Monday, March 24, 2008

How Much is Too Little?

The issue of how much Christian content to place in my books never quite goes away. Some readers don't fully understand why I make the choices I do. Here is a letter I received recently, followed by my reply, and ending with the sender's response. This series of correspondence is a good example of the issues we face as Christian novelists.

To: Brandilyn Collins
Subject: Kanner lake series

I have been an avid reader of your books for awhile and have really enjoyed them. I especially appreciate that fact that you had stories with a Christian storyline. With Christian characters or people finding salvation through Jesus. I just ordered your new book Amber Morn in the Kanner Lake Series from Christian Book Distributors. I did have a concern, these books have not really had much in them about Jesus, faith, Christianity, etc. I was disappointed with the Crimson Eve book because it seemed there was a total lack of the Christian storylines I have known from you in the past. Is Amber Morn the same? Did you get back to the Christian story line? I hope you did write more about Christ in this book because I may have to discontinue reading your books. Thank you. _________

To: _______________
Subject: RE: Kanner lake series

______, how kind of you to write. Thank you.

Oh, my. You have NO IDEA the vastness of opinion on how much Christianity should be in my books. I hear from folks on all sides. My readers range from Christian to non Christian.

Here's my philosophy: the Christian theme grows OUT of the suspense story that the main character is facing. If the main character starts out not being a Christian--and the story takes place in a little over 24 hours, as with Crimson Eve--that character arc is not going to be a huge turn-about face moment with Christ. Most of the time in fiction that doesn't ring true. But that character can come closer to Christ. In Carla's case, she learned a lot. She learned how her poor choices of the past warped her future, and now she wants to change that--with God's help. She wants God to show her how to [live a better life.] For you, a Christian, that may not seem like much "about Christ in the book," but for a non Christian, that's a huge message.

In the end, you must decide to read what is right for you. I'll respect whatever that opinion is. The difference is, you're reading for one person--you. I'm writing for people from one end of the scale of knowledge about God to the other. So I can't truthfully answer your question by saying I will put in more about Christ in every book. I can simply say that I will be true to the story as it should be written.

Please know I always write my books with God's help. He leads me through each day. I ask Christ to help me with the story and bless me as I write. Writing is terribly hard for me. I just slog through every day. I need His help--in a big way. :)

Blessings on you. Thanks again for writing.

~ Brandilyn

(The sender's response is to the best of my memory, as I didn't save the e-mail.)

To: Brandilyn Collins
Subject: RE: Kanner lake series

Thank you for responding and explaining how you write. I now have a better understanding of what goes into books and why.

There is far more to this issue, but it's not something I wanted to address in my response to this concerned reader for fear of sounding defensive. That's the fact that in my books, underneath the surface suspense story--which includes whatever amount of overt Christian message is appropriate--runs the symbolism/deeper meaning of the story, which is always Christ-centered. Many readers simply won't pick this up. They read the surface story with all its action/emotion and don't think beyond that. However, I've come to terms with this. I wouldn't want to place the symbolic meaning in the surface story, because I'd then have to write it too overtly--"on the nose," as we call it.

In the end, no author is going to please everyone. And we authors must respect each reader for making reading decisions based on his/her conscience.


Linda Harris said...

I've been reading your Hidden Faces series (and enjoying them). The fact that Annie Kingston becomes a Christian is HUGE! Just because the Kanner Lake series doesn't follow that path (at least for now) doesn't mean that the message is any less a part of the writing. I would become bored if some character in every book became a Christian. The books would become too predictable.

Anonymous said...

I love your books; like you said you can't please everyone. I'm sure you please most. I agree with the previous post; it would be boring if every book was the same and predictable.
Teresa from Alabama

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Thanks, Linda and Teresa, for your encouraging comments.

Nicole said...

For me, the unique ways characters can come to Christ is never "boring" unless the writing itself is boring.

Your books are never boring, and while I generally prefer the more overt and creative presentation of the gospel, I agree that the story will dictate who does what when. There's no question the Lord is with you, BC.

Good response to the letter. Write on!