Tuesday, December 13, 2005

JK: What Readers Tell me!

I’m still trying to figure out this blog thing. It occurred to me that one of the joys of the blog is a way to connect with readers in a more timely fashion; not having to wait until months after the book’s been completed before hearing from someone that they either loved the story – or thought I shouldn’t have bothered.

I visited my Charis contributions this week and read the comments. I hadn’t done that before! I’d just kept my commitments to submit and then read other people’s contributions and comments. This time I read my own. It was a delight to read that thoughts I’d shared about writing historical novels allowed someone else to explore their own history. I wanted to respond to each person, to thank them for taking the time to read what I’d written and to let me know they had. So this is what blogging is about, this immediacy of connection!

There may be a way to respond to the responders through a blog. I’m going to check-in with wiser bloggers. But what did occur in that writing-reader-reading interchange was to remind me of what Madeline L’Engle must have meant when she wrote that as writers, when we create, we also co-create. We create with Spirit and with readers. Something happens through us as a writer that reaches readers often in ways we never imagined.

Once a woman wrote that after reading a certain book of mine she’d changed her occupation, lost fifty pounds and had met a loving, Christian man who like her wanted marriage one day and a family. My theme sentence for that book was “We can’t protect the ones we love from pain or disappointment but we can prepare them, educate them, model God’s presence and comfort in our lives.”

I think that’s what is so invigorating about writing Christian novels. All novelists want to make a connection with their readers, but as a faith-inspired writer, I want more to be a vehicle, to allow something to come through me to the reader. Someone called it “being bamboo”, being a hollow reed through which God’s message of hope and healing, of awareness and power, can travel. Sometimes when I read general market fiction, I wonder what the author’s purpose was in writing the story, how did they hope a reader would be changed through their listening to their stories and writing them down? For awhile it seemed like all the bestsellers had themes of “Life is tough and then you die.”

Yet my stories about real people, primarily strong women set in historical times are about tough times, too. The woman I’m writing about now spent a winter in the cold, rainy winds of Western Washington Territory living with an infant in a canvas-roofed hut. She was the only woman with nine men who had been sent out from Missouri to find a new site for this utopian so-called Christian community. As a woman her voice wasn’t well heard and that she was even along on this scouting trip was enough of a question to stir my curiosity and end up with at least a two books series. I wanted very much to explore where she garnered her strength from. I discovered in the writing of her life that strength without faith and compassion leads to vanity; and that independence and uniqueness is possible within a loving Christian community.

But I will be interested in what others take away from this story, what they’ll find that I didn’t realize I put there until a reader tells me. Unlike with this blog-thing, I’ll just have to wait.

Jane’s new book, A Clearing in the Wild, will be out from WaterBrook Press next spring. You can visit her website at http://www.jkbooks.com/ or leave a comment here!


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