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Creative Careers : Erin Gray Interview : Page 2 of 2

Young Adult Historical Fiction Author Erin Gray

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Erin GrayQ: Talk a little bit about your new novel — how is it different from "Moonshine Murder?" Are there any similarities in the main characters?

A: "Moonshine Murder" is intended for a Young Adult audience, whereas my new project is targeted more to adults. The content is appropriate for a younger audience, but certain writing techniques differ, such as multiple viewpoints. In both novels I explore challenging subjects in history — prohibition, the KKK, prostitution. Many of these subjects are often overlooked.

Q: When working in the historical fiction genre, is it necessary to "disguise" certain historical personages or events in the service of the story — or to avoid lawsuits?

A: To a certain degree. It is fiction, not creative non-fiction, so there is some space to work with. When writing "Moonshine Murder" for example, I did change the names of certain individuals to protect the privacy of their living relatives. "Moonshine Murder" takes place in a small community, so even in my research I recognized family names still living in the area. It is important, however, to maintain the integrity of history, and to always consider what purpose of that bit of history has in your work.

Q: When you are writing about true events, or real people from history, how do the facts inform the story?

A: That's an interesting question, because I always start my project with an outline. As I investigate throughout the writing process, that outline changes. You can't make history fit your storyline and characters; rather, it shapes the work. By realizing this, a great gift is given to the writer — that of the unexpected gem of information. If you adhere strictly to an outline, you could miss a great piece of history relevant to the story.

Q: What is your method for letting facts and research make the story more realistic, without the whole thing turning into "a history lesson?"

A: This is tricky because I love history, and there are so many interesting facts you run across. I've come up with a simple but crucial method. A sticky note plastered to my monitor — "The character must care about the information." This helps me to weed out those great tidbits that don't apply to the progression of character development and setting.

Q: Facts can be pesky creatures. Do they ever get in the way of the story you're trying to tell?

A: If you fight it they can. Its best to see the fact for what it is — the truth. Then, ask yourself, how does this affect my story? Can I use it? I have found that re-working the story with the new fact can deepen it.

Erin's OfficeQ: If you could spend a day as any historical figure, whom would you choose and why?

A: The project I'm currently working on fictionalizes the legend of a preacher's daughter who led a gang of outlaws. Different names have been attributed to her, further mystifying the legend. I would choose to be her, to better understand her motivations.

Q: What is your favorite way to feed your creative fire?

A: With a great historical fiction novel. Exploring the works of other great writers helps me to realize what my writing strengths and weaknesses are and how to improve on them both.

Q: I know that, as a young mother, you are always on the go. Yet, somehow, you find the time to write regularly. This is inspiring. How do you do it? Do you have any last words of advice for other parents who want to make more time for creative work?

A: Look at your day. Ask yourself, what MUST you do that day to fulfill your parental duties, work duties, and household duties? What can go? Carve out a little bit of time — even if it's just 30 minutes. Then reward yourself for that achievement — as small as it might seem. I mark my calendar with a "W" each day I write. When I look back at the month, it's great to see all those "W's" covering the calendar.

Visit Erin's website at

© 2008 Molly J. Anderson-Childers. All rights reserved.

Molly Anderson-Childers is a a highly creative writer and artist from Durango, Colorado. More »