Thursday, 8 November 2018

Meet our Members–Elaine Fraser

Each Thursday in 2018 we will be interviewing one of the members of Christian Writers Downunder – to find out a little bit more about them and their writing/editing goals.
Today interview's interview is with Elaine Fraser

Question 1: Tells us three things about who you are and where you come from. 

1. I’m a writer from the hills of Perth and live with my husband and golden retriever, Bear. 
2. I travel around the world with my photographer husband, Steve for about three months of every year. 
3. I used to be a high school teacher, but now write full time. 

Question 2: Tell us about your writing (or editing/illustrating etc). What do you write and why?

I’ve always written and I taught English for many years. About twelve years ago, I gave up teaching to give writing a go. Since then, I’ve published five books and am writing a few others–two non fiction inspirational books and three YA novels.
I blog on my own website, as well as Kinwomen, Australasian Christian Writers, and Christian Writers Downunder. 
My husband is a landscape photographer and writer and I work with him on his books and articles as well. 
I write because of compulsion. There’s something in me that has always loved to write. I think it first came out of reading–reading and writing go together in my head. I taught English and loved teaching others.
 I also write to work things out. What I’m thinking, what emotions I need to process and so on. I also write to express ideas and thoughts in order to hopefully inspire others.

 Question 3: Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it?

When I wrote my first non-fiction book in 2004, I never imagined that I would write fiction. I never imagined that I would write for Kinwomen. I never imagined that I would write the book I’m working on now, The Solo Traveller. I never thought I’d write a book about a girl struggling with her sexuality and faith. 
God has been leading me to write for people on the fringes of faith–people who perhaps used to go to church or may be spiritually searching. 
I’ve met all sorts of people through my travels and writing–people who live on the streets of Skid Row in LA, kids who have family members shot in the ganglands of the projects in LA, people who used to go to church and are now self-proclaimed atheists, people whose sexuality has separated them from family members for twenty-five years, people who call themselves spiritual, but don’t like religion. These are the people I have in mind when I write. 
The story is in the struggle and I grapple with issues in my writing. I question and study and wrestle with my beliefs and values.

I have to work out my own faith. If I write in such a way that depicts characters who seem to accept everything without questioning, then am I giving the reader what they need? Stories that show that faith isn’t black and white. That faith is something robust and challenging and worth working out. 

Because I don’t present black and white views on issues, the risk is that my stories may be seen as too liberal for some and too conservative for others. 

Being labelled too conservative by one end of the opinion spectrum or too liberal at the other is a risk I’m willing to take. 

Question 4: Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most?

One of the biggest challenges I face is developing routines in my writing. Because I travel so much, I tend to binge write, put my WIP down for a while and come back to it. This leads to some difficulties in continuity. 
I’ve just finished the final draft of a women’s fiction novel eight years after I first got the idea, five years after I submitted the first three chapters to my Oxford University tutor, four years since I first went to Tuscany and developed the novel further, a year on from finishing the first draft of 150 000 words, and four months after receiving feedback from an editor and an agent that I needed to rewrite parts and cut 50 000 words out of the manuscript. 
I've already published five books and this has been the most difficult one ever–a new genre, a new target audience, a parallel narrative, writing 50 000 words too many and having to cut them, lots of travelling and disjointed writing all contributed to a messy process.
I almost threw the book out because it got so difficult, but I persevered and learned so much. What helps me the most is community. I belong to a group of writerly friends who encourage and support each other–friends all over the world. 

Question 5: What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why? 

I have a few key texts that I refer to over and over. I’ve been studying two texts that have helped immensely in editing my latest manuscript. (I wish I had these books before I began this book!) 
Firstly, Story Genius How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel by Lisa Cron

Story Fix: Transform Your Novel from Broken to Brilliant by Larry Brooks helped me to figure out where to cut 50 000 words from my manuscript and tighten up the story. 

Question 6: If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer, editor or illustrator – who would they be?

I would like to honour Iola Goulton who has edited a few of my books and helped me immensely in getting my latest novel into shape. She Skyped with me, edited the manuscript twice and then took it back a third time.
Her sense of humour, knowledge, feedback, and professional approach has been invaluable in helping me not to throw my WIP out and give up. 
Iola is a RITA Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements Winner for Kara Isaac’s novel, Then There Was You, along with Halee Matthews, and I’m so proud of her. 

Question 7: What are your writing goals for 2018? How will you achieve them?

As I write this, I’ve finished the final draft of my WIP and Iola is doing the final proof. My goal is to secure an agent and publisher for the book by the end of the year. 

I am 30 000 words into a YA novel and have enough material for two non fiction books, but I think I'll be finishing those in 2019. 

Question 8: How does your faith impact and shape your writing?

The more I write, the more I go out and speak, the more I interact with people in workshops, the more I realise that unless there is divine silence and divine interaction, my words are like a ‘clanging cymbal’
The space where faith, prayers, and pen on page meet is a divine interaction, a divine dance. 
There’s so much noise in the world. There are so many of us writing and promoting ourselves on social media and we contribute to the noise. In order to promote our work, we often seem to be shouting about it to the world. But, if we hear the whisper of God, if we listen to it, if we sit in stillness and whisper to God about our work, we will find that it is not necessary to shout. 
 I’ve found over the years, that trying to follow a pattern set by others, a formula, or trying to fit into a genre’s expectations, or peer’s expectations doesn’t work. 

If I listen to the whisper of God, He leads me and encourages me to find my own voice, my unique perspective. Sometimes he even leads me to be countercultural or to question things. 
 When I whisper to God about my work, I find my writing goes to places I never dreamed of and my soul is taken into new territory. 


  1. Really enjoyed reading your post Elaine. What a beautiful life you lead. Good on you. You are very wise in following God's heart for you and giving up your teaching to teach in a different way as well as to travel the world with your husband and write what God asks you to write. Sounds wonderful. All the best with your current WIP which sounds very interesting. It's lovely how you are so focussed in your writing and tap into God's whispers which indeed it is all about. May God continue to lead you and touch the world through you. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you, Anusha! You're one of my biggest encouragers and and I appreciate you so much! xx

  2. Hi Elaine, what a brilliant sea change you've had, from teacher to writer. You and your husband make a great team. And thanks for encouraging us all, for I know what you mean about listening for the whispers in the shouting world 😉 Exciting to hear your latest work is in these latter stages. Big cheer for you and Iola!

    1. Thank you, Paula. It has been a wonderful sea change! Both my husband and I are pursuing a life we never dreamed of when we started out. Love your work too!

  3. Love your heart for those on the margins. Thanks for your post, Elaine and all the best for your latest project :)

    1. Thank you, Jeanette. I appreciate your support and encouragement!

  4. Wow Elaine, you're certainly busy. I like the way you don't tell your fiction readers what to think, but give them issues to grapple with. It makes for some interesting discussions. Good on you for persisting with the parallel narrative too. I started one five years ago, but ditched it because it became clear I actually had two separate novels, so the historical novel I'm currently finishing came from that. And I haven't come across the Story Fix book. Will have to check it out. Good luck with all of your projects.

  5. Great interview! Really good to hear where you're at in your writing journey, Elaine, and how you got there. Loved your thoughts about not creating more noise in our already overwhelming social media shouts, along with listening to the God-whispered leading for our writing. Hearing that whisper was a major theme for the recent Omega Conference. Looking forward to reading your next publication!