f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Day 3 of Free Bird – How Many Christians Should Be in a Christian Book?

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

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Day 3 of Free Bird – How Many Christians Should Be in a Christian Book?

You guys always go quiet when I talk about a book you haven’t read. I understand that. Hopefully though you’re sticking with this little series, but next week I’ll be posting four, possibly even five, days of Q&A with Greg. He’s coming from a very interesting perspective and I think you’ll really appreciate what he has to say. I did.

One thing he gets into a bit is how he came to write Free Bird.

It’s fascinating to me on a number of levels (and I’m going to mildly spoil next week’s interview) because (ignoring some content issues) the book has some extremely CBA-friendly elements to it. It is, as I said on Tuesday, a redemption story. A pretty powerful one. And much of that movement toward redemption comes through the hands of some Christian characters. We talked yesterday of “episodes”—well, many of Clay Forester’s episodes include running into outspoken Christians.

What’s interesting here is that, from Greg Garrett’s perspective at the time of writing it (and his publisher Kensington’s I’m assuming) this is anomalous. Outspoken Christians (of various flavors) in an ABA novel are an oddity. It doesn’t happen a lot. It’s unique. It’s very, well, CBA-ish.

If the world mirrored a CBA novel, um, we wouldn’t be having quite so many arguments about this country going to hell-in-a-hand basket. (We’d also have a population of 60% widows, 20% handsome heathens about to be converted, and 20% spunky virgins, but that’s another issue.) See, there’s an inordinate number of Christians in Christian fiction. Just like, I guess, there’s an inordinate number of perverted serial killers in suspense fiction and cantaloupe-breasted women with size-2 waists in romance fiction. That’s going to be the nature of the beast.

BUT!

If, again, our goal is to mimic reality exactly how many Christians should there actually be in our stories?

It drives me nuts, even now, that a group of character’s in my first novel are all Christians. I had reasons for this choice, but I’m not so happy about the decision any longer. I’m afraid it was a decision made to facilitate getting “God talk” into the book.

This “God talk” is always the toughest part of Christian fiction. My life, probably more than many of you REVOLVES around God-talk (at least in part) because of working for a Christian company. And yet there’s still not as much in my life as I often find in Christian fiction. Making those conversations seem natural is incredibly difficult.

(Which is why a meditative novel like Gilead where the character is a pastor might seem so appealing. “It’s his nature and habit to talk about God. He can’t do anything but.”)

I have no idea what my point is here. I guess it’s:

Not every character (including the pleasant mailman) need be a Christian in your book. Perhaps we shouldn’t even know one way or the other about most of them.

And those that are Christians…I’m not sure what it means if they’re solely Christian to advance the plot, or the redemptive story, or a conversion? Is this the same as God using people in our lives to challenge our faith?

If you have perspectives I’d love to hear them.