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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Give Me Some Hope ~ Guest blogger Tina Ann Forkner

Tina Ann Forkner is the author of the newly released, Rose House, in which she takes readers back to La Rosaleda, the fictional town that was born in Tina’s first novel, Ruby Among Us from Waterbrook Press/Random House. Tina is also a freelance writer for the popular gospel music publication Homecoming Magazine. She stays busy serving on the Laramie County Library Foundation Board of Directors in Wyoming where she also lives with her husband and her three children. Learn more about Tina at her website.

NJ: Be sure to leave a comment for Tina and be entered in a chance to win a copy of Rose House.

Give Me Some Hope!

“In general…there’s no point in writing hopeless novels. We all know we’re going to die; what’s important is the kind of men and women we are in the face of this.” -Anne Lamott

There is a certain novel that I could not wait to read. The book received rave reviews describing it as powerful and engrossing. It became an instant bestseller and when I finally bought my own copy, I just knew I was in for a moving and uplifting reading experience.

It was the saddest book I have ever read.

I don't mean it was sad as in poor craft. The author is an amazing novelist and the book is still a bestseller more than a year later, but I found many parts of the book difficult to get through because they were so deeply sad.

I haven't always been like this when it comes to reading. There was a time when I didn't mind books with characters who never managed to redeem themselves. When I was an English Major in college, I had to read more tragic novels than I could keep track of. Back then, I didn't always like those stories and didn't always agree with every book's message, but I felt I was learning something. Titles weren't assigned to bring reading pleasure anyway. They were assigned to make students think.

I still like to read challenging books at times, but more and more I find myself wanting to be inspired. I want to be challenged and I want to read for pleasure. It's not that I want to sacrifice real meaning or to become an escapist, but I would like to read a well-written book that shows how a little bit of joy can sometimes come from pain. I have found that feeling in books like What the Bayou Saw, by Patti Lacy and The Passion of Mary-Margaret, by Lisa Samson.

I am glad the CBA is turning out such well-written books these days and I’ve noticed a few more hopeful books in the ABA than before, but not as many as I think readers would like to see. I’m grateful for the growth I have seen in the CBA in the last decade because I cannot read books that have no redemption anymore without feeling let down. I think it must be my age.

I am only in my thirties, but I'm no longer sheltered. I am now fully aware of the fact that tragedy lives outside of those novels my professors made me read. My innocence has been whittled away and as result, reading sad truths in fiction that never get resolved is just too much for me. I want to read a book that deals with tragic circumstances and still ends on a high note, like Dogwood, by Chris Fabry.

I don't need a book that will simply make me feel better, but I do want to read a book that inspires me to be better. Likewise, I want to write the same kinds of books.

I don’t mind taking my characters to difficult places, as I did in Ruby Among Us, as long as they don’t all stay there. I took them again, or they took me, to some hard places in Rose House, too, but this time I tried harder to inspire hope. Not only did I do it for my readers, but I needed a high note too.

Back when I read the bestseller I mentioned, the one that had such a sad ending, I found no high notes anywhere. As the characters gave in to the hardness of their hearts, I was forced to relive the powerlessness of some heartbreaking journeys I have been on in real life. I almost put the book down because there seemed to be no promise of a hopeful ending. I wasn’t necessarily looking for a happy ending, but a hopeful conclusion would have been nice. When I turn the last page of any novel, I want to be inspired and not simply be forced to reflect on things that are sad.

Some authors have the talent to beautifully capture the human experience. Sometimes they capture it too well for me. As a reader, I don't mind going through the pain, but only if I can find a grain of hope in the story.

I don’t mind facing truth whether I am writing a novel or just reading one, but when a book forces me to come face to face with life’s painful realities, I want the story to motivate me to act upon its truths. I want a novel to spend less time on trying to shock me and a few more pages on giving me some hope.

