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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Become a Fiction Writer and Thank the Lord for Your Lousy Childhood

Christine Lindsay was born in Ireland, and is proud of the fact that she was once patted on the head by Prince Philip when she was a baby. Her great grandfather, and her grandfather—yes father and son—were both riveters on the building of the Titanic. Tongue in cheek, Christine states that as a family they accept no responsibility for the sinking of that infamous ship. Stories of Christine’s ancestors who served in the British Cavalry in Colonial India inspired her multi-award-winning historical series Twilight of the British Raj, Book 1 Shadowed in Silk, Book 2 Captured by Moonlight, and newly released Veiled at Midnight, published by WhiteFire Publishing. Last year Christine also had Londonderry Dreaming released through Pelican Book Group.

You Cannot Write Unless You’ve suffered

Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about the insult to artists—that you cannot be an author unless you’ve suffered. Al Kennedy wrote a savvy piece on this for the Guardian Why I hate the myth of the suffering artist.

Kennedy says that for some, “they believe comfort and success are poison, that the Stones never did anything good after they'd got money, Van Gogh prospered because of mental distress, obscurity and ear mutilation, etc.” In essence, if the artist wasn’t hurting, they couldn't be working.
Kennedy goes on to say, I have been trying to write for at least a quarter of a century, and I can say very firmly that in my experience, suffering is largely of no (profanity removed) use to anyone, and definitely not a prerequisite for creation. If an artist has managed to take something appalling and make it into art, that's because the artist is an artist, not because something appalling is naturally art.”

I couldn’t agree more, especially when we run up against writers who feel it’s necessary to wallow in unhappiness just to produce a work of beauty.
However, as a Christian author I’d like to go a step further. The best novels I’ve read were written by people who suffered. Maybe not a lot of anguish and woe, maybe just a pinch of misery while experiencing the loneliness of looking for a loving spouse. But, not that that’s a small issue to sneeze at. As a Christian author there has to come that balance of not sticking with the pain, but redeeming it for God’s purposes.

The Best Paintings Have Shadows, A Foil for Sunshine. Art Needs That Delicate Interplay Between Dark and Light

Before I started writing I used to paint. I learned that balance of shadow and light made the difference between a mediocre piece and a work that stole your breath.

Same with literature. I occasionally like to read short humorous books, but after a while—if the stakes aren’t raised, if there’s not a chance the hero or heroine will have their hearts broken—I’m bored. Stories that keep me rapidly turning the pages are those filled with anguish.

Reach Down Deep into Your Gut and Remember the Hurt

Granted we don’t all need to know what it feels like to be attacked, or God-forbid—raped, or live through a war or a kidnapping to write about such themes, but we must tap into feelings that are similar.

I remember the day my middle son disappeared. All the neighbors were out looking for Kyle, people were praying. Two hours later, my six-year-old boy sallied home, smiling to beat the band, clutching a posy of dandelions in his grubby little hand for me. Thank God I do not know what it feels like to have my child kidnapped, but I can tap into those feelings of the “Day of the Dandelions” as it is now known in our family for all perpetuity.

It’s clear that no one on this earth is exempt from suffering. It’s not exactly a prerequisite for creativity, but suffering is a necessary ingredient for both life and art.

But let’s not forget, light is the other essential element. My fear for my little boy only made the sunshine of our reunion that much brighter.

Because What Is A Painting Without Light?

At a writers’ conference I once heard Donald Maass talk about a writer who emailed her agent about her latest book.

“It’s the best thing I ever wrote,” she gushed. “It’s so honest.”

The book was honest all right, but it was so full of angst it was a total drag to read. Why is it we authors get trapped into thinking the darker or grittier our book the greater the literary quality?

Unless there is a hint of hope on each page then I’m unwilling to remain in that literary dungeon. I want to feel emotion in each scene, but as a reader I must experience building despair, balanced by hope, leading to a climax of joy.

Tap Into Your Lousy Childhood If You Were Lucky Enough to Have One

Okay, forgive my dark humor. I wouldn’t wish a lousy childhood on anyone, but dark memories can be changed into something bright and beautiful. Mine were. It’s called healing.

