In 2009, Ted Dekker co-wrote Kiss his long-time edtor, Erin Healy. In 2010, they released their second collaboration Burn. Later that year, Erin’s first solo novel, Never Let You Go, debuted garnering criticial acclaim. Almost six years later, Erin has released five more novels. Her sixth solo work and her eighth all-together, Motherless, comes out next month.
This week, Erin took some time to answer some questions sent her way.
1. Motherless (October 2014) is your seventh solo novel, and your ninth novel altogether. How has writing evolved for you since then?
I am more patient with myself and with my stories today than I was in the beginning. I now expect the evolution of a tale—the unveilng of characters’ issues, the plot development, the refining of a theme—to take much longer than I used to think it should. I have to live with a story for a long time before it actually comes to life inside of my head, and this used to make me anxious.
2. What challenges did you face writing your first novel that you still face today?
It still takes me agonizing lengths of time to make decisions about plot. There are just so many things that COULD happen to my characters, and I worry about how to keep them on the most dramatic, most compelling, most believable path.
3. Do you pre-write? If so, how do you go about it?
In the early stages, I compile a lot of random information and images about the people, places, and peculiar notions I have in my head. I use the software Scrivener because it’s great for holding chaos together, especially brainstorming. Typically my roundabout musings and readings open new story angles that I decide to pursue. For example, in my current WIP, research into street gangs led me to the Yakuza (Japanese organized crime), which led me to interesting discoveries about the Japanese in Colorado during World War II. Later in the process, I outline a few early scenes and then start writing, then adjust the outline and revise as I go. I throw away a lot of what I first write. I will often try to sketch out a scene on a legal pad before I actually go to the keyboard and write the scene. But creativity is a fluid, everchanging thing. I don’t think I’ve written two novels in quite the same way.
4. What challenges do you think creative types are dealing with right now, and what encouragement can you give them?
I believe all of us face difficulties in figuring out how to locate and gather our “tribe” (be they readers, listeners, viewers, customers, consumers, or likeminded companions). It is simultaneously easier than ever before to connect with people around the world, and harder to match our art with the individuals who most appreciate it. I’d encourage creatives to be creative in their thinking about how to accomplish this. Try many methods but settle on what is both effective AND makes sense for you, not what someone else thinks you “ought” to do.
5. What do you say to people who say that fiction is useless and one can learn nothing from it?
I say they probably shouldn’t read it. They should go find what speaks to their hearts and let those of us who find value in great stories do the same. Plenty of fiction is edifying and chock-full of truth to be mined by those with the desire to dig in. (Such as those who had ears to hear Jesus’ parables.)
6. What is your favorite genre?
Ooo. Hard to pick. Of course I love suspense and mystery, but I find myself reading more in the literary category these days—character driven stories about the human condition, our relationships to other people, and the events that form personal beliefs.
7. What are you reading right now?
Let’s see. This week I have cracked the spines in each of these: Can You Hear Me: Tuning in to the God Who Speaks by Brad Jersak, The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison, Playing Saint by Zachary Bartels, The Great Fires by poet Jack Gilbert, A Dance with Dragons by George Martin, Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart, The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, and Eat to Live, by Joel Fuhrman. I’m a pretty eclectic reader.
8. Do you work better during the day or during the night?
The day. That’s one aspect of my life that’s completely black and white.
9. What can you tell those reading this interview about Motherless?
On the surface, Motherless is the story of two young adults who are trying to solve the mystery of their mother’s suicide seventeen years ago. Beneath the surface, it’s a story about our human tendency to believe things that aren’t true, and about my hope that there’s mercy and grace awaiting all of us who pursue the truth with a sincere heart. And it’s probably the strangest novel I have ever written.
10. What projects do you have planned for the future?
Hiding Places is scheduled for September 2015. It’s a straight-up suspense novel without my trademark supernatural elements (gasp), in which a child brings a murderous gang down on her family’s head when she hides an injured homeless man at their hotel.
11. Which of your books revealed something to you about yourself as you wrote it?
While researching Stranger Things, which is partly about the sex trafficking industry in the United States, I was startled by how far I’d withdrawn from the news in recent years. I felt ignorant of big and terrible things happening on my own turf. My move away from news was a self-preservation instinct during a difficult personal season—it’s so easy to be overtaken by the media’s generally despairing tone. But since then I’ve been trying to re-engage (with healthy filters firmly in place).
12. Who or what gives you the motivation to keep writing?
Honestly, I’m a pragmatist. Deadlines are highly motivating. Also I have a strong sense of commitment. For this season at least, writing is what I think God wants me to do, and it is what I have promised others—some of them contractually—that I will do it. On a more romantic level, the hope that my ideas or insights might be of value to someone else keeps me going.
13. What is the perfect setting for you to write in?
Rainy day. Utter silence (except for the rain). A single lamp. Coffee at my right hand. My feet warmed by the dog who sleeps under my desk. Something that smells good in the slow cooker.
14. What in nature inspires you?
Clear starry skies, fierce electrical thunderstorms, the ocean, snowflakes, and spider webs. They remind me of how big God is, how small I am, and how complex and beautiful his creativity is.