Monday, February 07, 2005

Why Christian Suspense?

Some years ago a man asked me what I did for a living. I told him I write Christian fiction. "Christian fiction?" His forehead creased. "I thought Christianity was all truth!"

Well, it's a good thing my Christian suspense novels aren't "all truth." 'Cause some bodaciously bad stuff happens in 'em.

The suspense genre in the Christian market has exploded in the past five or so years. Before that time, I think folks in the industry were scared of it. "How in the world are you supposed to mix the Good News with violence and terror? Agh!" Today not only can you find plenty of Christian suspense novels, you can take your pick from all manner of subgenres. And every month it seems a new Christian suspense author comes along.

The question is--why do I choose to write suspense? Why not romance, or historicals, or contemporaries--something a little easier on the nerves? My mother wonders this too. She thinks I'm getting more warped by the minute. She's probably right. My stories do tend to be . . . intense. But the truth is, I have an amazing, fun freedom in writing Christian suspense. I get to tell all sorts of scary stories--and inject the hope of God in them. That's the best of both worlds, if you ask me.

Truth is, we do live in an evil world. But the truth doesn't end there, thanks be to God. The truth ends with the fact that God's power can help us live, even be victorious, amid this evil. Not to say bad things don't happen to good people. They do--in real life, and in my books. It is to say that followers of Christ have been given the awesome authority to go before His throne and ask for help in times of trouble--even big, bad trouble. Especially big, bad trouble.

Lest you think I sound too much like a preacher--let me set you straight. I'm not one. My #1 job as a Christian novelist is not to preach. It's to write the best rollickin' story I possibly can. If I can get people caught up in my novel, if I can make 'em forget to b r e a t h e . . ., then I will earn a certain trust from them. And once I earn that trust, readers may be more likely to hear the message that's woven in. On the other hand, they may not. I know non Christians who love my books despite the spiritual thread. That's their prerogative. At least they're coming back for more.

In this blog I want to cover all sorts of aspects of Christian suspense, both for readers and writers. I want to talk frankly about some hard issues such as boundaries within the genre, dealing with people who disagree with what I write, meeting reader expectations, and the toughest part of all--writing the books. It is never an easy task for me. I'd like to tell you stories behind the stories--why I wrote certain books, where the premise came from, how the process unfolded. I may quote some reader letters--the good and the the bad ones. (Always anonymously, of course.) And since I teach fiction writing, I may even throw in a little of that now and then--as it applies to my genre. I'll be looking for feedback from you, so don't be shy in posting your comments.Question to leave you with, on this first blogging day. Why do you read Christian suspense? Or why don't you? What kind of changes within the genre would make you read it more? (Click on "comment" below to reply.)

Tomorrow--a look at how my daily life is effected by the stories I write.

12 comments:

glimpsing gal said...

Great blog intro! I've added you to my favorites list and look forward to precious nuggets of information on forensics and faith!

Staci

Lynette Sowell said...

Enjoyed the thoughts, Brandilyn! I too look forward to discussion about suspense, whys and wherefores and hows (for those of us who write). Suspense isn't for everybody. Some people don't like reading about "the bad." But I think so long as good triumphs in the end, the message can be very powerful. I think Corrie Ten Boom had said, "There is no pit so deep where God's love is not deeper still."
~~Lynette
http://myslicesoflife.blogspot.com

Myra said...

I'll definitely bookmark your new blog, Brandilyn! I like reading Christian suspense for many of the reasons you mentioned--not the least of which is how it shows us ordinary people facing extraordinary (even deadly) circumstances through faith. Fiction gives us the vicarious experience of living in someone else's skin. And good Christian fiction of any genre inspires us to grow in our own walk with Christ--not through preaching but through identifying with flawed, lifelike characters who struggle with faith issues just as we do.

Deborah Raney said...

Great thoughts on your genre, Brandilyn. You asked why people do or don't read suspense, and as you well know, I'm a "don't!" ;) My reasons are not moral or cultural or anything else. I just get so involved in any book I'm reading that I tend to "live" the story, and I'm too big a 'fraidy-cat to want to live murder and mayhem! I do enjoy elements of mystery in the books I read, but I don't like the adrenaline rush high suspence gives. And I don't like the dreams reading scary books causes me to have. I don't like roller coasters either. :) But some of my favorite people in the world like both. So it's purely a matter of personal taste. I've loved your women's fiction titles and was sorry to hear you were putting them on hold for the time being. For the record, I DID read your Eyes of Elisha and enjoyed it. Gained 5 pounds because I was too scared to use my usual wooded walking trail for two months after I read it, but... Teehee! Anyway, my 2 cents. Deb Raney

Terry Whalin said...

Great start to your blogging journey, Brandilyn. Keep up the good work. I'll be reading. Terry The Writing Life

Dineen A. Miller said...

This is really great, Brandilyn. I'm really looking forward to hearing about your writing process and inspirations. I especially like your point about weaving in God's greatness amidst evil. How I wish I had read things like that as a teen. To read only about the evil without knowing God is bigger and stronger is a precarious position at best. So often in books and movies evil is shown as the greater force and that is definitely a lie. Thanks for sharing.

Lynn Divoky said...

Why do I read suspense? Good question. Not only do I enjoy good suspense, but it's also therapy, believe it or not! Growing up, my mother was so ultra-paranoid of "bad guys" that she locked our home up like a fortress. I couldn't even play in the front yard with my friends without the front door of our house being locked. Where's the logic in that?

My mom's paranoia rubbed off on me and I didn't like it. Not only was it unChristian, but it restricted my life. Reading suspense novels helps me to work through feelings of fear and exercises my trust in God's protection. Not that I don't use good ole' common sense, but now I trust God to take care of the things that are out of my control. And I can actually read a great suspense novel at night, alone, without hiding in the closet with a frying pan in my hand.

Deeanne Gist said...

I decided to try Christian suspense because I like mainstream suspense. I read Eyes of Elisha and very much enjoyed it. Congrats on the new blog.

Donna J. Shepherd said...

Wonderful first post! I've bookmarked you, and I'm sure, this will be one of my favorite stops. Thanks!

CHickey said...

I, too, write Christian Suspense. "Where do you get your ideas," people ask. I tell them...God gave me a vivid imagination. Ideas for a story are everywhere. Great blog, Brandylynn.

(Jim &) Brandy Brow said...

Great first post. I'm looking forward to reading more. You're now on my blogroll. --Brandy Brow, The Building Brows

Katie Hart said...

Great blog, Brandilyn! I'll be adding it to my site. I love the thrills that come with suspense, and would write it myself if I could figure out how to do it properly (will be checking back frequently for tips!).