Monday, August 30, 2010

She Learned to Measure Success Differently

Please join me in welcoming Erin:

Erin Rainwater spent the first twenty-one years of her life in Pennsylvania and the last twenty-three in Colorado. In between she’s lived in Texas, Louisiana, Virginia and Hawaii, not to mention the year in Korea as an Army nurse. Her passions have always included nursing, the military, and history. Combining those passions led her to write historical fiction that often contains characters and plots involving medicine and the military. Erin is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and the Military Writers Society of America, who awarded her a 2009 Gold Medal in Historical Fiction. She lives in Colorado with her husband of thirty-six years. She has four children and four grandchildren.

SKC: It’s good to have you here at A Pen for Your Thoughts, Erin. We’ve had a lengthy wait, haven’t we? Tell us what you went through while waiting for this all to happen?

ER: After the usual gambit of rejections, last August I discovered a new Christian publisher, Torn Veil Books, located in Canada. They accepted my manuscript for publication, and I was on my way. I had self-published four years ago, so had never dealt with a traditional publisher, large or small. The turnaround time for publication is much shorter with small publishers like TVB, but they have less of a staff, and I had some anxious moments awaiting what was to be the final release date in June. The cover art was the biggest hang-up. But things worked out in the end, and Refining Fires was released about two weeks after schedule. It’s available in both print and eBook formats, so devourers of fiction can choose their preferred way of reading it.

SKC: How did you happen to choose your specific genre, Erin?

ER: It didn’t seem like a choice; it’s just what came naturally to me. I’ll read a book in just about any genre as long as it has a good plot and strong characters, but my passion is for historical fiction. So I never really thought of writing in any other genre. My newest novel, Refining Fires, is set in the late 1950s, and that’s considered on the cusp of historical versus contemporary. I write love stories because that is also what I enjoy reading. But they’re not formulaic romances. My two previous novels have more adventure and suspense than typical romances, without being labeled Suspense or Action/Adventure. Refining Fires goes against the pat formula in that it’s written in three parts, and only the first part is what you’d consider a Romance.

SKC: Are you discovering there is a point in your novel writing when you come to a stand still? If so, what do you do to get yourself going again? If not, what is your advice to someone who does have more than a few “stand still” moments?

ER: I’ve never personally experienced “writer’s block” where I couldn’t write anything at all. I certainly have had halting moments where I was stuck in a scene and didn’t want to move forward until I had figured out how to make it right. Many authors will say to leave it and go back to it later, but I can’t do that. I need it rectified before moving on. I can’t advise someone else to do it that way because everyone is different. The only thing I would recommend every writer do is check with your co-Author. I would just flat out ask God to give me the words. Asked Him if there was something in particular He wanted to get across and I was missing it. Sometimes it took days to work through it, which was frustrating, and I’d be so anxious to make forward progress, but eventually it would come, and I’d be better off for having undergone the process. So was my story.

SKC: What do you think is one of the most important things you have learned so far since becoming a published writer?

ER: How to measure success. Now that I’ve been “traditionally” published, I don’t feel any more “successful” than when I was “merely” self-published. The fact I paid to have my other two novels published means nothing when I consider the incredible and endearing feedback I’ve received about them. Does the reader care who paid for it to be printed? I think not. If money comes out of it, I’ll gladly take it and praise God for it. If it seems He wanted me to write for a chosen few, I’ll accept that and praise Him all the same. I know I’ve succeeded in God’s eyes, and that’s all I seek.

SDC: If you were a reader as a child, how did your reading habits affect your writing style today? And what were a few of your favorite stories as you grew up?

ER: I loved reading history even as a child. Especially American history. But I by no means limited myself to that. The Black Stallion series was high on my list of favorites. Thinking back, I believe what may have had an impact on my writing style was reading Nancy Drew books out loud to my aunt. Not that it made me want to write mysteries or Young Adult books, but I think perhaps the reading aloud helped me learn cadence and word patterns and pacing without my even being aware of it.

SDC: Good ole' Nancy Drew. I loved her writing too. During your free moments, what do you most enjoy doing?

ER: I still love being swept away by great storytelling, so reading is a favorite pastime. But especially in the summer I enjoy hiking and picnicking in the Rockies. And I love doing anything that involves my grandkids.

SDC: When do you sense the greatest pressure with writing? Do you find it is at the beginning of a new manuscript – during the rewrites – or when your book is about to come out? Or was it the waiting period at the end?

ER: I realize I’m not like most authors. I don’t write for a contract and don’t begin a new novel just because I finished the last one. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing; it’s just not my thing. Yes, I have ideas swimming in my head like every other writer, so the pressure for me comes from knowing what a daunting task will follow my decision to sit down and translate all those thoughts into a novel. That makes it a decision like any other—one I make only after prayerful consideration.