Rose House

A vivid story of a private grief, a secret painting, and one woman’s search for hope

Still mourning the loss of her family in a tragic accident, Lillian Diamon finds herself drawn back to the Rose House, a quiet cottage where four years earlier she had poured out her anguish among its fragrant blossoms.

She returns to the rolling hills and lush vineyards of the Sonoma Valley in search of something she can’t quite name. But then Lillian stumbles onto an unexpected discovery: displayed in the La Rosaleda Gallery is a painting that captures every detail of her most private moment of misery, from the sorrow etched across her face to the sandals on her feet.

What kind of artist would dare to intrude on such a personal scene, and how did he happen to witness Lillian’s pain? As the mystery surrounding the portrait becomes entangled with the accident that claimed the lives of her husband and children, Lillian is forced to rethink her assumptions about what really happened that day.

A captivating novel rich with detail, Rose House explores how the brushstrokes of pain can illuminate the true beauty of life.


  1. If a book is sad, I like having a very hopeful, if not happy, ending. Sad books leave me depressed, especially when the author does a great job of creating characters you care about. You want these people to get out of these emotionally or physically hurtful situations...

  2. Agreed. In Christian fiction it's absolutely critical that we convey that note of victory and flavor of eternal hope in Christ, because that's what makes Christian writing a ministry, not just entertainment.

  3. What beautiful points you make about writing something that uplifts rather than discourages and depresses. I use to read every book Oprah recommended on her show, but after so many I use to feel so deeply depressed. Now books are coined, "Oprah style" is they have a hopeless, sad interior. Thank-you for seeking the positive.

    I am glad you provide a happier ending because we are in for day we will have the happiest ending of all being reunited with the Lord. No more tears, fears and loss.

    Amen to that.

    Gayla Collins

  4. I also feel that way about Oprah's books. I do like that they open my eyes to things I didn't know. I do like being challenged. It's just that I like when a story still points to some kind of hope.

  5. Loved your article. I like being challenged too, but I like to be left with hope.

  6. Oh, one of the most depressing books I read was about a girl with a messed up family who, long story short, was witness to abuse but never abused herself. But I'll never forget the last line. It was haunting and made me depressed. It was... "And then I knew I was next." ACK! I soooo don't want to read that at the end. Not when I've dealt with creeps and thugs for years and years through my job. Anyway, that said, I found Rose House very inspiring. :) Loved it. Also loved Dogwood and The Passion of Mary Margaret. You've got great taste in fiction.

  7. Great review. I enjoyed reading. I am looking forward to reading Tina Ann's books. I have heard wonderful reviews every time I bring up something on either of her books. Way to go Tina!

  8. Love this blog title--give me some hope. I have this book. Will read as soon as possible.

    P.S. Love your hair. :-)

  9. I agree with your comments Tina. I also, enjoy a book that ends with hope, rather than a book ending that leaves me feeling hopeless. I love how in Ruby Among Us, you had the characters face some tragedies, that kept the reader turning the page to find out the resolution, thus the hope in the end. You are a wonderful writer, and I look forward to reading many, many more of your masterpieces as you send them off the press.

    God Bless.

  10. I agree it has to do with age, Tina. When I was young I was much more tolerant of darkness and bleak realities. Now I want to spend my time in more positive realms. The only exception is mysteries, where sometimes I can deal with an ambigious or bittersweet ending. I'm the same way about movies and I avoid sad/depressing ones. The good thing is that my more pollyanna-ish outlook helps me in writing romance, where a happily-ever-after is crucial.

  11. I'm the same way about movies, too, Mary. And you are right about the HEA in a romance. That's why people read them,right? Of course as a romance novelist, you are fully aware of this! :-)

    And thank you, Anonymous. I don't know how old your comment is, but I'm just now seeing this. How kind of you to share such nice comments about Ruby Among Us. Happy reading, and yes, I am still writing novels, so while I can't promise a masterpiece, I hope you'll have something new to read soon. :-)


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