These days I thank my heavenly Father for my lousy childhood. It wasn’t until I became a fiction writer that I could say this. Before that I suffered the same battles with bitterness as the next person, as the grown child of an alcoholic, and later after relinquishing my first child to adoption. Despair is a great place to start as a writer, but…

Unless You’ve Reached the Stage of Healing You Have Nothing to Offer Your Readers

I promise my readers a happy ending in all my books because I’ve seen happy endings in my own life through my faith in Christ. 

But it was my lousy childhood that started my writing career. Memories of my alcoholic father inspired my multi-award-winning historical series Twilight of the British Raj. It’s only because I received healing from that emotional pain, though, and the pain of losing my first child to adoption, that I believe I have something to offer my readers.

Through that delicate interplay of light and shadow, I try to offer my readers a rip-roaring ride on a roller-coaster of emotions, the depths of raw anguish, the grittiness of despair, the tsunamis’ of global conflict that our world inflicts upon us, as well as what I like to call Big Love Stories when the love of God conquers all.

My entire series Twilight of the British Raj shows the healing of a family first tainted by a father’s alcoholism. In book 1 Shadowed in Silk, my heroine Abby Fraser stands up to her abusive husband. In book 2 Captured by Moonlight my Indian heroine Eshana stands up to her fanatical Hindu uncle who won’t allow her to live as a Christian. And in the final book Veiled at Midnight my character Cam (who was a boy in book 1) and is now a man, faces his inner demons that he has inherited his father’s addiction to alcohol. All this set against a background of racial bias, political and religious conflict, in an intoxicatingly exotic landscape.

Yes, there are parts of my books that are gritty and heart-rending. But in triumph I write not just about the struggle from alcoholism to sobriety, about surviving through war, about standing up to bigotry, and refusing to be invisible in the face of abandonment and abuse…

I Write in Triumph About That Tingling Feeling—When God Makes Everything New.

Veiled at Midnight
The British empire draws to an end...but the turmoil has only just begun. 

The Partition of India has sent millions to the roads, instigated riots as uncontrolled as wildfire...and caught up in its wake Captain Cam Fraser, his sister Miriam, and the beautiful Indian Dassah. 
Cam has never been able to put Dassah from his mind, ever since they played together at the mission as children. But a British officer and the aide to the last viceroy cannot marry a poor Indian woman, can he? 
For a while, Dassah believes that Cam loves her. But as the impossibility of a future with him becomes clear, what choice does she have but to run? He may hold her heart but she cannot let him break it again. 
Miriam rails against the separation of the land of her birth, and as British forces prepare to leave India, she struggles. She finds purpose in teaching, in helping...but is Lieutenant Colonel Jack Sunderland her soul mate or a distraction from what God has called her to do?

8 comments:

Catherine West said...

Beautiful thoughts and great wisdom here, Christine. Thanks for sharing your heart with us! Congratulations on the third book as well! I look forward to reading it!

Elaine Stock said...

Christine, I'm thankful for your "dark humor" because when the title Become A Fiction Writer and Thank The Lord For Your Lousy Childhood landed in my inbox this morning I snickered gleefully and clicked onto the site to read it. And besides, I'm a fan of yours :)

You spoke the truth. We can use our dark past to brighten others.

Hallee Bridgeman said...

I loved the wisdom in this article. Beautifully put. Thank you for sharing.

Hallee

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Great article, Christine! I can't wait to read Veiled at Midnight.

Holly Michael said...

Very nice Christine, thanks for sharing.

Gail Kittleson said...

Christine, I love your transparency and the positive outlook you've adopted. I can resonate to portions of your story. And I hope by now, Sunday night, you're making lots of progress on your big writing project this weekend.

Gail

LoRee Peery said...

Thanks so much for this reinforcement. Bless you girl, I'm with you and for you. Also, I'm praying. Anyone who has a Christian relationship with the King should never ask, "why me?"

Christine said...

Thanks all for such encouraging comments on the article. We're all in the same boat, no one is exempt from suffering, only in whether or not we surrender it to the Lord, or not. My goodness He is amazing when we do though. Hugs to all.