Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Happy Joy Joy

Happy Thanksgiving! Merry Christmas!

Sorry, but I'm not a "happy holidays" kind of person, and not because I'm insensitve or offensive. This time of year is so fantastic, celebrating all we have to be thankful for, then capping it off with celebrating the birth of Christ (for which I'm most thankful), that I'm unwilling to dilute my excitement with any more bland greeting.

I wish each of us felt we had cultural permission to be excited about what we LOVE. But really, do we need permission to shout love from the rooftops? I'm talking about the holidays for sake of example, but of course, my meaning is larger. If I say to you, "Merry Christmas!" and you don't celebrate Christmas, please don't hear, "Bah humbug on your person!" Instead I hope you'll hear, "I'm so happy that I want to share my happiness with you!"

When my Jewish neighbor says, "Happy Hanukkah!" while she's shoveling snow off her driveway, that fills me with delight, even though I'm not Jewish and don't celebrate Hanukkah. Joy is contagious, isn't it? How can I be offended by someone who wants to share joy?

Of course, there is an even greater gift in knowing a person well enough honor their ways and traditions. When my Jewish neighbor says to me, "Merry Christmas," I'm completely humbled by her kindness. If we could do this with every person we encounter, none of us would have to give any other presents!

There is no cause for offense against the person who wishes me a Joyous Kwanzaa or shows me a photo of her kids on Santa's lap or announces they're leaving the country for the month of December to find peace away from all the commercialism. Because here's what I'm getting at: when we give away our joy, and when it is accepted without offense, an electric connection happens between people. When we celebrate someone else's joy even if it isn't our own, we create new opportunities to share not only happiness but also pain and sorrow, which don't disappear in this season. We give other people the chance to be more fully human.

That's what I want for Christmas this year: the chance to be more fully human in the world, the chance to connect with others, free of offense on both sides, whether it be through holidays or stories or chance encounters.

HAPPY Thanksgiving. MERRY Christmas.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Writing with Ted

I get this question a lot: What's it like to write with Ted Dekker, no less than a New York Times best-selling author?

A little bit like following Tyra Banks down a runway in a bikini. Very intimidating! (Make what connections you will between Tyra and Ted.) But Ted, as you know, is as gracious as he is talented, and he’s been patient with my sometimes-bumbling early attempts at novel writing.

Each of our stories has come about in its own way. For KISS, I sent him several story concepts, and he pulled from one of those a device he liked: the idea that a woman could steal memories from other people. Then he built a story out of it that was quite different from the one I envisioned, but of course it was spectacular. BURN (releasing January 2010) emerged from two ideas we had independently of each other that had similar themes of regret and second chances. We married those concepts and got a pretty baby out of the union. So the process has reinvented itself each time.

Ted and I spend a lot of time on the phone hashing out ideas. We talk and talk and talk. I’ve lost at least three phone batteries to Ted alone. Then I write and he reads and we talk some more. Then I write and rewrite, and he writes and rewrites, and we go back and forth like this until the story is born. It’s a real synergistic endeavor, and each time I learn something new—like what not to eat if you want to look good on the runway in a bikini.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Life As a Thriller

As a thriller novelist, and as an editor, I often participate in discussions about definitions: what's a thriller? A mystery? A suspense novel? The distinctions simultaenously seem important ("How shall we categorize this book?") and inconsequential ("You either love thrillers or hate 'em"). The thriller genre has become something like the United States: a melting pot of characteristics, with a few distinguishing elements.

Generally speaking: I see thrillers as a supercategory that includes subcategory genres like mystery and suspense. Patrick Anderson's The Triumph of the Thriller does a fantastic job of documenting the rise of thriller novels (specifically crime novels) in popular culture all the way from Edgar Allen Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle to Tom Clancy, Thomas Harris, Karin Slaughter and others. But novelist Janet L. Smith has defined mystery and suspense most succinctly and memorably for me. Drawing upon dramatic explanations offered by Alfred Hitchcock, she suggests that a mystery seeks to answer the question what happened? while a suspense seeks to answer what's going to happen? You'll see if you read her article that I've oversimplified things. But there it is.

