My blog usually has a pretty light-hearted atmosphere because, for the most part, I’m a light-hearted person, but I wanted to write a more serious blog post today.
It occurred to me the other day that I’ve never really talked about what sort of fiction I write, or, more importantly, why I write it. So I’m going to remedy that today and talk about what I write and give my “writing testimony”, if you will.
Here we go!
My “testimony” is very similar to that of a hundred other young (and old) authors. As a kid, I got tired of the fact that my mum had to read absolutely everything I wanted to read before I was allowed to. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just pick things up and enjoy them. Why did everything–even books meant for ten years olds–have to be so full of…awful stuff? My mum will tell you that by the age of eight or so, I’d exhausted the local library’s supply of appropriate books and I was still desperately hankering for more.
The obvious answer? Books from the Christian bookstore.
Except that they were poorly written, unengaging, fluffy, condescending…I could go on. All I did was swap the bad content of the secular library books with the bad prose and flawless characters of the Christian books.
Of course, this is only a generalisation. There were good Christian books and good secular books–The Chronicles of Narnia, The Door Within, The Little White Horse, The Magician’s Daughter and The Dragons in Our Midst were all Christian books I loved then and still love now. The Eagle of the Ninth, The BFG, The Elephant in The Garden, War Horse and heaps of others, were and still are some of my favourites in the “secular” genre. These books (and of course so many others) showed me what a good book could do–it could make me laugh, it could make me cry, it could teach me things, it could inspire me.
But for the most part, I had to choose between bad writing and bad content.
Around my twelfth birthday, I decided, though I wasn’t aware of it at the time, that I would start to write the books that had inspired me so much. I would start writing so that other people would be able to pick up a quality piece of fiction without worrying about the glorification of sin.
Of course, at the time I only wanted to have fun. 😉
But as both my writing and myself have grown up over the years, I have come to recognise what my motivations were back then and they’ve become my code to write by.
I write so that children and teenagers can enjoy a good, entertaining, inspiring story that is free from the glorification of sin. Not free from sin, but free from the glorifying of it.
Okay, so now you know why I write fiction. But why do I write specifically Christian fiction? After all, many of the books that have impacted me over my lifetime haven’t been overtly “Christian” books, though they may have been written by Christians. But some of my favourite authors are also explicitly atheist. So why do I specify myself as a Christian author?
Simply because of this. If you do a Google search for “is Christian fiction good?” or “bad Christian fiction” or “Christian fiction problems” you’ll get a plethora of lists, discussions, and rants all about how terrible the Christian fiction genre is.
And I agree with them. Most (but not all, please remember. There are some absolute gems in Christian fiction, like *cough* Nadine Brandes! Nadine is awesome and so are her books) Christian books are shallow, flimsy and all the things I mentioned earlier. The aim of this post isn’t to bash Christian fiction, so I’ll move on now.
But I found, in my perusal of all these Google searches (and then some!) that many, many people were literally advocating for the death of Christian fiction, or at least that it be relabelled as “Clean” or “values” fiction.
No. No. No. NO!
I believe that Christian fiction is a hugely important genre, particularly for kids and teens. My mother felt that she could walk into a Christian bookstore and pick a book off the shelf and give it straight to me with scanning it for questionable content. And I think that is an important thing. Teens don’t need to be scared to open the YA books they brought from [insert name] Christian Store. Theoretically, they should walk away from the book having learnt more about God’s awesome and complex nature. Unfortunately, Christian fiction is only really useful if you enjoy Amish romances. But I feel strongly that parents shouldn’t have to censor their kids books. Grandparents shouldn’t wonder whether these books are “okay” to buy for their grandkids.
It’s true that Christian fiction is a struggling business (and I’m going to talk about why I believe it’s failing in an upcoming post) but that doesn’t mean it has to die. All it means is that it needs…work. A lot of diligent, hard work.
And passion. It needs people who are passionate about literature and, above all, God. It needs people who don’t necessarily want to become the next Christian bestseller. It needs a revitalisation and to be recentered in God. But just because it needs work doesn’t mean we should give up on it. That’s the easy way out and one that I am not willing to take.
Christian fiction is very important to me. I want it to survive. I want my peers and myself to be the ones who step up and do that. I want us to write fiction that doesn’t necessarily fall into the camps of either “squeaky clean” or “edgy”. I mean, my novels are hardly Amish romances, and yet I don’t include many of the things that are seen as offensive by people (including myself. I hardly appreciate opening a novel to discover seven hundred swear words).
Come on, People! For hundreds of years–thousands of years, even–God’s followers have been leading the way in basically every pursuit known to mankind. Science? Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, Blaise Pascal. Music? Bach, Mendelssohn, Handel, Charles Wesley. Sport? Eric Liddell and Billy Sunday. Literature? Jane Austen, John Bunyan, C.S. Lewis and Tolkien.
Christians today should be setting an example with their writing, instead of making do with poor quality stories that cause the secular audience to mock us. We should be showing the world the meaning of hard work and dedication to a story, rather than the other way round.
That is what I aim to do.
Do you write Christian fiction? Why or why not? What’s your perspective on modern Christian fiction? What’s your “Writing Testimony”?