1. Did God’s call on your life to write come gradually, or suddenly?
Linore: Recognizing the call came gradually…the desire to write was with me since I cracked open my very first library book. I can still remember the thrill. But I’m a little slow sometimes to get a message…even from God! In College, one day when I had four or five papers due in one week, out of the blue one day God simply said to me, “I’ll give you the paper.” I hadn’t been praying at the moment, or even worrying about all the assignments due, and it was sort of a shock that He would just speak to me like that. So, in a kind of daze I went and sat down (I was outside a public library at the time) and took out a sheet of paper and pen, and then, just like that, He gave me the points of a beautiful outline for the paper.
It was an incredible experience. I don’t write in outlines. I wish I could, and I’ve tried to numerous times since then, (if GOD uses an outline, they must be the way to go, huh?) but I’m just not good at them. They never work for me. But that one time it did. My professor was so impressed with my paper that he wanted me to enter it into a prestigious academic contest.
But like I said, I’m slow sometimes. I didn’t have the self-confidence or the time to look into the contest, as I was working full-time, and living alone, supporting myself as I went to college. If I could do it over again, I’d go back and enter the darn thing!
I’ve wondered many times why the Lord gave me that paper. Why THAT one? Why THAT time? (It was on an old English poem: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.) Mostly, I think it was to encourage me, to build my faith ( I was a very bruised reed, so to speak), AND to direct me into writing.
Now, if only He would give me my next book like that!
Golden here: Wouldn't THAT be nice?! What do you say, Laurie Alice, gradual or all at once?
Laurie Alice: Yes. I know. That’s a smart alecky answer, and it’s true. I think God’s call was always there and I just wasn’t listening to it. Then I experienced a true epiphany one day in church, while the choir was singing “Here I Am, Lord, Send me” by Daniel Schutte. I was in grad school, so had to wait a couple of years to start, but I know that day God said, “This is where I want you to go.”
Roseanna: Hmm, I can't remember . . . it's been something I knew since I was 6 years old. Back in the day I'd say I wanted to be a teacher and a writer, or an archaeologist and a writer, or a something-else and a writer, but at 11 or so I said, “Oh, who am I fooling? I just want to be a writer!”
2. Does historical fiction written in any time period interest you? Why did you choose the particular time period that you did for your book?
Laurie Alice: No, not really. I am not enamored of the Old West. I picked up a wagon train story the other day and thought it was just the same as a dozen others I’d read over the years I predicted everything that would happen, skipped to the end—and was right. Prairie, settling just doesn’t do it for me.
For my time period, I think authors like Georgette Heyer and Clare Darcy and Carola Dunn lured me into Georgian and Regency England, and Kenneth Roberts, a great historical novelist, piqued my interest in early American history, the War of 1812, etc. I started researching and was hooked.
I’ve written in the Victorian age, too, partly to meet the needs of the market. Also, though, some topics don’t work earlier like my book coming out this summer for Avalon. When the Snow Flies is about a female doctor, so the 1890s works better. The follow-up will be about a female lawyer, so the later time is necessary.
Golden: I suppose if a story is well-written, I would enjoy it no matter the time period.
3. Do you read any secular historical fiction? What authors?
Linore: I used to read a lot of secular historical fiction; Antonia Fraser comes to mind. Lately, I’ve been enjoying some early 20th century writers thanks to some Kindle books I came across. I love the early American Colonial period (not simple romances, but a good historical). Mary Johnston, Mary Rinehart; I also just finished my first Karen Kingsbury book (I’m almost embarrassed to say, but reading time has been scarce for me until recently) and so I can enjoy a good contemporary, too.
Laurie Alice: Lots. As we’ve discussed in other places, Christian fiction, for the most part, has been limited in its settings. I also didn’t start reading Christian fiction until about ten years ago. I’m not happy with the direction secular historical fiction has taken, for the most part, but a few authors still stand out as automatic reads for me—Jo Beverley and Laura Kinsail stand out.
