As writers, we are inspired by what we read. We are inspired by those who write those stories.
I am inspired in many ways by my favourite authors, and this is the first post in a series about who inspires me and why.
First up, I am inspired by the Christian storytelling of … Ted Dekker, Frank Peretti and James L Rubart.
I get where Christian bookstores are coming from. I’ve visited enough of them to know that their product range is going to be 1/3 devotional books, 1/3 inspirational books and 1/4 worship music CDs.
That doesn’t leave a lot of room for fiction. Over the years, as I have searched for and read Christian fiction, there have been a few authors who have drawn me to their material in terms of how they tell a Christian story. It’s not just the story they tell – which is amazing in itself – it’s also how they tell it.
First, I am inspired by Ted Dekker.
I love his versatility as a writer. One of my favourite Christian novels is Skin, which is vastly different from his Red, White and Black Circle Trinity. The thing I love about the story is the fact that it’s a story in a modern setting, which draws from a values system and belief system that I hold.
I have to be honest here – it frustrates me greatly that a significant chunk of Christian fiction would appear to be romantic fiction. That’s great for those authors – and driven by a large readership, obviously – but when I find a story that has the ability to weave a Christian message throughout a modern setting such as gaming or technology like Ted did in Skin, I genuinely appreciate it.
At the ACFW Conference in Nashville last year, I was privileged to hear Ted’s keynote, where he alluded to the fact that sometimes people think he should be more Christian as an author. I, for one, am glad he’s not. I’m glad he’s a Christian AND an author.
Secondly, Frank Peretti.
One of my favourite Christian novels is The Visitation. I love the way that the supernatural and the modern are woven together, which in a way is symbolic of life. I don’t subscribe to the populist theory that God and modern society don’t mix; that church and state should always be separate. That’s not the case in my life, or others I know. What I find in this story is that God and modern society DO mix.
Prophet was great because I’ve worked with the media and it really did throw you into that world. It was real. Monster was good because it brought together legend and beliefs and raised a series of questions buried in the story, confronting and yet somehow also not.
Lastly, James L Rubart.
Jim’s stories reflect his belief system, but the thing I appreciate most is his ability to tell stories about characters who are real. They face issues and challenges. They have inconsistencies and make the wrong calls. They are struggling to make sense of the world around them. And they’re people of faith.
In The Five Times I Met Myself, protagonist Brock is a man who walked away from faith some years ago. When you get into the story, you find that he’s made that decision based on life closing in on him and the way he’s found his place in his world. His marriage isn’t great and his relationships aren’t that flash and that’s okay. I can relate to him – not because I can see myself in him (my marriage is okay for a start), but because I can see him in so many people I deal with every day. It’s real, and it reveals something about our world because of it.
And in Rooms, I loved being taken on a journey of viewing parts of the protagonist’s life through the imagery of rooms in a house. It was powerful, and told in a way that broke through the usual defences we put up when forced to examine ourselves. It was accessible AND creative.
So how do these authors inspire me? Well, it shows me that, as a Christian storyteller, you don’t have to preach. There are two parts of my writing that I enjoy: the message and how it’s delivered. These authors have inspired me to blend the two in a way that makes an effort of pointing out the things in our world without necessarily beating people over the head with it. They have inspired to be a person with faith and values, and to tell a story that reflects them.
I really enjoy reading these stories, by authors who are Christian, but aren’t aiming to preach at their reader in the style of Left Behind. And it’s my aim to replicate their ability to be as real an author – and as Christian a man – as they are.