Please Welcome...Erin Healy

This month our interview guest is Christian speculative fiction author Erin Healy.

Erin came to novel writing through the back door—by way of editing. She has been editing Christian novelists for about fourteen years. Ted Dekker is one of the talented authors she's had the privilege of editing. He invited her to co-author two books with him (Kiss and Burn), and that marked her foray into a new adventure.

And now, the interview...

WhereTheMapEnds: Catch us up with you. What have you been doing lately?

Erin Healy: Not too long ago, I made the perhaps insane decision to write full time. So presently I’m working on my next novel for Thomas Nelson and proposals that will (I hope) extend my contract. Putting my editorial career on the back burner in this particular phase of publishing history will be either the most brilliant or the most stupid thing I’ve ever done.

WhereTheMapEnds: Well, I certainly hope writing continues to work for you. But I suspect there would be many authors and publishers who would welcome you back as a freelance editor, if it came to that.

What is your favorite speculative novel of all time, and why is that your favorite?

Erin Healy: Of “all time”? But there are so many I haven’t read yet! Besides, I find that my definition of “favorite” tends to shift with my mood. Today, my favorite would be Dean Koontz’s first Odd Thomas book. I loved the good, good character who rose above his circumstances, and I loved the weighty themes of self-sacrifice balanced with a spectacular sense of humor. I loved the device (a little like The Sixth Sense but from a different perspective). And as an editor, I have to confess that I loved the technical perfection.

WhereTheMapEnds: How was your first idea for a Christian speculative novel received (by anyone: spouse, friends, parents, agent, publisher, readers, reviewers, etc.)?

Erin Healy: The speculative cores of Kiss (in which the protagonist can steal memories) and Burn (in which one character becomes two) were my ideas, and they were enthusiastically received, so I was a little caught off guard when my publisher declared my first solo novel (Never Let You Go, a pretty straightforward girl-meets-demon tale) too dark.

Ted said it was boring.

And an established author I knew personally who told me he’d endorse the final draft instead called my publisher and advised them to make me rewrite the whole thing. They didn’t, but it was an inauspicious beginning.

Still, I’m proud of it. (Ted eventually warmed to my book, BTW, and he wrote a great endorsement for the cover!)

WhereTheMapEnds: How would you characterize the current state of Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing?

Erin Healy: The genre is unstoppable, because out of all the fiction genres, I believe it has the greatest capacity for surprise, intrigue, and invention.

But it’s also subject to the present state of turmoil and transition throughout the industry. I think the future for the genre is infinitely good. I think the future for writers and long-standing publishers is dicey. Authors and publishers both are being asked to produce more material for smaller and smaller pieces of pie.

While the starving Victorian artist might have a present-day role in steam punk, most of us are in this to make a living. It won’t be easy.

WhereTheMapEnds: I like that quote: “Christian speculative fiction is unstoppable!”

I agree that the old way of doing things is making it dicey for traditional publishers and the authors who worked with them, but I think it’s more that the pie is morphing and moving. To paraphrase a famous business book, writers should be asking, “Who moved my pie?” The pie is still there, perhaps bigger than ever. There’s never been a better time to be a writer…but not according to the old model.

What have you seen that encourages you about Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing?

Erin Healy: When I started my editorial career, back  in the nineties, publishers considered the genre too risky, in spite of the great CSF heritage we have in people like Lewis, Tolkien, Lawhead, Peretti, and others. Now look at it! The growth is so exciting, and I expect God’s creative minds will keep charting undiscovered territories. Every year, I see publishers in both the Christian and general markets expanding their creative limits.

WhereTheMapEnds: What have you seen that discourages or frustrates you about Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing?

Erin Healy: I’m so grateful for bloggers. They’re the important new hand-sellers, and they’ve been generous to me. But I am frustrated by the few whose main goal seems to be to amass free books. This sort seems surprised when they discover they’ve received a book that has CSF elements. “I don’t like this genre,” they announce, often subtly, and then they thumb their noses at the qualities that make the book truly speculative. It’s so unhelpful to the intended audience. I imagine writers of other genres find this kind of PR discouraging too.

WhereTheMapEnds: I hadn’t really paid attention to that, but now that you’ve mentioned it, I’m mad too! [grin] What’s the best book or seminar on fiction writing you know?

Erin Healy: Story, by Robert McKee. It isn’t for screenwriters only. I haven’t yet had the privilege of attending his seminar of the same title, but I want to.

WhereTheMapEnds: What's the best part about writing and publishing Christian speculative fiction?

Erin Healy: The freedom to test the boundaries of formula genre fiction while still writing stuff that has commercial appeal. I love it because it’s so well suited to storytelling that helps readers to experience all of the complex dimensions of our lives in insightful ways.

WhereTheMapEnds: Amen! What writing project(s) are you working on now?

Erin Healy: I’m wrapping up my novel House of Mercy, which comes out in July. It’s the story of a large-animal vet with a healing gift who needs a miracle to save her family’s ranch. Instead she gets the odd companionship a mysterious wolf. I’m also writing an untitled, top-secret project for Nelson. Well, it’s not really top secret. They just don’t want me to talk about it yet. Stay tuned.

WhereTheMapEnds: I like the idea of a mysterious animal. It’s got metaphor written all over it, and few things in fiction are as powerful as a mysterious metaphor. What’s a cool speculative story idea you’ve had lately?

Erin Healy: You’re sneaky. I won’t bite. But I hope you’ll be reading it in the near future as a general market YA novel. (It’s nothing dystopian, I promise.)

WhereTheMapEnds: What’s the best speculative story (Christian or secular, book or otherwise) you’ve encountered lately?

Erin Healy: I’m a big fan of the Hunger Games series. (Yep, I’ll pay money to see the first in theaters this month.) But lower on the radar: I devoured Flip by Martyn Bedford (Wendy Lamb Books, 2011). It’s a secular YA novel about a boy who wakes up in another boy’s body and has to solve the mystery of why it happened, and how to get back to his own life. Great writing, great story of fighting to be the person we were born to be. It was very unexpected.

WhereTheMapEnds: Sounds fun. Anything else you'd like to say before we close?

Erin Healy: Thanks so much for including me in your great publishing adventure, Jeff. I admire your efforts to advance CSF for writers and readers. Marcher Lord Press is such an achievement. Thanks!

That's All for This Time

Another terrific interview! Thanks again to Erin Healy for stopping by. Be sure to visit her online.

Also, if you missed any of our previous interviews with other speculative authors, including Frank Peretti, Jerry Jenkins, Karen Hancock, Tosca Lee, and Ted Dekker, you can read them here.

Come back next month for an interview with another heavy hitter in the world of Christian speculative fiction.


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