The reason Janet's definition caught my attention is because it has helped me consider why I've always been pulled to both mysteries and suspense novels. As an adolescent I loved the intellectual and ethical ponderings of Agatha Christie; later I loved the psychological and sometimes metaphysical adventures of Dean Koontz, which also engage on a moral level. But there is something deeper at work. Thrillers aren't only about the thrill. They're about life: trying to figure out what happened, and dreaming about (or stewing or pondering or predicting or anticipating) what's going to happen. The emotional and spiritual rides are meaningful to me.

So perhaps it shouldn't be too big of a surprise that I find myself writing thrillers now, thrillers with a supernatural and spiritual bent. Because I suspect that the answers to life's questions--what happened? what's going to happen?--don't always have answers rooted in the physical world.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Cynics or Creators?

Last night, the book club I'm a part of started talking about cynicism in books, blogs, and general attitudes. Cynicism is cool. People who are cynical often are witty, good communicators who have a way of putting things that can make us laugh or give our aggravations a sharp, clear voice. Cynics get radio shows and win popularity contests. Cynics get a lot of followers in times like these, when cultural, political, social, and emotional frustrations run higher than fevers.

Cynics demand change while simultaneously seeming to argue that change isn't really possible. I can be a cynic--but I confess, not a very cool one. Most of the time, cynicism just makes me a grouch.

It occurred to me as we talked that cynicism is what marks the difference between someone who gets laughs at a party and someone who is a true profound thinker. Cynics are anti. Contrary. Opposed to prevailing ideas. They have material to work with in the form of existing ideas that need to be torn down. The world is getting to be a really noisy place, and a lot of the cacophony is cynical demolition.

There was a time when I admired a really well written, cynical piece of writing. I've got clippings. But I'm tired now. A steady diet of cynicism is like a steady diet of glazed old-fashioned donuts. It just sets you up for a sugar crash.

What's the opposite of cynicism? Optimism? Hope? I think the antidote to cynicism is faith and invention. What are you in favor of? What do you believe in? What is within your power to create? (Human kind has the DNA of its Creator, you know.) How can you build up instead of tear down? How would our world be different if we were more interested in becoming inventors than wrecking ball crews?

Here's a teeny glimpse:

I hope to run this race of life with grace that leaves cynicism in the dust. (I've got my work cut out for me.) I hope I write stories that change lives for the better What do you hope to do? Who inspires you? Honestly, I find the things I have to say far, far less interesting than your stories. Do share.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Why do you read suspense/thrillers?

I appreciate what everyone's been saying about the paranormal discussion. So far, you've articulated what I've been sensing, especially about definitions ("paranormal" vs. "miraculous"--thanks, Caitlyn). Some words are declared guilty by association, aren't they? No matter what we mean, the words we choose matter.

Taking the concept to a different level, I'm curious to hear from those of you who like to read paranormal, supernatural, fantastic, suspenseful, thrilling, (insert your adjective of choice here) stories. Porcelainsnow talked about why she likes vampire stories. I love a good metaphor! Why do you like books in this particular category? Who are your favorite suspense/thriller authors?What makes a story memorable to you? What makes you rave about a book to your friends? I've got a few books to write and know what I love to read, but if it also lines up with what you love to read, they'll be that much better. Thanks!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What's the problem with paranormal?

Since the release of Kiss, I've encountered a handful of people--reviewers, interviewers, readers--who have said they don't like the paranormal element of the story. Some seem simply surprised by it, some more deeply offended. This information has come to me indirectly rather than face-to-face, so I can't always find out the reason for the objection. One reader did tell me personally that she thought stealing memories from another person by kissing them was demonic.

Demonic is a strong word for a device I intended to be merely symbolic. But it raises a question I'm hoping some of you might help me with: What's wrong with stories that employ paranormal devices? Some readers don't like the genre on the grounds of personal preference. I get this. There are fiction categories and authors I don't read for the same reason. But I'm more perplexed by moral objections to the exploration of paranormal possibilities. What's that all about? (I'm genuinely asking.)

Kiss is considered a "Christian book." Define that as you will. But it leads me to ask: Do people object to the paranormal because it is perceived as unChristian? The definition of paranormal is "not scientifically explainable," in which case one could argue that the Christian faith is founded on something "paranormal." Do people object because the paranormal is perceived as unbiblical? Then what can we make of the angels and demons that appear in Scripture, all of the miracles and prophecies, and Jesus' transfiguration and resurrection? Also, there's a story Jesus told that I consider paranormal, not to mention dark: It's about a rich man who goes to hell and a beggar who goes to heaven, and a long-dead Abraham telling the man in hell why he won't send any spirits of the dead to warn his family of hell's reality. That's in Luke 16.

