Meet Erin: Erin Healy is the best-selling co-author of Burn and Kiss (with Ted Dekker) and an award-winning editor for numerous best-selling authors. She has received wide acclaim for her novels Never Let You Go, The Baker's Wife, House of Mercy, and Afloat. She and her family live in Colorado.
Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
Exactly 18.3%. The part of myself that typically appears on the page takes the form of my characters’ spiritual/moral/ethical questions, such as the one that confronts Vance in Afloat: which situations require action, and which require an obedient staying put? Or the one that defines Beth’s struggle in House of Mercy: can I say God is good even when he doesn’t give me what I think I need? I guess I use story to wrestle with questions that don’t always have clear answers.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
That’s a toss-up between ensuring the salvation of my cat by telling Jesus my dear pet was part of the package when He got me, or, after reading Harriet the Spy, keeping a similar spy notebook on people I knew, with bald-faced intentions of using them in a novel someday. By divine intervention, that notebook disappeared before I got the chance.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I didn’t discover it, exactly. Instead “you sure can write” was a message given to me repeatedly by family members, educators, and trusted friends throughout my childhood and young adulthood. I was blessed to receive this message so consistently and positively that I began to believe it. Two defining moments came in college, when a professor urged me to change my major to English (I did), and when a friend sent me to a writers conference (I went). Both changed my life.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
Oh my. Do you have enough room? In the nonfiction arena I like spiritual insight (there’s a stack of Richard Rohr and Philip Yancey on my nightstand), books that challenge me to grapple with faith issues (like Love Wins and Misreading Scripture Through Western Eyes), nutrition (big fan of Furhman and Weil right now), high-quality memoir (Unbroken—one of the best ever), of course books about writing and editing, and scads of novel research, especially geography, autism, ranching, architecture, and so on. In fiction I’ll read almost anything—huge fan of Louise Penny mysteries, Jane Kirkpatrick historicals, Dean Koontz suspense, Marilynne Robinson’s stunning prose, Tosca Lee’s biblical fiction, and fantastic concepts like Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus and Martyn Bedford’s YA novel Flip.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Uh, maybe the counselor I’ve been seeing for twelve years would be better equipped to answer that question. In truth, my life seems to be an upwardly maturing cycle of losing my sanity and then, by the grace of God, finding it again. I wish I had a more practical answer to offer, but I’m afraid my how-to is esoteric: I keep learning how to hold things loosely and to not control my life too tightly. On the bright side, it does seem to be getting easier.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
I have done everything from creating names with intentional, rich meaning (Beth(esda) Borzoi) to blind-pointing in a phone book. While I do try to pick names that “sound right” in their reflection of individual personalities, it turns out that my ear and my readers’ ears differ when it comes to personal prejudices about names. I think every author must cope with this. I can’t stand the name Katniss, for example, but the power of the Hunger Games stories far outweighed my distaste for the protag’s name. Gradually, I’ve come to care less these days about getting names right and more about getting story right.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
At risk of sounding flippant, I might have to say it is that I taught myself (alone) how to replace a bathroom toilet (alone). This became necessary after I (alone) managed to crack the toilet’s water tank. Bear with me: it’s the symbolism of the achievement rather than the achievement itself that’s important. Namely, that I faced a challenge completely out of my intellectual, physical, and educational depth and discovered I was up to the task. Even if I did go through three wax rings before I got it right.
What is your favorite food?
Tiramisu: coffee and sugar in their finest form.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Was? Oh for the day when I can completely put it behind me: I am a conceptual rather than concrete-visual thinker. I think of story in terms of themes and ideas rather than people and scenes. As a result I spend too much time writing about abstract notions and interior thoughts. I have written (and cut) whole scenes of characters standing around thinking but not behaving. After nine manuscripts my editor still catches me belly-button gazing through my characters. How I overcome: (1) I accept this weakness as part of my first-draft creative process; (2) I get it out of my system and then cut ruthlessly; (3) I rely on my editor to show me what I am blind to, and I do what she tells me to do; and (4) one note stuck to my computer reminds me to “Begin with the event,” and the other reminds me that “Behavior is character.”
Tell us about the featured book.
Afloat is a supernatural-disaster survival story about a motley bunch of people stranded on a river. They are divided over how to get out alive, and two deaths expose hidden intentions and dark histories. More than this, Afloat is a story about human love in the broadest terms. Can we love well when our survival instincts are running in high gear? What does it mean to “survive” a crisis? Each of my characters grapples with these questions in different ways.
Please give us the first page of the book.
THE WETSUIT and the water are black, and after the man slips into both, he seems to vanish from the world. He has come on a starless night to avoid being seen, to hide a few containers where they won’t be found. He will be underpaid for this task by his anonymous employer, but times are hard so he takes what he can get.
He has gone into the water between his bobbing boat and twelve shadowy structures that float. They are gathered under the weak moon in a semicircle like disciples awaiting their teacher. But he is not the one they wish for. As instructed he will secure his packages under the second unit, which is squat and unfinished. Which will never be finished.
The silky surface between him and building 2 reflects the sky’s silver stars. For a moment, before he lowers the diving mask, he is distracted by the glittering scene. The understanding gives him a jolt: because it is a starless night, and these are not reflections. They are sardine-sized creatures flashing with their own energy, flickering randomly, tricking his eyes.
He lets go of the boat and reaches out to touch one, expecting it to dart away. It flares instead, flaming like a struck match though fully submerged, and sends a tingling shock through the palm of his hand. He jerks back. The flame dies. With the thumb of his other hand he tries to rub the sting away.
The pain won’t die. Nor will his sudden certainty that more secrets than his are hidden in this place.
He would turn back, if not for the money.
He dives into darkness to do his work, avoiding contact with the silver things, and as he swims they fade away. Fear hurries him along. He needs to be gone before the sun rises, before everything concealed comes to light.
What a hook! How can readers find you on the Internet?www.erinhealy.com Here you’ll find details about each of my books, free sample chapters, and links to my presence on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and Goodreads.
- An iPad Mini
- iTunes gift card
- Afloat by Erin Healy
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Thank you, Erin, for visiting with us today. The book sounds awesome.
Readers, here are links to the book. By using one when you order, you help support this blog.Afloat - paperback
Afloat - Kindle
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