Things I Like About Christian Fiction: Variety

Things I Like About Christian Fiction: Variety

fabric-637785__180I may have ranted about a few things I dislike about Christian fiction. Lest you think I’m a misanthrope, there is plenty I like about the genre as well. One of the big things is the variety of authors, topics, time periods, heroes and heroines available in the vast pool of books out there.

In the mood for love and a really great first kiss (in a book of course)? Read Denise Hunter.

Want something super scary because it’s Halloween? Steven James.

Gritty World War II? Tracy Groot.

Romance set in World War II? Sarah Sundin.

Luscious Regency? Julie Klassen.

Medieval mysteries? Mel Starr.

Culinary romance? Hillary Manton Lodge.

Bawl your eyes out? Karen Kingsbury.

Literature and romance? Katherine Reay.

Amish? Suzanne Woods Fisher.

Art and mystery? Sandra Orchard.

I could go on for 50 inches listing all the variations of topic and theme available for eager Christian fiction readers.

That’s the point, of course. There is so much to choose from! And when readers have choice, they also have discernment. Readers can choose what appeals to them, the authors they like, the writing style they like and even the publisher they like best.

Readers benefit from all the options, and so do the authors writing in the genre. With a few obvious exceptions—porn, obscenity, devil worship, undue gore, etc.—authors can write the books they have on their hearts. Good for them and good for readers.

Here’s my advice: read widely. Read books in subgenres you haven’t tried yet. Read authors you don’t know yet. Dip a toe in, take a small sip, nibble a new book.

And here’s my challenge: read one Christian fiction novel on a topic or by an author you haven’t tried yet. Let me know how it goes. If you’ve recently discovered someone new, let me know that too.

With all that variety out there, let’s share it with one another.

The Q&A: Lynn Austin

The Q&A: Lynn Austin

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Lynn Austin’s writing space. Love the old typewriter on the shelf.

One of the best parts of my job as a freelance writer and literary agent is meeting writers and talking to them about their books and writing lives. I’m delighted to share that information with you as an occasional feature on this blog. I offer you this discussion with esteemed novelist Lynn Austin (www.lynnaustin.org) as the first edition of The Q&A.

lynnaustin_hi_08Lynn is author of a dozen standalone novels and one nonfiction book, Pilgrimage, as well as three series: Refiner’s Fire, Chronicles of the King, The Restoration Chronicles. She has been inducted into the Christy Award Hall of Fame. Her newest book, Waves of Mercy, came out earlier this month and is set in Holland, Mich.

Q: What inspired you to write Waves of Mercy?

A: I grew up in the area of New York State that was originally owned and settled by the Dutch, and I visited Holland, Mich., for the first time when I attended Hope College. I was immediately impressed by how proud the community was of their faith and Dutch heritage. My husband grew up in Holland, so when we decided to move back here two years ago from the Chicago area, I began researching Holland’s history to see if it would make a good novel.

Q: Are the characters based on actual people?

A: The only “real” person is Reverend (Dominie) Van Raalte, who led the Dutch immigrants to America in 1846. When researching the book, I read a collection of memoirs written by the first settlers, so I combined a lot of their stories when creating my characters.

Q: What was the most challenging part of writing this book?

A: In a way, this was a fairly easy book to write because I live in the community where it takes place. I could easily walk to the site where the Hotel Ottawa once stood if I needed inspiration. Everything I needed to research Holland’s history was readily available. But there was so much information—including an entire Van Raalte Research Center at Hope College—that it was difficult to do a thorough job and not be overwhelmed. I knew I was leaving out a lot of good information but I had a story to tell, first and foremost. I hate reading novels with too much history tossed in. Keeping the history and the story in balance was challenging at times.

Q: What is your writing process like?

A: I begin a new book by reading everything I can find on the topic, going down rabbit trails, gathering information, visiting the book’s setting if possible. Pretty soon, I begin to envision characters in that setting and historical era and they start “talking” to me. Next, I develop their personalities, collecting pictures, writing “resumes” for them until I know them thoroughly. Then I start writing, making up the plot as I go along. I write every day, five days a week when possible, and aim for a goal of five pages a day.

Q: How did you start writing?

A: I was a stay-at-home mom with three kids and I loved to read, but I got tired of reading books that offered no hope. So I sat down one day when my kids were napping and decided to try to write the kind of book I loved to read. Writing turned out to be so much fun for me—creating characters, making up plots—that I’ve been doing it ever since.

Q: What have been some challenging aspects of being a writer? What are the most rewarding?

A: Being a writer involves a lot of self-discipline. I have to make the very best use of my time and energy so that I can get the job done on time, and to the very best of my ability. I takes me a year to write each book, and during that time I have very little feedback. I’m essentially working alone. That’s hard at times. And lonely. The most rewarding part is when I hear from readers, telling me how my book has influenced their lives. That makes it all worthwhile!

