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I’m pleased to welcome Alberta author, Eleanor Bertin, to my site today.Eleanor Bertin, author

JANICE: Eleanor, how long have you been writing and how did you come to it?

ELEANOR: My sister was the first to plant in my head the idea that I could write. In a Grade 3 school assignment, she marveled that I had used the phrase, “Mother’s voice trailed away.” What can I say? I was an avid reader with a particular giftedness in plagiarism. Fear of unoriginality still plagues me.

JANICE: Who are some of the people who most influenced your decision to write?

ELEANOR: My high school English teachers offered encouraging comments on my writing. For example, one essay was returned with a good grade and the comment, “Is this your own work?” (By that time, it truly was.) My college profs were a little more positive in their appraisals.

JANICE: That kind of early encouragement can make such a difference in our confidence. What’s your preferred genre?

ELEANOR: A quick survey of my work forces me to answer “fiction.” My first novel, Lifelines, came out last April and I am at work on two others. But I recently completed a non-fiction book, Pall of Silence, and sent it off to a contest. It’s a memoir about our late son Paul who was killed four years ago in a hit-and-run incident at the age of eighteen.Lifelines, by Eleanor Bertin

JANICE: I’m so sorry for your loss. That is traumatic. It partially answers my next question—why do you write?

ELEANOR: 1) I write to untangle my thought threads, making them coherent and cohesive. 2) I write to forthtell truth.

JANICE: How and where do you write? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

ELEANOR: I’ve evolved to the point of composing on a keyboard. Much of my first novel was written longhand as I waited at the swimming pool or shared a guest room with my special needs son while visiting my daughter in Texas. I used to find the blinking of the cursor on a blank white screen as stressful as my husband tapping his foot while I browsed in a fabric store. But I’m getting over that.

I am growing to become more of a plotter. I see the value of organizing the flow of a fictional narrative from the outset, rather than doing all the re-arranging of chapters that I did with my first. I expect it to eliminate the problem of missing information or repetition.

JANICE: I agree that it’s an evolving process. Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?

ELEANOR: I find people and their stories endlessly fascinating. Truth, indeed, is stranger than fiction! But I write fiction to protect the guilty (or innocent, as the case may be). It’s been a special satisfaction to me when readers say they like my characters.

JANICE: How do you research and how do you know you can trust your sources?

ELEANOR: I can’t get over how wonderful it is to have the biggest library in the world – the Internet—at my fingertips! In college, my recurring nightmare was having a tight deadline and the libraries all being closed. The issue of trust is a concern for everyone, not just writers. In fact, there’s a clash in my book between a scientist and a conspiracy theorist. The best I can say is, read a variety of sources, from differing points of view, and pray for discernment.

JANICE: What do you like most / least about writing?

ELEANOR: I get a surge of adrenaline when I finish a scene or chapter and just know that I’ve nailed it. The dialogue rings true, the tension or conflict is right, the word choice works, the characterization is spot on. The thing I least like is planning and researching. But it is worth it! I’m also not keen on writing from a point of view that is foreign to me. When I began Lifelines I planned for the main character to not only be a man but also to be a rabid proponent of a worldview hostile to Christianity. But it was too hard to write him that way. Not far into it, I transferred the hostility to a lesser character and made my professor more uncertain and conflicted.

JANICE: We definitely learn by doing. Let’s switch from writing to promotion. What are some of the best methods of promoting your work?

ELEANOR: I wish I knew! 🙂 So far, I’d have to say: Rhonda! Every writer should have a sister-in-law who is a church librarian, town librarian and has a broad base of acquaintances that fit my target audience. I did learn that small town libraries are very willing to host author talks, but the turnout is small. But I did get one review through that avenue.

JANICE: That’s a great suggestion. What are your favorite / most effective social media?

ELEANOR: I enjoy blogging and I’m always surprised at who might read it. I’m only learning twitter, trying to expand my use of my author page on Facebook, and I gained a wonderful friend and super-helpful critique partner, Janell Butler Wojtowicz, through LinkedIn. In fact, her book, Embracing Hope, just came out last fall.

JANICE: I believe that writers must also be readers. What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

ELEANOR: Books on my nightstand:

Handling the Truth; on the writing of memoir by Beth Kephart

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien (Giller prize)

What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an by James White

The Great Exchange by Jerry Bridges

— and just finished The Eye of the Storm by Janice Dick (loved it, by the way)

— Margaret’s Peace by Linda Hall

I prefer an actual book, but sure do love the convenience and light weight of my Kindle for travel.

JANICE: (Thanks for the plug!) Tell us a bit about yourself. What are some of your favourite things? What makes you unique?

ELEANOR: My favourite things are people! My husband Mike, our five sons and their wives, our daughter, her husband and our four (soon five!) grandchildren, my mother, my sister (who is an invaluable sounding board for my writing) and many other family and friends.

I also like pretty things, flowers, fabric, sewing, quilts, home decorating, books, Jane Austen movies, thinking deep thoughts.

JANICE: Wish we lived closer. Would be nice to watch Jane Austen and talk about our deep thoughts! (But I’d skip the quilting.) What keeps you going in your writing career?

ELEANOR: Moments of discouragement or tasks that seem insurmountable instantly dissolve when I see a new favourable review, or someone tells me they were helped, encouraged or changed in some way by something I’ve written.

JANICE: How is your faith reflected in your writing?

ELEANOR: While my faith is scrawny and limp, beset by doubts and fears, the One I trust is powerful and sure. I would have no words to offer if it weren’t for The Word, both the Person and the written scripture. But what’s important to me to convey is the intersect between a character’s day-to-day life and their relationship with the living God. Which is why, in my novel, there are no scenes taking place in a church service – the main character is an irreligious man but God is at work on him.                                                                                                        

JANICE: Beautifully said. What are some things you learned from your own writing?

ELEANOR: It’s odd that a writer would learn from her own writing, isn’t it? But that’s exactly what happened with my recently completed memoir. By the time I finished, I realized I’d found healing because it changed the way I viewed our late son. Writing about him allowed me to take a panoramic view of his life, ridding me of bitterness and shame and freeing me to enjoy who he was.

JANICE: I’m so glad it proved therapeutic for you. What is your ultimate writing goal?

ELEANOR: The Heidelberg catechism defines Providence, in part, as all things coming to us, not by chance, but from God’s fatherly hand. My goal is to embed a biblical worldview into stories of ordinary people so that readers will see that Providence in their own lives.

JANICE: Do you have any advice for a beginning writer?

ELEANOR: Start! Set goals! Finish something! Be humble about people’s critiques. Don’t be afraid to submit something for critique, and be willing to make changes. Your first piece (article, poem, book) will not be your best — you will grow! Take advantage of all the wonderful websites and blogs that offer writer advice. There’s a huge readership out there that is voracious for the written word and there’s room for an infinite variety of writers.

JANICE: Thanks again, Eleanor, for spending time with us this morning. May you receive God’s rich blessings on your writing as you reach out to your readers.

For more information about Eleanor Bertin, see her website. Her book, Lifelines, is available in Kindle and paperback formats. You can also see Eleanor on her LinkedIn page.

 

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