On a the Publication of my Novel, END OF SUMMER

1 Comment

Farmhouse, Dent

Image by tricky ™ via Flickr

The feeling after a novel is first published is different from the feeling when an academic book or article is published–at least for me. There is a greater sense of accomplishment, perhaps because a novel is the product of a different kind of creativity than is involved in academic writing. I can say from experience that creative and academic writing involve two different skill sets. Now before I forget it, here is the link to the site where the novel is offered for purchase: https://www.createspace.com/3719267. It will be available on Amazon in both hard copy and e-book format in a few days. Crass advertising out of the way, I continue….

Novels are works of love, or at least they should be. Anyone who writes a novel for the sole purpose of making money will most likely write a sorry novel. Fiction writing delves deeply into the author’s heart and is a highly emotional experience. An author must bare himself emotionally to the world since fiction, though made up, by necessity is based on events, thoughts, and feelings from a person’s life, sometimes deep feelings. End of Summer is a coming-of-age novel, a fictionalized account of my childhood. I feel guilty for killing off the parents when the main character is two-years-old, but in my first novel I wanted to have fewer characters–and the death of the parents fit the plot of a young boy obsessed with death. The boy has Asperger Syndrome, but has no idea since the story is set in 1968, long before Asperger Syndrome was known in the United States. He desires things to stay the same in his life, but has to face the sickness of his grandfather and the threat of the ultimate change, death. But there are funny moments and moments of great beauty in the main character, Jeffrey’s, simple rural life. Without giving away the ending, the book ultimately affirms meaning and transcendence in the face of a world that all too often changes for the worst. It is Southern fiction with Southern Gothic elements, literary and nonpreachy though Christian in world view, and valuing rural life without falling into sentimentality. I think it is a good read–it was the distillation of my heart, not my mind, going into the depths of the reasons I eventually became a philosopher through the main character I named for my twin brother who died two hours after he was born of pulmonary hemorrhage. When I wrote the first draft, it was as if I had been transferred to another world, living it, with my surroundings in my small room at the beautiful Weymouth Center disappearing and the world of Jeffrey’s childhood surrounding me. The editing later helped refine what had already been written from the heart. If you read it, you will discover it is a novel written from the heart in more ways than one. I am thankful to God that it has finally been published.

How “Christian Fiction” Can Improve

2 Comments

Adam (2008 novel)

Image via Wikipedia

Christian fiction” is a problematic term, for it raises the danger of literature becoming preachy rather than being good art. Good fiction does not tell; it shows. Didactic fiction is usually poorly written, as the overrated Uncle Tom’s Cabin reveals. There are writers in the Christian fiction genre who write very well–Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker immediately come to mind. They get their message across without being preachy, they have read widely in contemporary mainstream fiction, and they have worked hard on the craft of writing. When I look through fiction at a Christian bookstore, I turn to the first page, then a few random pages, to check the quality of the writing. Most of the time, it is so bad that I have to put the book down. Some books are preachy. Others have dialogue so unrealistic that it strains credulity. Dialogue tags are misused: “He said excitedly”; “She shouted angrily.” This is an elementary mistake that novice writers often make. Adjectives and adverbs are overused. H. P. Lovecraft had the skill to get away with using a plethora of adjectives; most writers do not. Modifiers should never replace images.

On the other hand, some books are so conservatively edited that they come across as stiff. Good style in a novel is not the same as good style in an academic piece, and not all authors or editors understand this. It is obvious that some Christian writers, and most likely some editors, are unfamiliar with contemporary literary fiction. They should read classic modern authors such as Hemingway as well as more contemporary authors such as Raymond Carver or Tobias Wolff. A good writer knows the basic rules of writing, but also knows when to break the rules. If Christian fiction is ever to rise to a higher literary level, writers should become skilled enough to know when to break the rules and when to abide by them.

The main temptation for the Christian writer remains didacticism–preachiness. It might be a better strategy for traditional Christians involved in writing to write “mainstream fiction” and show their world view, rather than preach it. Ted Dekker’s fiction, though more suspense than so-called “literary” fiction, has broken through the mainstream market due to its excellent quality. I have heard people who would never darken the door of a church praise Dekker’s fiction. Who knows? Perhaps Dekker’s books, by showing rather than telling, can do more to communicate the Christian message than a didactic work. Flannery O’Connor once said that the Christian message can only be communicated indirectly for modern secular people to understand it. Perhaps contemporary writers in the Christian genre can take her advice.