Forgiving Yourself: Writerly Insight and #Giveaway of #StrangerThings by @erinhealybooks

Stranger ThingsErin Healy’s latest supernatural thriller, Stranger Things, comes to stores on New Year’s Eve, and I have the honor of sharing with you an author interview and sneak peek of the book. You’ll want to bookmark this one (add it to your Goodreads shelf here)! Check out the interview below to hear more about Stranger Things and Erin Healy’s writing process, then read the first two chapters for FREE.

***Erin is giving away 10 autographed copies of her book, so be sure to enter the giveaway at the end of the post!***

About Stranger Things

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.”

Interview with Erin Healy

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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.

I had the opportunity to ask Erin Healy a few additional writerly questions, so check out her great insight for new (and seasoned) writers.

What is your favorite part of the writing process and why?

The revision phases. It’s so much more fun to have material to work with than a blank page! Rewriting and revising is quite a bit like playtime for me, whereas getting down the first draft is more like birthing a baby. Without an epidural. For six months.

How do you develop your characters? How deeply do you go into their lives and personalities beyond the boundaries of your story, and do they ever lead the plot or do you craft them to fit to your predetermined course in the story?

With the exception of Afloat, all of my novels have begun with a thematic question. From there I pick a setting that can hold the theme meaningfully, and then I pick the people to populate it. Plot comes last. I try to ensure that the characters inform the plot first, and that plot events shape the characters second, but I’m not perfect and have probably botched that effort from time to time. I develop characters by beginning to write about them. The physical/tactile experience of writing holds my attention in a way that merely thinking about them cannot. The first hundred pages of a novel take me longer than any other part of it, because I spend so much of that effort just trying to sort out who these people are and why they behave the way they do. As I make discoveries I often have to go back and rewrite–but that’s fun! I go as deep with each character as I need to, but I do ask them to respect the boundaries of the story. I don’t ask them out to dinner, you know? My real life is already populated with real people who deserve more attention than I’m able to give them.

We as authors are often very emotionally invested in our stories. Do you ever find yourself riding a roller coaster of highs and lows when it comes to story feedback, praise from fans, and negative reviews? How do you stay on course and productive without letting all the outside stuff impact your own view of your writing?

My emotional crises come much earlier, during the writing itself–This story is genius! This story is excrement … I’m finally growing as a writer! I will just keep making the same mistakes over and over and over … I know I’m living in God’s calling! God, did I hear you wrong on this? Feedback is powerful, none more powerful than sales numbers. I crave affirmation like anyone else does. I can’t listen to all the noise any more than I can ignore all of it. But I try to resist “outside stuff” by surrounding myself with a limited circle of voices that, over time, I have grown to trust. My background as an editor has made this process less emotionally distressing. Even then, sometimes a writer has nothing to do but lean into the doubts and failures, perceived or real. “This grief of constantly  having to face down our own inadequacies is what keeps people from being writers,” Ann Patchett writes in her new memoir, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage. “Forgiveness, therefore, is key. I can’t write the book I want to write, but I can and will write the book I am capable of writing. Again and again throughout the course of my life I will forgive myself.”

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Read a Free Preview of Stranger Things

I’ve been a fan of Healy’s work since reading Kiss, and I can’t wait to dive in to this new book. If you’re like me and can’t wait for the release, whet your appetite with an early taste – read the first two chapters now!

Win a Copy of Stranger Things

Enter the giveaway below for a chance to win one of 10 autographed copies of Stranger Things!

Disclaimer: A US Shipping address is required. Books will be mailed after January 1st.

Click here to enter the giveaway:
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