Welcome to our very first Catholic Creative Spotlight post! This is the first in a series of interviews that will be conducted with Catholics who work in or make contributions to their respective creative fields. Today we are very, very fortunate to have a wonderful guest, Erin Beaty.
Erin Beaty was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, which means she can’t drive a tractor, but she won’t eat veggies that come from a can. She graduated from the US Naval Academy with a degree in rocket science and somehow always ended up writing her study group’s lab reports. After serving in the fleet as a weapons officer and a leadership instructor, it still amazes her when other people want to hear the stories that come out of her head. She and her husband have five children, two cats, and a vegetable garden and live wherever the navy tells them to go.
Erin is also an accomplished young adult fantasy author, with one book, The Traitor’s Kiss published, with a second due out shortly. She has graciously taken some time to talk to us about her writing today.
So now that we’ve got introductions done let’s get to it!
CG: How did you get started writing? What attracted you to it?
EB: All my life I loved reading and making up my own private stories, but in school I was oriented toward science and math. Clear writing was a necessary skill, though, so I put effort into mastering it. After studying engineering in college and spending some time in the navy, I became a stay-at-home mom, and I started a blog so the grandparents could keep up with our lives (my husband is still in the service). I grew as a storyteller through that, but I wasn’t really trying. Once all five kids were finally in school, I had more free time than I knew what to do with and a cool new story idea. I still don’t know what possessed me to write it down, but I did, and three years later it was sitting on the shelves in Barnes & Noble!
Strange as it sounds, storytelling and plot building have a lot in common with engineering. Both are about forces, structure, cause and effect, and building a stable design. I love solving problems and making things work together smoothly, and honestly, writing a book is 90% that.
CG: What was the most challenging thing about finishing your first book?
EB: Finishing the first draft wasn’t actually hard, partly because I had no idea what I was doing. I was caught up in the whole, “This is fun and I’m actually succeeding!” Then I spent ten months going over and over it, improving it slowly and never knowing if it would be published. In seeking out the writing community, I learned most authors spend years and several books trying to get agents and then publishers, which was very discouraging; I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do that, especially with no guarantee of success! Luckily, I had something agents and publishers wanted.
But then even after signing with a publisher, the book wasn’t done. We revised the crap out of it for months, changing significant plot points and making medium-sized changes that echoed through thousands of words. It probably helped that I was still so new at writing that I had no real ego or supreme confidence in my writing ability, so I took direction pretty well, but it was hard. I got so frustrated at times that I would literally bang my head against the wall. The good thing is I learned to trust my editors in pretty much everything, and I also learned when to push back a little (but only after trying it their way first).
CG: Does your Catholic faith play a major role in the types of stories you tell?
EB: I don’t think there’s a specific faith or religious message in what I write now, but my heroes and heroines are always going to have (or learn) Catholic values, because those are my highest values. Honesty, loyalty, humility, hard work, true love and respect for others stand out to me in this series. While I definitely didn’t set out to make it obvious I was Catholic, I’ve had readers reach out to me and ask if I am. I guess it takes one to know one.
CG: What challenges did you face as a Catholic creative in a secular market? Or did it not affect you?
EB: When you write something with a romantic relationship over a series, you have to keep upping the relationship stakes, and that often leads to sex. The problem with writing in the young adult market is your characters have to at least start younger than 18, and marriage is a “grown up” concept. If your characters get married, that makes them somewhat unrelatable to a 16 year old. There’s a very fine line to walk, though writing in a Middle Ages fantasy society does make young marriage at least plausible.
Fortunately, my male character in this series has made an issue of waiting until marriage (though as anybody knows that’s an easier promise to make in the early stages of relationship and temptation), and his personality is such that he won’t bend on something like that. When I had the sex scene discussion with my editor, I was able to point to him and say, “He won’t do that and you know it.”
CG: If you could offer advice to other Catholic creatives what would you tell them?
EB: If you fill your heart and your brain with the Church and its values, that’s what will pour back out into your art. The deeper it goes in you, the more foundational it will become in your work. You won’t be able to help it, even if you’re creating something specifically non-religious. I think that’s why renaissance art is so moving: Religion and Love of God is in its very soul. (You can also see in art when a culture departs from that.)
CG: I know your second book is due out very soon, tell me about that (if you can) and do you have any other future projects in the works?
EB: My second book, The Traitor’s Ruin, is a sequel to my debut, The Traitor’s Kiss. It’s the same characters dealing with an increasingly unstable world and the repercussions of events and failures from the first book. There’s a good deal of things I dealt with in the military: fear of failure, impostor syndrome, acknowledging and accepting your weaknesses.
Right now I’m working on (revising) the third book in the trilogy, which has an awesome cover and title I can’t share yet, and it will be released in the summer of 2019. After that I have a standalone project my agent loves, so we’ll see if the publisher wants that. Beyond I have lots of ideas so I’ll just keep writing as long as publishers will buy them!
I immensely enjoyed The Traitor’s Kiss and am eagerly awaiting it’s sequel (AND THREE-quel). If you’re looking for wonderfully colorful characters and a wonderful rich world Erin’s work will definitely captivate you.
Please do support her on social media and if you’re interested definitely check out an excerpt of her book provided in the links below.
Publisher site, plus link to excerpt: http://fiercereads.com/books/the-traitors-kiss/