I discovered Erin Healy a few years back when I learnt she edited twelve of Ted Dekker’s novels. Erin has edited many other well-known authors including Frank Peretti. For a crazy moment, I think I contemplated contacting Erin to see if I could engage her editing services on Angelguard. Common sense soon prevailed.
Soon after I discovered this, Ted and Erin collaborated on a couple of novels: Kiss and Burn. The editor became the novelist. During this time, Erin published her first standalone novel: Never Let You Go where she explores the “thin places between heaven and earth.” Since then Erin has produced a further 4 novels, including her latest Afloat which was released earlier this month.
I’ve found Erin loves connecting with readers. We’ve had an ongoing dialogue now with the launch plus Erin has written some beautifully penned blog posts that are both revealing a little of what’s in her heart whilst also relating to the themes of Afloat.
Erin’s exploration of the “thin places” plus her remarkable story telling and word crafting abilities continue to inspire and intrigue me.
Erin was gracious to give me some time in her busy schedule to answer a bunch of questions I proposed.
It’s my absolute delight to introduce, Erin Healy.
Perhaps first tell us a little about yourself.
Erin, in little bits: wife, mother, sister, auntie, reader, writer, editor, thinker, Christian, faithful skeptic, Southwestern American; methodical, pensive, busy, happy; lover of family, friends, music, thunderstorms, stories, good dogs, coffee, layered clothing, white noise, mountain air, and hot running water.
You’re an editor as well as an author. How many novels would you typically edit in a year?
When I was editing only, I would do about twenty books per year. These days I’m writing almost full time, editing only about four books a year. But a freelancer’s work is always in flux. Those numbers change.
What particular unique challenges are there being an editor when you’re doing your first draft? How do you overcome them?
The biggest challenge I faced was the realization that writing and editing use completely different parts of my brain. The way I write (creative work) is completely different from how I edit (analytical work), and I expected them to have more in common. The only way to overcome that was to become a new kind of student of the craft. I had good editorial muscles, but my writing muscles needed everyday training. As for my editorial self getting in the way of the first draft, I’ve found her to be much more of a helpful coach than a critical couch potato. She doesn’t give me too much trouble.
There are many more questions I could ask about editing/writing but might leave them for one day we’re chatting over a cup of tea. I got first hooked on your writing when I read your description of yourself being an “Irish girl fascinated by the concept of thin places”. Could you explain this in a bit more detail and is there a particular experience you’ve had of the “thin veil between the physical and spiritual realities”?
I will look forward to the tea and conversation! In the Celtic tradition, thin places are locations in the world where people can have a physical experience of a spiritual reality. These experiences are tied to a spot on a map. What I love about the concept is the notion that our lives aren’t as compartmentalized as we sometimes treat them. The physical, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual parts of ourselves form a whole, as God created us.
I have had a couple of experiences with physical locations where I felt the spiritual darkness of a particular place. Very spooky. But these negative sensations contrast with a more familiar and constant sense of peace and light that I carry with me, which doesn’t seem to rely on my surroundings. I believe this is because the Holy Spirit goes with me wherever I am. And isn’t that a remarkable notion? What if we ourselves, when indwelled by God, become a type of thin place for everyone we encounter! The possibilities of that thrill me.
For those new to your novels, how do you typically reveal this thin veil?
Generally speaking I use the concept metaphorically. A “thin place” is about the collision between spiritual and physical realities as it might happen in a variety of ways. In Never Let You Go and Afloat, the spiritual manifests in the natural world in the form of supernatural beings and events. In The Baker’s Wife, I turn one woman’s spiritual capacity for compassion and turn it into a physical event. (This “gift” of hyper-empathy enables her to feel others’ pain.) In House of Mercy I wonder aloud about the mysterious workings of the Holy Spirit by turning him into a wolf who guides a young woman on an important journey.
In other words, I hold the traditional notion of thin places very loosely and with a lot of creative license. My fascination with them is all about the intersection of various parts of our lives, seen and unseen, and that is the constant in my stories.
Which authors inspire you and which are your “comfort food” authors?
I admire those authors who have a mastery of words, who can craft a beautiful sentence not just here and there, but on every page and in nearly every paragraph of their books (Geraldine Brooks, Marilynne Robinson). I also love authors who help me to see the world in ways I’ve never considered, and to see myself standing in it (Chaim Potok, Marcus Zuzak). My comfort food authors are much more commercial–I’m riveted by good suspense (Dean Koontz) or a character-driven mystery (I just spent the year reading all of Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache novels). There are too many fine writers to name them all.
A couple of great Aussie authors there. You’ve co-written two novels with Ted Dekker: Kiss and Burn. How did that process work? For example, who had the original concept and how did you share the writing?
Those books were highly collaborative. I had a general idea about a woman who could steal memories; Ted put the flesh of a story on it and we developed Kiss. When it came time for Burn, Ted and I were independently kicking around story ideas that involved one event leading to multiple endings. We merged those ideas into a new concept. For both novels, I wrote and Ted directed. We spent hours and hours and hours on the phone. It was an exhausting but rewarding process.
My publisher approached me with the idea of writing a pre-apocalyptic romance novel set in an isolated location. As novels do, this one quickly evolved into a broader type of love story, i.e., can we love others well when our own survival is on the line? And so the story became about living in community with strangers as well as loved ones when the stakes are very high.
What key message(s) do you hope readers will take away from Afloat?
Afloat is the most overtly “Christian” of my novels to date. I hope readers will close the book having been entertained. I hope they will also have a renewed sense that for those who believe in Jesus, death is nothing to fear; our survival is guaranteed. How we love each other, however, is entirely up to us.
What can your fans expect next from you? Any future plans for co-writing?
No co-writing in the foreseeable future. Next up is Stranger Things, in which my thin place is tied to a physical location (an abandoned house) for the first time. In Stranger Things a man dies saving a woman he doesn’t know on the same day that she’s publicly ruined by false accusations. Now a suspect in his murder, the only way to clear her name is to play a dangerous game with the real killer, and admit to a crime she didn’t commit.
Wow, can’t wait for this one.
Erin and I are very excited to be doing a special give away to two keen readers. We’ve got two twin packs, both featuring a copy of Afloat and one other novel of the lucky readers choosing. That’s right, any one of Erin’s six other novels including the two written with Mr Dekker. Just express an interest in Erin’s novels in your comment below. The winners will be notified by email next Wednesday 29 May.
Thanks Erin and wishing you every success with Afloat.
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