I’m excited to welcome my friend, author Tina Ann Forkner to Women’s Fiction Writers. Tina and I met years ago online. I don’t remember NOT knowing Tina! (I think that’s a good thing and refuse to believe it has something to do with my memory.)
There are more similarities than differences between Tina and me — which is of course what first drew me to her books. What kept me reading were the stories. My favorite book (so far) of Tina’s is Rose House because it hit home. How apropos!
In this guest post, Tina brings us a grounded view of what it means for the writer and reader when either a little or a lot of faith is seamlessly integrated into a work of women’s fiction. It’s not a banner for any particular religion — I’m Jewish and Tina is Christian (that’d be a heck of a banner). But it is a post that just might change the way you think about writing and reading. I hope you’ll chime in below.
Many thanks to Tina for taking time out of her busy I-just-finished-another-novel schedule to be here!
by Tina Ann Forkner
When you hear the song Amazing Grace, what comes to mind? Maybe it is the scene of a funeral or the aching memory of a departed loved one. For some, it might be a church filled with people clinging to the lyrics as the rhythm moves them spiritually. And yet, there are others who respond deeply to the song simply because of its association with freedom and hope. Amazing Grace is a song that most people can relate to no matter what their belief system, which is why I chose that song for a scene in my second novel, Rose House, when I wanted to reveal a person’s Christian heritage, but didn’t want the scene to come across as being preachy to the reader.
Preachy. The very word makes me itch. I bet it has the same effect on you and it just might be the number one reason that we as authors might be tempted to steer clear of faith in our novels, but we shouldn’t. The truth is that millions of people are searching for faith, so why not speak to their desires in your writing? Just because most people don’t want to be preached to doesn’t mean that readers want to avoid the theme of faith in their fiction. Embracing faith on some level in our manuscripts can be a way to inspire hope in the reader and it doesn’t need to be agenda-driven. In fact, it shouldn’t be. Faith – or even its absence – can tell readers a ton about our characters, their motivations, and even their world. Dealing with faith is an experience most readers can relate to in some way.
For me, my own faith heritage ended up being a part of my first novel, Ruby Among Us, and is one reason why it and Rose House were acquired by Random House’s Christian imprint, Waterbrook Press. While I’ve been told by my readers that Ruby Among Us would fit into the general market, it made the most sense for me to accept the offer from a Christian publisher who could help me find the novel’s target audience. While I am not opposed to writing for a general market publisher someday, I also love the support I get in Christian publishing. I believe that in the end story always reigns supreme no matter what market your novel is published in.
Do you have a thread of faith weaving through your manuscript? If you do, then by all means don’t censor your muse. Most readers just want to read a good story. Consider your own favorite general market novels and I bet many of them deal somehow with the theme of faith and it didn’t bother you at all. Right off the top of my head I can think of a few of my favorites that incorporate faith including The Secret Life of Bees, Peace Like a River, Jewel, Certain Girls, and Plain Truth.
You might be thinking that if you incorporate faith into your manuscript, your novel will be pigeon-holed when it gets published. It is possible, depending on your goals, but I can assure you that I have never regretted being a published author and I am more than grateful to my publisher and my Christian readers for taking a chance on me. My novels have found a core audience among Christian fiction readers, but I have also enjoyed a modest following among readers of general market fiction. I don’t feel offended at all when a reader emails me to say, I didn’t even know this was from a Christian publisher.
Lots of publishers are interested in women’s fiction that incorporates faith if it is well-written, so don’t be afraid to write about it if you want to. Personally, I don’t want my novels to preach and I’m not trying to convert anyone, but because my faith is the glue that holds my messy life together, it’s naturally going to come out in the lives of characters I write about.
When it comes to writing fiction, we all deserve a little bit of that amazing grace. Faith is complex and it’s not always easy to write about, but to ignore it altogether is to ignore our readers who no doubt grapple with faith on some level in their own daily lives. If there is a thread or even just a scene or thought of faith trying to infiltrate your story, give yourself some grace, open up your manuscript, and write it.
What about you? What are your favorite books that have a thread of faith? Can you recall a favorite scene or example in a book you have read? What about in your own writing?
Tina Ann Forkner lives in Wyoming where inclement weather affords her ample time to write women’s fiction and go about her duties as the President of her community’s award-winning library’s Foundation Board. When it is not snowing, she is usually gardening or spending time outdoors with her family. Tina’s latest novel, Rose House, and her debut, Ruby Among Us, are both published by Waterbrook Press, a division of Random House. You can find more info at her website www.tinaannforkner.wordpress.com
If you’d like to read my thoughts on Rose House, click here for: When A Nice Jewish Girl Reads a Contemporary Christian Novel. ~ Amy