A PERSONAL INTERVIEW WITH
Author M.F. Erler
by Suzanne Parrott
Erler is currently working on her 10th novel. But her past also offers some interesting tidbits on how these works came to life: from trekking across Ireland to traveling to China. The flavor or her experiences shows in her writing, one that is rich with flavor.
My first question is one you probably get often. What do the initials “M.F.” stand for?
My full name is Mary Frances. Most of my friends know me as Fran or Frances, and my mother liked this name the best. But I was born in Arkansas, where double names are more common. I would have liked to go by Mary Frances, but it kept getting shortened to Mary. I answer to all three.
“With Fiction I can let my imagination soar.”
How long have you been writing?
I actually started with a poem about Mexico when I was in third grade. In fourth grade, I wrote a fictional short story called “The Adventures of the Mouse on the Mayflower”. I think my mother saved the poem, but haven’t been able to find the short story.
“The idea of being able to experience the lives of people in the past or the future really grabbed hold of me.”
Do you mostly write fiction?
Depending on what stage of life I was in, I’ve written both fiction and non-fiction. Most of the non-fiction was while I worked as a newspaper reporter and columnist, and when I was writing material for the United States Forest Service.
I worked over 20 years as an elementary and middle school classroom teacher, also, so I wrote several educational articles and curriculum during that time. Fiction is my favorite venue, however, where I can let my imagination soar.
Yes, your fiction is definitely fantasy-based.
It is for the most part. I fell in love with the fantasy works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien early in life. I also enjoyed reading science fiction by Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury.
So, is that how your fascination with time travel came about?
When I was about nine or ten years old, I discovered H.G. Well’s The Time Machine” The idea of being able to experience the lives of people in the past or the future really grabbed hold of me.
I remember sitting in World History class in high school, wondering what it would be like to wake up in ancient Egypt or Babylon. The idea of time travel has never let go of me. I love to read and write about the possibilities. I guess you can say it’s my primary Modus Operandi.
You’ve mentioned how young you were when you started writing. When did you start writing sci-fi/fantasy?
I think I was about fourteen when I made my first efforts. Some of these grew into what has now become The Peaks at the Edge of the World Saga.
So is this a series?
Yes. Emulating Tolkien, I set out to write a trilogy. But it later grew into seven books. (Lewis says seven is one of the “special numbers” though. His Chronicles of Narnia is a seven-book series.) As my ideas progressed, I moved into more of a fantasy mode, especially in the last three books of the saga.
Yes, they can be read in any order, but some people prefer to read in the sequence they’re numbered. Once I reached Book Seven, Where All Worlds End, I knew it was time to shift gears a little, though.
So what direction are you taking now?
I’m writing standalone books in a grouping called Journeys Beyond the Peaks. I guess you’d call them spin-offs, since they still have some time-travel, and they feature offshoot characters drawn from my fictional Parker family, which debuted in my very first book, Finding the Light.
The first Journeys Saga book, Voices in the Past, was released in May, 2021. It’s a historical fiction, based in part on stories I’ve heard about my ancestors, especially from my father.
“I hitch-hiked alone across Ireland and back and met some fascinating people.”
You say in one of your prologues that your father was a Texan to the core. Is that why your stories have roots in that state, rather than the ones you’ve personally lived in?
Yes, that’s part of it. Many of my ancestors began in Texas when they emigrated from Europe to America. Both of my parents had Texas and Arkansas roots.
When I first invented the Parkers, I was living in Colorado and had them move there from Texas. That was a commonly mentioned connection in Colorado in the early 1970s. I’ve also done a lot of traveling and camping in Colorado, so the details of terrain were more familiar to me. I went to college in Fort Collins, met my husband there, and it is where we spent our first year and a half of married life.
I’ve actually lived in six different states so far in my life, but not Texas. But I’ve been able to travel to all but five of the United States. Plus all the Canadian provinces.
Speaking of travel, have you travelled beyond North America?
I’ve had some great opportunities to travel in Europe and Asia. Two of my favorite places I’ve been are New Zealand and Scotland.
What are some of your most unique travel experiences?
First, I’d say hitch-hiking around Europe in the early 1970s. Once I hitch-hiked across Ireland and back—alone. I met some fascinating people that way.
My second unique experience is probably taking a 30+ hour train ride in China. My husband and I did this in 2006 so we could see parts of the country that ordinary tourists don’t get to see. (His sister was living in Shanghai at this time.) It was a bit scary when we realized no one on the train or in the stations spoke any English. None of the signs were in English either.
We had a partner in our compartment, too, a Chinese businessman. He spoke no English, and us no Chinese (except hello, good-bye, and thank you). We managed to communicate with him using hand signs and drawings. It was an amazing experience, and who knows, it may end up in a book someday.
Do you have any other books in the works?
Yes, I’m actually working on two. Both are standalones again in the Journeys Saga. Unlike the Peaks Saga, which is suitable for teens, these books deal with more adult subjects.
Voices in the Past was released Spring 2022 and Lauren’s Dark Passage Spring 2023.
The Peak Saga is based in part on my own faith journeys and family experiences, and The Journeys Saga is an adult fiction. I think of it as a romance, but it doesn’t follow the typical formula of that genre. I’ve never been able to cram myself into any “typical genre” cubbyhole, anyway.
I want to thank Frances for taking the time to chat with me. I hope you enjoyed learning more about Frances and her work. And if you’d like more information about MF Erler’s work, check out the following links, and be sure to say hi! She’s love to hear from you!
M.F. Erler has been writing most of her life. In fact, some of the characters in The Peaks Saga were initially conceived in her youth. Her lifelong goal has been to bring spiritual ideas into fantasy-fiction, in the spirit of writers like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. She enjoys public speaking and sharing her faith journey. She is an approved speaker for Women’s Connections, a Stonecroft Ministry.
Follow MF Erler
RELEASE SPRING 2023
Journey Beyond the Peaks
Available Spring 2023
from our online bookstore
The Journeys Saga series
or everywhere books are sold