Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Faith Factor

Wow, what a week it's been on Scribble Chicks with some truly fantastic posts.

I loved Betsy's encouragement to persevere (something I truly needed to hear this week). I also thought Erynn did such a fabulous job of answering so many valuable questions in a single post. Plus, I was so excited to learn that B.J. is expecting...I'm guessing that baby is going to have some serious creative genes and a great sense of humor to boot. A heartfelt congrats, my friend.

Plus, I absolutely love how y'all are asking all kinds of wonderfully insightful questions about the writing process. Even when you've been doing it a while, it's still a learning process. In fact, I feel like I'm getting a continuing education on how it all works, and I've been a professional writer for a decade. And thanks to our ever-changing publishing world where eBooks, social networking, do-it-yourself marketing and the like are an integral part of what we're doing, too, it's not always easy to keep up. That's precisely why it's so great to learn from your peers.

So trust me, every single post here is great food for thought for me, too!

Now as we round out the week, I thought I'd tackle the questions that Savannah asked: Do you chicks consciously think about how much Bible and talk about faith you put it in your books? Do you ever hear that a non-Christian has read your book?

I'm sure every "chick" would answer this question a bit differently, but here's how I approach it. For me, the discussion of faith has to happen organically. I can't force it, and I definitely don't want to preach to my readers or have a specific faith agenda. Chances are, there will not be an altar call at the end of something I've written, unless that's what naturally seemed appropriate for the story I was telling. So when I sought out a publisher, I made sure I was teaming up with someone who "got that" about me.

My faith in Jesus means more to me than anything, and I could never trivialize it for the sake of selling books or for a story that "fit" with what a certain publisher is looking for. Instead, I love exploring the nuances of faith in the complicated world we live in and how that plays out in the lives of real-life people—like a travel writer named Sydney Alexander, a frazzled school teacher named Kristin or a fun-loving skeptic named Justin who can't come to terms with the idea that Jesus could actually love him. I've never been interested in simply preaching to the choir, and really, this is the perfect segue into the next part of your question.

Yes, many non-Christians have read my books, and I can't tell you how happy this makes me. In fact, nothing makes me more giddy than when I hear that one of my novels was actually "surprisingly good," even though the protagonist was (gasp!) a Christian.

Many of the book signings I've done haven't been in a Christian bookstore. They've been at the local Barnes & Noble or Borders (R.I.P.), and if it was my favorite kind of signing, I wasn't even sitting in the Christian fiction section. I was in the front of the store, talking to anyone and everyone who'd look my way—believers in Jesus, people who've never stepped foot in a church, teenagers who were more interested in the Reese's peanut butter cups sitting in my candy dish (and really, who can blame them?) than actually buying a book, etc.

And trust me, with a subtitle like "Confessions of a Christian Serial Dater" on my first book, everyone quickly knew where I was coming from. They may have even made assumptions that it was second rate or simply an excuse to proselytize. But once people realized that I wasn't interested in pushing my faith down their throats and saw that my book had an appealing cover (it's pink and adorable, who could resist?), they were still willing to give me a chance.

In many cases, believers and unbelievers alike have e-mailed to say they enjoyed my writing, particularly because of the relatable struggles of romantic relationships. And while I'm sure my perspective was a bit counter-cultural to some readers (What? No sex before marriage?), I think they still respected the effort because I wasn't writing with the intention to convert. I mean if that happened, I'd be thrilled of course. But I wasn't trying to shove exactly 37 Bible verses in or making sure I covered this particular theological argument.

I think if we're authentic with what we're writing, everyone—in and outside of the Christian faith—will resonate with something we're saying. And I think that's exactly what Christian fiction should be. It shouldn't be just entertainment for Christians or an opportunity to potentially preach to those who don't already have a relationship with God. Instead (and again, just my .02 here), I think we should focus on telling the best stories we possibly can—stories that are inspired by the Creator of the universe because we all have a little bit of that Creator inside of us.

So however that ends up looking to you (107 Bible verses or none at all), that's exactly how it should be.


  1. How did you get signings in B&Nand Borders? Most of the time you hear that Christian authors don't get that

  2. I got in touch with the events managers (as did my sister and publicist) at the stores and made the pitch of why I should sign books at their stores. I got a lot more yeses than nos, which was a huge surprise. I guess it's the whole "ask and you shall receive" principle in action.

  3. I sign my Love Inspired novels exclusively at Barnes & Noble here in my city, because for some reason our Lifeway store doesn't carry category romance. So it just all depends! The CRM at my Barnes & Noble loves her LI authors - she has 3-4 local ones including me! :)