September 30 is International Podcast Day. It’s been fun to watch this day unfold as one of the Pod People, reading the tweets and seeing how different ‘casters are choosing to commemorate the day. All day I’ve been thinking that I should write my own blog post on International Podcast Day, as it’s been a very long time since I did a podcast round-up and sang the praises of some of my favorite shows. Podcaster I may be, but I was a podcast listener first.
But today just wasn’t that day for me.
Today was one of those glorious days that fall sends, with the crisp leaves and sunshine with that little chill in the air. It was a day for yummy smells in the kitchen to make you feel warm when the heat kicks on for the first time in months. So I celebrated my International Podcast Day with some of my favorite shows running in the background while I made apple/pear sauce. It’s delicious. Freezer be damned, I’m totally gonna eat that whole pot.
Making applesauce is one of those tasks that is tailor-made for authors, because it forces your brain into kind of a zen mode. Coring and cutting 15 lb. of apples into cubes is work that gives your brain space for other things, and mine started mulling over this book I’ve been wanting to write but am not sure the world has a slot for.
I got burned again by some Christian fiction this summer. As a genre, this one just perplexes me. It seems to require the breaking of the rules of good writing.
Let me explain. I picked a book out of a Little Free Library this summer while on vacation. It looked like fun, kind of light chick lit, the kind of book you would take to the beach. Summer romance stuff, nothing overly heavy or steamy.
I started reading it and the first chapter was fun. Likeable character, good voice. Then I got to the second chapter and I found myself flipping to the back of the title page to see the publisher. Christian fiction.
I don’t go into a lot of personal stuff on this blog generally, but I’m okay saying I’m a Christian. I’m a member of a Lutheran church and I’m not ashamed of my faith. I don’t require others in my life to share that faith, but it is important to me. I don’t have a problem with a story being Christian in nature. This doesn’t offend me or make me want to put a book down. But I don’t read Christian fiction and I took the book back. Why? Because it was annoying!
I feel like contemporary Christian fiction tells a story and then has these “now is the part where we talk about God” interludes. Suddenly the rules of writing, like show don’t tell, don’t apply. Suddenly I get the annoying diversion of a detailed description of this character’s inner monologue dumped into the middle of the story. This has happened to me so much that I don’t read contemporary Christian fiction anymore.
Not all faith-based literature has to be this way. Anne of Green Gables, one of my favorite books of all time, was written as a serial in a Sunday school paper. It’s not uncommon for classic literature to feature characters who lean on their faith, prayer, and the Bible in times of crisis. The difference is that the storytelling stays intact.
This brings me to the book I’ve been wanting to write. I’ve had this story kicking around in my head lately that is GLTBQ Christian fiction for teens. This may seem like an oxymoron, but I see it as an untapped market. “Christian” and “gay” are not mutually exclusive terms and as more and more Protestant denominations are openly embracing GLTBQ members and clergy I think there are more and more GLTBQ Christians who aren’t seeing themselves represented in fiction.
So this is the book I want to write, and I have the story in my head and have worked on some outlines and character sketches and even a preliminary draft of a few chapters. But it is a struggle because I’m just not sure where it would fit. I doubt most Christian publishers would touch it because it clearly doesn’t fit what seems to be their formula, as outlined above, and I just don’t know if mainstream publishers would touch something so faith based.
So back to International Podcast Day. As I’m working on my applesauce and mulling this over, I’m listening to one of my current favorite podcasts, Write Your Own Story with Autumn Beam, and she is interviewing a Christian romance writer who is talking about this same thing. All the problems with contemporary Christian fiction. How hard it is to fit within the typical framework. Christian fiction is boxed in, she says. There are too many boundaries and rules about how these stories are structured. Characters interact with their faith, rather than with God. I stopped chopping apples and started talking to her. Yes! Someone else gets this problem!
That’s the power of podcasting. The conversation. The conversation that host was having with her guest and the conversation I was having with them as that audio was playing for me. Blogs are awesome, message boards have a purpose, but no other medium does it in quite that way. And that was my International Podcast Day.
I’m still not sure how to answer that question about the book that wants to be written. But for today, I’m okay just not being alone, with knowing someone else sees what I see. What to do next will be tomorrow’s problem, so I hope you’ll stay tuned.
For today, give a new podcast or two a try. I think you’ll like the conversation.