Monday, August 23, 2010

Erin Rainwater is a Pennsylvania native who probably should have been born in the 19th century but somehow got flash-forwarded into the 20th. There was never any question that she would be a nurse when she grew up, regardless of which century she was in. And beginning in about the seventh grade, there was no question that she’d launch that nursing career in the military.
The daughter of a WWII intelligence officer, she entered the Army after graduating from nursing school. That was during the Vietnam War era, and she was privileged to care for the bodies and spirits of soldiers and veterans, including repatriated POWs and MIAs. Her military experience has helped in writing parts of her novels. Her support of the military has been life long and is ongoing, and one of her favorite pastimes is volunteering at the USO in Denver. She participated in Operation Desert Swap, having “adopted” a soldier in Iraq to whom she sent a copy of her novel for reading and swapping with his fellow troops. Erin now lives in Colorado with her husband of 35 years, has four children and the four most adorable grandchildren on the planet.

Check out Erin’s web site at Contact information can be found there.

When did you decide to be a writer?

My only passion from childhood was to be a nurse. The urge to write only came in my early thirties.

How long did you write before you sold your first book?

Around 25 years! But keep in mind that as a wife, mother of four and a nurse, I wasn’t writing full time, or even writing to get published at first. My manuscripts sat in a drawer for a couple of years. Once I pursued publication, it took several years of rejections and rewrites before I self-published my first two historical novels. Some would say I got ahead of God’s will, but I believe the opposite. He provided the money and the peace to go along with it, and I am so glad I took that route. Then another story—which turned into three— took hold of me and I had to write again. About a year and a half later, I sold it to a traditional publisher, Torn Veil Books.

Are you a disciplined writer or do you just write when you feel like it?

When an idea comes, and grows, and it simply must come out, I write. That means that sometimes I don’t write for long periods, because I don’t have that spark inside that says I must. I believe that if I write something that hasn’t come from within, or I have no passion for, my stories won’t come across as powerful and personal as readers tell me they do. If that makes me what others label “undisciplined,” so be it.

What kind of activities to you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?

What’s a deadline?

What is your favorite novel (not written by you) and what made it special?

To Kill A Mockingbird. My father was an attorney like Atticus Finch—honest, intelligent, a lover of his children. He died when I was two, so I saw in Atticus a picture of my father. The story is so powerful, funny and heartwarming. I’ve been in love with Gregory Peck ever since.

How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer?

For me reading books, whether well written or poorly so, is the best learning tool, far better than reading How-To books. It’s important to learn the craft and tools of the trade, things like dialogue, pacing, plot, characterization, etc., and self-help books certainly have value. But I learn and absorb those concepts better from reading than from books that reference those things. It’s like the difference between someone telling you why a movie is good and seeing the movie for yourself.

Tell us a little about your latest release, Refining Fires.

It’s unique in that it’s in three parts, each with distinct main characters, with God masterfully weaving their lives together as only He can do. The first story, “Refining Fire,” is a love story between a disfigured veteran and a nurse who applies for a job with him but can’t provide good references. He tosses her out, but she is as plucky as he is angry, and her determined efforts elicit renewed life from his body while evoking a raw yearning in his soul. “Blind Courage” introduces a young girl who must act courageously in the face of overwhelming challenges if she is to save her mother’s life. The third is the story of a “Kept Woman,” of how she got to that point, and of “Who” has been keeping her all along. Paths cross and lives intertwine, showing how God’s hand is ever on us, leading and refining.

Where did you get your inspiration for Refining Fires?

“Refining Fire,” had been in me for many years in one form or another, then I saw the Mel Gibson movie, The Man Without a Face, which added to my inspiration. “Blind Courage” was a story I originally wrote for an 8th grade English assignment. My teacher liked it so much she read it out loud to the class. I’ve never gotten it out of my head. I had no intention of writing about the “Kept Woman,” but I felt like God was asking me to answer two questions about her: What happened? and What now? I can’t explain that any further without giving away plot points, but I think readers will understand after they’ve read the book.

Which character is most like you?

Well, if I stick to the female characters, my choices are a nurse, a child, and a kept woman. I guess I’ll go with the nurse, seeing as how I’m one, too, and she and I are both Army veterans.

Who is your favorite character and why?

Leopold the butler is right up there with the best of ’em. But I’ll go with the hero, Peter Cochran. Once you get underneath his skin, and scars, he’s a truly extraordinary man. Courageous. Persevering. An overcomer. With a sense of humor held hostage. Although it takes some nudging from a good woman for him to become the man he was created to be. But I have to add that Susannah is so inspiring with her childish innocence, and is my personal hero.

Did you know how Refining Fires would turn out? Were you surprised by any of the plot twists or characters?

I didn’t even know it was going to be a novel! “Refining Fire” started as a short story, but my critique partners simply wouldn’t have it. They insisted I enhance it to novel length. I didn’t have that much story about Peter and Clare in me, not without adding a bunch of filler, which I hate. I was able to nearly doubled its length, and it truly is so much better. At that time I had no idea I was going to rewrite my 8th grade story, title it “Blind Courage” and weave the two together. I didn’t even want to write “Kept Woman,” but as I said, I felt God leading me to tell her story, which turns out to be one of the most unpredictable elements of the entire book. Blending these three apparently disparate stories of God’s refining hand in our lives took on a life of its own, and I was blessed with being the scribe who brought it all together.

What is the main thing you hope readers remember from this story?

God said through Isaiah, “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” God’s unfathomable love sometimes includes discipline, and sometimes He tests the genuineness of our faith, but the Refiner always provides the courage and tools we need to persevere and overcome.

What kinds of things have you done to market this book? Have you found anything that works particularly well?

I have my own web site, but other than my Amazon page I don’t run a blog. So I am most appreciative of your giving me space to share my characters’ stories. I send out media releases and post cards; arrange book signings; contact libraries, local book clubs and indie stores; do local radio shows and newspaper stories when the opportunity is given. One neat thing about the publisher, Torn Veil Books, is that they satisfy the needs of readers who like reading electronically as well as those who still prefer the old-fashioned way of turning pages (of which I’m one) by releasing in both print and eBook formats. That makes it more marketable as well.

Tell us what new projects you’re working on.

I’m working in collaboration with the producer who is turning a scene from my novel, True Colors, into a play for a showing this fall. As for novel writing, nothing is burning inside me right now, so I’m spending my days promoting and marketing Refining Fires.
Want more? Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Thursday for an excerpt from Refining Fires by Erin Rainwater.


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