Monday, December 2, 2013

Author Interview: Erin Healy

It's my pleasure to be hosting the lovely Erin Healy on the blog today! Erin is a best-selling author and award-winning fiction editor who has worked with talented novelists such as James Scott Bell, Frank Peretti, and Ted Dekker. She is the author of Kiss and Burn (co-authored with Ted Dekker), and several other novels, including her last book Afloat (click to read my review). Her latest supernatural thriller, Stranger Things, comes to stores on New Year’s Eve.

Library Journal says: “Serena Diaz’s teaching career came to an abrupt end when a student falsely accused her of sexual misconduct. Seeking solace in the woods, she discovers that a gang of sex traffickers has taken over a vacant house. Serena is almost captured by one of the criminals but is saved by an unknown man who has been shadowing her. He is shot, and Serena escapes with her life. But she is drawn to know more about this stranger who died for her. What follows is a suspenseful story of danger and pure evil. Whom can Serena trust in a world that seems intent on serving its own self-interests? VERDICT Healy (Afloat; coauthor with Ted Dekker, Burn and Kiss) has written an edgy, fast-paced spiritual thriller that will please Dekker fans.”

How was your idea for Stranger Things born?

Two years ago, during a Good Friday service, my pastor (Kelly Williams of Vanguard Church, Colorado Springs) asked the congregation: “If a complete stranger died while saving your life, wouldn’t you want to know everything you could about that person? Wouldn’t you want your life to honor that person’s death?” He challenged us to consider Jesus Christ in a new light—as a stranger, as a savior we might not know as well as we think we do. This idea has roots in Romans 5:8—“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Before I ever had the chance to know him, while he was a complete stranger to me, Christ died for me. The Message translation says “when [I was] of no use whatever to him.” Why would he do that? Have I investigated him thoroughly enough to connect my own life with his purposes? This is all background, though. Stranger Things isn’t an overtly Christian tale as my previous novels have been, but it’s a parable about these questions.

Stranger Things sounds like a pretty dark read. Why did you choose to write about sex trafficking?
Human trafficking (of which sex trafficking is a subcategory) is the world’s third-fastest growing illegal industry behind drugs and weapons. It is the most horrifying kind of modern captivity I can imagine, and my research proved that even my imagination fell short of reality. I picked it because it’s a real contemporary crisis, but also because it profoundly symbolizes the kind of bondage that Christ came to end (Isaiah 61:1-3). Freeing the captive, physically and spiritually, is a high calling for followers of Jesus who want to express their gratitude for his sacrifice and demonstrate his love through the continuation of his work.

What does all this have to do with the “thin places” that you’re always talking about?
The traditional (Celtic) definition of a thin place is a physical location in the world where the division between physical and spiritual realities falls away, a place where we can see the greater truth of our existence. In my stories I use the term “thin place” to define moments when a person experiences a sharpened spiritual awareness about what’s really going on in his or her life. Stranger Things  is the first novel in which I’ve combined both ideas. The thin place is a physical location, a burned-out house in a sparse terrain, where Serena discovers her purpose. “There are places in the world where you will encounter things so real that you will be surprised others don’t have an identical experience,” Serena’s father tells her. “But then you will realize that the clarity given to you is a gift from God. Perhaps this gift is just for you, maybe also it will touch the lives of others.”

Did anything surprise you while writing the novel?
I started with intentions to write about an Asian-based trafficking ring, but in the course of my research was distressed to learn just how close to home the problem lies. Though it’s impossible to get a precise count of how many people are victims of sex trafficking in the US, most estimates fall between 100,000 and 300,000 (mostly women and children). Since I learned this my own awareness has expanded, and I’m happy to see just how many efforts are already underway—not only in the US—to end this atrocity. The Polaris Project is a great place to begin learning about global human trafficking.

What do you hope readers will take away from Stranger Things?
I hope the novel is layered enough to meet each reader individually. Maybe some will be challenged to investigate Jesus Christ further. Maybe some will use their new awareness of trafficking to do something about it. (I’ve joined the prayer team of a local home for girls rescued from sexual slavery.) To date my favorite response to the book was from the person who found herself looking in a new way at the strangers who surrounded her. She felt unexpectedly protective and concerned, on heightened alert to ways in which she might be able to help them. In other words, ways in which she might be able to do what Christ did for her. So many opportunities! If we all moved through the world with eyes like that, what might change for the better? I love to think of all the possibilities.

Along with the provided interview, I had the privilege of asking Erin some additional questions of my own. One of the things I love about Erin is her desire to interact with her fans, which she does in such an easy going and warm way. Here's her reply to my questions:

You’ve worked as an editor for some very talented novelists. What inspired you to take up your pen as an author?
Though writing has always been a large part of whatever work (and a lot of play) is at hand, I started writing novels because Ted invited me to. (We co-authored Kiss and Burn before I wrote my solo books.) It wasn't that I'd never thought of it so much that the demands of career and family had prevented it. So to write publicly in the context of my established career was a fantastic opportunity.

Your books have had a great impact on my life, both as a reader and a writer. Can you share with us some ways your own life has been impacted through telling these stories?
That's wonderful! As for me, writing has made me a better editor. I think I'm kinder, more perceptive, and less frustrated to have my own creative outlet. I started writing in the same year of the national economic crisis, which was about the same time the publishing industry entered its own upheaval, so I've learned a lot about how to be patient, humble, and peaceful instead of anxious. I'm also learning (still very much in process) about how to be a better listener--to people and to God--and how to find my personal worth in God and not in the reception of my work.

What advice would you give to those of us who are chasing the dream of becoming a published author?
If you go into writing aiming to be successful, brace yourself for a real challenge. The percentage of hard-working, good writers who are successful from an economic, numeric, or literary point of view is excruciatingly small, though they do everything “right.”  If you go into writing because you have something to say and you believe God called you to say it, you’ll have to set aside empirical notions of “success,” because God’s definition of that word is largely hidden from us earthlings. He is the Master Creator of us creative types. We will always be His apprentices, and never the master. His opinion is the only one that ultimately counts. So you have to consider—when the rejections stack up, reviews are harsh, and you’ve only sold ten copies of your self-published work—if the ten people who bought those copies were exactly the people who needed to hear what you had to say. Maybe your book was for the person who borrowed it from the library and didn’t pay a cent. Maybe your book was just for you, to learn something about yourself in the process of writing it. Someday you’ll know. But probably not today.

Again, a huge thank you to Erin for allowing me to host her on my blog today! If you'd like to have a peek at Stranger Things, you can read the first two chapters here. Prepare to be hooked! And don't forget to fill out the form below to be entered to win one of ten copies. (A US shipping address is required and books will ship on January 1, 2014). You can enter each day through December 8th, and earn more chances to win by visiting other host blogs--you'll find those links here.

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For more from Erin Healy follow her on:

3 comments:

  1. Ashley, thank you so much for hosting me!

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    1. Thank you! Can't wait to read Stranger Things! After that two-chapter teaser, I want to know what happens next. :)

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  2. Ashley

    What a lovely name for a blog - Lemon Biscuits ... love that question you asked Erin about how her novels have impacted her. I can't wait to read Stranger Things too.

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