The Christian Writer Who Doesn’t Write Christian Fiction
I’m a Christian. Have been for as long as I can remember. When I was really young, I believed in God. I prayed, I believed with my whole heart, and I took twigs that I tied together in the shape of crosses and hung them above the door ways of the house we lived in. I was certain God was watching out for me and when I was 14 committed my life to serving Him.
I’m also a writer. I’ve loved writing since I was a teenager when I wrote horrid, angst-filled poetry. Books were like treasures to me and I read just about anything I could get my hands on, including Christian fiction. Janet Oake was one of my favorite authors.
Now that I consider myself a “real writer” and have published two books (available here and here), I find myself in a bit of a quandary. Because I don’t write Christian fiction. Defined as “works of imaginative fiction that promote Christian teachings or exemplify a Christian way of life” by world.cat.org, I do not write Christian fiction.
The characters in my books swear, don’t usually go to church, and fight with their spouses. The younger characters don’t always listen to their parents, one of them has killed a man and spent time in prison. The whole lot of them are rather unruly and would likely be deemed “un-Christianlike.” But, they are who they are.
Due to these characters, I often find myself struggling with promoting my work. For example, there’s a craft fair on Saturday at the local church I attend. The pastor encouraged folks to come out and “share the talents God has blessed them with” by bringing in their crafts and baked goods and things to sell. Sounds nice, right? My writing is a talent that I know God has blessed me with, but I feel squeamish at the thought of selling one of my books to a church-going Christian figure who might feel offended when he or she reads one of the lines in my recently published collection of short stories.
Okay, he or she might feel offended by several of the lines in my recently published collection of short stories. A couple of those characters go through a really, really rough time and use the “F-word” a handful of times. Each.
Do I feel bad or guilty or wrong when one of my characters swears? Not really. It’s odd sort of, because I don’t typically swear (I have to be really, really, really angry). But those characters are their own beings! Really they are.
Am I going to the craft fair? No. I don’t have any copies of my books on hand and even if I did set up with an iPad for folks to sign into Amazon to purchase copies, I don’t want to go and explain how me, a Christian woman (a pastor’s wife, no less), can write about unsaved characters in the hopes that folks will read them. Nonsense? Probably, but it’s an issue I haven’t yet resolved.
I’m a Christian woman who knows what it’s like to be real. To live a real life with actual hurts and pains and struggles that sometimes results in swearing or panicking or being angry at God. I write about life. I write about the misfits, the misunderstood, and the underdogs of life. And sometimes, they swear.
Does it seem like I’m getting hung up on the verbiage of these characters? I am. I can’t help it. I’ve literally had Christian people get angry at me for using a meme with a swear word in it on social media.
Yes, you read that correctly. It was bad too. Public shaming, angry words, demanding that I remove the post from my wall even. Telling me how wrong I was and how I was a bad example to my children. They even told me that they “knew” I would “never” allow my children to say such a word. They were wrong about that. If my child was horribly distraught about something and he or she had no words but a swear word to express him or herself, I wouldn’t scold them. Oh wait—that happened two days ago! And I hugged my daughter while she cried and worried and struggled to find hope in a scary situation.
In Soaring Alone, Rachel James is in a mess as she tries to figure out who she is in life. Her husband struggles with forgiveness. Owen and Richard make their own mistakes that send everyone else into a swirl of problems.
In Sons of Steel, William just wants to give his family a better life. Lester falls for a woman who isn’t his wife. Rhoda smokes while pregnant and attempts to drink herself out of a pit of despair. Xavier makes an unlikely friend who has his own life of problems. And Jack-Jack? Well, his story is hard to tell.
If you’re looking for a Christian woman who writes Christian fiction, I’m not that person. If you’re looking for a Christian woman who writes fiction about real life struggles, stories of despair and redemption, or books about characters searching for freedom with characters who battle with one another, with their morals and values, and with God, well...look no further. I’m not Janet Oake and don’t write like Frank Peretti (who is also a Christian and whose characters aren’t exactly well-behaved), but I write about the misfits, the misunderstood, and the underdogs of life. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to relate to one of them. And then you’ll see that it’s not about the swear words, it’s about the trials behind the words.