An interview with Erin Healy, Author of Afloat
We live in a world where a spiritual battle between good and evil is continually raging around us, whether we are aware of it or not. While supernatural fiction portraying the battle between light and darkness has become a popular genre in recent years, best-selling author Erin Healy hopes readers recognize a difference between her books and the others out there. “The secular paranormal genre is preoccupied with darkness. As honestly as I can, I try to be preoccupied with light.” In her latest release, Afloat (Thomas Nelson/May 7, 2013/ISBN 978-1401685522/$15.99), Healy’s characters are faced with the fight of their lives, in a desperate search for the light.
Q: How would you describe your latest book, Afloat?
Afloat is a supernatural-disaster survival story. An eclectic group of people stranded in a floating house grapple with the question of whether love can rise above self-preservation instincts.
Q: Is there a “moral to the story” in Afloat you hope readers will walk away with?
I hope they’ll have a renewed sense that for believers, death is nothing to fear; our survival is guaranteed. How we love each other, however, is entirely up to us.
Q: How did you get into writing supernatural suspense?
Ted Dekker is partly responsible for that. He invited me to write two books with him, Kiss and Burn, that contain supernatural elements. But the genre is a natural fit for me. I appreciate many stories that have supernatural elements, and I’m a person who believes the physical and spiritual parts of our lives are far less compartmentalized than we think they are.
Q: Because you write in such a unique genre, do you think it’s harder for you to come up with ideas than some other authors or does the supernatural element give you more ideas to play with?
I don’t believe I have more or fewer ideas to play with than any other writer, just different ideas, and different expectations to meet.
Q: Some readers feel really uncomfortable with the thought of reading supernatural fiction. Is there anything you would tell them to invite them over to what they would consider to be the dark side?
I respect their discomfort. There are certain genres that I’m not comfortable reading. But to those who are curious I would say that the supernatural world is real, it is biblical, it has a profound effect on our physical reality, and it is more bright than dark. I believe it’s no more terrifying than the physical world, because the same God rules over both. I write from a Christian worldview and make every effort to honor the Lord through my stories, to whatever degree they might be viewed as “supernatural” or “paranormal” or (as I think of them) “metaphorical” or just plain weird. So while I can’t speak for every supernatural story, there should be nothing to fear in mine.
Q: In your own experience, what causes a crisis to bring out the best character in some people and the worst in others?
I believe our behaviors are informed by our values. For example, in Afloat, one of my main characters values his authority and leadership, another values the lessons he’s learned from his past, another values the stability she’s able to provide for her son. None of these values is inherently bad. What makes the difference is whether a person holds his values to serve his own sense of security or others’. Extreme pressure proves the truth.
Q: What are some of the things give you a sense of security?
Love in my home, locks on my doors, and money in the bank. That doesn’t sound very spiritual, does it? I also crave approval, accomplishment, and a clear sense of purpose. Again, none of these is bad, but I do notice that my trust in them (in the form of fear that they will fail me) rises to the surface when I feel threatened. In Afloat, the disaster strips most of the characters of everything they thought would keep them safe. Learning how to trust in the only lasting security of God’s perfect love is a lifelong spiritual journey.
Q: Is it possible to love another person without sacrificing something of yourself for him or her?
This is the question at the heart of my hero’s story in Afloat. Vance has experienced sacrificial love but is reluctant to accept or to give it. I do believe it’s hard to love another person well without sacrifice. Jesus Christ, of course, is the ultimate model of what this looks like. He gave up absolutely everything of worldly value to love us. He even gave up his supernatural identity as the Son of God. For me, the definition of true love is the ability to care about another person’s needs more than I care about my own.
Q: For some people, there are there times when they feel the need for certainty that God is real. Are there times when you live comfortably with doubt?
When life is painful, doubt is like a blister that puts a barrier between the wound and the world. The protective layer—maybe God isn’t real after all—is undesirable but normal and maybe even part of our healing process. In my experience, God has the greatest opportunity to reveal himself to us in the deepest valleys of life. Doubt is never comfortable for me, but I’m learning to value seasons of doubt as a chance to know God more fully.
Q: Do you believe the Bible condemns you for your mistakes or frees you to embrace God's love?
This question names a defining struggle of my life. In the beginning, Danielle (Afloat’s leading lady) reads condemnation and judgment into the message delivered to her. She can’t hear it as a message of love until it’s almost too late. I have read the Bible both ways, only lately discovering that the Word takes on whole new meaning—giving freedom, defeating fear, increasing joy—when read through the lenses of God’s love.
Q: Most authors include something of themselves in each book. What parts of you show up in Afloat?
I’m a totally fretful parent. You’ll see me in Danielle’s and Mirah’s parenting.
Q: Given Alfoat’s survival element, one would have to ask—are you much of an adventurist? How long would you make it away from civilization?
A friend once said that anything less than three stars is roughing it—I think that pretty much describes me. I like the kind of adventures that come with hot running water and clean socks. I like seeing new places, trying new things, eating new food, meeting new people… but you won’t ever find me in a Survivor lineup.
Q: If you were set afloat, what three items would you make sure were set adrift with you?
Tom Hanks, Wilson, and a copy of Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, a great survival story that would remind me how to catch seagulls and sharks with my bare hands.
Readers can enter to win an iPad Mini from Erin Healy and Thomas Nelson. Watch for more details on her Facebook Page. Click here to view the book trailer for Afloat.
Visit Healy website at www.erinhealy.com to sign up for her newsletter and learn more about her books. She’s also on Facebook (erinhealybooks) and Twitter (@erinhealybooks).