f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Situational Reading

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Situational Reading

Here’s a frustrating fact of life for authors: we can’t control the environment in which our novels are read. This is particularly problematic for aspiring writers. I try to read proposals here with as little bias as I can, but it’s impossible to be uninfluenced by my world, the world around me, and the vagaries of everyday life.

So, it could be that your story featuring a subplot involving mentoring a talented but troubled teen comes after reading two novels and a separate proposal with similar threads. Not your fault, but the whole thing is going to come off as a little stale.

I mention this because I find it interesting when a novel really suits where you’re at— emotionally, physically, whatever.

For instance, I read Moby Dick while traveling through New Zealand and the greatest chunk along the eastern shore of the southern island. This place is a notable feeding ground for whales and the town of Kaikoura has a whaling heritage. In fact, on one of my walks on the beach I cam across the bleaching bones of a beached whale. The ambiance and aura of the whole thing kept me riveted to the pages while on the bus or in my hostel at night. I truly loved that book.

Gilead on the other hand faced monumental family distractions. I wasn’t even sure if I’d have enough time to concentrate on the book to be able to discuss. As it turns out, one particular thread in the story mirrored lots of what I was feeling and gave the attention and space needed to follow the book through.

My next reading, however, away from those circumstances is almost guaranteed to be completely different.

People often talk about the Bible really reaching them during particular times, but I’m interested if you’ve had a novel that really fit into whatever (good/bad/other) was going on in your life at a particular moment?