Wednesday, June 17, 2015

So Why Write A "Christian" Novel?

By Rachel Hauck

I started building new characters for a new story the other day and as I considered the journey on which my characters would embark, I thought, "Why do I write Christian novels?"

Christian stories get kicked around for being preachy, soft, not well written. Often its friendly fire, too. Accusation from within our ranks.

Sadly at times, those accusations are not without foundation.

Yet, I've read plenty of books in the secular market that were not well written. They were soft. Preachy.

Word on the street is 50 Shades of Grey, the top selling novel of all time, is not well written. I've not read it so I can't personally attest, but criticizing a whole publishing space, Christian publishing, for being "not well written" falls a bit short.

There are many amazing Christian novels, very well written and inspiring.

Yet I can't launch a dog into that larger fight, you know?

It's too broad. Too generic. Too ambiguous.

I have to stay in my wheelhouse. Write what's on my heart. Write WHO I am.

So that's why I write novels with my Christina faith in mind.

Because I cannot deny the hope that is within me.

I want to write stories that inspire people to seek out Jesus.

That give the readers hope. Inspiration.

I write in the romance genre and of all Christian novels, romance has taken the biggest hit.

Critics proclaim Christian romance novels create unrealistic expectations and send women off to fantasize about what they don't have.

This is from More To The Point by Russell Moore:


A lot of this genre, though, is simply a Christianization of a form not intended to enhance intimacy but to escape to an artificial illusion of it. Granted, there’s no graphic sexuality here. The hero and heroine don’t sleep together; they pray together. But that’s just the point.
How many disappointed middle-aged women in our congregations are reading these novels as a means of comparing the “strong spiritual leaders” depicted there with what by comparison must seem to be underachieving lumps lying next to them on the couch? (Newsflash: They can do that every week by comparing their husbands to the pastor!)
This is not to equate morally “romance novels” with the grave soul destruction of pornography. (Shew, glad he cleared that one up!) But it is worth asking, “Is what I’m consuming leading me toward contentment with my spouse (or future spouse) or away from it? Is it pointing me to the other in one-flesh union or to an eroticized embodiment of my own desires? Is this the mystery or a mirage?
Trust me, Mr. Moore's, you don't need a Christian romance novel to point out to some "middle age woman" that her husband is an underachieving lump on the couch.

Women can get that image from a myriad of places if that's what she's looking for.

However! In a Christian romance novel, our characters deal with their own weakness and frailty, and each one, hero and heroine, has their own journey with God.

My characters rarely if ever "pray together."

Christian novels inspire hope. To trust God's will and pleasure in each of us. I've heard from readers and not one has ever said, "I read your book and now I can't stand my husband."

In fact, here are a few examples from readers. All three of these women wrote me from other countries. Indonesia. Poland. Brazil.

After I read your novel. I promise to myself to keep love (my husband) with my way. Unconditionally. Just like Jesus did. I don't expect anything in return. He can love me with his way. I tell to my friend about this also. to encourage them to do the same thing.

I didn't think the Gospels had anything else for me. I'd read them. But after I read your novel, I changed my perspective and I sat and prayed for a long time.


(This reader was 17) I didn't know Christian romances like this existed. I can't wait to read more. I'm going to tell all of my friends. And tonight, I'm going to pray for you.


Tear. Lots of tears while reading these letter.


Do you know how long it might have taken me as a missionary to impact these women in the same way one story did?


Look, I love our missionaries! We need boots on the ground. But look at the power of story to get straight to the heart.


Christian romance inspired them to love. To be kind. To pray. To hold to their virtue. To wait for "the one" God has for them.


I pray for my books to make a difference in this age as well as the age to come. I want them to last for eternity! Not just this life.


That's why I write Christian novels. I'm selfish I guess. I want to put my hand to what will endure forever! Ecclesiastes 3:11 says God has written eternity on our hearts.


I'm not saying every Christian novelist has to write "Christian" novels. Please hear me on this. Each one of us must follow the calling on our heart.


I have many Christian author friends making a difference in the secular market!


I'm saying this is why I write Christian novels.


Those letters from international readers beat any best seller list or award. They affirmed what I do and why.


So why do you write what you write? You write the stories on your heart! All I ask is that you seek the heart of Jesus before, during and after.


Write what will endure. Write to entertain. Inspire. Draw the reader into hope.


Now go be brilliant!


***



Rachel Hauck lives in sunny central Florida with her husband and ornery pets.

A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism, she worked in the corporate software world before planting her backside in uncomfortable chair to write full time eight years ago.

She’s the author of EPCA and CBA best sellers, RITA and Christy nominated books. 

She also co-authored the critically acclaimed Songbird Novels with platinum selling country music artist Sara Evans. Their novel Softly and Tenderly, was one of Booklists 2011 Top Ten Inspirationals.

Rachel serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a mentor and book therapist at My Book Therapy, a conference speaker and worship leader.

Rachel writes from her two-story tower in an exceedingly more comfy chair. She is a huge Buckeyes football fan.

Visit her web site: www.rachelhauck.com.

5 comments:

Ane Mulligan said...

I've long believed we're literary missionaries, able to reach hearts with seeds of God's word. And by seeds, I mean without being preachy. :) Still, by virtue of being Christian, we know there we'll always take heat. Good post, Rachel!

Rachel Hauck said...

Thanks Ane!

Carrie Lynn Lewis said...

Ane,

I love the literary missionary comment. I've never thought of it that way, but that's a great analogy.

Rachel,

Great post and very thought provoking.

Part of the problem I see is that Christian fiction is held to a standard that other fiction escapes. As you pointed out, secular fiction can be poorly written and preachy as anything else, but somehow the message they preach is more acceptable, so the preachiness is more acceptable.

And every reader has the capability of either taking the wrong message from a book (any book) or improperly applying it. That's not the fault of the writer. That's the fault of a fallen human nature.

I prefer to look at Christian fiction as providing role models. I want to read about characters who model a characteristic or attitude that inspires me to be more than I am right now. I don't look at the flawed characters of the Bible for that; I look to the people like Joseph and Daniel and Jeremiah. Certainly they were human, but their desire to serve God rose so much higher that they became role models.

Give me a character like that any day.

Having said all that, if a writer is writing for and with God, it behooves him or her to be the absolute best writer he or she can be. No question.

But God also uses the ordinary to do the extraordinary. Judging the value of a book, a genre, or a category (Christian fiction) but the standards of the world is, at best, limited.

Even so, there will be naysayers. If there aren't, then the writer is doing something wrong.

The Gospel is an offense just be virtue of the fact that it exists. So we need to be careful to write what's on our hearts no matter what the potential for flack rather than trying to satisfy every reader everywhere all the time.

Thanks for a great post!

Best wishes,

Carrie

Nicole said...

Amen, Rachel. Well done.

Rachel Hauck said...

Carrie, thanks for coming by! Love your insights and comments. I agree wholeheartedly with this:

"if a writer is writing for and with God, it behooves him or her to be the absolute best writer he or she can be. No question."

That's what matters at the end of the day.
:)

Rachel