First of all, I have to confess to you all that I just entered into a blog drawing specifically for mothers. The prize is dinner and two tickets to see the revival of South Pacific. If I win, I will take those tickets without any thought or care for some poor, overworked, under-appreciated mother. And to top that off, to enter you had to answer the question “What does your honey do that makes him worthy of this prize package?” Um…I'm not married. Though my answer could not be categorized as a lie. Creatively speaking.
I think this is a perfect example of one Christian lady (pronounced ledddy, with Will Farrell inflection) who often proves to the world how imperfect she is. (I think that's the first time in my life I've ever referred to myself in 3rd person. I'm about to throw up my queso.) I screw up ALL the time. And in cases like this, sometimes even deliberately. But come on! I want in on that “Some Enchanted Evening!”
I've been thinking about this post for days.
I've also been furiously writing the final chapters of my next book for womens. My food intake is disastrous. My posture? Think limp Twizzler. My butt glued to the couch, and every time I get up, I see visions of Mom Jeans. And sleep has been intermittent.
So after little rest last Thursday night, I woke up at the bright and early hour of 4:45 am to talk to the most lovely book group in Australia, hosted by Rel of Relz Reviews, a lady we adore in Christian fiction. They had chosen Just Between Me and You as their club selection. I'm not going to lie (I only do that on pro-mom blogs…), I got up extra early so my voice wouldn't sound like I ate cigarettes and did whiskey shots for breakfast. Yes, there were vocal exercises involved, which entailed me making myself sing “Party in the USA” loud enough for the neighbors to hear at this unholy hour.
And when I picked up the phone, I was ready. It was such a great conversation. We ladies talked about how we all appreciate reality in our Christian fiction. One woman, God bless her soul, said, “I was so glad to read the word ‘crap' in your book.” I just want to have that sewn on a pillow so I can display it proudly on my couch. Where my butt sits even now. One of the women said that it bothered her in Just Between You and Me that in the end Maggie sits by a Christian woman dealing with fear and teaches Maggie a much-needed life lesson. At just the right moment. And while that is so like God, she said “I didn't want her to sit by a Christian.” For her it was too neat and tidy and unrealistic. And in many ways, she's right. They talked about how sanitized Christian fiction can be, and while there's a need for it, there are a large group of people–like those ladies–who just want to see some reality. We talked about how our lives often are mirrored in fiction. How we're flawed, we say the wrong things, we get tested…and fail. We can even go through things and don't pull a single theme or lesson out of it. We pray for things for years with no answer and get mad. Not everything in life is happily resolved by just the right verse, just the right person, or just the right sermon or revelation. God moves powerfully and occasionally obviously, but there are also issues we face where we won't get an answer until we're standing before him, our earthly lives over. And I think given what we've seen from Congress (health care) and American Idol (Miley to be a mentor), we know we're going to see him sooner than later.
What about you? How much reality do you want to see in Christian fiction? When you pick up Christian fiction, do you roll your eyes or do you relate? Is it too sugared up? Too cleaned up and edited? Or is it just right? Or too PG? I recently got an email from a girl who was deeply offended by kissing in a book and the use of the word “gosh.” So while I hear a lot of complaints from friends and readers about Christian fiction, it goes both ways. If you read reviews, you'll see one book get reviews that say “that message was way too heavy-handed” to “where was God in that book?” All about the same book. We have different tastes in our reading, so where do you fall? Is Christian fiction too sweet? Too unrealistic? Does it look like your life? Or is it exactly what you need and you like to see the characters modeling the Godly behavior you strive for?
God has really been working on me the past year on keeping my mouth shut. So like in my books where the heroine screws up on a regular basis, I want you to know that I do to. And if I've been guilty in my books of making you think the Christian walk or the maturing process is easy, I'm sorry. Because it's not easy. And neither is winning tickets to see South Pacific. Or washing that man right out of your hair. Or falling in love with a French plantation owner, even though he has half-Melanesian children.
The conversation I had with the book group ladies really hit home with me, as we talked at length about how flawed we were and how we didn't always see that in our fiction. So despite the fact that humor and “real” isn't the hottest seller in Christian publishing, that's what I write. Because the faith walk is funny, embarrassing, awkward, frustrating, isolating, uniting, and messy. And rarely clean and tidy.
My conversation with the Australian ladies (and one from South Africa!) really stuck with me. And apparently with them too. Rel of Relz Reviews wrote a blog post on the same topic. You can visit it HERE. I'd love to have your feedback as well. When it comes to Christian fiction, what works? What doesn't? What are you not seeing enough of? Where do we need to be safer? Take more chances? Leave alone? What makes you lean toward secular fiction more than Christian? Can't wait to hear your answers.
Back to writing for me. See you in a few days.