Roseanna: I do, though generally just the freebies Harlequin sends me. I read more before I got into reviewing—now my shelves are so bursting with CBA books that I rarely ever pick up a secular one, just because of lack of time.
Golden: I think we all can relate to that. I used to read more secular than I do now, but I try to alternate. The most recent one I read was Geraldine Brooks' "Wonder Years." Really a good read.
4. What is the strangest experience you’ve had connected with your writing?
Linore: Probably what I mentioned earlier, when the Lord GAVE me an outline, point by point, just like that. I simply sat down and started writing the headings he spoke into my heart. It was far more amazing than I could grasp at the time, but even then I knew it was extraordinary. I used to be very poor at appreciating good things. I was an expert at talking myself out of them. So I really managed to underplay the miracle of that experience. But I’ve since come to recognize it, (along with so many other things the Lord has done for me!) and, on an earthly level, that was strange—but wonderful.
Laurie Alice: Lots of coincidences, like being in New Jersey in a class with a man from Scotland named Colin, when I sold my books set in New Jersey, with a hero from Scotland named Colin. Like thinking I was making up something for my story and discovering it was true. Like picking out a name for my heroine only to discover that the name was common for someone of her surname in that particular region. I’m quite taken aback every time these things happen.
And then we have people. Probably the strangest question I’ve been asked is: Did it cost a you a lot of money to get published?
Um, no, it didn’t cost me anything. The publisher paid me.
Roseanna: Hmm . . . probably that my best friend is now someone I've only met twice in person—she's one of my critique partners, and we now email several times a day, but it all started with writing—at the '07 ACFW conference, actually. God has not only brought some fabulous writing-friends into my life, he's brought some fabulous writers who become my dearest friends over time. And to think, when I was a kid I thought writers were like celebrities, out in a sphere where mere wannabes couldn't ever communicate with them! ;-)
Golden: Being fairly new to writing fiction, I have had some experiences with my characters that have been interesting to me - like a character not "letting" me write a scene the way I had planned and going a very different direction. But I guess the strangest thing that has happened was recently while I was doing character sketches for my new book, which is set during the Civil War in Texas. I had named the hero, Robert - wasn't entirely satisfied with that, but that's what I was going with for the time being. I had a dream one night where this character came to me and said, "My name is Kent." It really was quite vivid. So, Kent it is!
5. I recently taught a workshop at a statewide library conference, and I presented the question, “What makes Christian fiction Christian?” What we found out as we discussed the issue was that most of the librarians had not thought that question through. And they realized they needed to have a better handle on it. What is your definition of Christian fiction, and as a Christian historical fiction author, what elements do you feel you need to include for your story to be classified as Christian fiction?
Linore: Great question. I feel strongly that my fiction needs to have a gospel nugget—ie., enough of the simple, plain gospel (Believe and thou shalt be saved) so that an unbeliever, if they read the book, could grasp the fact that salvation is a free gift they can accept. (That’s a big statement for a Calvinist, lol.) I don’t feel that my calling is to emphasize “counting the cost.” There is a time and a place for that, and that would be Christian fiction, too, but my work is more about the accessibility of God—no matter who you are, or what you’ve done.
I also believe that Christian fiction can be gritty and realistic because we live in a gritty world—but it needs to be edifying. I see no point in writing horror, for example, when the truest horror is an eternity without God. My thoughts are going in all kinds of directions with this question, so I’ll leave it at what I’ve already said, but there are lots of layers to this topic and they all interest me.
Laurie Alice: For me, my characters need a spiritual conflict, as well as a romantic conflict. If one takes the spiritual aspect out of the story, the story has holes in it.
