Erin Marie Bernardo is an American writer of historical fiction. She has a degree in Communication Studies from the University of Minnesota, and is the author of the time-travel novel, Scent of the Past. A lover of historic places and days forgotten, Erin's novels connect the past with the present.
Erin is currently at work on her second novel, Blackbird's Bounty, set in the bayou of Louisiana – and is actively seeking a home for her children’s collection, Barnyard Tales with Heart, based on true events from on her farm.
Erin lives in Tennessee, but has roots in both Minnesota and Washington State. She is married with two young children.
Have you always been a writer?
“I suppose so. I remember writing from an early age. I always kept a journal, wrote poetry, and more often than not found myself writing short stories when I was bored, or on long road trips. I can even recount a few scripted puppet shows for the neighbors. It was a means to pass the time, but ultimately I wrote because I enjoyed it. However I never intentionally set out to become an author. It never crossed my mind as an option. It just happened.”
How did you come up with the story line for your first novel, Scent of the Past?
“They say if you cannot find a book you want read on the shelf, you must write it yourself. I didn’t become an author for this reason, but my work now reflects a need for stories I couldn’t find in the bookstore.
"The story of Scent of the Past, was gifted to me. It was a bright, sunny morning in Tennessee and I was soaring. I had just spent the past 10 years of my life begging my husband to move out of the frozen fields of Minnesota and step into southern living below the Mason-Dixon line, and he had finally said yes! Within a few short months we had packed up our house, rented a UHAUL, thrown the cat in the car and made the trek down to Nashville. And now there I was, driving through gorgeous countryside headed into my new job. I was happy, content, and free. It was an exhilarating sense of accomplishment, because moving to Nashville is where I had set my dreams.
“And then it sort of hit me. The vanishing of a purpose. A halt in my lifeline; almost like running down a path and having it end. For so long moving was all I wanted to do. It topped my ‘to-do’ list, it was written down as every goal, every wish, every dream—and now, that spot was empty. And I thought, ‘what the heck am I going to do now!?’
“I didn’t have to wait too long before a voice said, 'You are going to write a book.' I know that sounds crazy, but as I kept driving I heard the title, and then the characters and then the plot. By the time I had arrived at work I had a 30-chapter outline mapped out in my head, and I started writing that night.”
What about your second book?
“I have never been lucky in anything, [aside from my supportive husband and awesome kiddos] but apparently someone has my back when it comes to book ideas! The storyline for my second book, Blackbird’s Bounty, happened in a very similar way. I was three-quarters done with Scent of the Past when I stopped writing and thought, ‘I certainly hope I am not a one hit wonder,’ and then the entire plot of my second novel unfolded. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that all my ideas manifest this way!”
What is your next novel about? Can you share?
“Blackbird’s Bounty is another historical fiction novel that crosses planes between the past and the present. It is not a time-travel book like Scent of the Past, but rather connects present day with events that happened in the mid-1800s. The story—about a ghost— is set a few years before the start of the Civil War on a prestigious sugarcane plantation in Louisiana. If you enjoyed Scent of the Past, you will undoubtedly love Blackbird’s Bounty.”
When do you get time to write?
“Ha! After midnight when my household is asleep.”
What is your writing process?
“I have had many authors tell me to write every day, even if it is for 30 minutes. Unfortunately my brain is not wired that way. I need to immerse myself in the story every time I sit down—think about my characters, reread a few chapters, research a few things—to open the creative pathway. Once I get going I like to write continuously without interruption for two to three hours.”
Who are some of your favorite authors?
“I had the pleasure once of planning an event for Jodi Picoult, and she was absolutely lovely. She is a huge influence in the world of fiction and cannot go unrecognized. I am also a huge fan of the Australian author Kate Morton.”
What books have influenced your life the most?
“Most of the books that I would consider influential I read as a child. These all made an impact on me in some shape or form, and I would consider them my foundation.”
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Watership Down by Richard Adams
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?
“My family and I live on a small hobby farm. I have chickens, goats and even a milk cow. When I am not working, or writing, or being a mom, I enjoy spending time around our property. Collecting eggs with the kids, riding 4-wheelers through the pasture or working in my [usually overgrown] vegetable garden. I am very committed to sustainable farming and an organic way of life, so if I can find time to can my own produce or source healthier food options you’ll find a happy mama in me as well.”
Erin Marie Bernardo
Photo Credit: My Honey Photography