Q: Do you have any writing must haves?

A: I must have my daily quiet time for prayer and Bible reading—or else I don’t get anywhere at all with my writing.

Q: What is the least favorite phase of the publishing process?

A: The part I hate the most is getting the first editorial review of my finished manuscript. I just want to be done with the book (and of course I’m convinced it’s perfect) but my editor always has a few suggested changes.

Q: Do you have a favorite author?

A: I have quite a few, including Maeve Binchy, Chaim Potok, and Rosamunde Pilcher.

Q: Do you partner with other authors?

A: I have never partnered with anyone to write a book, but I would never have gotten where I am today without the faithful women from my writers’ critique group: Jane Rubietta and Cleo Lampos. They are also two of my favorite authors.

Q: What words of encouragement can you give to aspiring authors?

A: Don’t quit. Yes, it’s a hard road to publication, but it’s not impossible. If you’ve been called by God to write, then write—and trust Him for the outcome. A successful writer isn’t the person who is published—it’s the person who keeps writing.

Q: How do you recharge your batteries?

A: I go out and play! I love to ride my bike, walk in the woods, and play with my granddaughter. My husband is a professional musician so going to his concerts recharges me, too.

Q: What about your current work in progress?

A: It’s about two wealthy sisters who live in Chicago in the late 1800s. They love to travel the world and seek adventure.

Would love to see pictures of your writing space! I’m in the long process of moving into a new office, and am posting periodic pictures on Instagram of my progress. So far I’ve bought a new chair that is sitting in my bedroom for the moment. Lynn Austin’s writing space is pictured above; send along your pictures and we’ll all compare notes.

 

 

Lots of Us Are Annoyed with Christian Fiction—Part 3

Lots of Us Are Annoyed with Christian Fiction—Part 3

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In the last two entries posted here, I might have offered an opinion or two on what annoys me about Christian fiction (“I’m fine” and endless zings). Turns out a few other people are annoyed as well. Their comments here and on Facebook were interesting, funny, and pretty much spot on.

This is the last in the three-part series on the topic. Lest you think I hate all Christian fiction, my next couple of posts will be about what I like about the genre. There is plenty to like, and I’m naming names.

Read on for comments from readers about Christian fiction.

—I don’t like it when the author makes the good characters so good that they don’t make any wrong moves.

—The protagonist is almost always teeny tiny skinny and amazingly beautiful. Yes, there are skinny people out there but are they the only ones we can write about?

—All the zings simply get nauseating to the point I don’t want to know any more about the characters. Then reading time is done … SLAM!

—Zings, in real life, are rare and precious things! Twice a page makes them ordinary.

—I had to stop reading much Christian romance (especially shorter novels) because it annoyed me to no end that these people were always meeting, falling in love, and getting engaged in less than a week.

—It’s not only a “show, don’t tell” failure but also a lack of faith in the reader’s perception and imagination. We need not fill in all the blanks!

—As a single/never married, I would like to see a strong single not always get her man. I know that may not make for a good romance novel, but not everyone gets married. There should be a strong female character who wants to get married but who wants God’s best more!

—I hate books that publishers and writers try to pass off as having a strong female role and in the first five pages she meets a guy and the only thing we hear from her the rest of the book is how great he is. Are females only strong if they have a guy?

—I hate when a woman has great goals and dreams for her future, but none of them matter once she meets “the right one.” And really, do we believe (or even want to believe) there is only ever one right one?

—As an editor, the health of characters is something I pay attention to (food, rest, bodily functions, etc.). They don’t have to happen “on stage,” but there has to be time for them. I’ve been known to leave a note like, “btw, gangrene is setting in about now . . .”

—Why the heck does every character under stress forget to eat? Or simple forget to eat (fill in meal or meals here) when busy. Some of us eat more when stressed and we never go for a 10-mile run to relax. Can writers please find a different way to relieve stress besides running?

—Another pet peeve? How beautiful someone’s eyes are. Okay, so you want to keep it clean, but does every love interest have to have the deepest (insert eye color) we have ever seen?

—Am reading my second “Christian fiction” series and I wish they would leave all the beautiful women and handsome hunks of men out on the prairie. Of course it was the late 1800s and maybe they were all that back then.

—Sometimes the characters need to be more human and not super human.

There you have it. Editors, take note. Authors, take more notes.

FYI: Last week’s blogging was preempted by the Breathe Christian Writers Conference. I help plan this event held in Grand Rapids, Mich., and I couldn’t be prouder. We set a record for attendance; no crises occurred and attendees had lots of positive comments. Check us out at www.breatheconference.com and on Facebook and Twitter. Next year’s Breathe is Oct. 6-7, 2017, with keynote speaker Leslie Leyland Fields.