SDC: I've discovered through my interviews there are many who aren't out just seeking a contract, Erin. Some, no many, enjoy writing first for the enjoyment. Please tell us all about the book you are planning to donate to one of our readers.

ER: Refining Fires is a love story, but not your typical historical romance. I say this for a couple of reasons. It’s set in the late 1950s, which as I mentioned isn’t even considered “historical” by some publishing houses. And although the first of the three stories in this unusual 3-in-1 format is definitely a romance, the other two introduce new characters, and show how the love born in the first story has spilled over onto strangers who cross their path. The plots may seem diverse at first, but the reader’s patience will be rewarded once the connection is made in each story. In the first tale, “Refining Fire,” a former Army nurse is forced by circumstances to work for a disfigured and bitter veteran named Peter Cochran. The refining of this man is no easy task, but God is no quitter, and neither is Clare Canterbury. Her determined efforts elicit renewed life from his body while evoking a raw yearning in his soul. Next you’ll meet nine-year-old Susannah Carver, who shows more “Blind Courage” than she even believes is in her. Despite her deep-seated fear, she takes on what she thinks are insurmountable challenges in order to save her mother’s life. Lastly, a “Kept Woman” bent on self-destruction learns through an encounter with a little girl and an unlikely couple just Who has been keeping her all along. Each character undergoes a refining process in their own personal furnace of affliction. As their paths cross and their lives intertwine throughout these stories, God’s hand is evident, sometimes in the form of testing, sometimes in the form of discipline, but always providing the courage and tools each needs to persevere, achieve victory, and come out refined.

SDC: Sounds intriguing. If you could ask anything at all to one of your fans what would the first thing be that would come to your mind?

ER: In Refining Fires, Peter Cochran learns that God’s love sometimes is manifested in the form of disciplining His children to impede their progress toward calamity. Is there an instance in your life when you realized that some refining process you underwent was a show of God’s deep love for you, and how long did it take you to realize it?

SDC: Good question, Erin. THANKS SO MUCH. It’s been a pleasure having you here at A Pen for Your Thoughts. Where can our readers find you and be able to purchase your material?

ER: The pleasure truly has been mine, Shirley. I invite readers to visit me at my “virtual fireside” at

Print versions of Refining Fires can be found at Amazon (in Kindle form as well), Barnes and Noble, and other online retailers. The Amazon link is

The eBook version is available on Smashwords and Fictionwise. The Fictionwise link is  

Readers and visitors. Check out Erin's question to you above. We really look forward to your comments. Erin looks forward to sending one of you an ecopy of her new book.

Congratulations to LoReena Peery of Walton, Nebraska!


  1. This was an interesting interview shirley and Erin. I'm intrigued by the '3 in 1' concept you mentioned. I like your definition of success. For me, success as an author is less about sales and more about obedience. (although sales are nice, too!)

  2. Enjoyed the interview as always. So fun to come here. I liked the definition of success too. It was a good way to look at things.
    Include me in the drawing. That would be great.
    Janice Ian

  3. I am constantly being refined, it seems like. But I also know it's a good thing.
    Thanks for the good question and good interview. I am interest in this book too.
    Betty Fimple
    Windsor, CA

  4. Refining fire? Oh, yeah. When I finally quit butting heads and believed only the Holy Spirit can do the work of the Holy spirit; I received my first book contract. But it took years. I knew, even though it hurt, the Lord's timing is at work, not mine. And I have such a deeper sense of peace.

  5. Hi Shirley,
    Great interview with Erin. Her novel "Refining Fires" is an excellent read. I'm almost finished. I also recommend her award-winning novel "True Colors." Erin and I met in Oct. of 2009 at Military Writers Society of America conference in Orlando.

    I loved Erin's comments about how she measures success as an author. Very helpful to all of us who are plugging away with writing and selling our novels.


    Kathleen Rodgers
    author of "The Final Salute"

  6. Erin,
    There was a situation in my life that God removed me from (although at the time I didn't see it that way). After a couple of years of going through the grief process, I was able to understand that it was God's hand on me in that situation and His love for me that brought me through.

    Your book sounds intriguing and I would love to read it.


  7. Wow, it sounds like God has been busy with all of us, refining us as He knows we need it. But it's good to hear that at least in retrospect we "get it," and give God the glory due Him for His work in our lives. God bless you all for trusting in His character even when you can't see the working of His hands.
    Erin Rainwater

  8. It's hard to go through the refining process!
    Mary Mossley