Some say it’s a Christian world view, but what exactly does that mean? Something different to everyone. Some people’s idea of a Christian world view isn’t Christian to me, and I may be too lax for others, so I’m not sure that definition works. But then, some Christian authors think if their story isn’t written to preach to the lost, they’ve failed. I don’t write to preach to anyone; I write to entertain with a message that is subtle and more aimed at Christians, to help them deal with issues I think all Christians deal with—perfectionism, guilt, forgiveness, etc. If I’m preaching, it’s to the choir because the choir needs help, too. I also want the “message” to be subtle so that a nonbeliever reading it will be intrigued about faith and Christianity enough to keep seeking. To me, that’s a Christian worldview—where the characters who are Christians make faith-based decisions or know when they stray from the Lord’s will.
Roseanna: It's definitely a multi-layered question. There's the kind of stuff that's squeaky clean and wouldn't offend a Christian but which has no overt Christian theme . . . then there's the layer where such themes are present but understated, written from the worldview, as it were . . . then there's the kind that presents Biblical precepts to one degree or another, whether it be by quoting a verse here and there or delving into the nitty-gritty of spirituality and faith.
My definition of Christian Fiction (versus simply inspirational) would be that it has characters who either are or become Christians. I'd love to leave the definition so simple, so that works could be included even if they deal with some of the darker sides of life before that conversion, but usually it also has to keep from offending before that point, too. That means closing doors on the couples, leaving curses unnamed, violence happening mostly off-scene, etc.
Golden: It is definitely not an easy question to answer, but I think that we, as authors writing in the Christian fiction arena, need to have a handle on our philosophy of Christian fiction. Thank you for your very thoughtful answers.
6. Do you think Christian fiction has a place in a secular library and/or bookstore? Why or why not?
Linore: There is absolutely no question in my mind that every library or bookstore should have Christian books, including Christian fiction. Christianity reveals the truth about God and doesn’t the world deserve the truth? Not all Christian fiction is created equal, of course, but most writers of faith seek to edify and inspire, and what could be wrong with that? The world has so forgotten that it was the monks who kept literacy alive during the Dark Ages; that Christianity, wherever it takes root in civilizations, brings prosperity. There would be no libraries and bookstores if it wasn’t for God’s people who founded the schools and hospitals of the past. Western civilization grew and prospered as the Gospel spread and took root. Now that they’ve got the prosperity, the world wants to forget the God who granted it, who made it possible.
Ask why anti-Christian fiction should have a place, and that would make more sense to me. That is what needs defending. Whether or not Christian writings should be in places where books proliferate is like asking if oxygen should be part of the atmosphere.
Laurie Alice: Why is it a secular bookstore and not simply a bookstore? These stores carry books on every other topic, why should Christian fiction be excluded? Absolutely it should be carried there and not in its segregated corner, either. I think historical Christian fiction should be shelved right along historical secular fiction. It would sell a great deal more. I know people who are reading it now just to get a clean read. It should be easier for them to find and obtain.
Roseanna: Absolutely! Christian Fiction makes up a pretty substantial part of readers' selection, but there aren't all that many strictly-Christian libraries, and even the Christian bookstores can't be found in a lot of towns (like mine). If we couldn't get those books at libraries or secular stores, we wouldn't be able to get them AT ALL, other than online. And I think librarians and bookstore owners are smart enough to realize that—my local library, at least, has reported how hot Christian Fiction is, and the local bookstore says it's a huge seller in our town. And since to the secular world business is generally business . . .
7. What do you want to be when you grow up?
Linore: A woman worthy of the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant;” A woman whose children will rise up and call her blessed; A woman whose husband will praise her.
Laurie Alice: Why grow up?
I still have a very childish dream of what I want to be when I grow up—a musician. A performer. A rockstar.
Or maybe a college professor. For now, however, I am fulfilling my other childhood dream—of being a published author.
Roseanna: Laurie Alice! ;-)
Golden: LOL!! I love all of your answers. Being a published author is a bit of a dream, is it not? Sometimes I see my books on the shelf in a bookstore and can hardly believe. I, too, would like to teach in college someday. Ah, so much to do - and life is so short! I too want to hear the Lord say, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" at the end of my journey
Thank you, gals, for your candid answers to my questions. I hope the readers enjoyed peeking in on your writing world.