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“I’m going to write my way…If it’s a lifelong mistake, it won’t be the first one that’s been made.” – James Dickey
I’m going to do a no-no here and address a comment I heard in a review of one of my books, not to refute it, but because it got me to thinking about what happens when writers (or artists) let others put them in a box because their art isn’t religious enough.
What I found interesting about this two-starred review was that it briefly mentioned a few things the reviewer didn’t like about the book, but nothing too terrible, and then it ended with the random statement “Not recommended for Church libraries.” I might ruffle some feathers by saying this, but I have to admit that I didn’t know whether to be insulted or complimented by that comment.
I am a Christian and I write fiction.
My publisher is the evangelical arm of Random House, so they have a Christian worldview. I feel confident my books fall well within my publisher’s guidelines, but it’s something I tried not to focus on when I was writing my first two novels. I tried to focus on the story. My worldview naturally came through my writing, but it was never my intention to preach. I’m glad this reviewer and a few others agree with me on that point.
While I love to hear a good sermon, I don’t like being preached to. Most people don’t like to have an idea forced on them and when I write a book, it is never my intention to do that to my reader. I love when I receive comments from readers who tell me they were touched deeply on a spiritual level. I love when they thank me for not writing about smut. But I especially love when they tell me they couldn’t put my book down. That’s what I was really going for.
I have to admit that I certainly don’t write with church libraries in mind. It’s not that I am against them carrying my books. Of course that’s not the case, but my goal is to write a good story that will bring my readers hope. If it comes across as preachy or dogmatic, then I have failed. I don’t want to put my readers, or myself, in a box when I write. I want to write for the world (a lofty goal, I know).
I wish I could say that such comments and reviews, such as the one I mentioned earlier, don’t bother me or make me stop and question myself as an author, but that would be a lie. I’m human. Negative comments from fellow Christians do make me second-guess myself. The last thing I want to do is offend, but as an author I have to pause and consider who am I really trying to please? Ultimately I have only one judge, and I look to Him for my affirmation, as well as direction in my writing.
Since I am a Christian, it would be easy to let comments like “Not recommended for Church libraries” and other statements about books not being Christian enough stifle my writing. It’s sort of like having someone in your own family put you down. It’s not a nice thing, but it’s not about being nice, right? It’s about having a conversation. Each person in a family is different. Not all Christians are the same, no matter what the media would have us believe.
I don’t want to let anyone, not even my family, put me in a box. God didn’t create me in one, so why should I climb in there now?
I know I don’t normally rant about too many things on my blog, but today is different. It’s hard as a person of faith to write without feeling the obligation of other people. If it’s coming from God that’s one thing, but in this case, I don’t think it is.
And by the way, if you can’t find my books in your church library, don’t worry. There are other places you can get them. And you never know, your librarian might want to order them. And they really aren’t even all that edgy! And they have lots of flowers in them. And most people tell me they are clean!
What do you all think? Feel free to agree or disagree with me or each other.