Erin E. M. Hatton is our 2014 Free Publishing Contest for fiction, for her manuscript Legacy of Faith. We sat down with Erin to find out more about her writing journey thus far
WAP: How long have you been writing?
EH: I’ve been writing pretty much as long as I could form letters. I played around with my mom’s old electric typewriter, and then our first computer. My parents kept everything I wrote. It’s been a lifelong passion for me.
WAP: We hear you’ve been working on Legacy of Faith for quite some time. Can you tell us a bit about your journey with this project, and what inspired it?
EH: My grandfather, Herb McKillican, was the inspiration for this project. He really imparted his love of family history to me, and without his scrupulous record keeping I wouldn’t have been able to write Legacy of Faith at all. Because of all the letters and journals he saved and the stories he handed down, these people have always been very real to me. He passed away nearly 20 years ago, so this book is in a way his legacy too.
WAP: How did writing Legacy of Faith compare with your experiences working on Otherworld and your other projects?
EH: Because Legacy of Faith is based on true stories, I felt a lot of pressure to get the details right. Otherworld is pure imagination, so I hammered it out in a matter of months. My other historical fiction takes a bit longer, because I have to research the setting more carefully. But with Legacy I had to research the people themselves and exactly what they did and what they felt, so it took me a decade to finish this project in a way that satisfied me.
WAP: What are your goals as a writer?
EH: For me it’s always about getting a story out of my head. I love the process of inspiration and creation. If someone else reads it and likes it, that’s a bonus for me. I really hope that my books, both now and in the future, mean something to people and inspire them in some way. I want others to get as much enjoyment out of reading my work that I get out of creating it.
WAP: What are some of your favourite books?
EH: I love classic fantasy like J. R. R. Tolkein and C. S. Lewis. My all-time favourite book is Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I love complicated books. But I also enjoy young adult fiction.
WAP: In working with three complex storylines based on real life, how did you decide what to include and what to leave out?
EH: Obviously there were mundane details of daily life that I left out. But I was really blessed that all the details I had through journals and letters were laid out for me in a pretty compelling storyline already. That’s why I decided to interweave the stories together rather than tell them sequentially. Each character’s story seemed to follow a similar arc, and I thought it would work well to let them develop concurrently.
WAP: Which character did you relate to most?
EH: I could see a little of myself in each of them, I suppose, but probably Jennie. Although I don’t know if I could be as brave as she was.
WAP: What are the unique challenges involved in writing true stories in a fictionalized way?
EH: There’s a fair bit of reading between the lines involved, especially with stories as far removed historically as John’s. I had to guess quite a bit of what they might be feeling at certain times. But at the same time I had so many wonderful first-hand sources in their own words that gave me lots of clues as to their inner world.
WAP: Each of your characters faces challenges in their faith. How has that spoken into your own faith journey?
EH: Reading through journals and letters from their darkest times showed me that even though they were giants of faith, they had moments of doubt and weakness. William complained in his journal of being “dull of mind” at times. Jennie really did have a terrible struggle learning Chinese. They were ordinary people who sometimes failed, and it was God who did these amazing things through them because they were willing. That’s hugely inspired me.
WAP: So, Erin, tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do when you’re not writing?
EH: I’m a stay at home mom with four children who keep me pretty busy. Before that I studied music education at Redeemer University College. I’m a worship leader at Vox Alliance Church in Barrie and I help out at Redwood Park Communities, a local charity that supplies affordable housing and miscellaneous support to people in need.