing up in public. I figured those three things would bring me up to 99%, and the remaining 1% was down to luck.
At the end of January, nearly one year from the day of my dad’s “minor” procedure, I got the call that I made it onto the show. I was excited, but suddenly trepidatious. What was all this about electrocution? Exactly how much fire were we talking about? By then, my dad was back to work, feeling like a new man. I had been in countless hotel rooms, yet had danced in none. The Porsche had less than 3,000 miles on it, and frankly, my back was hurting from all of that putting and something weird was going on with my knee.
This trepidation (and pain) followed me the entire flight to California. I had five hours to look back at the previous year, to examine why I bought that ridiculously expensive car, why I started dancing, and how in the hell I ended up being a contestant on a game show that made you get a sign off from your doctor that you could be electrocuted.
But, I wasn’t going to be electrocuted. When I got to the set, the producers led me to a twenty-foot tall inflatable mountain with a bucking gopher on top. They were going to air lift me via crane, and I was going to have to ride the gopher for as long as I could hold on.
It was then that I realized I’d had a mid-life crisis. All of it, every crazy thing I had done that year, pointed to the fact that I had lost my damn mind. What was I, an almost 50 year old woman of little athletic ability and even littler golf expertise, doing on a freaking game show in the middle of a freezing cold canyon about to mount a maniacally grinning rodent?
That’s when I thought about my dad. His voice was like a gong inside of my head—sometimes, you just gotta gopher it.
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