Is it because many books, films, and TV shows that feature the paranormal tend to focus on the dark side of the unknown? Does that mean a Christian writer can't touch it? Does misuse of a device preclude it from ever being employed constructively again?

So these questions are rattling around in my head, because the stories I write are going to have paranormal elements in them. The intersection between the physical and spiritual worlds is what captures my heart and my imagination, both symbolically and literally. I can't avoid it.

But maybe understanding the objections will open some new ideas for me. So shout out or sound off. I'm ready to hear.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pick the KISS Movie Cast

When Ted and I were writing KISS, we had certain images of our characters in mind. And even though the book touches on descriptions of each of them--for example: Shauna is part Guatemalan, Wayne is an athlete, Landon is a Texas-weathered Irishman--we had some surprise while on tour last weekend, when we discovered that our visions of these people were unique. "My" Wayne Spade (who looked a lot like someone we had breakfast with, who in turn looked a little bit like Lance Armstrong), was not the man Ted had in mind. (You'll have to ask him for details.)

As it turns out, there's a terrific Web site out there where everyone can express their own visions of the characters, at least in a Hollywood context. Storycasting dot com gives readers a chance to cast movie versions of their favorite books. So if you're just certain of who should play Shauna, Miguel, Wayne, Trent, Landon, or anyone else, have fun going here to assemble your own star cast, or to cast a vote on someone else's:


Who knows? Maybe KISS will be on the big screen one of these days after all--and maybe some director will think a bit like you.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Suffering on Inauguration Day

Lately I've been doing a lot of interviews about Kiss, the novel Ted Dekker and I co-authored. Yesterday someone asked why Kiss keeps coming back to the theme of pain and the importance of remembering pain. If you've read any of my numerous online interviews, you'll have "heard" me say repeatedly that we remember pain not to wallow in it, but to commemorate our deliverance from it, whether that be physical, emotional, spiritual, or otherwise.

This morning in my car, I was listening to radio coverage of President Obama's inauguration. The announcer mentioned almost in passing that members of the King family--the children of Martin Luther King, Jr.--were being escorted to their seats. That simple observation, almost inconsequential in the context of everything else being discussed today, brought me to tears.

Maybe it doesn't take much to bring me to tears these days. But here's what I was thinking: The particular suffering that family has experienced is beyond my comprehension. (I'm a privileged white girl whose father is still wonderfully alive.) I wondered what this particular day would mean to them if they did not carry with them all the pain of their history. Would the election of Barack Obama be as sweet? Would they feel as much optimism for our country, or as much hope?

What would this day be like, if we all abandoned the pain of our pasts? I'd be interested to hear you speculate.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

How to contact me

Okay, so I'm new enough to the whole blogosphere/social-networking/virtual-connections world that I'm a little bowled over by this brave new world. In a matter of days I'll probably be wondering why it took me so long to join it; in the meantime, I've got some learning to do, and more e-mail address than I've ever managed before. So here's the best way to reach me:

For interview requests, please contact Christina Garvin at The Media Collective: christina at themcollective dot com

For matters that aren't interview or blog related, you can reach me through the contact page of my Web site: www.erinhealy.com, or e-mail me at erin at erinhealy dot com.

Thanks! It's a treat to be hearing from so many people.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

KISS Release

It's official: KISS is on store shelves ... or on Kindle airwaves ... or on Amazon's dock, ready to ship. A certain amount of this is a little surreal. After all, Ted and I finished the book more than a year ago. Our second book, BURN, is already in the hands of our publisher's most talented production team. And I'm working on my first solo venture, ILL WILL, which is due ... well, much sooner than I would like to admit. All that to say, I hope KISS is the first enjoyable read of many with my name on it.

Thanks to those of you who are Ted Dekker fans, for reading the book and posting your reviews on the blogosphere. And though you didn't exactly get a say in the matter, thanks for the warm welcome to the Dekker team. I'll try hard to live up to expectations, knowing just how high the bar is set.

Can't wait to hear what you think of KISS. Tell the truth. I can handle it. (Or maybe I'll find a way to steal away your bad memories of it, even if I can't kiss ya.)